So what’s the trick to getting good?

Hrumph! As co-author Larry Nance and I work our way through our notes and continue with the task of writing The Basics of Videojournalism, memories of blog postings past resurface. I’ve cut and pasted the guts of one such posting, which was the result of one too many still photographers or wanna-be’s asking me for the secret of shooting great video.

Those in the know, know already. Once you have the knowledge – once you know what to do – YOU HAVE TO PRACTICE. Yeah. Right. Good old fashioned get your hands on the gear and work with it until it becomes an extension of your body. There are no secrets…there is NO other way. Somewhere between year one and year four-ish you will no longer think about anything but the story – the images – what is in front of you. The camera, tripod, lights will be ancillaries of your brain and body. Your hands will be able to see and will automatically direct the fingers how close/how far to zoom in. The tripod will magically find itself set to the precise level you need it at. Aperture…depth-of-field…shutter speed. All part of your DNA.

Initially getting it all right is going to take time. You resist using a tripod cause it takes time to set up. In the field you think audio sounds great – you can hear it okay in your headset. And you can see your subject so the light must be fine. Right? WRONG! Don’t rush through your story and cheat your audience. They (and you) deserve your best every single day…every single shot. At first you’ll feel as if you have a weight attached to you. Time…time…time…it takes time to get each of these elements done properly. Time to take out the sticks and set them up. Time to check out the light and move your sticks over a bit to get better light or pull out the stand light and umbrella and find an outlet and light your subject. Time to attach the mike and check audio levels. Time to really look at the story and get more than the obvious shots. Time to see the details that will really impact the audience. Time to think and do it right.

And it’s not over in the field. Now you’re back editing and you have more tape and more choices, cause you shot more than you did before. Your tape looks and sounds cleaner, so you aren’t straining to hear the bad audio that sounded so good in the field and sounds like crap in the quiet of the edit area. Nice. You begin editing and suddenly you realize you can really edit…you’re not just covering words with pictures or putting in a great shot just because you have it. You are creating a visual story with an establishing shot and details. You start getting excited and then look at the clock…and deadline time is coming up fast.

At some point all of this will click. Tossing up your sticks will be as effortless as turning the camera on. You’ll always keep the tripod plate attached to the bottom of your camera for quick and easy mounting. You’ll look at light as you enter a room and automaticaly set up in the best area…or put up your reflector or light/umbrella without thinking. At the same time you’ll have the mike out ready to clip on to the interview subject. While you’re shooting the interview, you’ll be visualizing your shots for cover. With time, all of this will become so natural and effortless you will forget you never did it before…and once again, you’ll be concentrating on what is most important: telling the story.

Sigh…yeah. That’s it. And now you know the secret you have a choice to make. How badly do you want it?


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