Tips for capturing and telling great video stories

Tips for capturing and telling great video stories
This week, Team Creative Fire hosted its first Smart Marketer Lunch series, titled Making Video Work for You. But we could not cover every aspect of shooting in the field (as seen with Chris Simons from Diesel Pictures above).

Among the many statistics we shared: Email open rates increase 19 percent when the word “Video” is used in the subject line. And it includes click-thru rates by 65 percent.

Here are some video shoot tips and tricks, including basic tips for interviewers, basic tips for good audio recording and basic tips for shooting.
First, some things to remember about your video story.

Setting up your video

Story as complement: The story you shoot on video will not be the same as a written story. Video should be more visual, and detail a particularly photographic component of the story. It should offer another layer of a story that may not get much attention in a written version.
Storyboard: Before you shoot video, think of how it might look if you used a storyboard, much the same as an outline – you have a beginning, an anecdote to back it up, a supporting paragraph, colorful quotes and a close. Think of video clips the same way.
2 types of shots: A-roll and B-roll. Main shots, or A roll, are the interviews and are usually tight crops or close-ups. B-roll is made up of the images that tell the story or cutaways that include: wide shots, shots of what the subject is talking about , a procedure, a subject, a How-to, etc. Essentially, the interviews help tell the story, while the B roll helps show the viewer what they are talking about.
Story length can vary, but web video is usually falls within 15 seconds to 2 minutes, depending on the subject. Other stories can run longer as needed, but most of the stories you do will be in this time range. Remember that if you have 1 minute of interview worth using, you have to have enough B-roll to “show” the story as it is being told, in this case about 30-40 seconds. If each usable clip is 5 to 7 seconds, that’s about 6 to 9 shots. Shoot 10-11 B-roll shots just to be safe.
Pre-interview: After you set up your camera, but before you begin your interview, do a quick pre-interview with the camera off just to warm your subject up to the idea of having a camera on him/her. After you have an idea of what he will share with you, then turn on the camera and ask questions that recap the 3-4 things you think are most important for your video – things that create visual images (processes, descriptions, explanations, etc.)
Start early: Make sure you set up the camera and it is ready when you start asking questions. Don’t ask for details as you set up, for example, or you will have to ask them again. Once you hit record, then ask the question.
Inform the subject: Before recording, let your subject know how you plan to use the video online and in what format you expect it will be used. Also, let them know that you may at times be checking camera operation, etc., but that they should continue speaking into the camera while you work.

Tips for shooting video:

Ask open-ended questions: The art of asking questions is truly an art. Remember that you want interviewees to describe things that you can illustrate – a procedure, a service, a product. Use phrases such as “Tell me about …” or “Describe your role with … ” and “Walk me through …”
10-second rule: Aim for a minimum 10-second shot of any subject, be it a person walking toward the camera, a close-up of something or a busy office. These shots form what we call B roll, or background images. Avoid pans or jarring camera movement unless they help tell the story.
Let the action enter and leave the camera: When action is happening, remember there should be a beginning and an end. When something enters the field of vision, let it go – do not pan or try to follow it, unless it is relevant to the story at hand. This brings closure on a scene. Then capture another scene, and another, that help readers visualize what they are hearing.
Keep it still: Use your tripod as it will help create most consistent video. Work to hold the camera as still as possible if you must use it handheld.
Vary your shots: Aim For 50 percent tight shots, 35 medium and 15 wide shots. And use different angles to mix up your approach, shoot on thirds, left, center, right of the frame.
Avoid talking: As with audio, it is important to stay focused on listening. Ask questions, and then let the subject talk. Confirm their responses with a nod or an whispered “yes”, then ask your next question. Remember, everything is on tape, even when you are whispering.
Lighting is important: Avoid shooting someone with heavy shadows on their face. Turn them toward the sun or toward a light as needed. Avoid having bright lights, open doorways or the sun behind them. This distorts the white balance and creates a larger gap between highlights and shadows.
Get close to your subject: It is always important to get the camera as close to the subject as possible. This eliminates external sound and helps overcome soft voices. Ask subjects to speak up when they talk. Don’t get too tight that you crowd out their face; aim for head and shoulders shots. This can always be edited later.
See duck, say duck: If a subject talks about something – a procedure or product for instance – get video of that for use as B-roll. Remember, don’t pan away from him as he says it, just get that shot after he is done speaking.

Tips for timing out your video

Keep it short: When shooting anything but interviews – an explainer for instance – aim to gather 3-4 of those 10-second shots. These will be the backdrop of a doctor’s explanation of what happened or is happening.
Leave space: Every interview is different, which makes this one tough. Essentially try to avoid talking over someone. I find that giving a subject room to talk slowly sometimes gives me the best quote because they think harder about what they want to say. If there is a pause in their interview, let it go if it seems like they might say something important or interesting.
Keep it running: Often I find that after I thank a subject and conclude the interview, they loosen up and often say the very thing that I wanted the entire time. Keep the recorder running and handy when you thank them. Then if they do say something, raise the camera up so they know you are still recording. Don’t keep it running forever or forget the above rules, but if they start talking, as if they have a final thought, let it roll.

Tips for audio recording

Audio quality: Audio quality can make or break a video. Here are a few final tips to make sure you get good audio.

Go to a quiet place: The quieter the surroundings, the better the recording. Pull subjects around a corner or into another room to record them when possible. Close the door of an office if it is loud outside.

Avoid exterior noise: Things such as echo in a tight office or wind outside can render a recording useless. Again, go to a place that will be the quietest in the environment (behind a building outside, for example).

What tips do you have for capturing great video and audio? Share them with a comment on this post.

And if you have questions about a video shoot, storyboarding or producing a professional video for your company, call us today and we’ll get you a custom quote today.  

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