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Shooting Your First Video – Stupid Mistakes We’ve All Made

You want to shoot your first ever video. You’ve got a camera, and a location, written your script, and got everyone together for the shoot. Here are a few examples of simple mistakes most first timers make and easy ways to avoid them.

  1. Plan your shots. Don’t rely on your script and expect to wing it when everyone is together. Think about what you are going to shoot for each element of your script. Each of these elements will need two or three different shots. Think about what angles you will shoot from. A novice will shoot one sentence looking at the person talking, then move the camera to see the face of the person listening, then move back for the next sentence. Just set up framing each speaker in turn and have both people say all of their lines. Then get them to start again. Take several complete versions of the scene from both angles. Then you can cut between the two angles later.
  2. Remember to press record. I know this sounds stupid, but at one time or another everyone does it. You press record then forget to turn the camera off after your take, and then when you go for the next take you press the button again and accidentally turn the camera off. D’oh… always check the camera display to make certain of the recording status of your camera.
  3. Make sure you hold your shots for long enough. The classic sign of an inexperienced cameraman is the desire to capture everything going on by moving the camera all around. Set you camera on a tripod, and don’t move it. For your first video don’t try any flashy zooms or pans or dips or tilts. Frame your shot and leave it alone. Start recording, capture what you want to capture, count to ten silently, and then stop recording.
  4. Use an external mic. The mic on your camera is not good enough, no matter what the manufacturers say. Even a low cost external microphone is better than the one on your camera.
  5. Learn how to use your camera. Try it out, a lot. Shoot in lots of locations and under all kinds of conditions. The automatic settings on your camera are designed to give you well exposed video most of the time but they won’t work all of the time. If you are going to rely on the auto settings restrict yourself to not shooting in extreme light conditions.
  6. Bring a tick sheet. Before you start shooting make a list of the stuff you need to remember and bring the list with you. Then work through the list ticking off as you go.

If you’ve gone to the effort of preparing to shoot your own video, you’ve probably already thought of all this, and you’re probably sitting smiling thinking how could anyone not realise this stuff. The funny thing is though; we’ve all made these mistakes at one time or another. We’ve been rushed or stressed or we were young and foolish, whatever. We’ve all gotten back to our editing machines to find that the lovely footage of the café turns out to be ten minutes of our scuffed trainers, or that the great interview is going to be a silent movie. That is a depressing moment, let me assure you, and I only wish someone had been there to tell me all the obvious stuff.

Good luck with your shoot!

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