10 Mistakes Photographers Make When Shooting Motion

1.  They forget about the story – it’s not your camera that tells the story – it’s the person using the camera. Pretty visuals, slapped into a motion timeline with music, doesn’t necessarily tell a story.  Video is a story telling medium – don’t forget that.

2.  They think they already know how to shoot – if you think because you are a professional photographer and all you need to do is get a camera with a “video mode” on it, you are mistaken. Shooting in motion is far different than shooting still images. An experienced motion shooter can spot a video shot by a still photographer with little know how, right away.

3.  Thinking audio isn’t important – audio is more important than the visual when producing video.  Hire a sound person to do it right, but don’t discount it.

4.  Thinking the DSLRcamera is all you need for video productions – this is a biggie.  How are you going to go after professional video jobs if this is the only tool in your kit?  Sure you can rent a RED – but make sure you are as proficient with this tool as your competition is before hanging out your “motion” shingle.

5.  Positioning themselves just as DP’s or Directors and thinking you’ll maintain ownership of your work. If you assume the role of a camera operator, DP or even a director – you will be in a work for hire position in most markets.  Position yourself as a producer – shoot if you want to – and direct – but realize that you’ll be just one rung on the “content ladder”.

6.  They don’t learn interview skills – this is what separates the pros from the still shooters who have DSLR cameras and think that’s all they need.  I’d say about  70% of my work includes on camera interviews.  Even though I ask the questions- I’m not on camera, my subject is.   I not only need to know how to ask the right questions and get great audio, but I need to produce a usable interview clip for an editor. That means knowing how to get great soundbites. This is one area I excel in – it’s all about rapport with your subject.

7.  They try to compete in “old business model” markets – Everyone wants to shoot broadcast spots and feature films (or short films) so they think that after shooting motion for only a few months – or even a year – they will be able to compete in the high end business of video production.  First, this market, like the still photography market,  has changed drastically, mostly marginalized by still photographers who are just starting to shoot motion,  shooting jobs for next to nothing because they have no understanding of this “business”.

8.  Learning the “how to’s” in terms of gear – but nothing about the business – this is also a biggie.  There are so many “how to shoot motion” workshops and roadshows out there but no one seems to be teaching the business end of things.  Still photographers think they already know “the business” but quickly realize that they don’t, and they put themselves out of business in this medium – before they’ve barely started.

9.  Teaching “how to” workshops in video with little or no experience – I can’t tell you how many photographers have called me for technical advice about some pretty basic stuff in terms of video,  and four months later they are teaching workshops. Please don’t become part of the problem and send more shooters out into this field without teaching them something about business. And if you are considering taking a workshop – do your homework and take the workshop from someone who is accomplished in this field and has done something.

10. They forget about the story – I know that’s #1 but it needs reinforcing.

 

10 Tips For Getting GOOD Audio When Using a DSLR

If you’re like most of the professional still photographers I know, you have either expanded your business and offer videomicrophones (in addition to your still photography) to your clients, or have plans to.  If you do have future plans to offer video to your clients, then you are either learning the particulars of that skill set, or you are collaborating with others who are in the know, or both.

Perhaps, one of the most daunting components of video, for still photographers is audio. Capturing audio is totally foreign to a still photographer, yet it is the most important component of all, in video production.

Here are a few tips for getting good audio:

  • You’ll never get good audio using the camera’s built in microphone, – at least not for interviews. Don’t turn the camera’s audio off however.  You can use it later for reference audio when syncing sound later in post-production.
  • Use external microphones for capturing audio interviews.  Ideally, you should record your interview audio using a digital recorder like the Samson Zoom H6 or the Tascam DR-60D with XLR connections.  I usually place a “lav” microphone on my subjects. I will also use a shotgun microphone, mounted (with shock mount) on a boom pole that’s on a fixed stand.  I rely on the microphone on the fixed stand, as opposed to hiring a boom operator, especially if I don’t have the budget for a big crew. If you should decide to use an amateur or assistant as a “boom operator”, rather than hire an experienced operator who knows how to capture “consistent” audio, you’ll most likely end up with poor audio captured at inconsistent levels. The shotgun microphone should be about 12-18 inches away from your subject. You can sync the sound with the video, later in post- production, using the software Plural Eyes.
  • Don’t cross your audio cords with your electrical cords. This causes a hum that you will detect if you are wearing headphones.
  • For run and gun” situations, you can probably get away with using a microphone mounted on the camera, as long as you are close to your audio source. You can either run a microphone (with a mini plug) directly to the camera OR you can run a microphone with an XLR adaptor through a pre-amp like a JuicedLink or a Beachtek, which will yield a cleaner audio capture. This works well for capturing ambient sound for b-roll or live action, and your audio will be recorded to the same card as your video. If you do want to capture your interview audio using a microphone mounted on the camera, make sure that you get your camera in close to your subject (not more than 18 inches away), and that you us a mixer or a pre-amp.
  • Microphones – Use an omni-directional or cardiod microphone when you are in a more controlled situation and you want your sound coming from more directions – like on a sound stage.  “Lav” microphones can be used for interviews, either hard wired or with a wireless kit. Be careful when you attach it to your subject and position it to avoid any unnecessary noise coming from hair or jewelry rubbing up against it. A good camera mounted microphone is the Sennheiser MKE 400 (compact shotgun). For interviews I use my cardiod Sennheiser ME66 with K6 powering module.
  • Use a wireless system only when you NEED to. In cities like New York you can get a lot of interference on various frequencies. Always go wired when you can. A great and affordable hard-wired “lav”, is the SonyECM44B And if you find yourself needing a wireless system, spend the money to get a system that has a good range.
  • Use a good windscreen or “dead cat” when outside. Even if you’re inside, on a windy day, with windows open, you can pick up wind noise.
  • Use headphones. Don’t just look at your meters.  Your meter may indicate that you are recording sound, but it may not be good sound – it could be you are picking up interference or getting distorted and clipped audio. Wear headphones and make sure that you are getting quality sound.
  • Always consider that you will be using the audio – even for your b-roll.  You will need clean usable audio for b-roll, even if it’s only intended as ambient, background sound.
  • Pay attention to audio. Start by letting your ears do more of the work. Every room and situation has its own sound. Listen up. Be quiet and tell your crew to be quiet as well. You never know when you’ll want to use the audio – even if you think you won’t need it.

You can read more about what I brought with me in the way of gear, when I literally circled the globe, creating my first feature length film.  The film is now available on DVD.

If you’d like to know more about “moving into motion”, check out my book, The Craft and Commerce of Motion and Video.

SB3 – Get Inspired

If you haven’t registered for the ASMP Strictly Business 3 conference yet, I would highly suggest that you do so.  They will be held in three locations starting next week: January 21-23 in Los Angeles; February 25-27 in Philadelphia; and April 1-3 in Chicago.

There’s an incredible line up of speakers presenting workshops on pricing, estimating, copyright, workflow, strategic career planning, successful portfolios and branding and video production. I’ll be presenting two workshops: “Thinking in Motion” and “Shooting Video with the DSLR”.

Branding expert Colleen Wainwright will deliver her keynote “Making People Love You Madly: Selling Yourself in a Postmodern Marketplace”.  Tom Kennedy, whom I’ve know since his days at the National Geographic Magazine will give a keynote “Learning New Skills for the Changing Media Landscape”.

This conference series is meant for everyone, not just photographers who are beginning their careers.  In fact, I think that photographers who have been in business for many years will benefit equally, if not more than a shooter who is new to the business.

I have been in business for over 30 years and I have found that one of the most dangerous things that can happen to a creative person,  is for them to become complacent, especially in a business like photography.  It’s even more deadly to become complacent these days in our fast changing world of technology.  We not only need to stay current with our skills, we need to keep our vision fresh.

When I got into video and motion more than a decade ago, I was looking for something to excite me.  I felt that even though my business was successful and that I had accomplished many of my creative goals, the spark was getting dim inside me and at times I felt like I was reinventing the wheel.  So, I set out on a learning curve and have been soaking up information ever since.

I love to learn and I have found that the more I wonder and grow, the better off I am creatively and the more successful I am in business.  I’ve also found that networking and collaborating with my peers has opened my eyes to all sorts of possibilities that I never knew existed.  I think that’s what makes the SB3 conference so powerful – the sharing of information with our peers.  You don’t get that from online learning.

We live in a time where anything is possible.  Come to SB3 in LA, Philadelphia and Chicago and be prepared to be inspired.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

Listen Up – Audio is Everything

Audio is everything in video. I can’t stress this enough. Most times “capturing audio” is a skill that still photographers don’t have. If your job is on the line – my suggestion is hire a good sound guy. If you’re doing a personal project and want to learn more about getting good sound, here are some tips.

• Don’t use the camera’s internal microphones, except for reference.
• Never use “auto” when recording audio. Turn off the AGC (automatic gain control) on the DSLR cameras.
• Get your microphones in close. For b-roll situations, you can get away with a shotgun mic mounted on the camera. But microphones mounted on cameras can pick up camera noises.
• Use a good wind screen or dead cat when outside. Even if you’re inside, on a windy day, with windows open, you can pick up wind noise.
• Use a good set of headphones. Over the ear is best but earbuds can be used in a pinch. Your audio meters tell you that you’re getting sound, but not if the sound is any good.
• Use shotgun microphones for your interviews. Get them in close to your subject – no more than 1-3 feet away.
• Lav microphones, attached to lapels can be used wired or wirelessly. Be careful with your positioning to avoid unnecessary noise from hair or jewelry.
• Go wired whenever you can. Resort to wireless solution if wired isn’t possible.
• Use an omni-directional or cardiod microphone when you are in more acontrolled situation and you want your sound coming from more directions.
• Don’t cross your audio cords with your electrical cords. This causes a hum that you will detect if you are wearing headphones.

Pay attention to audio. Start letting your ears do more of the work. Every room and situation has its own sound. Listen up.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

Editing Tips for Multimedia and Video

A few days ago, I wrote a blog about “having a point” – or telling a story when you create multimedia pieces. Of course you have to have an overall idea and focus to start with, but below are some editing tips on how to make it come together in the editing room.

  • Edit with a purpose. Why are you making the “cut” where you are? Are you cutting on the action? Are you cutting on the beat of the music? What’s the reason behind your cut?
  • Set a pace or rhythm. Just like writing, where you have pauses in sentences with commas, edit your visuals to your narrative or interview soundbites, cutting after words and phrases.
  • Use image sequences to transition between different ideas and themes.
  • Let your images linger on the screen, giving time to breathe between them.
  • Cut on the beat or against the beat of music. Edit the music and let it become part of your piece, rather than just a background soundtrack.
  • Adjust the volume of your music – lowering it during interviews and raising it when there is no narrative or dialog.
  • Use audio fades between music cuts to soften the cut.
  • Insert room tone between cuts in interview soundbites, making the cuts less apparent.
  • Use interview footage sparingly – when introducing someone or when someone is expressing emotion on the screen.
  • Identify interview subject with name and title text in lower third.
  • Use text that’s easy to read and break it up over many slates. Leave the slate on the screen long enough to read twice.
  • Always start with your strongest images.
  • Don’t “move” all your still images – leave some static on the screen.
  • Don’t use dissolves.
  • When working with media from DSLR cameras, keep the media in the DCIM folders for logging and transferring into Final Cut Pro with the plug-in. If you have taken your media out of the DCIM folders – then create a new DCIM folder for the purposes of importing the media into FCP.

Remember to keep the story in mind at all times. When you think you have the story laid down in a rough cut – have friends over to watch it. Ask them what the story was. If they don’t know or can’t tell you, then you have more work to do.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

How Do You Tell the Story?

I’ve said it hundreds of times – “the story is everything”, “without a story, you’ve got pretty pictures to a soundtrack”. So, how do you tell a story? How do you do it?

A friend called me the other day, struggling with this very question, of how do you tell the story? He was putting together a multimedia piece and he had captured sound and had taken photos during an event and was about to record an audio interview. I wasn’t sure at first, if he was asking about the mechanics of how to edit a story together in Final Cut– or was he asking me for guidance on how to tell the story? Those are two completely different discussions.

I thought back to when I was just starting to learn video journalism and had taken the Platypus Workshop. We had to tell our commitment or our story idea to an instructor, before we could start executing it. If the idea wasn’t delivered clearly and concisely, we went back to the drawing board to nail down the idea or the focus.

Every story starts out with an idea. Ideas have always come pretty easily to me, usually in spurts. All sorts of environments or activities can trigger ideas.

Seth Godin did a blog about a week ago titled, Where do ideas come from? Here are a couple of my favorites:

  • Ideas come out of the corner of the eye, or in the shower, when we’re not trying
  • Ideas come in spurts, until you get frightened. Willie Nelson wrote three of his biggest hits in one week
  • Ideas occur when dissimilar universes collide
  • Ideas fear experts, but they adore beginner’s mind. A little awareness is a good thing
  • Ideas hate conference rooms, particularly conference rooms where there is a history of criticism, personal attacks or boredom

Once I get the idea, I then start focusing it in my head. I play out the movie in my mind. What is the message? Whose message is it – mine? – the client’s? What is the motivation for the piece? A call to action? Once I get a pretty clear idea of what the story is that I’m trying to tell, then I start to put the pieces together. First I gather and capture all the assets that I’ll need, the interviews, b-roll, still photos etc. Then, when it’s time to edit the story, I’ll have a much clearer focus of how I will edit the pieces together to deliver the message.

Right now, I’m editing a feature length documentary, that is made up of ten different stories about ten different people in various corners of the globe. All together, the ten stories are unified by the theme of “the power of the individual in making a difference in the world”. Essentially the idea is, global stories about the power of one. That has been my underlying story from the moment of concept, to shooting it, to editing it all together.

So, how do you tell the story?  For me, it’s focusing on the “idea” at all times and editing toward that purpose.  There are hundreds of ways to tell the same story, but you need to know what the story is before you can begin to tell it.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

New Stuff

I haven’t done a lot of tech talking lately, but a couple of new items have me thinking that way. Here’s some interesting news about products, firmware upgrades and video delivery.

To start with, for all of you who own a Samson H4N Zoom digital recorder, and have been frustrated that you aren’t able to independently change recording levels on inputs 1 and 2 – you now can. Here is a link to the firmware download and instructions.

For all you “big chip” aficionados, Sony just announced the PMW-F3

Sony PMW F3

camera with a 35mm CMOS imager. However, with a price tag around $16,000 for the body and an extra $7000 for a set of three Sony prime lenses, it seems more like a competitor in the RED market, rather than in the DSLR niche.

Read more about it on engadget

PhotoCinenews.com had a great blog post by August Bradley, a couple of weeks ago that I almost missed, Thoughts On Motion Portfolios.

August writes:

“We recently went through the process of re-designing our website with one of the primary new objectives being adding motion content. So I did extensive research on the websites of directors, cinematographers, and leading production companies to see how they presented videos. I was surprised at how little effort most are making in this area.

I suspect the thinking of the directors and cinematographers is that nobody hires them for a serious commercial gig by discovering their website. It’s very much a matter of relationships and playing the inside game.

But I also think the world is changing fast with the barriers to entry lowering in the motion world, and with talented people increasingly able to compete on creativity rather than on access to expensive cameras and lights. The importance of a strong web presence is rising and becoming fundamental for directors and cinematographers.

So I set out to find the best-in-class practices and leading suppliers of related tools. I found some methods of integrating and presenting video to be more engaging than others.”

Read more

PhotoCinenews has also announced that the DVD set of their 2010 PhotoCine Expo is hot off the presses. It’s an 8 disc set of presentations from 14 filmmakers. I am honored to be one of them and as one who attended many of the other presentations, I can tell you it’s worth every penny. Check it out.

Here’s a big piece of news released yesterday. ” Steve Jobs to launch iPad Newspaper with Rupert Murdock” by Chris Matyszczyk.

Chris writes:

“Women’s Wear Daily offers a report that this iPad-o-newsthingy, which has been in covert development for several months, will be called “The Daily.” It will, apparently, have as its pulsating spirit “a tabloid sensibility with a broadsheet intelligence.”

Oh, and there is a price for this melange of the tabloid heart with a broadsheet mind. A ticklingly enticing 99 cents a week.

The Daily will, apparently not enjoy such dated concepts as a print edition or even a Web edition. Instead it will be beamed straight to the iPad (or Galaxy, if you can afford one) from News Corp.’s high pod somewhere in Manhanttan.”

And here’s another milestone news item about YouTube. “YouTube: 35 hours of video uploaded every minute” by Don Reisinger

“YouTube attributes the growth to several factors. First, the company’s decision to increase time limits from 10 minutes to 15 minutes per video has helped. It also pointed to the site’s file size limit of 2GB. With the help of mobile phones, YouTube said that consumers are finding it relatively simple to quickly add videos to the site. It also doesn’t hurt that “more companies [are] integrating our APIs to support upload from outside of YouTube.com.”

Lastly, a thank you to everyone who has contributed to my film Opening Our Eyes, on Kickstarter.  We have gone past our half way point, meaning we are more than halfway toward our goal.  And to anyone who may be thinking of making a contribution – it’s a win/win because you get a DVD of the film if you make a $25 contribution.  The money will all go toward the hire of a professional editor who will give the film the polish it needs to have a chance at wider distribution – and with that, the possibility of inspiring more change makers in the world.  Here’s the link – please pass it along to people you know who may like to be a backer.

There you have it – a mixed bag of some interesting “new stuff”.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine