12 Tips to Make Your Video Better– Instantly

From the "How to Shoot Video that Doesn't Suck" book trailer.

5 Tips to shoot better video– Instantly!

By Tips and Tricks, 12 Tips to Improve Your Video NOW 3 Comments

The book trailer for How to Shoot Video that Doesn’t Suck gets you started with 5 great tips to help you shoot better video. This isn’t a technical book–it’s about how to think like a director so you can shoot video that people will actually want to watch. It includes step by step instructions for beginners, great ideas on story and more advanced techniques if you’re already serious about shooting stills or video, and even a few ideas that will inspire a pro. Whether you’re shooting with a red, a dslr or your smartphone, these are tips you can use instantly to…

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12 Tips to Keep Your Video from Sucking– Instantly! #1: Think in Shots

By 12 Tips to Improve Your Video NOW 6 Comments

This is the first of the 12 most useful video tips that I know. Notice I didn’t say “most important”– that’s up to you to decide.  But if you try these tips, your video will get way better, way fast.  Which seems pretty useful to me.  Here’s Video Tip #1: There was a man sitting near me at my kids’ cello recital last month. He had his camera on a tripod in front of him. At the start of the recital, he pressed record. For the next 45 minutes, he swung his camera back and forth, back and forth across…

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12 Tips to Keep Your Video from Sucking– Instantly! #2: Shoot Short Shots

By 12 Tips to Improve Your Video NOW 5 Comments

Going through old family photos you find one of an old birthday party that a hits you hard and fast.  BANG– you’re in the middle of serving the cake.  The little birthday girl in her impossibly frilly dress sits at the head of the table, propped up on a stack of 1953 telephone books.  Long-dead relatives in jackets and ties and dresses stare uncomfortably at the camera, some smiling a little, but most feeling the formality of the moment in a way that’s fills us with nostalgia.  The kids are on their best behavior.  It’s like they knew we’d be…

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Don’t Shoot Until You See the Whites of Their Eyes: 12 Video Tips #3

By 12 Tips to Improve Your Video NOW One Comment

In the movies, on the big screen, we’re impressed by giant vistas. The stunning old West, where cacti and cowboys roam, or a panorama of stars and planets as we float through the vacuum of space. These amazing landscapes look great in IMAX, okay on our 52-inch plasma screens, and like tiny, blurry garbage on a Droid. Which is okay because here on planet video, we’re more likely to be shooting people anyway. If people are the stars of most videos, their faces are what you want to stay focused on.  People communicate half of everything they’re saying with their…

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Zoom with Your Feet: 12 Tips to Keep Your Video from Sucking! (#4)

By Tips and Tricks, 12 Tips to Improve Your Video NOW One Comment

It’s an education to watch professional news videographers in action. They put their camera on their shoulders, march through the crowd right up to whomever they want to shoot (and by “right up” I mean 2 feet away) and go. They don’t care whose view they block. They don’t care how the subject feels having a camera up their nose. They know that if they don’t get the shot, they don’t eat. Period. Behavior like this at, say, the “I do” moment of your friend’s wedding would probably result in a flying tackle by the mother of the bride. But…

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Stop Moving the Camera! 12 Tips to Keep Your Video from Sucking! (#5)

By Tips and Tricks, 12 Tips to Improve Your Video NOW 5 Comments

One of the fastest ways to make your video suck less:  Stop moving the camara. Pros get to move the camera. You will too after you become a pro—or even after you’ve practiced enough to reach “skilled amateur” status. (Note, though, that some of the greatest shots in movie history don’t move the camera much at all!) But if you’re not a pro, treat your video camera like a still camera. You don’t move with a still camera—you just point and fire.  Same deal here.  Point the lens, take your finger off the zoom button, look at the LCD screen…

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Keep the Brightest Light Behind You! 12 Tips to Keep Your Video From Sucking: #6

By Tips and Tricks, 12 Tips to Improve Your Video NOW 2 Comments

Here’s why you should always keep the brightest light behind you when shooting video: Modern video cameras, from cell phones to HD, adjust automatically for light. If the light’s too bright, they close down the lens to let less in.     Normally, no problem for you or the video camera. Your outdoor shots in bright light look great, and so do your indoor shots by candlelight. Unfortunately that smart circuitry gets confused when it has to deal with multiple light levels in the same shot.  Most video camera circuitry is set to expose for the biggest, brightest thing in the…

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Turn Off the Digital Effects In Your Video Camera. 12 Tips to Keep Your Video from Sucking! (#7)

By 12 Tips to Improve Your Video NOW 3 Comments

There is no digital video effect that your camera can do that you should allow it to do. Ever. If you shoot nice clean video, you can always add a dorky effect like posterization later with one of many computer editing programs designed to do it. But if you shoot posterized video, you can never take it off. You’re stuck with it forever. Did I mention it was dorky? Despite what the box at the store would have you believe, digital effects don’t give your camera special powers. Instead they take the high-quality picture your camera is capable of at…

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Shoot What Interests You: 12 Tips to Keep Your Video from Sucking (#8)

By Tips and Tricks, 12 Tips to Improve Your Video NOW 2 Comments

I recently watched a video blog post that featured an orchestra whose only instruments were iPhones. The players—it looked like there were about 20 of them—had special gloves with speakers on their wrists. Pretty cool idea, no? And very visual—a big circle of musicians playing iPhones. The problem was the video. It started with a very wide shot of the group and then wavered, as if unsure where to look. Occasionally it veered off to one part of the group, then another, with no apparent motivating goal. I felt adrift. There were things I wanted to see—like a close-up of…

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Easy on the Graphics: 12 Tips to Keep Your Video from Sucking (#9)

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Unless you have a real design sense (you’ll know because everyone in middle school wanted to work with you on group projects involving posters), take it easy on the graphics and titles in your video unless they’re really necessary.  Extraneous graphics and titles are like extraneous anything else in video.  They just confuse the hell out of people, pulling our eye away from the point of the video to focus on zooming, sparkly words. How do you know if titles are necessary? Two tests: 1) Is it impossible to figure out the information the title gives us without it? If…

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Keep Your Video Short: 12 Tips to Keep Your Video from Sucking (#10)

By Tips and Tricks, 12 Tips to Improve Your Video NOW One Comment

When it comes to video, the old show-business expression “Always leave them wanting more” applies. Anything worth saying in video is worth saying shorter. TV commercials tell a complete story, entertain us, and sell us—all in 30 seconds. Benjamin Button lives his entire life on screen, backward, in two hours and 46 minutes (not a long time for an entire life, but still some might suggest it could have been done in 2:20). The record of your mother’s second birthday party probably exists as either a grainy two-minute silent home movie or six photographs stuck in an album. Yet if…

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Use a Microphone: 12 Tips to Keep Your Video from Sucking (#11)

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The microphones on most video cameras are programmed to adjust their own sound levels: they take whatever they hear and boost it to a constant, listenable level. Unfortunately, if they hear crowd noise around you, they boost that. Traffic noise, sirens—it all gets boosted. In fact, if the camera mic hears nothing, it boosts that too. In an interview where the subject is too far from the mic, the camera will crank up every hint of sound between you and them, creating a big, echoey overlay of room noise. If you’re as close to your subject as you should be…

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A Good Video is Like a Sentence: 12 Tips to Un-Suck Your Video (#12)

By 12 Tips to Improve Your Video NOW 6 Comments

Videos need to be about someone doing something. The ideal video follows the classic “noun/verb” or maybe “noun/verb/object” sentence structure Mrs. Zellermyer taught you in third grade (note:  the name of your third grade teacher may vary.  Hopefully it was easier for you to spell when you were 8.) “Our cute dog” is not a video because nothing happens.  Random shots of your dog lying around the house are what we in the video business call “snapshots,” as in “take out your still camera and shoot snapshots because this is not a video.” Video requires action to hold our attention. …

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