A Little Bit of Knowledge is a Dangerous Thing
There are so many ways to tell visual stories with your video camera. Interviews, pieces to camera [PTC’s], voice over’s [VO’s] with overlay vision or sequences showing what a piece of VO is describing, music montages, people telling their own stories, scripted dramas, and a mixture any or all of these.
You may already be using some of these styles but are still not happy about your results and you can’t understand what the problem is. Let me just start by saying that this is a wonderful passion that we all share. There is so much to learn and I love that, because even after more than three decades in the business I can still see something new and exciting and learn from it. I can still admire someone else’s work and be inspired by it. But let’s get back to your problem.
In the early years of learning your craft you see things you like and you try to copy them. You make mistakes and you try again. A lot of trial and error. It is a long slow learning process to be able to see things and to understand how they were done. There are an enormous number of things for you to bring into your skill set. Here is a really important skill that can take a long time to realize.
Never Let the Camera Get in the Way of the Story
This may or may not make sense to you. In these days of Music Videos where being creative is king and Reality Shows where wobble cam is the order of the day it seems that it doesn’t really matter how you shoot things. Nevertheless, trust me; there are still things that do matter and things that do work. If you disregard the couple of previously mentioned situations, in most of the other types of shooting you could do, you should never let the camera distract the viewer out of the story. However, you probably don’t even know you are doing it.
Camera Movement Kills
Exactly, if you bump the camera or tripod during a shot you are acutely aware that it is distracting, for you and for your potential viewer. The problem is that there are a number of other more subtle situations where your viewer is being distracted by camera movement and you don’t realize you are doing it.
When you pan with any sort of action e.g. a person walking across your scene, a car coming down the street and stopping, a runner finishing a race, you should let the action initiate your pan and you should finish your pan when the action comes to a stop. At exactly the same moment. This is most important, if your subject stops you must stop at exactly the same moment, do not continue past that moment and try to pan back. It is very distracting to the viewer.
This applies the same with dolly moves, the move should start and stop at exactly the same moment that the action does. Your dolly move may just be you hand holding your camera and walking with the action. It will still look better if you start your move with the action and finish your move at exactly the same time as the action does. I know there are scenes where the camera move continues after the action, but be aware that it can be distracting to the viewer.
It can be little things like this that can kill a scene, your viewer won’t even know why they have lost interest, but it might just be that you have killed the story with bad camera work. Next time you shoot, try it, you will see the difference.
If you would like to fast track your learning check out The Video Camera Course.
Remember Learn it, Shoot it, Love it.
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