FROM NOVICE TO PRO; SOME TIPS FOR MAKING BETTER VIDEOS

When I was a young little wiener of a human I use to fantasize about making movies. I would imagine all of the scenes and how they would lead to the eventual conclusion of me (I was always the main character) saving the day. My mother used to laugh when I would ask her questions like (while watching a movie) “do you know why they chose that angle?”. This was the type of stuff that interested me. I was fascinated by the art form. I always thought I was destined to be a movie director. This hasn’t happened, yet. I also have changed my outlook on what I’ve wanted to achieve. The reality was, I’ve always wanted to be a storyteller. I just believed that being a director was the only way to do that.

I discovered through experience that there are many ways to tell a story. Right now I’m writing one that you are reading. I am very grateful that you are reading it too, just wanted to make sure I noted that. I began my professional career as a video producer at CTV. I learned so much in that career. It really was the lessons learned there that helped me evolve into an entrepreneur. 

I’M A VIDEO PRODUCER BUT MAYBE IM ALSO A CHEF

For the longest time, I’ve used this comparison to describe my job. I don’t know if I heard it somewhere or made it up (I probably heard it somewhere). Video production is a lot like a cook. Shooting the video is like grocery shopping. You want to get all of the perfect ingredients. Editing is like cooking. This is your opportunity to bring all of those wonderful ingredients together and make a meal. I think you’re getting that viewing vs eating comparison at this point. Also, the shot list is the same as a grocery list. It is a big key to success. 

Unfortunately, sometimes we have to produce in a rush. There were so many times at CTV that we found out about a story, had to run out, do interviews, shoot b-roll, then boogie back to the studio to edit it all together so that it could be featured on the “late” 6 o’clock news. This was a daily occurrence that taught me to be efficient and cool under pressure. It also helped me build a lot of useful techniques that I still use 13 years later.

Tips and tricks

I’m going to share some of these below. Enjoy, also, there is a comment section below, hit me up with any questions or suggestions for future blogs.

  • TMWARE – Ok, this acronym is way harder to remember than the full form. TIGHT, MEDIUM, WIDE, ACTION, REACTION, EMOTION. Say it over and over again in your head. Whenever you’re at an event or shoot that you do not have full clarity on this mantra should save your butt. It happens, sometimes you’re a hired gun and you’ve been told to capture b-roll to bring back to an editor. If you want to make that editor happy and potentially get rehired make sure they have the proper ingredients. The biggest mistake you can make is feeling all creative getting non-stop action shots only to realize every shot is too similar and the editor is stuck having to butt together footage that looks like a series of jump-cuts. Also, this technique will force you to become very aware of your environment. Look for the smiles, the conversations, the subtle gestures in the room. Make sure you establish the environment with a wide shot, then ensure there’s an opportunity for your audience to have an intimate relationship with some of the subjects through close-ups.
  • Get close and focus. This one is more of a do not. If you are working with a zoom lens DO NOT pull the zoom back to a wide shot before grabbing your focus. Zoom right into your subject, capture the focus, then pull the zoom back to however you want the shot framed. You cannot trust your small screen to fully display the sharpness of a shot. Get in nice and close and unblur those lines. Bad angles are fixable, out of focus shots are devastating.
  • Change levels. Often, I see new shooters trying to get unique shots by twisting and turn and moving the cameras constantly. They have no consideration for their audiences equilibriums. I understand the desire to feel like you need to be constantly moving in order to be effective. Here’s what most video producers forget to do; change the level at which the camera is filming. DO NOT just shoot from a standing position. DO NOT just angle down on your subjects like a 17-year-old taking a selfie. Sit on your butt, lay on your back, climb on top of the furniture, look at your environment from different levels and you will see your project come to life.
  • Organize well first and thank yourself later. Please do me a favour and be disciplined about labelling your folders. Create a main folder and label it the name of your project. Then create subfolders for audio, b-roll, specific scenes. After you have done this import your files into the appropriate folders. Next step; go in and rename your videos in a format that you can remember after the fact. It can feel tedious at first but I promise this will make your workflow so freaking efficient. I think the quote goes “plan twice, execute ones”…. Something like that, lol.

FAVORITE QUOTES ABOUT VIDEOGRAPHY

“And Later I Thought, I Can’t Think How Anyone Can Become a Director Without Learning the Craft of Cinematography.” – Gus Van Sant

“I think the point of cinematography, of what we do, is intimacy. Is intent, is the balance between the familiar and the dream, it is being subjective and objective, it is being engaged and yet standing back and noticing something that perhaps other people didn’t notice before, or celebrating something that you feel is beautiful or valid, or true or engaging in some way.” – Christopher Doyle

“I think people just see cinematography as being about photography and innovative shots and beautiful lighting. We all want our movies to look great visually, to be beguiling and enticing, but I think that what really defines a great cinematographer is one who loves story.” – Seamus McGarvey

There are a lot of cameramen but not so many photographers. And a lot of cameramen attack from a technical approach without much imagination. They look, but they don’t see.” – Gordon Willis

 “A film is never really good unless the camera is an eye in the head of a poet.” – Orson Welles

Orson Welles

There you go, a little information and inspiration. Just remember the best way to get better at producing videos is by producing videos. Practice different angle then go back to the edit bay and play. Try to be organized and creative. I look forward to making more blogs. Let me know if there are any topics you would like me to cover. Thanks again, enjoy!

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