VIDEOGRAPHY TIPS 6: Screencasts

Nowadays, a lot more companies are doing screencasts tutorials on how to use their products.  Especially when their products are web-based.  This is an easy way to circumvent a lot of customer service calls and is easier and more interactive than a set of written instructions.  Remember, people learn differently, so while some thrive on written instructions, others flourish on watching someone else do it, which in this case amounts to screencasts.

A screencast is nothing more than when you record your monitor screen and do a voiceover on top of the video.  These are easy to crank out, at a low-level production, so you see the amatuer do these kinds of videos all the time, but the audio sucks, there’s a lot of “ums” and a lot of dead time in the video.

This can all be avoided by actually approaching these videos as you would any other. Write a script, record and cut the video, retake portions of the screencasts if the mouse movement is jerky, cut load times of web pages, this kind of stuff.

Then, if you want to take it up another notch, hop into After Effects and use zoom in/zoom out to provide the focus on where the user should be clicking as opposed to using a circle around your cursor or something of the like.

Here is a whole series that demonstrates what I mean that I’ve made.

VIDEOGRAPHY TIPS 5: Overlays

I mentioned this in one of my previous blogs, and that is the idea of using overlays for your film productions.  This is where subjectivity rules… While I may think that using mostly opaque effervescent bubbles loop over my video looks fun and bright, you may think it looks dumb and childish.  So there will always be some element of personal preference that comes into it.

However, it is a good and easy way to break the monotony of an interview or instructional video, or give your video a specific feel… bright, dark, happy, sad, dramatic, etc.

Most video editing programs come with many filters that you can apply to your film, and combined with an overlay of some sort it can really make the difference!

VIDEOGRAPHY TIPS 4: B-roll

B-roll? What is b-roll?  You know the last interview you watched, they have those shots of them working at their desk, or presenting in a meeting, or having a standup meeting in the hallway or something?  That’s all b-roll.  Like A-roll/B-roll.  Your A-roll is the video of the subject talking to the camera, your b-roll is everything else that “fills” the video.  Nobody wants to sit there and watch the subject talk to the camera for 4 minutes, so we break it up with b-roll.

Now, you can purchase b-roll from sites like Adobe or pond5, but usually, that has a very distinct look to it and is obvious that you didn’t shoot it and it was purchased.  A lot of things come into play here… mainly, it was probably shot on a different camera than you are using for your interview, and it was shot by another videographer, to their taste and liking.  Which means, that it will probably not be in the same style as what you’re shooting… too light, too dark… etc etc.

So just shoot your own b-roll!  You can get more creative this way, it’s cheaper (although it takes more time on your part) and makes for an all-around more synchronous look and feel for your video!

VIDEOGRAPHY TIPS 3: Microphone

Another difficulty in shooting video is the microphone you use.  Some are divided on this idea, as there are many different ideas as to how the sound should sound, and what audio equipment can/should be visible in a shot (i.e. lav mics).

I am in the camp that if at all possible, avoid using a lav mic (the ones that clip on their shirt) as is is less professional looking. Especially if you’re shooting someone in a suit, having an awkward mic/cord right there isn’t as put together looking.  also, speaking of awkward, micing someone up with a lav mic can be just that, especially if the subject is not used to this procedure.  it’s a major “bubble” infringement for some.  You can also run into other problems such as where to clip it.  perhaps the subject is wearing a tshirt? or its a lady and has a blouse that doesn’t button up the front? now you have to scrunch the fabric together in order to clip the mic on and that just looks bad.

For slightly more money, and a little more hassle for use behind the cameras, you can get a shotgun microphone.  These are great because their sound is usually superior to that of a lav mic, and it’s not in the shot at all! One of the drawback to this kind of microphone though is if your subject is moving, as in walking.  then it is difficult to keep the mic where it needs to be to pick up the vocals.

VIDEOGRAPHY TIPS 2: Background

The next thing you want to consider when shooting an interview is the background of the subject.  Now the most common thing to do, especially in a corporate world, is to shoot the subject with a bustling workspace behind them, full of people working at their cubes and moving about.  I would highly encourage you to NOT DO THIS!  Unless you’re going for the infomercial vibe, it’s nothing special.  And it is insanely overused, so by all means, if you can, avoid it!

It would be much better to go to a park so you have greenery… trees, grass, bushes, behind the subject.  Remember they will be blurred out, so find something with an interesting but not incredibly busy background.

A wood-paneled wall is awesome, a cool looking commonplace in the office… these kinds of things.  and if you don’t have anything super stunning, figure out how to spice it up! Throw a plant or something else that will give it color in the background.  I once shot in a large room that is used as a yoga studio.  It was an extremely bland room… blah carpet, a few windows… nothing special, but the subject really wanted to shoot in there on a yoga mat.  So, i grabbed a bunch of the multicolored yoga blocks and just started throwing them on the ground behind her… in a “random” arrangement… it just added some color pops which helped break things up.  get creative with it, have fun!

VIDEOGRAPHY TIPS 1: Settings

I get a lot of questions on how I do videography. and if you’ve read my series on Photography tips, then this will be familiar to you.

One of the key parts of shooting a video is the background.  It’s a strange thing if you think about it, really.  For the purpose of this post, I’ll be discussing shooting an interview style video.  For this type of video, you usually will want to have a lot of bokeh, and the way to do that is to get a zoom lens and back up from your subject as much as possible so that you can zoom in as much as possible. this creates that beautiful natural blurred effect in the background of the subject, which in turn makes your subject “pop” right off the screen!

An easy way to get this is to back far away from the subject and then zoom all the way in with your zoom lens (200mm+ for best effect) and then set your aperture low so that your depth of field is small.

PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS 6: Lightroom or Photoshop?

A common question I get as a photographer is which software I use to edit my photos… lightroom, photoshop, or some other.  My answer is yes, yes and no.  I use both Lightroom and Photoshop to edit, it just depends what I’m editing.

For Lightroom.  Lightroom is great for bulk amounts of photos that you’re not planning on doing a ton of editing to, just small tweaks to lighting, contrast, coloring maybe, or light things like this.  If I shoot a wedding or an event like a sports game, then I’ll probably mostly use Lightroom to edit the photos since I’m not going to be editing a lot of faces and whatnot.  Since these scenarios have a lot of the same lighting to most of the pictures, I’ll probably be doing the same kind of edits the most if not all of the photos, so the copy paste settings on LR really speed along the process!

I’ll break into Photoshop if I’m doing heavy editing like faces or backgrounds… or using a lot of overlays and whatnot.  But this is very time consuming and RAM intensive, so I’m not going to edit 200 photos like this unless I have to.

PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS 5: SHOOT A LOT

This seems like it may be counterintuitive to some, and to some, it may seem like a no-brainer.  But I propose that when you shoot, don’t keep checking your camera after shot or two, take a bunch hand move on (of course check lighting).  I’ve seen a lot of photographers do this, and most times it’s at weddings or such events… There was one wedding I was attending, and as the bride walked down the aisle, he took two pictures… TWO!

One of the biggest days of this girl/couple’s life, and they will at best have two pictures of it (if they both turned out well).  My reasoning for this is simple… It’s really easy to shoot two pictures that you can’t use for whatever reason… it’s out of focus, bad framing, weird faces… whatever the case, it’s easy to have 2 photos that you can’t use.  So shoot a ton!  When I shoot a wedding or other event, I walk away with THOUSANDS of photos and trim from there.  Now is it more work on the backend, absolutely!  But it could just save your skin!

PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS 4: ZOOM IN

Now I’m going to show you how you can make the most of your zoom lens.  Most people use this just to be able to shoot things that are farther away, I use it so I can shoot from farther away.

Now, this sounds like they’re the same thing, right?  Well, kind of.  It’s a technicality.  I use a zoom lens so I can intentionally walk away from my subject to use the full extent of the zoom, even though I could just as easily been right up close and used a 50mm.  Why?  one word: Bokeh.  Bokeh is that natural blur you get from your camera, and when you have a zoom lens, you can automatically get a lot of it if you zoom as far in as the lens will go and then adjust your position to make your subject fit in the frame.

That’s where the difference is.  Most folks use their zoom lenses so they don’t have to move, they can just zoom and or out.  I use my zoom lens so that I have to move so that the lens is zoomed all the way in!  Give it a try sometime, especially with group pics like this:

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PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS 3: SUN FLARE/WIDE LENS

Ok, now we’re combining things you’ve learned with new ones… This is a super cool way to get a pretty epic looking photo!  Remember the ground shots we talked about?  Now shoot directly into the sun from the ground.  This works really well with a wide angle lens… If you can find the persons shadow, then all you have to do it focus on them, and then put the lens halfway into their shadow pointing up at the sun and you can achieve a super cool look in your shots, even if the person is just standing there doing nothing!

Here are some examples:

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