Don’t shoot until you see the whites of their eyes.
I am betting dollars to donuts you are too far away from your subject when you press the record button. Call it shyness, call it respect, call it not feeling comfortable directing the scene, I can almost guarantee the point of your video is lost to the audience. Especially if it is seen on the web and not on a 40 foot screen.
Most videos are framed too wide. It is as simple as that.
By wide I mean the subject of your story, the focus of your shot, is too small in the frame. The audience needs you to guide them. You need to show them what is important by filling the frame with your story elements. You need to help them understand your shot.
It is OK to use an occasional wide shot, but that should be your starting and ending points, not the substance of your video. The reason for filling the video frame with your subject is because it’s likely most of what you shoot will involve people, so get in close. Really close.
We communicate with our eyes and with our face. Not so much with our knees or feet. Your job as a storyteller and director is to make it clear to the audience where they are supposed to look. Make certain the face of your subject is easy to see. Your video will improve exponentially if you always get close.
I know it can feel a little awkward and embarrassing shoving the camera into someone’s grill. Especially if your camera has a wide field of view like a Flip or a Bloggie. But you need to get in close, really close, to make certain you have well composed shots. I try to be nor more than 3 feet away when shooting an interview with a camera that does not have an optical telephoto lens (the digital zoom lenses are really bad, don’t use them).
Think arm’s length.
Your subject will fill the frame and you have the added benefit of better audio.
Unfortunately you are wasting your audience’s time if you expect them to sit through a video they don’t understand. And the research shows they won’t sit around, they will leave.
So it is in your best interest to get in close. Work with the people you are shooting. Help them to understand why you are close. They don’t want to waste their time shooting something that will be ignored. If you communicate why you are in their personal space they usually become and ally and work with you to make the video even better.
Just re member, don’t press the record button until you can see the whites of their eyes.
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