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Shooting Video for the Web: Another Angle

Shooting video for the web in-house is increasingly part of ‘business as usual’ for all sorts of organisations that need a professional, engaging online presence. Technology means that simple videos don’t need a professional cameraman. However, a little knowledge can go a long way to give a more professional feel to your films.

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The Challenge: Make Videos Visually Interesting

When moving pictures were first invented there was only one shot – a wide shot showing moving images from a park, a busy street (full of horse-drawn carriages and men in top hats) or even a steam train bearing down on the camera lens – and this was enough to keep people interested. But pretty soon that novelty wore off and we discovered that to begin to tell a story in film you actually needed other shots to draw in the audience. Shots like the close-up and tracking (or dolly) shots were invented and filmmakers realised that editing these shots together was the key to creating a compelling story. But even using all these techniques, when we sit down to watch classic black and white movies from the 1920s and 30s, they still appear to us rather slow-moving and dull.

A Second Challenge: We are all Film Literate

Shooting video for the web provides another challenge: We all consume a lot of filmed material. From an early age, we are learning what good, even amazing, visual story-telling looks like. We now expect things to move along at a much quicker pace, just in case the audience should lose attention. For example, in this one minute video, I’ve used 17 different shots, giving an average shot length of 3.5 seconds.

Two Cameras Can Give a Lot of Visual Interest

If you have the luxury of two cameras, it can be useful to film the interview from two different angles and then cut between them during the edit. Even when shooting video for the web, you could carefully repeat the interview. In professional television, the same thing may be filmed many times from different angles, and five or more versions cut together to create a clean and believable version of reality.

Just a few cutaways, some bold graphics and an up-tempo music track and modern videos have gone from seemingly simple shoots to something with much more pace and sophistication. It all takes a bit of planning and creativity but it is possible to make what is, in essence, a simple talking-head type video, into something that really stands out.

Shooting Video for the Web: Want to Learn How to Make Great Little Films?

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If you or someone in your team would like to be taught to create videos with style, why not give us a call. I run bespoke one or two-day ‘shooting video for the web’ courses under The Media Coach brand. We can together practise a wide range of professional techniques that will take your inhouse filming to the next level. Call +44 (0)20 7099 2212 in the first instance to discuss exactly what you need.

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Six tips for getting in-house videos right

When I first arrived in Brussels and was still freelancing as a journalist, I used to work with a Belgian cameraman who would describe some of the less impressive TV reports we worked on as ‘bricolage’ (DIY, or Do-It-Yourself).  It seems that every language has its own term for the cut-and-paste stories people who work in TV sometimes have to scrape together when they are short on good pictures, guests and/or time.

Given how hard it can be for TV professionals to get what they want, the stakes are even higher for non-industry people who have to produce videos as part of their job but don’t do it regularly. With many companies trying to cut costs, Brussels is seeing more and more in-house production, whereby junior communications staff are now being given the task of making videos which once would have been outsourced to an agency.

But it takes more than an enthusiastic 25-year-old with a working knowledge of Final Cut Pro to make a good video. So, whether you’re doing a conference report, social media or lobbying video, here are some tips on how to avoid your own version of ‘bricolage’ and having to call in expensive editing help to sort it out.

1.    Get a clear brief

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Getting the soundbites right is key for in-house video production

It sounds obvious but you’d be surprised by how vague production briefs can often be. Make sure you understand exactly what your boss wants before filming starts, as this will help you and/or the cameraman (see Point 3) work with the edit in mind. Find out who the key people are you need to talk to and what you want them to say.

2.    Write some decent questions

The soundbites structure your story, so it is crucial to get them right. If you are talking to five people, don’t ask them an identical set of questions if you want to get something interesting that moves your story forward. Put together questions which will encourage a range of opinions and not just PR puff about why your event was great. (You might be making a puff piece but no one wants to watch an interview that is overtly so).

3.    Direct the cameraman

It is unlikely that you will be doing the filming because it’s hard to do it well.  So you will be spending money here. However, it is your job to tell the cameraman what you want, particularly if you are not going to be with them all the time and they aren’t going to do the edit. Do not tell them just to get general shots if you want something specific for the covering images.  Some cameramen will take the initiative and will film background material with the final edit in mind. But those who don’t edit (and a lot of them still don’t) won’t.

4.    Do the important interviews yourself

Or get someone you trust to do them. Inject some energy into your delivery as that will encourage the interviewees to respond in the same way. Ask focused questions that encourage stand-alone answers that the audience will be able to understand without knowing what the question was. If your interviewees have not had media training, then direct them. And re-do the answers if you are not happy; they won’t look better in the edit if you don’t like what you get during filming.

5.    Get timecodes

For the important interviews get the video timecodes from the cameraman before they deliver the footage to you. That will save you endless amounts of time trawling through the footage when you come to the edit.

6.    Leave yourself time

Edits take longer than you think even if you follow all of the steps above. If you have decent soundbites then pick them and lay them down first, followed by the background footage, captions and any music. This will take longer than you think, particularly if you are doing it on your own and have to factor in re-edits if the boss doesn’t like the first version.

Good luck!