Online tools and technology used to capture and construct video media are in constant flux. Yet there remain tried-and-true mechanics of basic video shooting.
Randy Walk, Ohio State Multimedia Producer, outlined these fundamentals of videography during Tuesday’s KipCamp video session. He was assisted by Joe Camoriano, broadcast director of the Ohio State Media and Public Relations. The presentation focused on training journalist videographers to shoot three elements of an effective video production: Shots, scenes and sequences.
“Whether you’re doing six-second Vine, a 15-second Instagram video, a 30-second b-roll package or a one-minute story for your news program, it’s all built on these fundamental building blocks,” Walk said.
“It’s one continuous take; you frame something, you hit record, you let the action happen in front of you, you hit the record button again to stop.”
- Avoid the “soccer-mom” technique of standing stationary while recording long, continuous takes. Move your feet and find the story. Your editor cannot work with one shot. The single-shot, spectator-like approach is common in citizen journalism and is only effective while shooting the most spontaneous and dramatic of stories. In this rare instance, a single shot can be a scene. “But most of the time, we’re going to have to bust up things into multiple shots,” Walk said.
- Use the “rule of thirds” when framing a shot. This helps push the subject out of the frame’s center — to the left or right third of the frame — and creates a more pleasing composition. Get close and keep the subject’s eyes in the upper-third crosshairs of the viewfinder, allowing him “looking area” or “talking space” in the opposite side of the frame. Not doing this can create tension and discomfort. Walk uses the iPhone app ProCamera to aid him when composing shots.
- Get detail. Although you should shoot some wide shots, get a majority of medium and tight shots for the editor. “For the most part, people are going to be seeing your videos on phones and on small screens. So, if you’re going to do that big, beautiful ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ shot, and it’s really wide, you’re going to lose detail,” Walk said.
- Camoriano said videographers should also be mindful of audio. Getting a tight shot will enhance the natural sound recording, especially you are not using an external microphone. “Always try to throw in some natural sound on your close-ups,” he said. “You’re not only visually trying to put a story together — the audio is very important.” Walk added, “If it makes noise, shoot it.”
“It’s a series of takes that focus around a specific period of time that either covers a theme, an event or the development of a character.”
- Breaking up a story into multiple shots tells a better story. “This is one of my favorite scenes, from one of my favorite movies, ‘North by Northwest.’ I was 8 years old when I saw this, and I remember being mesmerized by this. It’s just Cary Grant standing by the side of the road, waiting for a Mr. Kaplan to show up,” Walk said.
- Chopping Carrots: Walk demonstrated the three-over-one rule, borrowed from Michael Rosenblum, while shooting a subject chopping carrots. Collect three variations of shots. “These shots go by really, really quick. On average, an editor is going to have each shot up for two seconds,” Walk said. “If you can shoot ten shots, two of them should be wide, three or four are medium, the rest should be tight.”
- Give your editor some creativity and options by using the five-shot rule: tight shot of the hands, tight on the face, over-the-shoulder shot, a wide and one miscellaneous shot. Walk said he frequently watches this BBC tutorial as a reminder. “I watch this video over and over and over again. And this guy is in my head every time I shoot. Because sometimes I forget, then I say, ‘Oh yeah. Why am I not breaking this scene down?’”
- When shooting, be in the moment and plan out what shots you’ll need for the scene. Don’t be afraid to move around and make sure you’ve fully covered the story. But stay mindful of the subject and material and avoid disrupting the action. Walk showed “Bob the Bugler,” a story shot and edited by Michelle Michael, as an example of this.
“It’s a series of scenes that are also made up of shots,” Walk said.
- Sequences are less common in traditional news pieces. Your average video piece for a news story will run roughly one minute. Sequences are more appropriate in a longer piece. Walk gave the example of the intro in a James Bond film that precedes the opening credits and theme song.
By reexamining how a series of scenes come together, and the scenes and shots themselves, we can consider new visual story-telling possibilities. Tools ideal for short stories, like Vine and Instagram, compose quick, concise visual stories. Camoriano said a complete story can be told in a 15-second video. CNN, the Washington Post and other news outlets seek out online videos by subject or hashtag.
“Nowadays, you don’t have to have the pristine editing and the glossy finish, because you’re gathering news, right? It’s all about the story. So, that’s what make these tools so convenient and so exciting, because anyone can tell a story. You guys are all journalists; you guys crack stories wide open. So, think of new ways to use Vine, new ways to use Instagram to bring the story to life,” Camoriano said.