Saturday, November 22, 2014

On shooting video stories: Learning curve is steep, but the climb is worth it

   It’s hard to define bad video technique until you actually see it: bad pans, bad focusing, bad fades, bad zooms, bad audio.
   The word ‘bad’ sounds, well, bad. But ‘making bad’ on your first few videos isn’t necessarily a bad thing. After all, we all have to start somewhere, right?
   A few weeks ago the KSU Teaching Multimedia class got started on their first video assignment.
   The goal was to get their your feet wet by handing the gear, practicing with moving images, getting comfortable with sound, and then developing a workflow to put it all together.
   Before they shot their story they were given a list of video news stories by established media to view. Then they had to find subjects that would lend to visual variety and sound (the assignment before this was learning how to capture sound and edit using Audacity). Finally, with a list of guidelines to follow, they had to shoot and produce their own stories.
  Keep in mind that this class is also extremely fast paced. In only four months they learn basic still photography and audio skills, as well as create blogs to post their timelines, interactive maps and opinion polls. They don’t have the luxury of time.   
  I expected bad video because most of the students took the class because they had no visual journalism experience and wanted to learn; and to learn you have to do; and the more you do the better you get.  This is why they are given a second chance, and are currently working on their second video, due at the end of the semester. I hope to see improvement, not only because they've done it before, but because they have the benefit of learning from one another's videos on our YouTube Channel.
  It's understood that the learning curve to shooting video is pretty steep. Still photography is hard enough, with camera controls, compositional rules and lighting techniques to worry about. But throw in the added elements of movement and audio, and, well, beginners can have pretty bad video! 
  The following two stories were chosen from this class because I think it’s important to demonstrate the spectrum of work students do. You will be able to tell which one works, and which one needs work.

  Sure, I can say in a classroom or write in a blog, "Don't do this, and yes, do that..."  But you really have you see it to get the picture.
   For this third bad audio video (click here), I demonstrate really bad audio, and it isn't a product of my students. It's mine!
Even us experienced types can screw up, as this brief weekly Dog of the Week video proves. Normally, the Sennheiser hotshoe mic on my DSLR cameras does a fine job of recording quality audio. But not this time.
   While producing the video using Adobe Premiere Elements 11, I was horrified to hear annoying static during the interview. Perplexed, I had a gut feeling it could be a battery issue, so I did a test. I recorded sound suing the old AAA battery, then replaced the battery and did another recording. The new battery fixed the problem.
   This bad audio makes it a bad video story, and even a cute puppy can't save it!
   Tips for recording quality audio include keeping the batteries fresh; record in a quite space, use a quality mic that minimizes distracting background noise; keep close to the subject or use wireless mics with a transmitter.
  Here's another video I did that encompasses decent shooting techniques and audio: Say cheese!
  A few tutorials on shooting/editing video:
·      NYVS video shooting
·      Media College
·      DSLR Video Shooter

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