Wednesday, May 18, 2011

How to shoot video that doesn't suck

Steve Stockman, director of commercials and films (including Sally Field's 2006 terminal-disease chucklefest "Two Weeks") gets the award for Most Entertaining Tech Book Title to Cross My Desk Recently. "How To Shoot Video That Doesn't Suck" -- that's his new book -- isn't just memorably titled, it also seems to be just what so many have been longing for: practical, non-technical help for all those wannabe YouTube stars clogging the internet with lame videos. (I'll admit, I've contributed to the problem a time or two. But to my credit, I did NOT go to YouTube with my 15-minute iPhone video of my 10-year-old starring in the church Easter play. You can thank me later).

Won't try to summarize the whole book, but Stockman offers a 12-pack of beginner tips that might make your next family vacation video a little less excruciating:

  1. Think in shots. (In other words, shoot deliberately. Don't just run the camera nonstop, like I did at said Easter play).
  2. Don't shoot till you see the whites of their (your subjects') eyes.
  3. Keep your shots under 10 seconds long.
  4. Zoom with your feet (not with the zoom function -- it produces shakier video).
  5. Stand still! Stop fidgeting! And no zooming during shots!
  6. Keep the light behind you.
  7. Turn off the camera's digital effects (leave "night-vision," posterization and such for the editing process).
  8. Focus on what really interests you.
  9. Don't use amateurish titles.
  10. Keep your video short. (The average time spent looking at a web page, he notes, is 15 seconds).
  11. Use an external microphone.
  12. Take the quality pledge (Pretty funny, but long. It begins by asking you to "promise not to inflict lame video on my friends, relatives, customers, or complete strangers who might find it on YouTube because I put something about sex in the title.").
So, there you go. A quick guide for shooting non-sucky video.

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