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Get clever with focus
Again, just like stills, how you set the depth-of-field and the focus affects how a viewer ‘reads’ the story. Deep depth-of-field, which you’ll get from a high f/stop like f/16, gives the maximum amount of context to the scene, because everything is sharper. On the other hand, using a shallow depth-of-field, which you’ll get from a low f/stop like f/2.8, will mean only the subject is sharp, isolating them as the centre of attention. Unlike with stills, you can also move the focus from one part of
the frame during filming. This is called ‘pulling focus’ and it can be instrumental in drawing the viewer’s attention from one part of the frame to another. You could start off focusing on a carpenter’s tools, then shift the focus to their face. You can focus your videos using either autofocus or in manual mode, though many seasoned filmmakers prefer the latter. And make sure you use any focus-assist features on your camera, like focus peaking or magnified views of the focusing area.
The more B roll, the better
B roll is footage that helps add to the atmosphere of a scene and give it a sense of place. It’s not simply a second camera angle on the subject, but something more supplemental. It could be footage of scenery or the subject’s hands moving as they talk during an interview, and it’s inserted during the edit to keep the scene moving and interesting. You don’t need two cameras to shoot B roll as, with the right level of planning, you can replicate someone talking as you shoot these cutaways, or simply have a look around your location for interesting scenery after the main footage – historically called the A roll – is completed. Your B roll most likely won’t need sound recorded with it either, as it will simply be slotted in with the main soundtrack in your edit. However, it can be useful to record ‘wild track’ sound, which can also be used in editing later, as it’s something that adds atmosphere to the piece.
Shoot on the move
Movement can be a massive part of what makes a video engaging to a viewer. It’s not something you should overuse, but get it right and you’ll retain attention for longer. Simple movements can be done handheld with image stabilisation switched on for extra smoothness. Or you can use a fluid head on a tripod to pan or tilt the camera. Ramping things up, you can get even better results from
accessories like gimbals, sliders and cranes, but try to use slow and deliberate movements unless your video is all about action and high speed. In all cases, try starting the movement before you start recording, and finish recording before you end it – or otherwise remember to edit out any bumpy starts and stops. And experiment with AF tracking modes to keep the subject in focus.
Add slow motion to the mix
As well as using it specifically for action subjects, slow motion is a great way to add interest to regular videos, especially in your B roll. Many cameras have dedicated slow-motion modes, which will play back the effect, but essentially all you’re doing is recording at a very high frame rate – this footage can then be played back at any speed you like in your edit. When using slow motion, try to gauge the style and length of the activity you’re shooting and pick an appropriate speed. For instance, shooting 2x slow motion gives a
great look to walking subjects and other regular movements – but go much slower and it may look like you’re trying too hard or become boring for the viewer. Conversely, if you’re shooting an action subject, like a golfer’s swing or a kingfisher diving into the water, you’ll want a much slower speed and therefore a higher frame rate. Framing and lighting is also a very important aspect of slow- motion shots, as your viewer will have longer to spot any defects in the scene, so take care when composing and planning your shot.
From adverts to wedding speeches to short dramas, many videos rely on the subject speaking directly to the camera. This is something you can only get right with the correct kit and attention to detail. To improve the quality of sound, you need either a shotgun mic pointed at the speaker or a lapel mic attached to them. The latter gives the most freedom for them to move around. Wireless mics are affordable and popular, and let you frame the subject from further off, but try to feature them prominently in the frame or the delivery will seem disconnected or even comical. With the mic connected to the camera or an external recorder, monitor the sound level, making sure there’s a clear signal, and watch out for any slips of the tongue or interfering noises – your subject may not notice this as they speak, but it’ll stick out like a sore thumb and be unfixable when you get to the edit. Talking to camera
For more advice and technique, head to the Summer Festival section of the Photography News website at photographynews.co.uk
Issue 79 | Photography News 17
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