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Thread: Shooting Good Video - tips from Jim Harring

  1. #1

    Default Shooting Good Video - tips from Jim Harring

    This was originally posted in the old forums by Jim Harring (Not sure what happened to him, but as you can see, he had invaluable experience!)

    Some tips from a former news shooter:
    For home videos of say, the kids, or a vacation trip - try to tell a story. The story can be very simple: we got out of the car, hiked up a mountainside, saw a great view, had lunch, hiked back, and maybe it rained some. The audience wants a logical story from your video, be sure to give it to them. Random acts of video is boring!

    Edit mercilessly - I shot 5 hours of raw video; I will end up using less than one hour's worth in the final output. Remember, video is not all-you-can-eat, but a gourmet restaurant.

    Consider a fluidhead tripod. The fluidhead makes tilts and pans smoother.
    Consider a steadicam-junior, or one of the competitors to it. Frankly I jury rigged one and it works "good enuf."

    If you handhold your camcorder - always think "tripod." Anchor your elbows on your chest (or gut) and have the finder against your eye. Three points of contact, just like a tripod. This can vary, e.g. eyepiece snug and arms resting on a table. Or putthe camera on a rock.

    Watch the news and other shows, usually, it's a series of "locked down" camera shots; while the camera will follow the movement, it is unobtrusive. Editing is the key that puts the story together, not camera movements.*

    Pan and zoom for a REASON, don't try to "sweep" the landscape like an army radar. If you do a "zoom for effect", consider doing a reverse of the zoom. Sometimes in post, you will find what you thought would work out in the field, doesn't and you will wish you had shot the reverse (e.g. zooming in, vs out)

    Again do movement for a reason: a zoom in to highlight a feature not apparent in the wide shot. or zoom out to show that feature "tight" and later on where it "fits" in the picture. Useful also to lend scale, e.g. climber on mountain peak. I harp on camera movement, because it is the biggest thing that separates the home video crowd from the serious people.

    A great substitute to a broad pan or zoom is to establish a wide shot, or medium shot. Then shoot individual tight shots. In post, you can do nice dissolves.

    Shooting people: Shoot at subjects eye level, maybe a little above or below.* Get on your knees for kids.

    Remember the "perp walk" the guy in handcuffs w/ a news camera in his face. We shooters shot him that way 'cause when u get in close and stay wide, the cameraman's shakiness is minimized, even when the shooter is moving with the action.

    The tighter the zoom, the more you need good "legs" (Tripod) to stand on.

    Be aware of the light. Lighting can make a subject look flat or dynamic. Observe people carefully, you will find cool angles with experience. Mostly, I try to not shoot towards the sun.

    Watch out for strong backlight- don't be afraid to close curtains etc. to knock it down. Who wants to see shilouhettes?

    Shoot anough video so the person who edits it can acutally edit it. At least 10 seconds of each shot, if possible. Also try to get two takes when possible. Someone's scratching their nose somewhere in your raw tape. Also, Plan on a tape creases, etc. ruining your tape.

    Have tape head cleaner, lens cleaner, battery, spare tape handy.

    A small piece of sticky back velcro on the lens cap and the opposite piece on the camcorder in an unobtrusive place will keep the lens cap from getting in your shot or flapping in the breeze.

    *All rules are made to be broken. Sometimes for dramatic effect a fast zoom or perhaps looking up at a person (like they are a giant) is effective. But break the rules for a specific reason, not out of ignorance.

    ...and remember, you are telling a story. If you can plan the story in advance, you will better situate yourself to get the shots that embellish the story. If you randomly "spray and pray" well, it'll look like a home movie.
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  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    New Jersey


    great advice... I've got to try that "human tripod" method soon
    Believe half of what you see, and none of what you hear.

  3. #3


    great tip about the velcro

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Western Europe


    Great tips Mark the one about the lens cap flapping in the wind is the best. Others I would suggest are opening a car door and leaning on the roof for support, sitting on your butt with your knees pulled up to your chest and resting your elbows on your thighs. Think of composition and the rule of thirds (breaking the scene into two horizontal lines and two vertical lines and where they cross you show points of interest. Never pan unless you have to and use zooming (regarded as a special effect) to frame your shots. The three main shots in your videos should be wide shot, medium shot and close up, moving the viewer closer and closer to the action. Also, when shooting say a band or group performing in public, don't settle for shooting behind peoples heads, get in front of them as the audience want to see what is going on and feel involved.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Western Europe


    When recording a musician or band performing, if you can get someone else to video along with you all the better. One of you can point the camera at the band and record a song from beginning to end while the other camera can be used to get odd angles, reaction shots, cutaways and these can then be placed into the master shot (camera that doesn't move) to add visual variety.

    For interviews the main technique used and you've all seen it on television news and that is the Insert Edit. Don't know if this topic has been convered on the forum before (I'm just too lazy to go and look). But most interviews begin with an establishing shot of say a politician who walks past the camera. Then we cut to a Mid shot or Medium Close Up of them being interviewed usually with dialogue running over from the previous shot. Whatever the interviewer is talking about is then seen onscreen but you can still hear them talking and if you just listen carefully you will hear the audio from the new inserted footage very faintly in the background. This is where multiple video and audio tracks come in handy in your video editing package. The video of the interviewer describing inner city rejuvination is replaced with actual footage showing the actual rejuvination. The original audio is kept but new pictures and in some cases new audio as described above are inserted.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    with my camera


    that is a damn good post.

    i'm new to this, and that was very helpful. i will have to make sure i remember all that!

    shame the guy isn't on the forums anymore, seems like he was a great contributer.

  7. #7


    how i just learned alot...
    Dh/freeride MTB\'r
    video filming: novice
    Editing: novice
    Always learn something...
    See my videos!

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2006


    Great tips. How about tripod dolly? Should i use dolly or slow zoom

  9. #9


    good stuff

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan 2007


    I wouldn't nessecarily say all random acts of video are boring, quite a lot of them are funny :P
    It's not about what camera you use or how much it cost.

    It's about what you shoot,
    how you shot it,
    and how you edit it :P

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