Common Mistakes When Making a Video – And How to Avoid Them

Need a video?  Then why not make your own, right?  How hard can it be?

30 years ago, the ability for people like you and me to make movies was handed to us in the shape of very bulky, very expensive video cameras.  These would typically have to be carted around on the shoulder while the user peered through an eyepiece.  The bright light beaming on the face of our subject (mostly families during birthday and Christmas parties) would cause squinting.  The background whirr of the camera’s machinery would complete our production by drowning out the voices we wanted to record.   Add to that the fact that making videos tended to be made without any thought of what we were trying to achieve… and results were understandably hit and miss…mostly miss!

Move on to today.  We are all equipped with tiny smart phones in our pockets that contain video cameras capable of taking far superior still and moving pictures, auto focused, crystal clear and with light balancing to ensure the quality of reproduction.  Yet somehow, most of us still struggle to come up with anything other than poor quality, shaky, overlong segments of footage that would struggle to impress anyone other than the close family members of our subject.

So, why is this?  And what can we do to improve out movie-making?  Read on.

Lighting – is so important in making video, yet is rarely given a thought.  If the lighting is incorrect any video you make of a face is likely to be covered in shadows…notably under the eyes and on the neck.  How can this be prevented?  Shoot at the right time of day, when the sun is not too high in the sky.  Avoid your subject being under trees or buildings and keep the sunlight behind you.  Finally, consider using an inexpensive reflector to direct ambient light upwards from beneath the face.  You will be amazed at the improvement when your subject is correctly lit.

Sound – Do not rely on the inbuilt microphone to pick up speech or music.  The microphone on the unit is designed to pick up sound from multiple directions and that is exactly what it will do.  Traffic flowing by, birds singing, a plane passing overhead…these will all take the same priority with your camera mic.  If you want to hear your subject speaking or singing, use a separate wired microphone and put it on or near to them.

Background – What are you looking to achieve in the video?  Does the background add to that or detract from it?  Pick your background carefully to fit in with the meaning of the video.

Storyboard / Editing – Steven Spielberg and Quentin Tarantino do not try to tell a story all in one shot and neither should you.  Digital video is now very easy to edit, to stop and start the action, making use of a mixture of close-up and wide shots as well as different angles.  Try drawing a storyboard, like a comic strip of the shots you will need, prior to shooting the video.  Then get your shots and edit them on your PC.  This adds interest to what you are shooting and keeps the viewer engaged.

The Filming Process – The light weight and features available on your phone or camera make playing about with zooming and panning from left to right, up and down very attractive to the budding movie-maker.  But constantly changing the zoom and panning are ultimately distracting and even annoying to the viewer and so should be kept to a minimum.  Instead, try cutting and repositioning your shots, interspersing some close-ups with wider angles, side views with full faces and scene setting shots.

Shaky Shots – are a major issue with most video makers.  If you have a tripod, use it.  Alternatively, brace your arms close in to your body and stand as steadily as possible.  If there is something to lean on, that too can help.  Hold your breath or control your breathing if you can…and keep very quiet.  The video is not about you!

Scripts – are used in almost all movie making throughout the world.  If you want your video to successfully tell a story, come up with the words that will achieve that goal.  Also script the angles and movements you will need.  Discuss and agree these with your subject.  When you are braced and your subject is comfortable and ready to shoot, countdown to ‘Action!’

And Finally – If you want to make a good video, watch movies and television productions to see what the professionals have done.  Pay attention to the use of lighting and the angles used, scene setting and how shots are cut together.  Note your thoughts about what works well and what you didn’t like.  What you learn will help you whether you are making a promotional video for your business, videoing a band at your local pub or just recording a party held for a relative’s birthday.

Article provided by Mike James, an independent content writer in the technology industry – working alongside a selection of companies including Logan Photography, who were consulted over the information contained in this piece.