Week 9 (08/04): Shooting on location

Photo The Optimist

BY CAZ ADAMS

PART 2 – VIDEO STORY

In Week 8 we discussed storyboarding and ways to visually cover your story like Piece To Camera, Voice Over, Close Ups, Location Shot, Images, Graphs & Text on Screen, SFX, Music.

ASSESSMENT 2Video Story
should be between 2 and 5 minutes, and must include:

  • a piece to camera
  • voice over
  • close up/s
  • location shot

           Submit:

  • Finished video file (MP4)
  • Evaluation of your process and finished product (200 words)
  • Scripts
  • Production sheet (I will email one to you)
  • Paper edit notes (can be messy!)
  • Research and other notes

NOTE: Make sure you video each shot for longer than you think you need. It’s easier to cut footage in the edit, than to find there’s an issue and you have to re-shoot.

Check Week 7 for how to tell a video story during social distancing / self isolation.

WEEK 9 – SHOOTING ON LOCATION

As opposed to shooting in a controlled environment like a studio, location shooting has a whole lot of conditions that are not able to be controlled. These include the sun, clouds, rain, wind, cars, planes, noises, people, lawn mowing, building construction, church bells etc.

This means that videoing is not just visual (sun / clouds) but you have to listen for sounds that may cause audio issues. And if either or both are a problem then you just have to wait until the conditions change…. move to another more suitable location… wait for another time… or change what you had planned to shoot. If you shoot a wide shot with cloud cover (no shadows), then the sun comes out when you go in for a close up, the shots won’t match in the edit and the viewer will be thrown out of the story.

All this may seem troublesome but if the movies and TV shows you love didn’t do this, then the quality would be so low that your wouldn’t bother watching them.  And this is also why you often hear people talk about all the waiting around on a film set.

SHOOTING ON A SMART PHONE

CLEAN THE LENS
This is a great place to start. Make sure the camera’s view isn’t obstructed, and give it a quick swab. Moistened cleaning wipes are the best for this job, but a quick breath and your shirt will do the trick, too.

CHECK AND SET YOUR SETTINGS
Most smartphones these days have different resolutions and frame rates to choose from.

On Android phones, these settings are usually right inside the main camera app, either tucked behind the settings gear wheel, or accessible via a toggle button.

Apple, however, has buried these options in the main settings menu. You have to back out of the camera app, go into Settings, scroll down to Photos & Camera, and then scroll down to the Camera section. 

(If you can’t find the settings on your phone, google your phone model + camera settings.)

There is no need to use 2K or 4K.
They will use up too much storage on your phone and you will require a lot of storage on your computer when editing.  It can slow it down or crash the program.

Use 1080p @ 30 fps
Or if you have an older phone or not much storage then 720p @ 30 fps will do. (fps means frames per second.)

One minute of video will be approximately:

  • 720p HD   @ 30 fps will use up 40 MB (Space Saver)
  • 1080p HD @ 30 fps will use up 60 MB (Default)
  • 1080p HD @ 30 fps will use up 90 MB (Smoother)
  • 4K             @ 30 fps will use up 170 MB (higher resolution)

 

OPTICAL IMAGE STABILISATION VS. DIGITAL / ELECTRONIC IMAGE STABILISATION
Some phones now come with optical image stabilisation, like the newest iPhones and Samsung’s Galaxy phones. This means that the camera uses information from the phone’s gyroscope and accelerometer to precisely move the camera’s optics to compensate for the movement of the phone. Of your hand is shaking a bit, or you’re walking while you’re shooting, the phone can calculate and correct for that movement.

Google Pixel phones use digital image stabilisation or electronic image stabilisation. It works on the same principle: the phone is using information from its various sensors to counteract unwanted movements to create steadier video. But in this case, nothing’s actually moving to compensate. Instead, the camera app is cropping in a bit from the full field of view and using the extra pixels to simulate optical image stabilisation. This means that digital image stabilisation, much like digital zoom, typically results in a loss of image quality for the sake of steadier video.

More often than not, steadier video is good.

TASK:

Try shooting a similar scene with and without digital image stabilisation to get a sense of how it’s affecting your video.

Some phones, like the Pixel, are very good at reducing the amount of quality lost, making the trade-off worth it. Others might not be the same. And some phones overcorrect so much that you might not like the stabilisation effect at all.

Some video editing apps allow you to apply similar digital stabilisation after, like Premiere Pro. That said, you can lose detail because it has to enlarge the footage. (The more shake, the more enlarging.)

USE A TRIPOD
If you have one use it!

You may have a small one that you can stand on top of something to get the height you require. Or a very small tripod with bendy legs, that can be twisted around something to hold it in place.

You will need a phone mount to attach you phone to your tripod.

GOOD LIGHTING IS CRITICAL
Proper lighting has a huge impact on smartphone cameras because they have smaller image sensors and lenses. Smartphones’ highly automatic shooting modes mean that it’s often easier to control your environment than it is to control your camera settings.

Try as much as possible to shoot in well lit areas. This will help avoid grainy areas in your video.

Be careful not to point the camera directly at bright light sources, which will cause overexposed footage and lens flaring. Lighting should be stable and steady; the image sensors in most smartphones do not react to dramatic changes in lighting very quickly. 

Shooting outside is best done on a cloudy day or in the shade. Cheap camera sensors have a low dynamic range, which means that they are unable to record drastic variations in light in a single frame. Too much light will overwhelm the camera, with bright skies or reflections causing the rest of the frame to be underexposed. If the glaring sun is unavoidable, shoot from an elevated vantage. This will ensure that the sky is mostly out of the frame and allow the camera to meter your subject, not the sky, for its exposure.

Shooting indoors affords you more control, but introduces new problems. Don’t light your subject from behind (subject can be darkened and hard to see) or from directly in front (subject can be blown out); use diffuse lighting (a lampshade) where possible, or light from the sides. In any case, make sure there’s enough illumination—cheap cameras perform poorly in low light. A humble shop light bounced off a ceiling or wall, for example, can turn a shadowy scene into a tastefully lit one.

Phone cameras automatically adjust to compensate for the colour, or temperature, of a light source – natural light is very cool (blue), while many household lights are very warm (yellow). An open window near a shining lamp may leave your subject with a yellow or blue tint, depending on which light source the camera focuses on. If skin is strangely tinted, ensure multiple light sources are the same colour.

Most phones also offer “touch focusing”. After setting the focus on the most important aspect of the video, the automatic exposure control will have an easier time making small adjustments if the lighting condition begins to change.

BRACE YOURSELF
This applies to shooting video with any smartphone, regardless of whether it has optical, digital, or no image stabilisation at all. Finding ways to brace yourself while you shoot video is the key to making your footage look smooth. 

There are a number of ways to do this. One is to simply tuck your elbows into your side as you hold your phone out in front of you. Use two hands. But be careful not to breathe too deeply because as your ribcage expands, your phone will move.

You can place your phone up against something for support. A clean window or piece of glass is handy, Or lean it hard up against a pile of books. 

Remember that the camera on your phone is typically not right in the centre. This means you can lean your phone up against a heavy object on a flat surface without covering up the camera.

WATCH:

PACE YOURSELF
Shooting a lot of video, especially 4K video, is going to clog up your phone’s storage faster than almost anything else. So making sure you have a solution in place to back that footage up is key. 

Find a storage solution that works for you, whether that’s cloud-based (Google Drive, iCloud, Dropbox, etc.) or local storage (external hard drives, or maybe even just your laptop or desktop) and get into the habit of backing up your footage regularly.

FRAMING
Don’t always go for the obvious shot. Respecting the rule of thirds, which divides a frame into a 3 x 3 grid, will help you compose more interesting shots. Try placing your subject somewhere other than the centre of the frame.

Anticipate your subjects’ actions and give them space to move.

If someone is walking to the left or right, allow room for them to move and stay in frame. If you are moving the camera with the subject (panning/sliding), then slightly anticipate their move. 

If you can’t fit a subject’s entire body in a shot, crop at a natural cutoff line, such as the elbows or hips.

A CU of a face does not have the top of the head in shot. It’s pleasing to have the top of the frame halfway down the forehead. That way the eyes and mouth are right in the centre of the frame.

VIDEO EDITING
Video editing has become extremely simple with the advent of user-friendly editors like iMovie and Windows Live Movie Maker and can help polish a decent video, or salvage a bad one. Your first impulse when shooting with a smartphone may be to record snippets and avoid editing altogether. You’re always better off overshooting and cutting later. You have gigabytes of space to record with, and besides, the only way to make sure you don’t miss the pivotal moment of a soccer game is to keep the camera rolling. Editing out a fumble or a face-plant takes just a few seconds, but you can’t edit in something you didn’t film. 

AUDIO MATTERS AS MUCH AS THE VIDEO
A good video with poor audio quality is junk unless you plan to add a completely new audio track “in post” (while editing your video). The quality of the built-in microphone in smartphones varies. It is very common to catch wind and unnecessary environmental noise that will compete with or drown out any important audio while shooting video outside. This is almost impossible to edit out later.

It is advisable to shoot your video in a quiet place, preferably indoors when possible with less ambient noise. If you have an external mic attach it to your phone. If using an external microphone isn’t possible or practical then stay as close to the audio source as possible and try this little trick: use your hand to cover around the phone’s microphone (but don’t completely cover it). This way, unwanted noise can be reduced.

GET CLOSE TO YOUR SUBJECT
Staying physically closer to your subject ensures better image quality, less digital noise, better audio and better focus in your videos since most smartphones use a digital zoom rather than optical zoom.

BE PREPARED FOR THE SHOOT
Before you begin videoing, make sure that you have all of the gear, props, scripts, actors and shooting locations ready to go. Additionally, make sure your phone has enough storage space (available memory) to store the footage – high definition (HD) video files can get large. Videoing will drain a battery quickly so make sure it is fully charged. If you’re taking a lunch break, charge your phone. 

WATCH:

Reminder: Assessment Part 1 – Audio – is due   

Please email it to me at carol.adams7 (at) tafensw.edu.au

If you have not yet finished your Podcast or Audio Feature, see Week 6 for detailed instructions.

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