Tips & Tricks
- How to Shoot Steady Videos
- Make Great Videos With Your Phone
- 10 Video Tips for Professional-Looking Results
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6 Tips to Produce Professional Videos Without a Tripod
A fancy video camera doesn’t automatically make you a professional videographer any more than a pricey set of golf clubs will turn you into Jack Nicklaus. To transform yourself from an amateur into an artist, you need practice shooting without a tripod. Whether you’re shooting breaking news or your nephew’s swim meet, ditching the tripod will put you in position to catch the best shots.
Move Closer to the Action
If you’ve been disappointed with shaky video, the first remedy is to get closer to what you’re shooting. Standing far away and zooming in will exaggerate every movement in your body — even your breathing.
That’s especially true when shooting widescreen videowhich will be viewed on a large TV set. You will leave viewers feeling seasick.
When you move closer to what you’re shooting, you’ll be able to zoom out. That will greatly reduce how much your subtle body movements will be transmitted on screen.
Shooting steady video of a football game will be easier on the sideline with the action directly in front of you, rather than from in the stands zooming in. Getting good results depends on where you decide to stand.
Position Your Body Properly
Choosing the correct spot to stand is just the first step. Next, you should make yourself as still as possible.
That starts with your legs. Stand with your legs at least as wide as your shoulders, if not slightly wider. This stance may seem unnatural, but it gives you a good foundation.
Then bring your elbows into the sides of your body. This will help regardless if your cameras is on your shoulder or is a unit that you hold in front of you.
You may feel as though you’re becoming so immobile that you should go back to using the tripod. But you still have the ability to pivot your hips, tilt your camera up and down and chase the action on foot. So you still have several advantages without being anchored to anything.
Make Sure Horizon Is Level
Nothing screams “rookie” more than shooting video with a horizon that’s not level. Think of how it would look if you were at the beach shooting the ocean, except that instead of being perfectly flat, the ocean looked as though it was going uphill on one side of the screen.
Your tripod probably has a bubble that shows you when it’s level. Think of your shoulder or your hands in the same way. Make sure the camera isn’t tilted to one side, even if your arms or shoulders are tired.
If you envision your entire body — camera included — as a fence post or flag pole, you will mentally achieve the level position you want. It will become easier to transform that picture into physical posture.
Use the Ground or Walls to Support the Camera
Even the most seasoned videographer still occasionally needs to make a shot steadier than by just standing still. That’s when he’ll find a spot on the ground or use walls to help.
Putting the camera on the ground or other flat surface can give your video a new perspective as you work to shoot more creatively. The camera is now at a different height than your body, which can add a dramatic touch.
Think of how different it would look shooting the Washington Monument by placing the camera on the ground and shooting upward. You would enhance the height of the structure and make it seem more commanding.
Leaning on a wall gives you an instance brace to help steady a shot, especially if you have no choice but to zoom in. If you’re using a shoulder-mounted camera, lean on your right shoulder, since that’s the shoulder supporting the camera.
Turn On the Image Stabilizer
Your efforts to shoot steadier video can get a boost with just the flip of a switch. If your camera has an image stabilizer, turn it on.
The camera will use one of two methods to reduce the shakiness that it detects. They are optical stabilization or digital stabilization.
The difference is whether the camera uses its lens or software to make the video appear steadier. Before shooting that once-in-a-lifetime moment, practice using the image stabilizer to see if it brings noticable results. While it should help, you need to know its limitations so you’re not disappointed that it didn’t fix every wobble.
Use the Eyepiece
If your camera gives you the option of using an eyepiece or a small video screen to see what you’re shooting, try sticking to the eyepiece. That can make a huge difference in getting steady video.
That’s because when you put the camera up to your eye, your head becomes another object that can hold it still. Otherwise, the camera is in front of your body.
Also, the eyepiece helps you concentrate your attention on how well you are shooting. It’ll be easier to decide that your video isn’t as solidly-shot as you’d like and it’s time to do something about it.
Before you decide that it’s easier to use a tripod than learning how to shoot without one, think about how you’d record a child’s birthday party or other home video. With a tripod, you’d likely be in the corner of the room so that no one would bump into you. Your video would have that wallflower look because it was shot from the fringes of the action, even if you zoomed in.
But off the tripod, you can move — standing up one minute, on your knees the next. You can have the camera instantly next to the birthday cake as the candles are being blown out. You can sit on the floor with the child as she opens her presents. The difference in the results is priceless.
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Tips for Cell Phones Videos That Look and Sound Better
New cell phones can put an HD camcorder in arm’s reach at all times, and have become the go-to recording device for many of us. Of course, the quality of cell phone video can vary wildly. This is partly because of the quality of the cell phones – some have better lenses and higher resolution than others. But it’s mostly a sign of the quality (or lack thereof) of the person making the video.
1. Get the Wide Shot!
Remember this: All cell phone videos should be horizontal. It’s tempting to turn the phone and frame a video shot, but that will be sideways when you watch on your computer or TV!
This is a mistake I see people making all the time. The shots can be rotated during editing, but then you end up with some serious pillar-boxing.
2. Record Phone Videos Outdoors
Bright light makes everything look better, including and especially cell phone videos. Try recording a nighttime video on your phone, and you’ll be disappointed. And even shooting indoors with lights on can be problematic, with white balance and other issues to contend with. For the best quality, shoot outdoors, but out of direct sunlight. The colors will pop and the video will be the best you’ll ever get from your phone.
Watch Video: Outdoor Recording Tips
3. Keep the Lens Clear
I can’t tell you how many videos from my phone feature a pink blob, creeping in from the side of the frame. Yes, the edge of my finger, once again obscuring the lens. As I, too, need to be reminded: Be careful to keep your fingers away from the lens on your phone. Let’s not ruin anymore videos, ok?
4. Keep the Mic Clear
In the spirit of the previous tip, figure out where the mic on your cell phone is, and keep it uncovered and clear when you’re recording video.
5. Keep Your Phone Steady
Phones are so light, that it’s easy to jiggle them when recording video. For steadier cell phone videos, you can invest in a little tripod with a phone clip – or make one yourself, either with your elbows resting on something or braced at your sides.
6. Keep the Mic Close
Speaking of audio, it’s often the worst part of recording video with a phone. Most phones don’t have microphone inputs, but you can keep the audio quality up by recording in quiet spaces, and keeping the phone as close to the subject you’re taping as possible.
Read more: Audio Recording Tips
7. Upgrade to a Good Phone for Video
Most cell phones can record video – even the flip phones from the early part of the century. But these older and cheaper cell phones record videos with a small frame size and low bit rate.
If you plan to record a lot of video with your phone, upgrade to one that shoots in HD. It’s worth it, and you’ll find it quickly replaces other, bulkier camcorders you may have been using!
8. Edit Videos on Your Phone
If you have a smartphone, you can download app that let you edit video right on your phone. As an iPhone user, I really like the editing feature included in the free Vimeo app, and I also have the iMovie app.
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10 Video Tips for Professional-Looking Results
Whether you aspire to become a media videographer or just want to know how to shoot professional-looking videos, you need more than good equipment. These 10 video tips will give your work an instant boost in quality.
Video Tip #1: Shoot Steady Video
A tripod is the easy answer to producing steady video, but avoid becoming dependent on it. You can shoot steady video without lugging around a lot of gear.
Get your body in position so that every breath you take doesn’t lead to unwanted camera motion. Use the ground, a wall or other object to brace the camera and get interesting visual perspectives. By ditching the tripod, you can move around a scene without being anchored in one spot.
Video Tip #2: Produce Creative Shots
Producing interesting videos involves learning creative shooting techniques. You don’t want your videos to look as though they came from a surveillance camera.
A beginner tends to shoot everything from the corner of a room or away from the action. By putting yourself in the middle of what’s happening, you will get images that aren’t possible from a distance. Experiment with different angles by shooting above and below your subject.
Video Tip #3: Practice Widescreen Videos
The videos of tomorrow will all be 16×9 widescreen. Think of how you can make this extra visual space work for you.
You can capture much more content in a single shot. But remember that widescreen video doesn’t mean shooting all wide shots. Television is still an intimate medium. Closeups of faces will convey more emotion than a group shot of a crowd.
Video Tip #4: Avoid Unnecessary Zooms and Pans
Picking up a camcorder for the first time has just about everyone wanting to hit the zoom button on every shot while panning across the horizon. The result can leave viewers seasick.
If you’re recording an action scene, let the motion that’s happening naturally dominate your video.Stop yourself from adding random zooms and pans, which distract from the action.
Make sure there’s a reason you are zooming or panning. At a sports event, professional videographers follow the action by following the ball. That’s the motivation behind tilting the camera up when a baseball player hits a fly ball or panning during a double play.
Video Tip #5: Get Good Results When Shooting Outdoors
You’d think outdoor videography would be simple because the sun provides the lighting. But to get the best outdoor shooting results, you have to watch the position of the sun closely.
Shoot with the sun at your back. If you’re recording people, they may complain about looking directly into the sunlight, but tell them that the shots you’ll get will be much better than if you were shooting into the sun. That would put their faces in silhouette.
Video Tip #6: Prepare for Indoor Video Shooting
Ignoring lighting when shooting indoors can make your videos look dark. That’s why indoor video shoots require additional preparation.
Adding your own lights is ideal. If that’s not possible, check out the available lighting sources. If you’re shooting video of people, get as much light in their faces. But don’t be fooled by overhead lights. While they may be bright, they only light the tops of people’s heads, leaving their facial features shadowy.
Video Tip #7: Position Lights for the Look You Want
Using television lights will give your videos a crisper look. But good lighting involves more than blasting your subject with as much wattage as you can find.
Knowing where to position lights makes all the difference in getting a natural effect versus making people look as though they’re about to undergo surgery.
Besides the standard 3-light setup, experiment to get dramatic effects. Turn out all the lights in a room and use only your equipment to highlight what you want.
Video Tip #8: Compose Creative Interviews
At some point, you’ll want to shoot video of a person talking into the camera — it could be a sit-down news interview or just a conversation with a person on the street. Plan the interview shoot to deliver professional results.
Consider the background. If you’re talking to someone about traffic in her neighborhood, show cars in the distance. If you’re interviewing a father about the day his child was born, put him in a cozy setting, like near a fireplace.
Then decide how tight you want to shoot the interview. There’s the standard head and shoulders look. But you may want to interview a farmer on his tractor, with much of the tractor in the shot. A highly emotional interview should be shot tight, so you can really see into the person’s eyes.
Video Tip #9: Remember to Capture Good Sound
While capturing compelling video, don’t forget that good audio is a must. Otherwise, your video may turn out useless.
The two most common mistakes are to forget to record audio and to fail to monitor the sound you’re getting. Forgetting to record audio means a child’s birthday party is silent — you can see the other children singing and laughing, but without hearing it, the video is ruined.
Monitoring the sound helps you avoid recording unwanted audio. That can happen when you interview someone and don’t notice that you are standing near a loud air conditioner. When you watch the video later, all you hear is the hum of the A/C unit, which drowns out what the person was saying.
Video Tip #10: Add a Green Screen to Produce Special Effects
Using a chromakey green screen gives you a world of options. These are the same tools TV stations use to present the weather. The meteorologist stands in front of the green screen, which allows the weather maps to be superimposed behind him.
You can shoot a person remembering her high school graduation while video of the graduation plays behind her. It’s an easy way to combine two video sources into one shot.
Mastering these video tips will ease the frustration many videographers experience. Before long, the standard tricks will become so routine that you’ll be able to concentrate on creativity and not just the basics.