Some videographers are very adept at “jiggle cam”… that live-looking vérité video style where the camera follows the unfolding action.
If you’re not a pro with the camera the odds are your skills with the technique are limited. I’ve been shooting video and film for 30 years and I’m afraid sometimes I still struggle to get it right. Bad results are especially evident when the results are displayed in a small browser window.
Shooting high quality vérité footage requires skill, anticipation and knowing how to listen. And you have to master all three simultaneously. It is very difficult to do well. Honestly,it demands a lot of practice.
Shooting really bad vérité footage requires little to no skill and can get in the way of your story. If your video is a marketing video your efforts often do more damage than good.
So instead of rocking your camera like it is in a Shake-and-Bake bag, treat your camera like a still camera. Frame your shot, make it look good and then start recording. Hold your shot for 10 seconds, stop recording and move to your next shot.
- · think about your shot
- · spot your hero
- · frame your shot
- · press record
- · hold about 8-10 seconds
- · end the shot
- · move to the next one
- · rinse and repeat
About the only exception here is an interview, where the answers are going to be longer than 10 seconds. But this is the exception. Keep your shots short and precise.
Better yet, use a tripod. A static shot does not equate to a boring shot. Using a tripod to stabilize your camera affords your audience an opportunity to immediately understand what is important in the frame. They spend less time (and energy) trying to decipher and track all the elements in your shot and instead focus on what is important, your story.
Too often a director jiggles the camera because he is bored, or she can’t decide what should be the focus, or he is too lazy to bring a tripod. All of these excuses get in the way of telling your story.
Use a tripod and your stories will immediately look more professional.
Some folks think using a sequence of well composed shots is “old school”. Too static. I’ve worked with a lot of directors who feel moving the camera makes a shot more dynamic. That it adds energy. I really believe randomly moving the camera is too often a smokescreen for a flimsy story, poorly blocked action or lack of planning.
I am not saying there is no place for hand-held vvérité camerawork. When it is well executed, when it is motivated, when it is thought through it can be some of the most compelling moments in a video. But if you are going to do it, then practice before you press record. Don’t just wing it. Do it well. In the meantime, use a tripod and shoot a sequences of shots that better tell your story.
If you can develop the discipline to work with a “frame, shoot, stop and move” cadence you will come away with a sequence of shots that dramatically improves the “watchability” of your video.
This article is part of a three week series of quick tips on getting better at video. For more ideas and insights on how to tell great stories check out “Get Better at Video – Right Now” on StoryGuide.
© 2011 StoryGuide | Drew Keller