How to record great video

The lower prices of everything digital means almost anyone can own an HD video camera. That’s great news, because videoing stuff can be great fun. However, some camera owners confuse technical standards with their ability to record good, clean, usable footage that is suitable for public consumption.

A colleague tells me this week he has just finished a “painful” 4 minute promo for a company whose MD shot the video himself, using his [reluctant] staff as presenters.

They didn’t use a tele-prompter, so each member of staff is seen with their eyes flicking off camera  to read the next line of their presentation.

The MD didn’t have the option to plug in a separate microphone, so the camera’s built-in mic was used. Built-in microphones are designed to pick up everything, and this one performed as expected. This meant the background ambient noise was – in places – louder than the speaker’s voice.

A professional would have plugged in a mic and clipped it to the presenter – so only the voice is recorded.

Some of the video was shot in a big room that caused sound to reverberate and echo, other shots were in the street where traffic noise drowned out what the ‘presenters’ were saying.

There’s an old rule that goes along the lines that a viewer will watch almost any quality video picture, but if they can’t clearly hear or understand what is being said, they will switch off. Yes, audio is more important than the picture.

My friend’s client hoped he could use software to clean up the audio [ever tried removing room reverb? It’s impossible], and assumed the video editing software could remove the dark shadows over some people’s faces.

Yes, modern software can do an awful lot to improve audio and video, but the cost of the hours spent doing this – because there is no quick fix unlike in TV shows such as CSI – would have been better spent hiring a pro camera operator with the gear needed.

Get it in the can, is the general rule. Fixing bad footage up later is always expensive and full of compromises.

On his way to delivering the finished DVD to his client, my friend says it occurred to him that the cost of dental equipment has come down in price so much that he could start drilling his family’s teeth – and save money.

“It’s no different to Joe-Blow buying a camera and thinking they can shoot quality footage,” he reasons. “Why wouldn’t I do my kid’s teeth – I’d save a fortune?”

And just a quich word about smartphone video. Please, turn it sideways so it looks like your widescreen TV – and THEN press the record button. Please let me know if you’d like to join the campaign against vertical video.

If you want to shoot your own video, and you only have access to a domestic camera with a built-in mic…

  • Find a quiet place to record, really listen for the background sounds and consider that they will be recorded.
  • Place the camera as close to the presenter as possible, because you need the mic to pick up what they are saying nice and clearly.
  • Look for shadows over their face and body – they will move as the sun goes around.
  • Use a tripod for super-steady shooting.
  • Don’t press-gang staff into appearing in your company video – their reluctance will show in their face and eyes.

Feel free to link, but no copying or republishing without written permission from the author. Copyright Steve Hart.