Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Shooting Events With More Finesse

I cut my teeth as a videographer shooting weddings for a busy event video company.  Soon after I was hired I was shooting two or three ceremonies and receptions a week.  That experience allowed me to hone my handheld skills and to start to develop a system of production that I try to teach everyone who works for me now.  One thing you have to know about weddings is that the venue (the church in many cases) usually doesn’t want you there and things like adequate lighting and retakes are usually non-existent.  I had to learn how to get the best possible shots under some of the worst circumstances for filming.  Since I was editing a lot of what I shot I came up with some rules of thumb for bringing in useful footage that was simple to edit in a style that didn’t reveal continuity breaks.

Here are 3 of those “rules”:

1)  Zoom out and (physically) get in close (if you want to show more detail) this helps to make your footage more stable and less shaky so that when you cut between shots there is a more solid feeling of going from good shot to good shot.

2)  Always try to change angle, subject and background between shots so that you can cut out redundant or boring footage - without it being obvious that you cut something out.  This helps to eliminate or reduce the number of jump cuts in your final edits without having to use effects and/or fancy (hokey) transitions.

3)  Get cutaways (shots that are of people watching the main action or objects of interest in the room) so that you can cut out footage without it being noticeable.  You can edit the cutaways in between the master shots when you deleted unwanted footage allowing you to cut the length of a scene without it seeming as though anything important is missing.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Making the Best of use an On-Camera Microphone

Ideally you will have an external microphone and be able to freely move the camera around without having to be concerned about how your shot will affect your audio.  However, you may find yourself in a situation where you are working with the microphone that is built into the camera.  Although this is the second worst-case scenario (the worst case being no microphone at all), there are a few things that can be done to get a better sound recording.  If possible, get right up next to the sound source (whoever is speaking or what music is playing for example) and stay there.    Always wear headphones plugged into the camera so that you can monitor what you are recording and (if you can) experiment with finding a location that sounds best before settling in.  Avoid moving around a lot and DO NOT touch the microphone (be especially careful when adjusting the zoom or focus).  There are a few tricks that can be done in post production to fix mistakes, but remember - nothing is going to make awful tracks sound good.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Consistency in Sound

The thing with audio is that people really don’t notice it unless it is, none existent, very noisy or it changes radically within a scene.  It is important to be aware of the overall consistency of your sound, because nothing betrays a mistake worse than a sudden change in sound quality.  Whether it is the background noise varying between cuts or sounding muffled on one voice and clear on another or changing from loud to quiet (unless that is relevant to the content like someone whispering after shouting).  To have control over these elements and to give your editor a fighting chance at making the final product sound good, I recommend that you do everything in your power to record all your audio tracks in the field as well as is humanly possible, doing your best to maintain a solid consistency throughout.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Some Pros and Cons of Wireless

Using a wireless system can allow you to get a microphone close to the sound source you desire and even move with it, without the hassle of cables interfering with your talent or other production elements.  You should know that a brand new, high quality wireless microphone receiver/transmitter kit will set you back a couple thousand dollars but the time you will save in editing and the confidence you will have in the field will be well worth the investment.  I’d rather run audio cables 200 feet than rely on a substandard wireless setup because they never sound good even under the best of circumstances.  I’ve spent hundreds of hours working on tracks (from lower end wireless rigs) that are so full of dropouts and noise that I almost lost my mind trying to make them sound presentable.  Maybe I’m a vain perfectionist but when I got my excellent wireless systems and started using them on all my shoots I finally felt like a real professional.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Truth About Microphones

Even the most expensive and sensitive microphones pick up what is closest to them most clearly.  Although the shape and type of microphone makes a difference, for the most part the sounds in between what you want to hear and the microphone (like noises in the environment) are going to be recorded along with the audio you are trying to capture.  For example: if you are in the middle of the audience in a large theater and you hold a up a microphone to record the sound of the actors on stage but the person sitting in right front of you is talking, what you will get on your recording is the talking person near you loud and clear with the actors on stage barely audible in the background.  So a good rule of thumb is - get the microphone as close as possible to what you want to hear most clearly.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Sound Good First

Sound quality is the primary indicator of professionalism in videography.
The thing that is more noticeable than poor lighting or sloppy camera work is noisy sound.  This is because bad sound really distracts the viewer from getting the message you are trying to relate with your video.  I believe that you could possibly have great success communicating without any picture, if the audio is great (like radio) but a video with lousy sound is just annoying and amateurish.  Of course there are exceptions and sometimes professionals intentionally distort audio to make it seem less polished for effect but, most of the time sound people are working toward making pristine audio recordings or (unfortunately) attempting to repair or salvage faulty audio tracks.