Richard's guide to shooting better video


Shooting for the edit

If you are just starting out in video then you may believe that video is quite a fast process, all you need to do is take a camera, point it at something and then when you watch it at home it is perfect. Unfortunatley though in most cases there are mistakes in shooting, boring parts and in general far too much footage to watch in one go, especially for the audience. It is for this reason that whenever something is filmed it is important to think about what we are going to do with it afterwards.

Editing is a very interesting and sometimes surreal experience sometimes. It is the process of selecting which images you like best and adding them together to build up a story which your audience will enjoy.

Linear and Non linear editing

Montage (editing) is carried out most of the time either on a linear or non linear system. Tape editing is refered to as linear because every single edit counts and if a mistake is made the edit must be started from the beginning. It is far more disciplined than non linear editing and because of the inflexibility of the system it forces you to plan how the edit will look at the end.

In comparison non linear editing systems are usually computers. When you have filmed a short fictional piece or home video then you may capture the footage to the computer and import it into any of a range of editing systems. Once the footage is on the computer there is a lot of flexibility of how the edit may turn out.

Anticipating the edit

Timing

When taking still photographs you are used to being able to point the camera, click and have a picture ready. In video it is not as simple because there is the dimension of time to think about. A common mistake which people make when beginning a video taking life is to film too little material. When you arrive at home after the day of shooting and you watch the video it is quite common that you felt as if you filmed for 10 seconds or more but in fact you only have three seconds of footage. The problem with filming is that you are concentrating so much on the framing, the action in front of the camera that time becomes distorted and it takes experience to get used to this. A crucial element of video is having enough material for the edit. If you count seconds in your mind or watch the time code then you will know how long the clip is and frustration will be reduced when you get home in front of your editing system to find you're lacking footage so the edit will be much shorter than you would have liked.

Footage ratios

An important thing to remember when shooting for the edit is that although you may have six hours of footage shot over a few days which you would like to condense a fairly normal ratio is around ten to 1. The ratio 10:1 means that although you filmed 10 minutes you may only keep one minute. This is particularly important to remember when shooting a birthday party and other events where you are not sure what the most important and entertaining moments will occur. Overshooting some parts may seem stupid but when you have to much material then you have a choice of what you would like to do with it. The more footage you have to chose from the more entertaining and entertaining the video will become. An example of this is the lake parade which takes place in Geneva each year. Although I filmed around an hr and a half I kept 1 minute. At the beginning your shooting ratio may be around 20:1 or more but as you gain more experience and know which shots work and which are entertaining you may give yourself the luxury of shooting less footage yet getting a very entertaining piece out of your material.

Variety of shots

Filming is a dynamic medium which requires for you to think in terms of shots or images. Each image that you get can help contribute to the story you would like to tell. If you would like to make a video of an event then it is important to think about what the event is. If you are filming a birthday then you must think of a list of shots which you will need to show others what the birthday was like. At the beginning of your filming life it may be an idea to spend a short amount of time planning the variety of shots which you would like to get. The shots for a birthday may be friends of the person, the gifts received, the pre party preparations with shots of balloons being inflated, the excitement of the child whose birthday it is etc. At the same time the birthday party may be divided between games, present opening and food. If we take these basic elements of the event then we already have at least five minutes worth of footage to illustrate the story whilst keeping it as dynamic as possible.

Zooming and panning

Zoomitus refers to the bad habit which people have of always zooming in and out when holding the camera. It's fine if you're aiming to show how big a room is but at the same time it may be far more useful to think of another way of showing the room. When the zoom has been used to much then the editor will find it extremely hard to edit the material with control of length. If you use the zoom then make sure to get 5 seconds or more at the beginning of the zoom which is static and the same at the end. This will allow you the flexibility of choosing whether to use the zoom or cuts instead.

Another common problem is simply moving the camera all the time because it's hard to decide on what the center of interest is. If the camera is not still then it is hard to find a point at which to start using the footage and at what point to exit the shot. In keeping the camera you will find editing far more relaxing because you know that you start when you like and end when you like. In editing time is of the essence. You are finally given the ability to cut out the boring bits and emphasise the most interesting moments of the event so that instead of putting your audience to sleep they will be entertained and want to see more.


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Filming for the edit

Video taking: Several clips now available online

Geneva Lake Sensation: Edit from the 2004 Lake Sensation in Geneva, Switzerland

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