Before my introduction into photography, shooting video was my favorite thing to do for fun. As a kid, I would run around with the family camcorder and burn through cassettes like there was no tomorrow. (Yes… cassettes. Wow, I feel old saying that.)
Nonetheless, this little hobby of mine followed me all throughout my childhood, into high school and now into my adulthood. With all that said, I’m no Christopher Nolan, but I have picked up a thing or two about shooting video. The latest video I shot was a drum cover video to the original cover by Luke Holland called Dirty Vibe. Check it out, with my tips below:
1. Have a vision of what you want to make.
Before I even pick up my camera, I typically go through some sort of brainstorming process where I plan out the type of video I want to make. Whether it be through storyboarding, or coming up with a feel I want the video to convey, I rarely just pick up my camera and shoot video hoping it all works out.
The Dirty Vibe drum cover was inspired by the original cover video by Luke Holland in which the entire thing is shot in one take. Taking that idea, I added a little bit of my creativity and added brief introduction with many cuts, then two much longer shots for the remaining two minutes of the video. In addition to that we wanted the video to escalate as it progressed – something that was achieved by adding earthquake effects throughout the video.
2. Shoot lots of footage!
Having extra footage can sometimes come in handy when you least expect it – and save the day. Although the majority of the video should be planned ahead of time, you shouldn’t limit yourself to just shoot what was originally planned. Shooting more video than is needed in my experience has become an essential part of my filming simply because it has given me so much extra footage to play with when it comes time to edit. There’s nothing worse than sitting down to edit a video and realizing you don’t have enough footage, so shoot shoot shoot!
For example, in Dirty Vibe, there’s a GoPro that was attached to the drumset that can clearly be seen in many parts of the video. At the time we set it up for the sake of setting it up, but when it came time to edit, none of the footage made it to the final video.
3. Camera movement is good
One of the most common mistakes I see when people shoot video is trying to hold the camera completely still (that or moving the camera like crazy). Balance is the key with this tip! Sometimes your video will call for stationary shots and sometimes it won’t. When it doesn’t, knowing how to pan, tilt, and even run with your camera will give you shots that will add to the overall video.
4. Frame your shots
Just like in photography (click here to read my blog on photo tips), framing your shots is incredibly important. Make sure your video has a subject and that subject is clearly in the shot. Now, the word clearly is relatively broad. Sometimes framing a shot from a couple hundred feet away will work out just fine, but in other cases being up close is a much better way to frame a shot. Nonetheless each clip should contribute something to the overall video, so avoid framing clips in a way that leave the viewer wondering what in the world is going on.
Take for example the first 13 seconds of Dirty Vibe, unlike the rest of the video the introduction cuts from close up to close up which worked out perfect for the video. Imagine if the first 13 seconds would have been shot head-on with a wider perspective where everything from the drums to the drummer are in the frame – suddenly the introduction doesn’t seem so interesting.
5. Anticipate shots
More than any other tip on this list, this one will require a lot of practice and attention to your surroundings. We’ve all been there: we’re shooting video and we turn around for 2 seconds and just like that you missed the shot. Many times you can anticipate action right before it happens so when it does be ready.
I know what you’re thinking: “I can just have the person do what they did all over again.” Sure you can (sometimes), but there will be certain times when that was the shot.
Take for example going to a High School graduation, you’ve been patiently waiting for your loved one’s name to be called for what seems to be hours. After hearing about 100 names, you start a conversation with the person sitting next to you and before you know it, you hear your graduate’s name. As you frantically fumble to get your camera together and look to see where they are at, I hate to break it to you, but they are already off the stage walking back to their seat. A little anticipation is all it would have taken to avoid this, and unfortunately moments like this happen more frequently than you might think.
6. Make the most of what you have
This ranges from camera gear to the place you are filming. You don’t need to have the best gear in the world to shoot awesome video – in fact, sometimes you can shoot videos with no budget on a point and shoot camera (I did this all throughout high school). Make the most of what you have at your disposal and don’t sweat the small things.
7. Behind The Scenes of Dirty Vibe
Believe it or not, the Dirty Vibe video was shot in a backyard shed that we emptied and moved the drums into. To create the backgrounds, we covered all the windows and walls with black fabric we got at Joann’s Fabric for about $30. For lights, we used construction lights we found in the shed to light the room from the ground up. To not completely pass out because of the heat, we set up a fan in back.
Ear plugs were used throughout the entire filming process and no music with lyrics was actually being played during filming, it was just drumming. The video was shot on a Canon 70D, 17-40mm f4/L, 24-105mm f4/L IS and a Glidecam HD-2000. No mics were used, which made syncing up the original audio to the drums incredibly difficult. Shooting the footage took about about 5 hours and editing another 4 hours. All the editing was done on Final Cut X.
If you have the patience for this process, you could be on your way to shooting your own great film projects!
Jose Romero wanders the lowlands of Northern California with his camera in tow. Follow his latest adventures on Twitter @TeamTRI_Jose.