Shooting Better Video
We’ve been working in video for a long time. We know great video when we see it. And we know bad video when we see it. (Or even before we see it–when we hear it. But I’m getting ahead of myself.) If you want to learn how to shoot nicer video, who better to learn from than a video production company! Doesn’t matter what you’re shooting on; these tips apply to any camera.
Audio is key. Bad audio can ruin a video. Film in a quiet room, with no air conditioner or heater noise. If you’re filming outside, make sure it’s not windy, as wind noise can be a big problem. It’s best to listen to the audio while you’re recording it. But maybe your setup won’t allow that. Try recording some audio and play it back to check for things like buzzing or humming.
Lighting is one of the biggest ways you can make your video look better. In most cases, direct sunlight isn’t what you want; it creates a lot of contrast. Believe it or not, cloudy days make for great lighting. Since the sun is shielded by the clouds, the lighting is softer and doesn’t make hard shadows. But if you’re filming something more dramatic, you might want those hard shadows. The lighting style will depend on the video you’re shooting. Make sure your subject is lit but not too bright that it’s completely white in spots. We call this “washed out,” and it’s not good for the subject to be washed out.
Rule of Thirds
If there’s one easy thing that can make video look better, it’s the rule of thirds. Imagine the frame of the video, divided into nine equal sized boxes, with two vertical lines and two horizontal lines making those boxes. Now, when you’re filming your subject, pan or tilt the camera so that the subject is on the intersection of two of those lines. These are the “hot spots” of the frame. Subjects look better on a third than if they were in the middle (an exception being when they’re speaking to the camera). Thankfully, phones and cameras make it easy for us by having a setting to show these lines on the monitor, sometimes called the “grid.”
Whether you’re shooting on a tripod or handheld, the video movements should be fluid. For most corporate videos, you’ll want smooth pans (horizontal movements) and smooth tilts (vertical movements). Smooth video feels clean and sophisticated. Think about investing in a fluid head tripod; these are known for their very smooth pans and tilts. We use a slider as well since it can give that sleek motion to the footage. Also, your editing software might have a stabilization effect which will help make shaky footage more steady. Handheld-style footage has its place though. For more intense or fast-paced videos, rough camera movements will help the viewer know what the mood is.
Here’s something most people wouldn’t know unless they have some editing experience: record a few extra seconds before and after you get the shot you need. This way, if you need to add transitions or lengthen the clip, you have that cushion of time. Shoot more than you need, or even shoot what you need two times. There’s nothing worse than filming a take, getting back to your computer and realizing it was out of focus. This is why we sometimes “get a safety,” film the shot we need twice.
This is a simplified explanation of shooting great video. There’s a number of more complicated aspects of video, but these will help get you started and set your video apart from the rest.