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Mardi, 06 Septembre 2011 19:59

Shoot Video That Doesn't Suck

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From Wired How-To Wiki

Anyone can make high-quality videos about anything by following a few rules of thumb. Photo by Steve Stockman

Nobody watches bad video. Why should they when there are millions of great videos streaming on the web 24/7? Even your mother won’t watch bad video of your kids. She’ll say she watched it, but she’ll switch to Family Guy after 10 seconds—just like everyone else.

In just a couple of short years we’ve gone from “Cool—I can watch video on my iPhone!” to “Isn’t there anything good on?” If your video’s not good, it’s gone. And so is all your effort.

All this leads to my highest principle of creating a video: Make one that doesn’t suck! Here are 10 tips to make your videos better instantly.

This is part of a Wiki that anyone can edit. If you have video tips to add, please log in and contribute.

Think in shots

In film and TV, shots can be less than a second long, but you’ll rarely see one running longer than 30 seconds. But because cameras now record hours on a tiny chip we tend to let them run. This makes for deadly dull video. Instead, shoot just until we get the point: “Mom blows out the candles” is a 10 second shot. Once the candles are out, CUT. Shoot in shots and your video will instantly look better.

Keep your shots under 10 seconds long

Now that you’re thinking in terms of shots, focus on SHORT shots. At the company picnic, don’t run the camera forever. Instead, think in short actions. For example:

  • A shot of the boss tapping the beer keg… and CUT;
  • A shot of the softball team taking the field… and CUT.
  • A softball player putting a beer down on the 2nd base line… and CUT.
  • The boss stepping in beer as he rounds the base… and CUT.


Don’t worry about how the shots fit together. They will! Playing two minutes of short shots at the company Christmas Party richly recall time and place better than if you had let the shots drag on.

Don’t shoot until you see the whites of their eyes

Think about the defense lawyer on the news whose mouth proclaims his client’s innocence, but whose shifty eyes say otherwise. That’s why TV (and web video even more so) is a medium of close-ups.

People communicate half of what they mean with their spoken words. The other half happens non-verbally, especially in the eyes. Miss the eyes, and you miss the message. Stay close enough to see the whites of their eyes.

Zoom with your feet

Zoom lenses make video shakier, and being far away from your subject makes your sound noisier (there’s no such thing as a zoom mic!). Instead of using the “zoom” button, walk yourself closer to your subjects. You’ll have better looking, more intimate video instantly.

Treat Your video camera like a still camera

The most important action is what the people you’re shooting are doing, not the motion of your camera. A camera that moves too much confuses the audience. Instead of wandering to find your shot, point your camera like a still camera, look through the monitor until you see a great picture, then hit “record.” Stop—and then move to the next shot. You’ll get a series of well-framed shots in which the motion of the subject catches and holds our attention, without the distraction of the frame careening all over the place.

Keep the brightest light behind you

Video cameras adjust their brightness levels by finding the brightest thing in the shot and making it look good. They get confused by multiple light levels in the same shot. If the camera closes the lens to handle really bright light, things in the frame that are darker to begin with get really dark. If you sit your grandmother in front of a bright window to record a video interview, you’ll see the beautiful scene outside the window and a black cutout silhouette of grandma.

To prevent her from looking like a refugee from the witness protection program, switch places. Keep the window behind you and the camera. The light will fall on grandma and she’ll be the brightest thing in the frame.

Keep your video short

That movie trailer you hated because it showed you the whole movie? Two minutes and thirty seconds long. Your favorite Superbowl TV spot: 30 seconds. Average time spent looking at a web page? 15 seconds. A sales video longer than 3 minutes? Unless it's for Victoria's Secret and directed by Martin Scorcese, don't even think about it. Take the length you intuitively think your video should be, and cut by 2 thirds. That makes your ten minutes sales video about 3 minutes. Which will still be too long if it isn’t great.

Turn off the camera’s digital effects

Manufacturers load cameras with all kinds of dorky digital effects like “digital zoom” (blowing up and interpolating pixels) or “sepia.” They don’t give your camera special powers. Instead they take the high-quality picture you shot and digitally alter it, permanently. If you do “sepia” in your computer editing program later, you can undo it. If you shoot that way, you’re stuck with it. Shoot your footage normally, always.

Use an external microphone

Most video cameras adjust their own sound levels. That means they take whatever they hear and boost it to a constant, listenable level. Unfortunately, if they hear crowd noise around you, they boost that. Traffic noise, sirens, background conversation—it all gets boosted.

If you’re as close to your subject as you should be—in a dead-quiet room—this isn’t a big problem. For all other times, head to Best Buy and plunk down $25 for a terrific clip-on mic. Noise problem solved.

Find your story

Whether it’s your new sales video or a record of the family vacation, your video comes to life when you find your story. Stories have a hero, a beginning, middle and end. They take us on a journey.

Instead of “our vacation,” tell the story of “our daughter’s first plane flight” or “Shawn looks for Mickey Mouse.” Instead of “Customer Service” tell the story of “Jim flying to Colorado to repair a customer’s tent at 10,000 feet” or “The Day the Weintraub’s Toyota didn’t start.”

There’s no wrong answer to finding your story—it’s whatever interests you. But any video with a story will be instantly more compelling than one without.

By Steve Stockman, based on his new book, How To Shoot Video That Doesn't Suck.


This page was last modified 21:55, 6 September 2011 by howto_admin.

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