Shooting Video with your DSLR (Part 4)

Chick-fil-A Kickoff
Georgia Tech vs Tennessee

Scoring a touchdown is about knowing where your goals are in the game.

Before the football team steps onto the field they will practice for many months together. When they execute a play they know what they are doing and trying to accomplish to win the game.

Alan Alda interviews Rob Michelson about the Aerial Robotics competition he oversees at Georgia Tech.

Before you turn the camera on and start your interview you need to practice. You need to interview your subject and from what you learn you then formulate your questions so that the responses help convince the audience what you want them to know just as a lawyer does to convince a jury what they want them to know about their client.

You do not want to sit down and just turn the camera on and ask the subject, “What is your story?” and expect them to give you a succinct well thought out presentation.

Get to know your subject

Even before you sit down and talk to the subject for the first time do all the research you can on the subject. Sometimes there have been other interviews done with the person that you can read or even watch.

Other than learning about the subject being the person, learn all you can about the subject of the story. If they are a coffee farmer then learn all you can about coffee.

The more you know the better questions you will ask. I like to say you are peeling an onion. Each question gets you closer to the core of the onion.

You are not just asking questions to find out everything about the subject. You are trying to find the thread that will keep someone interested in them as you reveal more and more about them to the audience.

The Bourne films are a series of action spy thriller movies based on the character Jason Bourne, a CIA assassin suffering from extreme memory loss who must figure out who he is.

To keep the audiences attention and pull them into your story you may often hold out on the juicy part of the story towards the end as they did in the Jason Bourne movies.

Your Goal

You know you are ready for the on camera interview when you have your storyline figured out from your informal interviews.

Like a lawyer who calls witnesses and interviews them to reveal in their own words the content that will help build the storyline so that the jury has no choice but to make the right call. Like a lawyer you may need to put different people on the witness stand to help build your story.

Now it is quite common that even when you have done all your homework that in the camera interview subjects can surprise you with new content that improves or even can complicate the story.

Be flexible and be sure you are listening to what they are saying.

Ideally it would be great if someone can just tell you what you need and leave out all those trails that lead no where. I have found time and time again that towards the end I have asked them to summarize what we just talked about and they often in one take say exactly what I need.

Georgia Bulldog’s Freshman Running Back #35 Brian Herrien Scores his very first collegiate touch down while UNC’s Safety #15 Donnie Miles was unable to stop him during tonights Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game September 3, 2016 at the Georgia Dome.

You see it can be just like the football game. The players have practiced so many times that often the coach just calls the play and you get the touchdown.

 

Shooting Video with your DSLR (Part 3)

When doing an interview there are a few things you need to do every time.

Fill the frame

When doing an interview you need to choose good composition and background carefully. Pay attention to everything inside the frame.

Get tight on the person you are interviewing.

Kill the Noise

Once you have put the microphone in place and have your headphones on you will be able to hear all the ambient sounds. This is where everyone is quite for a moment while you just listen.

Lets say you hear the ceiling fan or the air conditioner running. I would turn these off for the interview.

If you cannot turn off something like a water fall or water fountain, then move to a quite location.

Togo, West Africa

Steady the Camera

Use a tripod or put the camera on a table. Just keep your primary camera for the interview still. If you have a second camera to use then you can maybe do something like putting that camera on a slider or fluid head that will let you move the camera during the interview.

I believe you always need one camera that is locked and on a tripod for the interview.

Togo, West Africa

Light the Subject

My suggestion is to find a great place with light so you don’t have to use lights. I find the open shade on the side of a building works as well as porches as you see in these two photos of interviews we were doing in Togo, West Africa.

Audio is King

There are times for different microphones just as there are times for different lenses. You need to know the difference between a lapel, on camera & shotgun microphone.

Sharpness is Queen

Sharp focus is critical. I advise against shooting ƒ/1.4 for video unless this is your second camera perspective. Have a depth-of-field that is forgiving if the person moves during the interview.

Use manual focus and not Auto-Focus.

Lock Down the lens

Don’t zoom in and out on your primary camera. You can do some of this with a second camera, but be sure at least one camera is locked down and you have a solid framed shot that is in focus and has enough depth-of-field that the person can move a little and still be in focus.

 

Shooting Video with your DSLR (Part 2)

Nikon D5 Video Gear

In Part 1 I suggested the gear you need to use your DSLR/Mirrorless camera to do video. This post will do with some basic settings I recommend for the camera when doing a video.

Nikon D5 Video Settings

Camera Video Settings

On my Nikon D5 The Frame Rate, Resolution and Frame Size all show up in the upper right hand corner of the Live View on the LCD. We need to address all three.

Resolution – I recommend Full HD 1920×1080

While there are many other resolutions like 2K, 4K, 6K and even 8K I believe they are overkill for web distribution. Even my friend Ben Smallbone whose credits include the movies: Priceless, Taken, and Steve McQueen: American Icon to name a few of his movies told me that when it came to distributing their films to movie houses all over the country that they said not to give them anything bigger than 2K.

Now there are really two resolutions in video just as there are two resolutions with stills. You have the capture setting and the exported resolution.

While you can shoot say at 4k for the similar reasons you would shoot RAW your computer must be really top of the line to process the 4K files. Unless you want to crop in on your video in post-production I believe there is little to gain for the average project to shoot higher than the Blue Ray Full HD 1920×1080 resolution.

Frame Rate – I recommend 24 Frames per Second

Here is a good video showing why 24 fps is an industry standard for movies.

 

24 FPS is the Cinematic Look that is used in motion pictures. There are reasons to shoot other FPS and one worth mentioning is to shoot super high rate to then slow down for that “Slow Motion” affect.

Shutter Speed – I recommend 1/48 or 1/50

As a rule of thumb, you want the denominator of your shutter speed to be approximately double the number of frames per second that you are recording. For example, when shooting at 25fps, your shutter speed should be 1/50 of a second. If you have the 24fps and do not have a 1/48 then pick the closest frame rate like 1/50 or 1/60.

Manual Mode – Shoot this rather than Aperture, Shutter or Program mode

If anything on the camera is set to automatic your exposure can change when say something changes in the frame like your subject just moves a little. The camera may think the lighting has changed and it hasn’t. Shoot manual mode and manual focus as well.

Look – use Neutral

In video, just like stills, you can pick a picture color mode. There are modes on most cameras like: Standard, Vivid, Monochrome, Portrait and Neutral. If your camera doesn’t have a Neutral setting then pick Standard.

When later we cover your post production you can do more with a Neutral setting than with say Vivid. More on that in later posts on making videos with your DSLR.

Nikon D5 Audio Level

Audio Recording Settings

You want to have your recording levels set manually and not automatic for the same reasons for the video. When someone stops talking the Auto level will increase the volume and introduce noise.

Most levels on cameras or a separate recording device like the Zoom Digital Audio Recorders have a way to show you it is too loud.

Most video editors agree that the overall audio level of your audio mix (all of your audio combined) should normalized between -10db to -20db. I personally level my videos around -12db with occasional peaks to -8db.

What this means for me on my Nikon D5 is I want the level to peak right up to the last line before it goes red. I have a person talk for a while and then set the sound recording level before actually recording.

I recommend doing a test video for sound. Set your video settings to get a good exposure and audio levels for good sound. Record 30 seconds to a minute and then download to your computer and play using Quicktime or other video software that came with your computer.

For testing sound play something on your computer like music you downloaded. After you set your speakers for proper volume when listening to your music then play your video. If you have to adjust the volume to hear the recording then you need to adjust your recording levels. The biggest problem is if it is too quite or if too loud and giving you distortion.

Headphone Volume

Be very careful that you are not using the headphone volume as a way to see if the audio level is set correctly. Use the levels for audio the same way you use a histogram. Once you have those levels set then adjust your headphone volume to where you can hear properly.

Picking a location to do an interview

When picking a location you need to pay attention to two things: 1) Sound in the location and 2) lighting/visual.

My recommendation is to just turn on your microphone and put your headphones on and just listen to the environment. Are you trying to do a interview next to a waterfall or water fountain? That will prove to be difficult to impossible.

Finding a totally silent location would be “ideal,” but not always possible.

Make finding the perfect location weigh sound quality over visual.

Stay tuned for more.

Shooting Video with your DSLR (Part 1)

Nikon D5 headphone and microphone jack

I am breaking down the topics you need to cover to start shooting Video with a DSLR. Part 1 will cover the basic gear you need. My assumption is you are interested in Storytelling.

The interview of a subject on camera is the staple of most storytelling. The gear I recommend will help you get a good interview on video.

There are many levels of production you can do when recording video with your DSLR. I am taking the approach here to start you as a one man band doing the production all yourself.

The starting point for all video is sound. People will not watch a video with poor sound. Sound is the foundation for your production.

Nikon D5 headphone and microphone jack

I recommend not trying to do video unless you have a microphone and headphone jack. The microphones built into the camera would only really work for recording interviews in the selfie distance to the camera.

The basic understanding of recording sound for the video is the get the microphone as close to the sound as possible. I use a wireless lavalier system. The system I use costs $500.

Shure FP15/83 Combo Wireless System, H5

You can buy a wired lavalier for under $50. Buy one with a long cable for interviews.

The second principle to understand is you need to isolate what is being recorded and the best way to do this is with closed-back headphones. Here is what I use.

Sennheiser HD 280 Pro Circumaural Closed-Back Monitor Headphones

You need also a good tripod to keep the camera still. Having a Pan & Tilt Fluid Head on the tripod is better than basic head.

Google your camera using a microphone and headphones. Many cameras may have a microphone jack but not a headphone jack. There are some ways to work around that for your camera. Sometimes you will find you just need to upgrade your camera.

You can add more gear, but I believe this is the super basic kit necessary to create a video.

In other blog posts to come I will talk about other microphones, lighting and gear to help you move your camera during a shoot.

I will also cover the software you need to edit.

Stay tuned.

 

Skype Interview Tips

skype3
Is this what your Skype setup looks for your interview?

A series of experiments by Princeton psychologists reveal that all it takes is a tenth of a second to form an impression of a stranger from their face, and that longer exposures don’t significantly alter those impressions.  Yikes.

In this amount of time you haven’t had a chance to even say your name.  That first impression is primarily a visual impression and this is why I think I can help you.

I suggest going to a hair stylist and getting the best style you can for your features.  Maybe find a stylist to help you with your wardrobe.  Remember you only have tenth of a second to impress.

skype2
Simplify the backround and add some lights to either side of the monitor and for those of us older folks, I would add a light under you chin as I have done here.  The lower light softens those wrinkles.  You can see television anchors use this light–you just have to look to see it.

I chose white as a background here, you might want to choose blue as a background.  It is used a great deal at press conferences like the White House because it is complimentary to the skin.  The basic idea is the clean up that background of clutter.

The cool thing about a Skype interview is you can have your notes on the screen to read just like a teleprompter and keep your eyes engaged with the audience.  Don’t use notes that you have to look down or away from the computer screen.  You want to engage your audience.

skype
Here is a good typical set up of lights.  You can just use a household lamp on either side. To get the light effect under your chin you can just use white card board that you can buy anywhere to lay on the table to bounce the light up.

The benefit from using the additional lights is if you wear glasses this can actually cut down on the reflection of the monitor in your glasses.  The brighter you make those lights on the side the more the reflection of the monitor will disappear.

Most of today’s new computers have pretty good microphones and cameras built in.  As long as you are sitting close to the monitor you should sound good.  Test it out.  If your friend has trouble hearing you, then go and buy a small microphone.

Be sure you wipe off any dirt or smudges from your camera lens.

To be really sure you make a great first impression–don’t do what I did in these photos and not smile.  Smile a lot.  Practice a few times with your friends.

skype5
Share your screen

Another cool thing about Skype is you canshare your computer screen instead of them seeing just you.  This is great if you want to show something on your computer to them.

Remember while you need to practice with some friends and smooth out your presentation, it is still the tenth of the first second they will make a lot of judgement just on how you look.