Thursday, August 12, 2010

Audio/Video production class notes

Citizen Journalism Class -- Video Production
by William Huston 607-321-7846
Aug 10 2010
  • Plan your shoot

    • Check out the room ahead of time if you can.
    • Prepare an equipment checklist.
    • Carry water with you, flashlight, tools, extra batteries, notepad, pens/pencils, power and extension cords, etc.
    • Prepare release forms, if you choose to go this route

  • Equipment

    • Keep your batteries charged!
    • Use fresh tapes, have spares
    • Use redundant recorders in case of problems
    • Use a tripod
    • Perform good PMs on your camera, including cleaning the head, and cleaning the lens.
    • Only clean the lens with a specialized lint-free cloth, or a dust-blower.

  • Audio is everything!!

    • A production with bad audio is worthless.
    • Avoid camera mic unless you are very close to your subject.
    • Once you have lots of "room", your audio is ruined. It is nearly impossible to fix. 
    • Get the mike as close to the subject as possible. Inches 4-8 inches if you can!
    • Point the mic towards the person's mouth, not towards the back of their head
    • Use condenser mics (battery powered) if you can. 
    • Use a wireless mic for a subject who likes to move.
    • If you can't get near the subject, and there is house sound, consider moving your mic near a loudspeaker.
    • In post, use an audio program to a) normalize each section, then b) compress everything.
    • Record levels should be as hot as possible, without over-driving. Clipping in the digital domain is a killer!!!
    • POST can be done with programs like Audacity (free) or Adobe Audition, Pro Tools, Goldwave, Sound Forge, Wavelab, etc.

  • Permission to shoot / clearances

    • Print an indymedia press pass. The REALLY WORK in helping gain access to places. BE BOLD!
    • Do not use copyrighted music unless you know what you are doing. With this caveat: I often use copyrighted music, and claim that it is Fair Use.  SEE: 17 U.S.C. § 107. If you plan on selling your work, copyrighted music is a no-no.
    • Always get prior permission to shoot. Approach organizers before you set up. Be nice! Get release forms from everyone on tape.
    • Never get prior permission (especially if it is a public event). Get people you interview to spell their names. This implies consent.
      • "It's easier to get forgiveness than permission!"

  • Light

    • Shoot with the sun behind you, illuminating the subject.
    • Don't shoot into the sun with your subject back lit. If you have a back light, iris up (make brighter) so you can see details on your subject.
    • Avoid "busy" backgrounds. Avoid boring backgrounds (blank wall).
    • Indoors, use lots of light, especially with dark-skinned people. Iris up if you have to.
    • When using multiple cameras, make sure to white balance, with all cameras shooting the same card, using whatever lighting conditions will be present during the shoot.
    • When shooting a light-skinned person indoors against a dark background on a long shot, iris down, or you will get a "bright headlight" with no face details.

  • General Hints

    • Keep a shoot log, including tape times and details of what is there.
    • Use slow zooms and pans to make it easy on your audience and reduce editing time.
    • Use fast zooms and pans which you will remove during editing.
    • Follow the action.
    • Stay alert!
    • A camera operator should have LOW, CALM, RELAXED energy. If you tend to be spastic (like me) this requires practice.
    • You should be invisible to the audience, and the speakers.

  • Hand-held

    • Turn on image stabilization
    • Practice keeping a steady shot -- most important!
    • Brace your elbows on your body, or against a wall.
    • Use viewfinder as opposed to flip screen to conserve batteries.
    • Use a steady cam if you can. Many do-it-yourself plans are on the internet.
    • I find Asana Yoga, Tai Chi, or dance to be immensely helpful in acquiring required calm, grace, endurance

  • Shooting an interview

    • With camera rolling, just warm them up before asking questions.
    • Ask open-ended questions.  "Tell me about....." or "Can you talk about...."
    • Avoid yes/no questions.
    • Frame the shot leaving enough space at the bottom to allow adding "lower-thirds" graphics.
    • Edit yourself out of it
    • Shoot on a tripod
    • Shoot your subject with your camera at eye-level. Don't shoot above or below your subject.
    • Stand or sit next to your camera, so your subject's face is a portrait shot. Avoid profile shots.
    • Illuminate and shoot your subject from the front.
    • Think about your questions ahead of time.
    • Don't be intimidating.

  • Shooting a stage presentation w/audience Q+A

    • Set up in the rear to shoot the stage.
    • Set up in the front to shoot questions from the audience.
    • Shoot people's faces, not the backs of their heads!
    • Edit out camera swings, or do slow pans & zooms

  • Shooting a press conference

    • Wear your press pass for special access!
    • Set up next to the corporate media like you know what you are doing.
    • Be bold... ask your question!

  • Video editing

    • Use free tools like iMovie (free with Macs), Windows Movie Maker (free with Windows), Avid FreeDV, Wax, or Zwei-Stein
    • List of free and open-source video editing software is here:
    • Expensive software, but with professional features: Final Cut Pro, Adobe Premiere, Avid, Sony Vegas
    • Video editing is complex, and specific to particular tools, and is beyond the scope of this class.

  • Making a news package

    • Keep it short 2-10 min.
    • Shoot lots of B-roll (shots of people, buildings, signs, etc. near your event or related to your event)
    • Shoot an establishing shot (people filling an auditorium, showing up, Front of building, etc)
    • Shoot a "stand-up" where you record voice narration informing the viewer about what is happening. Narrate over B-roll and establishing shot.
    • Cut to interviews. Use lower thirds-graphics to tell people who is speaking. Edit the interview tight, including the best stuff
Camera movements -- terminology
  • Zoom-- IN/OUT change the camera focal length
  • Tilt -- UP/DOWN Using tripod handles to move camera lens up or down
  • Pan -- LEFT/RIGHT  Using tripod handles to move cameras lens left or right
  • Dolly -- IN/OUT moving the entire tripod (usually on wheels) towards or away from the subject
  • Truck -- LEFT/RIGHT moving the entire tripod (usually on wheels) left or right
  • Pedestal -- UP/DOWN moving the tripod head up or down, often with a crank lever.

William Huston  
Binghamton NY             Phone: 607-321-7846

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