Posts Tagged ‘camera’

The Best Video Camera…Ever

Monday, April 30th, 2012
Video camera in action.

Video camera in action. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Everyone wants to know what THE best video camera is on the market. Friends (who don’t work in video production) will ask me this question before making a purchase, “What video camera would you recommend?” I’m flattered that they respect my opinion, but the answer is a little more complex than it used to be. Today there are an incredible amount of cameras out there – each with their own capabilities. I’m hesitant to say that one camera is BETTER than another camera, because I’m not quite sure that’s the case. Every camera is DIFFERENT. Each brings to the table something that makes it unique. Think of these different cameras simply as tools in a toolbox. Each one performs a specific function and each one is suited for a particular job. I feel the same way about cameras. They are simply tools that help you to tell a visual story. You should select a camera based on the type of story you want to tell and the style/look you want to achieve. For example:

  • If a client wants the project to look a little raw and feel low-budget and home-made, I will select a camera and shooting format based on those parameters.
  • If it suits the project, I might shoot standard-definition video in a MiniDV format.
  • If I know that I will be going into a shooting situation with very low light levels, I will choose a camera that performs especially well in low light.
  • If I know that I need to achieve a rich, cinematic look with shallow depth-of-field, I might select a large-sensor camera with the flexibility to change lenses.

You get the idea.

Editing systems are now fully capable of importing video footage from different cameras (with differing frame rates, formats, and frame sizes) into the same project. So now, producers can mix and match their source footage into one video if need be.

The goal has always been to tell the best story. All you need is the right tool for the job.

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Under the Lights: Make Your Subject Comfortable

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

Conducting on-camera interviews is always an important part of a corporate video or documentary film. They provide the viewer with context and help to round out the story by providing different perspectives and opinions on a particular topic. However, capturing the polished sound bites one hears in the final video is not an easy task. It takes the right kind of person, asking the right kind of questions, which helps the subject feel comfortable enough to answer while staring into a camera and bright lights.

If you find yourself conducting interviews for your next video project, here are two things to keep in mind, which should help in your next interview setting.

The most important thing is to make your subject feel comfortable. Always tell your subject is that it is okay to mess up. Remind him/her that everything he/she says will be edited. Your subject needs to know that it’s okay if he/she stumbles or loses his/her train of thought. It’s just par for the course. Those things will happen. If your subject understands that he/she will not ruin the entire video will a verbal misstep, it helps increase his/her comfort level and confidence. And that will help your subject appear more natural on camera.

However, as a follow-up to this first point, you should always make sure that the subject regains composure before continuing. This will help you when you are in the edit suite, putting your video together. For example, if the subject flubs a line and starts laughing as a result and then goes back to what he/she was saying while still chuckling, you won’t have a good point on which to edit. Your final video will have a sound bite that (for some reason inexplicable to the viewer) begins with someone laughing. Have your subject regain composure, get settled, and pause for just a moment before continuing.

Observing these two points will really help improve the quality of your interviews, because you will capture clean audio of a subject who is comfortable, natural, and confident.

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Divide and Conquer Your Video Production

Thursday, November 10th, 2011

Red Fox Media - Video Production - Birmingham, AL -Dual HVX SetupIn our experience as video production professionals, we’ve learned that one of the biggest factors in budgeting for a particular job is time.

  • How much time will be required to conceptualize and script a video project?
  • How much time will we need in-studio or on location?
  • How many shooting days will be required?
  • How much time will we need to put the whole video together and deliver a final product?

Of course there are other factors to consider as well, including the cost of on-camera talent, additional crew, equipment, travel, etc. However, a video’s budget will grow exponentially when a client needs additional days for shooting, post-production, etc. The budget for a five-day shoot will look very different from a budget for a half-day shoot.

Most projects we work on require multiple camera set-ups, which require the movement of camera, lights, people, additional gear, etc. All of those set-ups mean that we can only capture a certain amount of footage per day. However, one way to increase the amount that can be shot in one day is to use a 2nd unit camera.

From a budgeting stand point, it may seem like an unnecessary expense to use two camera packages and two camera operators for one job. However, employing the use of a 2nd camera unit may actually reduce the cost of the video, because you are accomplishing more in less time.

This strategy is the most effective when there is a long, complicated shot list with several different locations and a small window of time. Rather than have one camera unit spend four days shooting everything, why not invest in a second camera unit and get all of your shots completed in two days? The first camera unit can spend time at your main location, conducting interviews with your staff and shooting b-roll of your operation, while the 2nd camera unit shoots b-roll of satellite offices, off site installs, and conducts interviews with clients. And if your video calls for an on-camera panel discussion with two or more individuals, you can use both cameras to cross-shoot the scene and omit the need to reset one camera for multiple angles. It can be a very efficient way to tackle your project.

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Why Clients Should Be On-Set During a Video Production

Monday, June 20th, 2011

MonitorIn my years as a video director, I have worked with clients who want to be on set to monitor and supervise the shoot. I have also worked with clients who prefer not to be on location. They take a more hands-off approach. I certainly appreciate the level of trust I earn with my clients, because that trust gives them a good measure of comfort. They can feel confident when they turn the video production over to me. However, there are definite benefits to having the client on set throughout the production process.

  1. Familiarity – If the client has been the only person to interact with the on-camera talent up to the point of production, having the client on set will give the talent a familiar person with whom he/she has already made a connection. And when the talent sees someone familiar, this will make him/her more comfortable. And when the talent is comfortable, he/she will be more natural on camera. This is especially true when working with non-professional talent.
  2. Plan B – Let’s be honest. Sometimes things don’t go quite as planned during a video shoot, and the director needs to be prepared. When the on-camera interview just isn’t going well, or when certain set-ups are cut from the shot list due to last-minute changes to the location, it’s good to have the client on location. The client can stay up to speed on everything that’s happening and offer up suggestions to the director as to what needs to happen next. After all, the video director is working for the client. The two parties can put their heads together to come up with a viable Plan B when the shoot starts to fall short of pre-production expectations.
  3. Instant Feedback – When the director yells “cut,” he/she can immediately check with the client to ensure that everything being captured meets with the client’s approval. If the individual being interviewed needs to answer in a slightly different way to clarify the context of the subject, then the client can say so. If there’s another question or two that the director didn’t think about, the client can step in and ask it. If there’s a tiny detail that shouldn’t be in the script, the client can omit it before the on-camera spokesperson continues. The video production company may take the lead in developing a concept for the project, but it’s the client that has a more in-depth knowledge of the company, the brand, the product/service, and all the little things that can make a big difference.

Video directors never need to shy away from the thought of having the client on set. The two parties compliment each other and work in tandem toward one common goal.

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How to Capture Great Sound Bites For Your Video

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

IMG_2063Every video producer and every client wants to capture that perfect sound bite from an interview subject; a comment that perfectly encapsulates the main idea that the video is trying to communicate. However, reaching that goal depends a great deal on the rapport a video producer can build between himself/herself and the subject, and the way in which he/she conducts the interview. Here are a few tips on how to conduct better on-camera interviews:


If you have the time and/or the budget, you might want to conduct pre-interviews with all of the individuals you plan to interview for your video. Conducting a pre-interview is valuable for a number of reasons:

  1. It establishes a good working relationship with yourself and the subject.
  2. It’s less intimidating. It gives the subject a “dress rehearsal” before he/she has to go in front of the camera. Remember, the more comfortable the subject feels, the more confident he/she will be when sitting under the lights.
  3. It helps you gain insights into the subject matter. Sometimes you can uncover new and valuable information during these pre-interviews; information you hadn’t thought of previously. These new insights can help you as you revise your script.


On the day of the interview, don’t just throw the subject under the lights and start rolling. Take them aside and talk with them, casually and informally. You can go over last-minute details about the topics you will cover, you can show them the gear that will be used on set, or you can talk about completely unrelated topics. Again, you want the subject to feel comfortable. When the interview finally does begin, start off with a few very easy questions so the subject can get used to the feeling of being on camera.

Open-Ended Questions

Remember, you want your subject to do all the talking, so refrain from “yes” or “no” questions. This leaves no room for expansion on particular lines of thought. It’s okay to ask leading questions, if you want the subject to really emphasize a particular topic, but let him/her phrase the response in his/her own words.

Frequent Breaks

Some people you interview will be seasoned pros; others will be completely new to the whole process of being on camera. Regardless, always make sure that the subject is comfortable. Every few minutes ask if they would like to take a break. Offer them something to drink. Most interview sessions that I have conducted last at least twenty minutes, so you want to be considerate.

Re-state, Rephrase, Repeat

As the subject responds to a particular question, he/she might continue talking non-stop for a good three minutes or so. And within that lengthy answer, the subject may have a few good nuggets of information, but it will be difficult for your editor to mine a short, cohesive sound bite from that amount of information. If that’s the case, allow the subject to finish his/her answer, then ask him/her to go back and repeat some of those key comments in a more concise manner.

Go With the Flow

It’s important to have your interview questions organized according to particular topics before you start. This way, you can keep your subject on a particular train of thought. It can be confusing for the subject (who isn’t looking at a script or a list of questions) to jump around from subject to subject. You will get more thoughtful responses if you pursue a particular line of thought until the topic is exhausted.

Alter the Script

Be open to new topics as you conduct the interview. Sometimes an answer can trigger a new question. Ask it. Sometimes you might want the subject to expound on a particular answer, so ask him/her to elaborate. Give yourself the freedom to explore new ideas and thoughts that weren’t previously scripted. You might come out of the interview with some great material. And always, before concluding the interview, ask the subject if he/she would like to add anything else, or cover anything that wasn’t previously asked.

Conducting on-camera interviews for your video project takes a certain level of skill, but by following these guidelines you will uncover some great sound bites that will really compliment your video well.

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