Welcome back to part two of our ‘Gearing Up’ series for small businesses. If you missed It, last week we went over the pre-production basics of a standard shoot with Signature Video Group, which included creative ideation, scripting, and the production planning process. If you missed it, you can check it out here.
This week, we’re going to dive right into shoot day. Providing everything went well in your pre-production process, you should have a pretty clear vision of what you’re hoping to achieve. Whatever that vision may be, this post is designed to help you pick the right gear for your shoot, set up properly, and execute on your creative ideation to the best of your ability. We’re also going to cover what you should do with the footage after you’ve done shooting and give you some tips along the way to make things easier in post-production.
At this point in the process, you’re probably getting pretty anxious. You have an idea in your head, and you’re completely focused on executing by whatever means necessary. While it’s great to have that level of excitement, don’t let it cloud your ability to execute on everything you planned in part one. The smoother your shoot day goes, the easier the post-production process will be. Every decision you make should be with post-production (post) in mind, as it can often be the longest part of a project, so you should take every step necessary to alleviate any issues that may backlog the process.
What you need next, is the proper gear to help you execute your vision.
How experienced are you?
Perhaps the most important thing to consider when choosing the right gear for your project, has to do with your skill level – how comfortable are you with cameras? Do you have any experience using an SLR or cinema-grade camera? If the answer is yes, this section will undoubtedly be redundant, so feel free to skip onto the next section.
If you fall into the group that’s a little less experienced with cameras, that’s totally ok. Don’t let it discourage you or prevent you from making a video. A lot of the newer camera technology does a lot of the work for you. As long you have the required gear and are willing to do a bit of reading, you’ll be just fine.
With that said, it’s important to choose a camera that matches your ability. If you’re experienced, you’ll want to choose a camera with more customization options. If you’re a noobie, then it’ll make more sense to opt for something with more automatic features and less buttons to ensure you’re not overwhelmed. As cool as an expensive camera looks, it’s no good to you if you don’t know how to use it properly.
When it comes to actually choosing a camera or other gear items, there’s really only one important question: how often are you going to be using it? If you’re not sure, renting gear might be the way to go. Rentals come at fairly reasonable costs per day and don’t require you to invest a large chunk of your own money into an item you’re not convinced you a) know how to use, or b) will be using on a regular basis.
There are a ton of rental companies within the Greater Toronto Area that can help you find exactly what you’re looking for, whether you’re a beginner or an experienced camera operator. Henry’s, Vistek, Ontario Camera Rentals, Joe Sutherland and Epic Toronto are all reputable companies that offer new gear at reasonable prices.
Another option to consider is renting or borrowing a camera from a friend. DSLR’s are fairly inexpensive nowadays and it’s more than likely you have a friend that might be willing to lend you their camera for a small fee. Heck, if you’re lucky, maybe you can even convince them to help you shoot.
Choosing your gear
Without trying to reinvent the wheel, there are a ton of “camera bag” breakdowns online that help you pick the best gear out there. Many of the options range in price, with some of the accessories even being mickey-moused or homemade to keep costs down. One of best gear breakdown’s I’ve seen is from Desktop Documentaries, which you can view here. While you won’t need everything on their list, there are a few items you’ll need to make sure you have:
Light reflector (can be homemade)
Recording kit & necessary cables
External hard drive (for back ups)
When it comes to cameras, you have a lot of choices. How do you pick the right one? Unfortunately, there isn’t always one right answer. Picking the right camera often comes down to a few things, one of which is personal preference. Considering everything we said above, the camera you choose should match your skill level, budget, and planned usage. In other words, buying a GoPro for a sit down interview would be considered a no-no, as there are a ton of better options for this purpose.
The best way to choose the right camera is to do a bit of reading. There are several articles and blog posts outlining which cameras work best for which purpose, and many can be quite helpful. Since pricing and availability range in every region, check out several different retailers before going all in to make sure you’re getting the best deal. No matter what you choose, make sure you have a set of lenses to match!
For most of our small business projects, we typically use the Canon 70D. It’s not the cheapest of the bunch, but it gives us exactly what we need in a basic package with minor movement. When we’re shooting bigger productions, we typically look to the Sony FS5 or Alexa Arri for the best looking shots.
If you’re really not sure what camera to get, this article on Life Hacker is a great place to start. It breaks down the pros and cons of each style of camera and should help you narrow down a few options that fit into your budget.
While it may be obvious for some, tripods are the next thing you need to consider. Regardless of what style of video you’re shooting, a tripod is an absolute must for small business productions. They help to steady your shot and add another layer of production value to your video. Tripods range in size, function and price, but even the most basic are fairly functional. Keep in mind the weight of the camera you’re using and don’t be scared to go bigger. The sturdier the camera, the better the shot.
Depending on the lighting in the space you’re shooting, the size of your kit may range. If the room uses fluorescent lighting, we recommend turning off the overhead lights and adding the light yourself. This means more lights, but helps your actors look better on camera. For more tips on looking better on camera, check out this article.
Microphones and recording kits come next, and should not be overlooked. The most common question we get from our clients regarding audio is, “doesn’t the camera have a microphone?” Most of the time, they’re right, but when you’re shooting a professional video you want to avoid using the onboard microphone at all costs. Most of them sound horrible and pick up a ton of noise that almost makes your video unwatchable. As we’ve always said, audio contributes to 50 per cent of the overall production. Don’t undercut it!
The final few are housekeeping items. Memory cards are a must have when shooting with DSLRs and may or may not be included with the package you purchase. If you’re using a higher end camera, you’ll want to pick a faster card so the camera can record properly. If you’re unsure which card to pick for your camera, the sales associate you deal with can most certainly help you out. Some camera’s write data so quickly that the cards will fail if they’re not fast enough and can’t keep up. This isn’t something you want to run into on shoot day – and neither is running out of memory.
Now that you’ve got your gear set up and you’re ready to shoot, it’s time to go over a few best practices when working on set. Before you start rolling, meet with your team to set up a few ground rules for movement and noise on set. Be conscious of where you’re set up – whether you’re blocking the entrance/exit to the building for smokers or the path to the bathroom – and how the room responds to noise. If it’s a loud room, it may be best to advise your team to stay as quiet as possible and avoid moving around while you’re filming.
Since you’re using a camera with a separate, external microphone, you’ll have to create a sync point for the editor. To do this, start recording on your camera and microphone. Then stand in front of the camera and clap to create a visual sync point. It’s an easy trick that your editor will thank you for.
When you’re dealing with an editor who wasn’t present on shoot day, or if you’re outsourcing the footage, it’s always best to give them as much information as possible. If you’re filming an interview with an individual (even if that individual is you), say your name and title and spell it out for the editor. This eliminates back and forth for spelling errors in the post-production process and avoids any embarrassing spelling moments.
Once you start rolling, don’t stop unless you have to. Having most of the content in a few takes, even if they’re longer, makes it much easier for the editor in post-production. Even if there’s a mistake or you have to start a sentence or piece of dialogue over, keep rolling. Simply pause, allow for a few beats of silence, and then pick up where you left off.
Depending on the role you’ve appointed yourself to, you may or may not be the primary subject in your video. If you’re not, that means the directing role falls onto you to take charge and execute your vision. This also means you’re responsible for getting your ‘actors’ to say the things you want them to – however you want them to say it. When you’re dealing with people who aren’t professional actors, this can sometimes be a little more difficult. The most important thing you can do in this instance, is to keep things simple. No matter whether you have a specific script or list of key messages you want them to list, you have to simplify things as much as possible.
If they’re struggling with the script, throw away the script and let them do it without. Things don’t have to read exactly how you wrote them – in fact, these messages often sound a lot more authentic when they’re not scripted, which should be your goal from the get-go.