Last weekend I was out with my film collaborator, Marie-Cecile, filming our travel video about the harbourside in Bristol. We found that how ever well laid your plans, you have to be adaptable when you get out to shoot your chosen subject.
I’ll post the Bristol video soon (once we have sussed out the editing software). But in the meantime here’s what I learned.
1. Check all your gear then check it again
Check it the week before and then again the night before you go. Have you bought enough film or memory cards? Have you charged your battery before you arrive on location? Do you have spare batteries? If not you’ll be cursing when you can’t get that great shot because the battery just ran out. Guess what – my video camera was not as fully charged as I thought and Marie-Cecile only had one battery which ran out after an hour of filming.
2. You can’t predict the weather
After a week of glorious sunshine, our chosen filming day dawned wet and grey. Luckily we had checked the forecast and had already decided to use the day for a recce and planning our shoot. In the event the weather cleared enough for us to get some of the shots we wanted, even though we had to go back on a second day to get those blue sky shots. If you see a great shot, take it there and then even if you’re in a hurry. Tomorrow it will be raining (if you live in Bristol).
3. Push yourself to get the best shots
A little courage and confidence will help you get some great shots. We identified a tall office building overlooking the harbour which would be great to get a view from a height. As we hung around outside, we managed to sweet talk an employee who just happened to have an office on the top floor. He took us up and let us film the shots we needed. Now that’s what I call lucky! But it wouldn’t have happened without that courage to give it a try.
4. Everything takes longer than you think
First you have to set up the tripod, level the camera, practice your shot a few times if it involves people. This is where having decided your story, narative and shots in advance really yields a dividend. It took us 2 days to shoot a 5 minute video. Be warned!
5. Be ready to capture those magical moments
If something wonderful is unfolding in front of you, be quick with the camera and then let it roll to capture the unexpected. Sometimes, if you’re in a busy place, you can just set up your camera unobtrusively and then watch a likely candidate until the magic moment happens. Children and pets are always worth keeping an eye on for that ahhh moment.
6. Look good for the camera
If you’re going to be on camera then make a bit of an effort with your appearance. Girls – do your hair, put on your lipstick, wear simple clothes that look good on camera. Guys – a pressed shirt and a clean shave never hurts. Take off any jackets and bags before you shoot. Even if your style is casual, treat your camera as a hot date you’d want to impress.
7. Use a tripod
It’s a pain to carry around, but your film will look for much better without those shaky shots. If portability is an issue, you could always get a mini tripod or beanbag to steady your camera on a ledge or railing. If you really have nothing, then try to stand in a steady way, brace yourself against a doorway and hold your breath.
8. Shoot to edit
Anticipate the editing of the film and make sure you film what you need to make it all hang together. You need to take a variety of long placement shots, mid shots and close-ups to break up the narrative. You need to get the shots that re-inforce your story. If you mention a place, don’t forget to take some shots of it. If you’re filming a journey, keep the shots all moving in the right direction.
9. Be aware of the sound
Even though we planned to put music over much of the video, when you’re doing a voice to camera piece you need good quality sound. So wait until the airplane has gone over or the baby’s stopped screaming before you shoot that key shot. Use an external microphone that can clip to the clothes of the person who’s speaking. If you come across a some great street musicians, or other background noice you could record it separately to use in your film.
10. Have fun
If it’s not your job, then treat it as a fun day out. It’s your chance to explore secret places, meet interesting people and make a record of your experiences.