In this blog we will be discussing the different ways to make your videos looks professional, and how you can up your video production and editing game! Learn it all here... from the basics on how to hold the camera and make the best use of lighting to tips for making your editing as invisible as possible. Discover how to really tell a story with your videos by using the best and most creative camera angles!
So why is video so important?
Videos are becoming ever more popular. By 2019, 80% of all website traffic will be consumed by video.
Video has a very high return on investment. It is very cheap to produce and high quality cameras on smartphones can be bought for as little as $400. Video is very diverse and can be recycled and broken up in order to be reused. It has a very long lifespan and it can be stored on video sites such as Vimeo, Youtube and Facebook for free.
It is also the most engaging form of content. Customers stay on sites that have videos for 80% longer than those sites that don’t have any, and having a video on your webpage has been shown to improve your site's SEO.
Plus, 50% of all mobile traffic is generated by video.
The Basics in Shooting Video
Holding the camera to avoid a shaky shot
In order to avoid shaky footage, make sure to hold your camera with two hands, one hand on the side of the camera and the other on the lens. Then enable a third point of contact to ensure that you have the steadiest footage possible. It’s advisable to keep your arms tight and taut, bend your elbows and then pull the camera into your chest. The closer the camera is to your chest, the more control you have, and the steadier the shot will be. Your third point of contact could also be your face, similar to the picture below...
If you want to keep your arms extended in order to get closer to the object you are shooting, you can use the camera strap on the back of your neck as a third point of contact. Wrap the strap around your neck and move your arms outwards until the camera strap is fully taut, and then shoot away.
Always move from left to right with a steady motion. The wider the shot, the less shaky it will be. If you are doing an extreme close up, even the smallest of shakes will cause a bigger jump.
Make use of the Lighting
You will get better lighting beside a window. Make sure to look out for shadows from different objects either behind or in front of the camera.
What time of day should you shoot? Personally, I like to shoot early in the morning before the sun has fully risen as there’s a nice soft light. Sunset and the hour afterwards (sometimes referred to as golden hour) also make for especially spectacular photos.
Take into account what time the sun rises and when it is high in the sky. A lot of photographers avoid shooting between 12 noon and 3pm as the sun can cause some difficulties when shooting videos.
Setting the tone
Your opening shot sets the tone for the whole video, and it is said that people determine whether they like your work within the first three shots. When setting the tone, consider what shots you would like to use. It is often considered better to start wide to give a better overall impression of the environment and the surroundings, and then move closer in on the subject.
If you want to create a dramatic or emotional opening you could shoot a slow-mo shot of 120 frames per second. In contrast, a 24 frames per second clip of someone running matched with a purposely slightly shaking camera would create a tense atmosphere.
Match the music to the scene. Do you need emotional, sad, upbeat, hip-hop or epic music? Does the music match the sound effects in the scene?
Make Your Editing Invisible
The sign of a good editor is when his or her work goes unnoticed. Even though they say that stories are made in the editing room, this goes unbeknownst to the audience... or so it should anyway.
Picture the audience & use camera angles accordingly
When choosing your camera angles, keep the audience in mind. What will they see? Don’t hold one camera angle for too long, but instead use multiple angles to help hold the attention span of the audience. You can use J and L cuts as well, as these represent real life.
A J cut is where you hear the audio from someone speaking before you see them. This happens all the time: we first hear someone speak and then we turn our head to see them. An L cut is the opposite - we hear audio from someone after the camera has moved somewhere else, just like how we can listen to people without looking at them.
Editing a shot to show someone’s reaction to a statement can be more powerful than showing the speaker actually saying the words. We get a better insight into the person who’s listening. This is a particular handy tool when editing interviews, especially if the audience is more interested in the interviewee than the interviewer.
Use a close up camera shot to evoke empathy and to engage the audience.
Even in the fast-paced video world, pauses have their place. Emotional statements and stand out statements should be given more time so that the audience can process the information. You can introduce emotional pause by stopping the a-roll and switching to b-roll (additional footage which is not your main shot) and increasing the music if necessary. This change will be enough to help the stand-out or emotional statement have some impact.
Cut on actions
To make your cuts as seamless as possible, you should cut on actions and in the middle of gestures. This is what is done in many action films, most notably The Matrix. It would be very boring for the audience if they had to wait until each gesture was finished, before the editor cut. Here is an example from TED of cutting on an action:
Sync the music track with the visuals
An excellent way of doing this is by adding markers to your music track while it is playing, so you know where to make edits and add new video clips. The markers should be at places where the music volume, intensity, beat or rhythm changes and where you can imagine a change of scene or direction. You can add markers in Final Cut Pro X by tapping M as the music plays.
Tell a story with your photos
The rule of three
Before shooting you should know what clip, sequence or scene comes both before and after this clip, sequence or scene.
It's also important to know WHY you are shooting this scene. It must have a purpose, and a good way to see if it’s needed, is to ask yourself “Would the audience be confused if this shot was left out?” It’s crucial that you know, even before shooting, what you want to portray to the audience. Where is the lean forward moment? The moment when the audience leans forward and pays attention. This moment usually has a greater emotional impact on the viewers and can be considered one of the climaxes of the scene.
This rule of three is more essential for filmmakers, but is also useful for anyone making any kind of video, as it’s always important to keep your audience in mind and to shoot clips for a reason.
Before shooting you should also have the editing process in mind. If you shoot with your cuts and clip sequence in mind, it makes your job a whole lot easier when it comes to editing. Clips may happen to fit together really well in post, but why leave it to chance? Before shooting, think about how you will link two different shots, and consider "matching" your shots. You can figure out your transitions and cutaways in advance too.
Document the whole story with different shots and angles
Everything you shoot has a story. If you are shooting something simple like a video of a salad, you can make it more interesting by documenting the whole process.
A wide shot of the table and the kitchen
Close up shots of the different raw ingredients
Shots of hands preparing the salad and slicing up onions
A medium wide shot of squeezing a lemon over the top
A shot of pieces of lettuce falling on top of the salad from an underneath angle from the POV of the salad
A shot of the finished salad from above, below, straight on, at eye level
People smiling, enjoying and eating the salad, licking their fingers etc..
The dog slurping up the fallen bits from under the table
The empty bowl or plates with the remnants of the salad
When shooting with the intention of storytelling, you can frame the shots with background objects by shooting through them. You can use branches of trees, chairs and tables in a restaurant, glasses, mirrors or whatever helps you to tell the story as best as you can.
Get the background story
If you are doing wedding photography, instead of just filming the engagement rings in a box, why not find out who sized them and go and shoot some footage of the rings being altered or polished.
Go the extra mile!
Get your work seen
Sometimes the hardest thing about doing photography or videography is starting, getting your work out there and becoming well-known. Remember that everybody has to start somewhere!
Do some work for free. Reach out to friends, family and strangers on social media and ask them if they need any video work done. You can offer your first service for free and then after that you can agree upon a rate. This means there’s no pressure as you are not accepting payment. People will also be very willing as everyone loves to get free content.
Doing work for free will help you to build up your portfolio and increases your chances of getting word-of-mouth referrals. Plus the more you practice and shoot, the better you become.
Build up your portfolio of Images, Video and Sounds
You can constantly build up your portfolio of both sound effects and visuals.
Invest in a good sound recorder and whenever you hear a nice sound effect, record it. This could be the background noise in a busy restaurant, the wind whistling through the trees in a park, running water from a stream or the sound of snow crunching under your boot. There are loads of places where you can buy sound effects such as Audiojungle and Pond5, but making your own FX means that no one else will have them.
The same goes for building up your collection of stock footage. If you spot a particularly beautiful sunset, a lovely little patch of forestry or a spontaneous snowfall, take a couple of minutes to snap some videos. Luckily, phone cameras are now excellent and so you will almost always have a high quality video-capturing device at the ready.
Stay organised and become faster at editing
Get to know your software
The cinematography industry is constantly changing, and new trends and softwares are emerging. Keep up to date with all the new technologies and learn everything there is to know about your software.
Luckily, tutorials for all of the popular softwares such as Adobe Premiere Pro CC, Final Cut Pro X, Lightroom, Photoshop, and After Effects, as well as many others, can be found for free online on sites such as Youtube and Vimeo, and there are also free courses on Coursera. Some of the best Youtube channels for learning about videography are Rocketstock, Red Giant Films, Filmora, Film Riot and my personal favourite… Peter McKinnon.
InIn order to get quicker at editing and cutting, learn the shortcuts for the platform you use. Here are some cheat sheets for some of the popular video software platforms.
If you are just starting out, familiarise yourself with iMovie or Windows Movie Maker first, before moving onto the paid programmes.
Keep your files organised
When importing your files, stay organised with a project directory. Your project directory is one folder which holds all the footage for that project. In this folder you should have separate folders with different media types grouped together - eg audio, images, raw footage and videos. You can also have subcategories within these categories for example sound effects and music belong under audio.
As well as having a project directory, you can rate your photos as you input them into applications like Lightroom. Click on a photo and then type either 1,2,3,4 or 5, to rate the photo out of five stars. This should make it easier when editing photos as you’ll have an idea which photos are excellent and which are mediocre. You can even rate photos on your camera while filming so you won’t forget which ones you like, in the time it takes to go from shoot to edit.
Sometimes when we watch a video, we get too used to it. We know where the cuts are going to be and nothing can surprise us, which means the video seems unexciting and unoriginal. Take notes on how you feel when you first watch your content back. If you laughed or smiled when you first saw it, then this will help you remember that it is funny, even if it doesn’t seem it after watching it 100 times.
If you are feeling stuck, try temporarily flipping the video clips either horizontally or vertically as this will give you a new perspective and you might catch something at a different angle, which you didn’t originally. If this doesn’t work, take a break or work on something else for a while, and come back to your project with some fresh eyes.
In the mean time...
Whether you're looking for some original high quality stock photos for your site or looking to sell your photos for a bit of extra cash, download our free list of 40+ free stock photo sites. There's no excuse for boring and unoriginal photos anymore.
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