To Zoom or not to Zoom?
Keep zooming to a minimum if you want a closer shot, get closer to the subject rather than zooming.
If possible ensure all shots are ‘locked-off" on a tripod.
Use natural light where possible, best times are early morning and late afternoon Use reflector/lamps if required.
What makes a story and what doesn’t?
Go back to finish a story off if you don’t have all the pieces
Talk to the camera in situ > video diary where possible
Non sync shots that help to join together a story - wide shots can help you here.
The other way is tripod or perch the camera and get a wide non sync of you sat or stood.
Label your tapes
Set-up shots (Wide angles of interview. subject at work and/or in natural enVironment), framing medium headshot (ie head and shoulders) and head-shots for most telling/Important parts
Subject should be talking into space so frame off centre.
Zoom in/out to fix a new shot when the subject is not talking.
Subject’s eye line should be one third from the top.
Camera should be set at subJect’s eye-level (i.e don’t shoot them from above looking down or Vice versa).
Interviews with translations as above but ensure a) the subject and translator are recorded on separate audio channels b) the translator does not talk at the same time as the subject
Audio for interviews a) check audio levels. b) minimise background noise by i) pick a quiet location ii) ensure mic is closer to subject and adjust levels c) ensure the subject is not interrupted whilst talking d) mics and cables out of shot.
2-way interviews as above but you Will need a) cutaways of the Interviewer reacting to what the subject Is saying, b) fixed shots of the interviewer asking the
Talking heads as above but ensure both subjects are ‘mixed’ up. you Will need more cutaways including reactions from both, over shoulder shots. reverse angles etc play With the angles.
Cut-aways include hand gestures. dose-ups of eyes, interesting clothing etc. Duration. 10 second each minimum.
Personal diaries, fixed shots think ‘Big Brother‘, make them personal. emotional and continuity of your storyline.
Establishing shots are crucial. Don’t forget that it doesn’t have to be a high wide shot. It could be a long street shot held for 10 seconds, or a slow pan from one object of interest to another.
Don’t forget to establish a building you are in or the tent you are sleeping in or the group of people you just had a conversation with. These are shots you can go back to, even the morning before you leave, but getting them when you think of it is best.
General Views are the mainstay of most films.
- Shoot as much as possible On tripod fixed shots Wides, mediums, close With pans if possible. Think framing not too much sky, position of subject etc.
- Flora & Fauna fixed shots pans for motion with animals. shoot early morning late afternoon for best light, contrast and times when fauna are most active
- People fixed shots. framed portraits, people at work, people ‘Iiving‘.
If you need to film an interview, then framing is important. The general guide is get the eye line a third of the way down the screen. The other thing is to give looking room in the direction they are looking. So if your subject is chatting to you off camera give them a little looking room, don’t stick them in the centre of the frame.
This means signs as we normally think of them but often get filtered out as we are so used to seeing them. Also think of non-literal signs; signs of life and animals, trees and planets, people communicating, flags. Think about how humans interact with their environment. Equally look for symbols- things that say something about the place, people, situation, culture etc. These could be posters or they could be rows of washing. It’s all about finding shots that paint a picture of the environment and atmosphere around you. -Signage in and out of towns/countires. Signs that arn’t literal, like a wondering animal, a stray branch, dirt tracks, a person, a flag.
Things that say something about the place, people, situation, culture etc. These could be posters, or they could be rows of washing, its all about finding shots that paint a picture of the environment and atmosphere around you.
Engage with people.
Try to ask probing question and try to think in terms of stories. Keep the editor in mind as much as possible. Try to think in terms of what would be relevant to a wider audience. Include your own reactions to people on camera and reflect in video diaries. Also include what you learn from your experiences.
Think about what the central theme is of each story you film. So it may be that you turn up to a small farm, negotiate a place to stay, get them comfortable with you filming and then realise that the theme here is actually not about poverty, or struggle or simplicity but about religious customs, as its so far removed from our western life styles. You could probe questions about this and find out why and where it all comes from. Share with the camera what you think of these things and what you learn from it, what you take away with you.
When with a group of people, try to capture your interaction with them, its tempting just to observe, but a sequence is very unlikely to get used unless there are some interactions between you and others, even without proper language. If they do speak English, then ask them questions, keep your narrative going (Who are you to them, where are you going, why are you interested in them etc.)
Actuality or Action
The stuff that’s happening, meet and greet, dinner, life on the farm, death on the farm, rituals and practices. This is your engagement with others so spinning the camera around onto you for sync sound bytes is important even if they are short.
If you are doing a big chunk of traveling, for example moving from one end of the country by train to the another or heading towards a border, don’t forget to recap regularly with the audience on this. I may use one sequence over another, but then not be able to use this because you don’t mention what’s going on. So whilst it will seem repetitive, keep us updated.
Try to be more concise in your video diaries. Its much better if you can to think about what you want to say before hand, choose say 3 things, then chat to the camera.
- Take good headphones so you can check audio when recording.
Field Production tips
- Where possible try and log your footage as you go along to enable you to build the story as you go, ensure continuity and plug holes as the story develops.
- Ensure your camera equipment, especially the lens and the heads, are clean at all times. Constantly check the lens for dust. splash etc.
Credit goes to String Films for much of these tips.