Tag Archives: short documentaries

Master’s Project- What I learned, Part 1

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Tips for filming:

1. Get to know your subject before-  I knew long before I had even scheduled to meet with the people I would be interviewing that I would need to get to know them before I ever actually set up a camera. You want them to be comfortable with you and to have an understanding of what it is you are doing. Though I was working under a very tight deadline and didn’t have much time, I made sure to meet with them all at least once before beginning the actual filming process.

2. Get to know your equipment before- This was huge for me. I took a basic photography course a few years ago and interned with a news station one summer, but that really wasn’t enough to prepare me. I needed to have a really good grasp of the equipment I had been given for this project, and I learned that lesson the hard way a few times. Make sure you understand all of the menu options, buttons, and functions on your camera. Practice using the tripod and practice shooting in low and bright light, just in case. If there are going to be any problems with your equipment, you want to discover those beforehand.

3. Learn to improvise- Unfortunately, no matter how much you know your equipment and how much you practice, there is a chance there still might be a few bumps along the way. I learned this the hard way, too, but in the end, it all worked out.

4. Bring a notebook- I would advise you to bring a notebook to your initial interview so that you can jot down notes about the person or people you’ve just met. This will help when you get home and want to begin coming up with the story for each video. I wrote down the barebones of our conversation, and then when I got home, used those notes to come up with the questions I would ask in the real interview session. As a journalist, my notebook has always been a sort of safety blanket, I guess. It has also helped me to tell the person I’m interviewing that we will be talking about many of the same things we spoke about in our previous meeting. I have learned that can make them feel a little more comfortable in front of the camera.

If your first meeting takes place in their home, it’s also a great idea to write down things you notice in their house. Do they have lots of family photos on the walls? Are their flowers everywhere? Do they have awards, trophies, or medals sitting on a shelf? These are things you can talk about in your next interview, either to break the ice or to show the viewers who this person is. These are things you can use as b-roll, too.

5. Speaking of b-roll– When you hear someone say take lots and lots of b-roll, listen to them. When you think you have enough, you probably don’t, so just shoot another 10 or 15 minutes. You’ll thank me later. I promise. Also, make sure you shoots lots of different scenes and angles, as it can become boring for the viewer to see the same scenes over and over again. One of the main reasons we use b-roll is to give the viewer something else to look at besides the person being interviewed. It holds their attention a little longer, but if you keep showing the same b-roll, it probably won’t.

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Other things to know:

1. Always record with a separate audio recorder. It will sound a lot clearer and cleaner than the built in audio recorder on your camera.

2. Record a minute of background audio. This just means that you should record the background noise without anyone speaking in the place you are filming. You can then lay that audio track under all of the others when editing. It will make the jumps between the b-roll and interview more seamless.

3. Look for a good depth of field. Choose to interview your source in an area that has some depth behind them. Whatever you do, don’t interview them in front of a wall. I’m speaking from experience.

4. Bring extra batteries. That’s a no brainer, right? Wrong.

 

Good luck!

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