Tag Archives: video

A Macro Minute – Battle of the Cams

I believe that multi-functional technology is generally over rated when in comes to image creation.  If you want good stills, use a still camera.  If you want good video, use a video camera.  They are built to do their respective functions very well.  Video cameras, on the consumer level, are not meant to take great photos.  The fact that they come with that feature has limited functionality.  I usually advise not to depend on it for superior print quality images.

I put that to the test this week.  I used the still feature on my Sony handheld camcorder to take some macros and see how they fared against the stills from my dedicated Sony still cam.  With macro setting on and in full sunlight, the results were pretty impressive.  See below.

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I had taken similar photos closer to dusk with both my video cam and still.  The still camera handled the low light better than the video camera, giving me more usable images to work with.

Even my iPhone under the right conditions garnered some good results.

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I still believe in dedicated technology for quality productions.  However, if you set aside the time to really learn the settings on the gear you have and the best conditions they operate under you can develop technique that will allow you to do more than you think you can.

Copyright 2013 Digital Design Digest

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The Multi-Camera Field Shoot

One camera is better than none when trying to preserve memories or information from an event.  Some events lend themselves nicely to the one-camera shoot where zooming in and out occasionally gives you everything you need for visual variety.  There are other events where having at least a second camera, is beneficial if not critical to the mission.

Why Multi-Camera?

It’s all about choices.  In scripted videography you have the benefit of being able to shoot the same shot at multiple angles and as both a close-up and wide-shot.  Event videography does not afford you the same opportunity.  There are no do-overs.

The multi-camera setup allows you to have at least one camera set on a wide-shot all the time and another camera roving on close-up shots.  Editing is where you marry the two together in what will hopefully be a visually more appealing video than if it were a one camera shoot.  The wide shot is your base shot or safety shot where you know you will not miss any action.  Your additional cameras are your b-roll capturing the same activity close-up and at different angles.

The Plan

I am writing this for producers who intend to edit their footage later rather than mix on the fly during the event.  The plan still has applicability either way, but it is written with editing in mind.

The Cameras

You’ll need to know how many cameras you are running ahead of time.  Determine your position for each of the cameras relative to the action and decide which camera / operator will do the wide shot and which will do the roving close-up shots.  Yes, you really should have a camera operator for the wide shot. If for no other reason than to make sure the camera does not get knocked into in a crowd and ruin the shot. The other reason being that you will hang your main audio off the wide shot and will need a knowledgeable crew member to monitor audio during the show.

If you are just running two cameras you can have them run side by side. If you were to add a third camera you would want your wide shot in the middle and a camera angled on either side for roving close-ups and pan shots.  Make sure each camera/operator is assigned a role and sticks to it. The last thing you want to find out in editing is that both of your cameras took the exact same shot.

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Audio

As mentioned above, your wide shot camera will capture the main audio.  You will want to make sure the person running that camera is also comfortable in monitoring and adjusting audio levels.  You will want to make sure that the other cameras in your setup can capture some level of audio.  This audio is important for syncing all the footage from the various cameras in editing, but will be discarded from the final product.

Syncing

The final piece to this setup is syncing all the cameras.  This is extremely important.  All the cameras must start and stop at the same time and at the same intervals so they have the same time code in editing. For example; if you know your event is to begin at 7:00pm, make sure all your cameras start recording at 6:55pm.  The cameras should not stop recording until two minutes after the event has ended.  This buffer of time at the beginning and end of footage from each camera will allow the editor to sync all the footage once and proceed with editing.  If one of the cameras stops for 5 minutes in the middle of the show and the others keep recording then there will be a sync issue somewhere in the middle of the footage.  That will result in extra time for the editor to find the issue and re-sync additional points in the footage.

Prepping for the Event

Heading into an event, videographers will want to ask the event planner several questions;

  • Can you describe or provide a diagram of the layout of the room?
  • Are there power outlets available?
  • How much flexibility do I have for camera placement?
  • Depending on camera placement, how much traffic will be moving round the cameras?

The more information you can get up front the easier it will be to plan for gear needed and prepare your crew for the event. Setup will go smoother if you can walk in with a game plan.

Copyright 2013 Digital Design Digest

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Music First – Using Music to Set Tone and Pace in Business Videos

Music can make or break a production.  If used correctly it can set a tone for each scene and carry the viewer through a video.  If not given proper attention, music can dull the emotional effect of a production and become more of a distraction and detractor from the content.  This is as true for box office productions as it is for documentaries and training videos alike.

Many of my productions are documentary and training videos and music is always forefront in my mind, even in the early phases of scripting. It is these early stages where tone and pace are often determined and music can play a big role in driving and enhancing those elements.

First Impressions

Regardless of the type of video being done, I like to introduce a production with either an energetic, upbeat piece or at least something mellow but cheerful.  Even if some of the content is going to be difficult to digest later on (there are tunes for that) you want the introduction of the video on the whole to be inviting to your audience. Choose introductory music that will make a good first impression and invite people in to the viewing experience.  This will also likely be the closing score to your production as you summarize content seen and run closing credits.

If the video being produced is part of a series than choose an opening score that will remain the same for all videos to be produced in the series.  You may want to use different music for introducing videos that are not part of a series.  This sets them apart in some ways and creates a different identity.

Traveling Tunes

Some productions lend themselves nicely to having a permanent score run softly underneath the main dialogue of the video.  Such traveling tunes should never compete with the dialogue.  The base score can change from segment to segment in order to maintain an appropriate tone, but it will likely not be as dramatic as if it were the main audio.

Music as Main Audio

It is possible to tell a story or grab attention with great music and visuals.  If you get music with a solid, distinct beat you can sync up your images to change with the most definable beat of the music.  Different than the traveling tunes, this use of audio sets music as a truly defining element of a production.  It is a dynamic way to condition the viewer that with each beat of the drum, the image is going to change, bringing new information, and emotion.

Transitional Pieces

Any video that has multiple segments usually has one consistent transitional audio piece that signifies the end of one segment and the beginning of another.  Usually this audio is accompanied by a graphic that visually introduces the segment at hand.  Transitional audio can start out running very low at the end of one segment, fade to full volume at the graphic and fade out heading into the next segment, or, it can be more succinct and stay within the confines of the transition graphic.

Transitional audio can be a shortened version of the introductory score or a different composition altogether.  Depending on the type of video being produced, transitional audio may even be more of a sound effect.

Give music its proper place in production priorities.  Move it to the top of the list and be thinking about it during the scripting phase of a project.  Music can be a viewer’s first impression, it can tie together a whole production and set the mood for each segment.  Check out this blog post on using royalty free production elements and work from other artists in your next production. Video preview below.

Copyright © 2012 Digital Design Digest

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5 Ways for Your Business to Use Video

Video has a great deal of applicability to small businesses as a marketing tool.  If you can put your best foot forward in a solid video presentation you will have created a proxy that can represent you and your business to a wide audience on-demand.  Consider the following applications of video for your business.

Product Demonstrations

Consumers want information first.  Yes, a good sale will always catch a buyer’s eye, but for purchases that are of significant financial investment or time commitment, they want to know how the product works and if it is a good fit.

Product demonstrations can be effective for a variety of businesses.

–       Clothing, jewelry and other fashion related businesses can do some seasonal fashion demos illustrating how to coordinate various items into a seasonable outfit.  Video is also a great way to demonstrate the size and make of items such as bags and jewelry.  www.Zappos.com is an online retailer that makes great use of video and stills as sales tools. www.Thestyleunderground.com created great scarf tying tutorials for their product.

–       Any appliance retailer is a great candidate for demonstration videos.  Some of the labels being carried may already have their own videos that can be used on a website and marketing campaign.

–       Service oriented businesses such as yoga and fitness instruction may consider posting a two minute demonstration for each of their instructors.  What this gives the consumer is the opportunity to experience your service and determine which instructor or class is going to be the right fit.

 Training Videos

These types of videos can be created to train employees and consumers on company policies, processes and tools.  Consider all the frequently asked questions that have your employees and managers repeating themselves  from one end of the week to the next.  Putting those FAQs into a video you can direct other’s to will free up staff time to conduct other business.

Testimonials

Ask some of your most loyal customers if they would be willing to say a few words about your company’s customer service, how pleased they are with their purchase of your newest product or why they support your current initiative.  These are the kinds of sound bites that work well sprinkled throughout a site or used individually in a social media marketing campaign intended to drive people to your site.

Events

Conferences, ribbon cuttings, open houses and other public events are all worthy events to consider filming.  It is a great way to acknowledge collaborative efforts with partners, inform your audience of company milestones and thank them for their support.  You may not want to put a video of an entire 4 hour event on the web, but these events will lend themselves to wonderful sound bites that are sure to grab people’s attention.

Status Updates

Meant to be short, sweet and under a minute, this type of video is a great way to announce the unveiling of a new project, merchandise, event or anything else your audience may want an update on.  Don’t just tell customers your spring line is in; shoot a brief video of the shelves being stocked.  This can be done on your smartphone.  No editing required.  It’s a more dynamic status update than simple text.

Video is a great way to reach your audience, share information with them and allow them to experience your company and product first hand.  Once you have an information rich video make sure to use all the social media tools available to make it known to your audience that this video exists.

Copyright © 2012 Digital Design Digest

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The Value of Going Viral On a Local Level

Many viral videos often happen by accident, not by design.   Videos are posted to YouTube by the casual videographer with a little social network promotion, but the intent is to just sit back and see who watches.  Every now and then such random videos go viral – attracting millions of views from around the world very quickly.  It makes news headlines, is circulated through social media as the newest discovery and creates a flurry of wonder over why and how it got all this attention (Justin Bieber?). Most of the time a viral video is no more than pure entertainment.  We all need a good laugh (Mentos & Coke Fountains) or some inspiration (Susan Boyle).   When a video comes along that fills that need we are more likely to watch it and then share it with our social networks, who, will then share it with their networks. If you are a business, a non-profit or an individual with something to share your main goal should be identifying your audience, their needs and the networks that will get your video circulated. Going viral, on a global scale, is not the goal.

Your Audience and the Relativity of Going Viral

Not every video is meant for a global audience or even a national one.  A small clothing business may choose to highlight its spring line by creating a series of fashion demo videos such as scarf tying, color combinations and accessorizing.  This small, brick and mortar operation may only conduct sales in-store.  It will use their online presence to stay connected to their customers by sending them useful information about fashion and how their product ties in with that information.  Hopefully the information is dynamic enough that it is shared and results in a draw into their store and, ultimately, some sales.

 View Quality, as Defined by Your Audience, Counts More than View Quantity

A video is not going to help your business just by posting it on YouTube.  Video is another tool in your marketing arsenal to help make your audience aware you exist.   A small clothing business with one or two locations in its home state is mainly concerned with targeting an in-state audience.  The fact that their videos are viewed overseas does not do anything for their domestic sales, especially if this small business does not do overseas commerce.  What matters more is that the video is circulated in areas within close proximity to the place of business.  The video should be

  • posted on the company’s website in a conspicuous place;
  • sent to existing customers in e-blasts;
  • posted on the company’s social media such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn pages

YouTube has a great statistics feature that not only shows when and how many views a video has but also location demographics right down to the state it was viewed.  If a business really wants to know if a video made a difference, offer a small discount to anyone who purchases something and mentions the video.  The point of the video is to draw more people to your business.  You are not going to get a sales conversion from global viewership if you are catering to a much smaller demographic.  Build and market your video to your target demographic. Two hundred views from your target demographic means more than two thousand from anywhere else.

 The Needs of Your Audience

Now that you have defined your demographic audience you need to figure out what their needs are and how a video can satisfy that.  More often than not, the biggest need is for that of information.

Product demos are a great way to give your audience a 360 degree real world view of the product.  Keep the information centered strictly on product how-to and product characteristics.  Talk about materials that create the product, do a walk through of product setup, and cover all the ways the product can make the consumers life more efficient.

If your product is more service oriented or instructional, consider filming a short lesson. Ask each instructor to film a short demo video that can be posted and shared via the internet.  What you are giving is the opportunity for the consumer to experience your service and decide if it is a good fit.

Do not burden the video with weekly sales information.  People do not want to be sold something.  They want to know if it will meet their needs, will it last and how it works.  Let this timeless information be the main objective of your video.   The most important company information you can include in a video is how a customer can contact your company to inquire about the product.

Sales information can be added independently in the webpage, tweet or post. This method allows the video to get more mileage by keeping the content timeless and relevant to the product.  The video can be worked into temporary sales campaigns or used in other marketing without additional editing.

 It All Comes Down to Networking

 A video is another tool in your marketing arsenal; a proxy that allows you to represent your business, product or idea to the masses when you cannot be in multiple places at once. Video can only do this if people know it exists.

  • Start by making it known within the network you have such as your website, social media, chamber of commerce and e-blasts.
  • Remember to repost the video periodically, especially if it fits in with various marketing campaigns.  People will not see everything you post the first time you post it.  It may also not be relevant to some viewers during the first posting but will be on the second or third posting.
  • Ask your current followers to share the video with anyone in their network who may be interested.

It is important to let customers know they can get the best price from you.  Video marketing is another form of customer service that also let customers know you are the place to go for solid product information.  Both types of marketing require frequent exposure to be effective.  Persistence and patience is key.

In an economy where the consumer wants assurances on the value of their purchase it becomes more important than ever for a company to show consumers where the value is well before a purchase is made.   The mission here is not to post a video that is an overnight global sensation, but to produce a video that meets your audiences needs and makes it easy for them to tell their social network that you can meet their needs as well.

Copyright © 2012 Digital Design Digest

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Preparing for a Voice Recording

Whether you are recording a short outgoing message for your company’s phone system or preparing to do a voice over for a video script, consider the following tips for a smoother reading.

  1. Write a full script.  Outlines won’t cut it here.  They leave too many blanks to fill in during the recording when efforts should be put into diction, tone and pace.  Take some pressure off yourself and write out what you want to say verbatim, even for short outgoing phone messages.  This important first step assures you will not leave out any important information.
  2. Proof your script for narration.  Your first instinct will be to write your script like you would write an email or article.  This will not always translate into something that is readable in a narration.  Sentences may be too long and word combinations may be too cumbersome to narrate effectively.  Reading your script out loud will allow you to identify areas that require some additional editing.
  3. Read through the script for tone and pace.  Before recording your script you want to be sure the content is read with the appropriate tone and pace for the content.  This may be consistent throughout the script or change in different places.  It may be helpful to read the script to a handful of trusted people who represent your target audience. There may be some tweaks in an actual recording session but you want to have these details ironed out for the most part before you are ready to record.
  4. Break your script into readable units.  Short phone messages will be pretty easy to get through in one read.  If a mistake is made, just re-read the script as a new recording.  Longer scripts should not be read in one take.  Instead, break the script into short readable units that you can get through in one take.  Then take a break before heading onto the next unit.  If a mistake is made, then re-read that unit until it sounds the way you want.  Your editor can easily blend the units together to read as if no breaks were taken.
  5. A few final thoughts for the day of the recording.  Avoid food and drink that will clog up your vocals.  Dairy, peanut butter, thick sauces and other items create a coating in your throat that can muddy your sound and make it uneven.  Drink hot fluids and water to clear your throat.  Suck on a hard candy to keep your mouth and throat moist before the recording.  Bring a lot of water with you to the recording and make sure to sip it in between takes.  Vocal lubrication is key to a clear, even sound.

Copyright © 2012 Digital Design Digest

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How to Buy a Video Camera

This is a question I get frequently from new and seasoned camera owners.  Technology changes so quickly it is easy to assume the rules for buying a camera change too.  When buying any technology it is always a good idea to do a little research on the latest trends to see what is out there and their price ranges.  But before you invest too much time pouring over technical specifications of a potential purchase, spend a little time listing your specifications.  In other words, what do you want this new camera to do for you?

Your list should include everything and the kitchen sink.  It does not cost you anything to simply put it all on paper.  As you list your needs and price range you will begin to prioritize your specifications.  A good camera will last you at least 5 years or more so invest wisely and look at the features you may want tomorrow, not just what you know you need today.

Media Storage

The days of capturing video to tape is obsolete.  You will be hard pressed to find a tape based camera on the market and the only reason to buy one on the cheap is for the ability to backup archived footage to a hard drive. SD cards are the current future of video cameras.  So as you surf the offerings out there look at each camera’s storage type and capacity.

How much footage do you plan to capture before transferring it to an external drive?  The Sony Bloggie is a nice pocket size camera that takes good quality video and photos.  But with only 8GB of space you will need to offload it to a hard drive frequently in order to make room for your next production. If you are going on an extended trip or do not plan to transfer footage to external drives frequently, consider upgrading to a camera with a larger storage capacity.  For less than $300 you can get a small palm sized camera that can support a whopping 60GB or more of storage. With that kind of storage you can shoot everything in sight and edit the best later!

Battery Life

This actually goes hand in hand with video storage.  Some of the smaller blogging cameras have small batteries that need frequent recharging. If you are the occasional videographer or shoot more close to home where you can recharge regularly this may not be a major concern.  If you travel a lot or your occasional shoots last several hours then you want to look at a camera that is supplied with batteries that last more than 2 hours or invest in a few spare batteries.

SD, HD or Both?

Standard definition (4:3 aspect ratio) is still alive and kicking and a more efficient standard in terms of hard drive space and processing power when editing.  HiDef video(16:9 aspect ratio) produces stunning video and has the file size to match.  It also requires an extremely powerful computer to edit this footage efficiently. As technology evolves HD video will become as efficient to work with as SD and, eventually, replace SD video.

All that being said it would be worth your while to look at cameras that allow you switch between SD and HD recording if you are purchasing for your business or for a serious hobby. A camera that can straddle both standards will give you the most options to start.

Video and Audio Quality

Video has come a long way in a short period of time.  For very little money you can acquire a camera that takes phenomenal video footage for work or personal use.  There are some great cameras out there for under $300 that will take crisp, vibrant video images which, if you follow some of the basic principles for shooting video, you can edit later into a quality production.  While the inexpensive cameras offer some stunning video quality under most circumstances, you may find yourself wanting more control over different lighting situations, shot composition and sound.

Let There be Light, or Less of It

Exposure is how much light is allowed to enter the lens of the camera and it affects the brightness and darkness of a shot.  Too much light washes out a shot and makes the subjects too “hot”.  While you can darken a shot in editing you can never get back the detail lost from an over exposed shot.  On the flip side, too little light can darken a shot and make the video quality appear grainy.  You may be able to lighten such a video in editing, but with mixed results depending on how dark it started out.

All cameras come with automatic features that adjust for different lighting situations to some degree.  As you work your way up the price chain you will find cameras that offer more manual controls for adjusting exposure.  In additional to manual controls present on the camera there are lens filters at reasonable prices as well as external lamps that can attach directly to your camera.  These are great in situations when you are in close proximity to your subject and require just a bit more lighting than your surroundings provide.

I Can’t Hear You!

Most of the low end cameras on the market take phenomenal video footage in their own right but severely lack in their ability to capture adequate audio.  Almost all cameras come with their own built-in microphone.  These mics are fine for capturing ambient noise or for spontaneous narration by the camera operator but they will not produce the kind of rich, robust sound quality you will want for a professional video piece.  If you are going to be filming a lot of interviews and narration then you will want a camera that can accept external microphone attachments.  There are several varieties of external microphones built to handle different types of audio situations. (Another story for another blog). Owning a camera with a mic input gives you the option of attaching any one of these microphones to your camera.

Look for a camera that offers at least an eighth inch mic input.(Price range $900 +)  Even an inexpensive, external handheld mic will yield better audio results in an interview than the built in microphone.  For about $200 you can get and XLR audio adapter that will plug into the eighth inch mic input and give you 2 grounded XLR audio inputs.  This gives you the option of attaching 2 professional level microphones to your camera or a mixing board for even more microphone inputs. There are other camera models out there that allow external mic hookups without the need for adapters, but their price range typically starts at $2500.   Depending on your needs you may decide to allocate that $2500 to putting together a full compliment of field gear rather than just the camera piece of it.

Zoom. Zoom.  Zoom.

There are 2 different types of zoom advertised for cameras; optical and digital.  In the age of digital technology consumers mistakenly focus in on the digital zoom feature, which can often boast a 100 -200x zoom in of the subject.  Digital zoom simply magnifies the pixels that create the image of a subject.  The further in you zoom the more distorted the subject becomes.  Like in graphic design and video editing, digital magnification has its place when use sparingly (and as a last resort) but it should not carry any weight in the decision process of buying a camera.

Optical zoom is the number you want to pay attention to.  The technology of optical zoom allows you to zoom in closer to the subject while maintaining the crispness and overall fidelity of the image.  Some brand cameras have always offered impressive optical zoom technology.  A higher optical zoom helps you get high fidelity close up shots from further away without needing to purchase additional telephoto lenses.  It’s a nice feature to have. However, if you know you will mostly be filming subjects within close proximity it is not a necessity.  Other considerations to be weighed, maybe more heavily, are the chip size (bigger chips and more of them lead to richer images), the camera’s performance in low light situations and its manual options for controlling exposure and shutter speed.

If you are the casual videographer and have a few hundred dollars to support the hobby you really can’t go wrong with some of the great sub-$300 out there.  If you are a serious hobbyist or needing a camera for business purposes and plan to invest equally serious money in the equipment do your homework first, starting with understanding what you expect from your investment today and in the future. Your camera will be the main hub of your production gear so plan with expansion in mind.

 

Copyright © 2012 Digital Design Digest

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