Important Tips to Keep in Mind When Shooting Digital Video

More and more reporters are being asked to produce digital online videos. And while video editing programs, such as Adobe Premiere Pro and Apple’s Final Cut, can seem intimidating, shooting digital video can, for the beginner, seem deceptively easy. After all, what more is there to do than point your camera or smart phone at what you want to shoot and press the record button?

In fact, there are plenty of pitfalls that can occur when shooting a video, so here are some pointers for the novice to keep in mind.

Keep the camera steady: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen videos ruined by shaky, handheld camera work. There is nothing more irritating – and even nauseating – than watching a video that looks like it’s been shot by a drunk standing on the deck of a ship in heavy seas. So always keep your camera as steady as possible, and use a tripod if you can get your hands on one.

Avoid pans: This is related to the tip above. For some reason, newbie camera people often want to do panning shots, where the camera moves from left to right or up and down across a landscape. But these are difficult to do even with a tripod, and virtually impossible to pull off well without one. Instead of pans, just do lots of static shots of whatever you are filming. Trust me, it will look better than a pan.

Shoot plenty of B-roll: B-roll is the background footage you see in news videos. For instance, if you’re shooting a video about a house fire, obviously you want plenty of shots of the house itself. But you should also get shots of firefighters, of local residents watching the blaze, and so on. B-roll is important because it is used in combination with voiceover narration, which is common in news videos. B-roll can also be overlapped with an interview, and is much more interesting visually than looking at a person talking. So always, always get lots of B-roll, even if it’s far more than you think you will need.

Don’t forget about good audio: So you’ve got a tripod and are keeping your camera work steady and smooth? That’s great, but the quality of your audio is every bit as important as the video. I can’t tell you how many student-produced videos I’ve seen that were ruined because of poor audio quality. This usually happens because the camera person doesn’t have a good quality microphone and makes the mistake of filming an interview in a noisy environment, such as a crowded college cafeteria or anywhere outdoors on a windy day. So if you can, invest in a good microphone that can be clipped to the shirt or blouse of the person being interviewed. If that’s not possible, make sure you do your interviews in a quiet spot somewhere so that the ambient noise won’t drown out what your interviewee is saying.

Follow me on Facebook and Twitter