Hello! I remember when I started out in digital videography, it took a lot of time for me to prep up for shots. When I wanted to do an event like a wedding video, I'd get all stressed up during pre-production.
Checking equipment, thinking of shots, researching the shooting location ... it's quite a bit of work. Over the years I've learnt to distill all that preparation work into a checklist. A checklist is useful for any major video shoot because it externalizes, step by step, exactly what you need to do.
Go through a checklist before shooting your video
Here's my list of 7 things you must do before you shoot a video.
I cannot stress this enough. Test, test and re-test your equipment. Your camcorder may have worked fine the last wedding you shot, but it does not mean it'll work this time.
The five things I always test out are:
Make sure you give enough time before the shoot to ensure the above all work properly.
Just because your tools worked last time doesn't guarantee it will work this time, so always take time to pull out all of your gear and put it through its paces a day or two before your shoot.
Do it every time with every piece of equipment: camera, lights, mics, monitors... all of it. It's important to test your gear in advance of the shoot so you have time to make repairs or find replacements in case you do discover any defects.
The bane of the videographer has always been the camera battery. Because we need to be mobile and move around shooting stuff, we rely heavily on our camcorder batteries.
The problem is that batteries run out and take a long time to chare. So you need to charge your batteries day or two in advance of the shoot. And please use more than one battery - I know professional videographers who go around with three charged batteries per camera. A wedding or a full-day corporate event lasts a long time, certainly not enough for one battery.
Oh, you got to also remember - batteries don't mean just your camcorder batteries. You have to charge or replace batteries for every powered device in your kit.
These days, most camcorders come with memory cards to store footage. Make sure you have enough of those cards to last the shoot. If you use MiniDV tapes, then bring along a whole stack of them.
Check all your media before going for your shoot
You may need to buy more tapes or cards and clear out your existing ones. Schedule enough time to do this, especially if you need to copy footage off your cards before wiping them clean.
I always plan my shoots. Planning a shoot means three things - scripts, schedules and shot lists.
You need a script to ensure the shot flows smoothly and your subjects know what to say or do. Schedules are very important in time sensitive events like weddings. And shot lists help you ensure you catch all the shots (e.g. exchange of vows, the first dance) that you must have.
Never try to shoot things "on the spot". Amateur videographers like to just shoot at will with no planning, thinking it lends an atmosphere of "reality" into the shot. That's far from the truth. Without a plan, you'll just end up taking random shots and it also lengthens your post-production time since you'll have a lot of garbage footage to edit out.
One thing I learnt the hard way was to pack my bag before leaving for the shoot.
I was covering a friend's wedding and I put all my gear into separate places - camcorder bag, memory cards in my pocket, checklist in another pocket, tapes in my car, etc. Totally disorganized and ended up with a very bad shoot.
So remember, you may have a checklist to ensure you've got everything, but actually putting all that equipment into a bag is an important step. Try to get one large bag to contain everything - they sell stuff like these for videographers.
Everything should go in there - your camera, tripod, microphones, headphones, cables, gaffer's tape, batteries (fully charged). And check off each item as it goes into the bag.
You should pack a genuine lens cloth to clean your lens. Your camcorder lenses tend to accumulate dust and dirt. The worst thing to have all your footage corrupted by dirt and not realizing it until post-production.
So just before you shoot on location, take out that lens cloth and clean the lens. Don't just use tissues or your sleeve! Here's a tutorial on how to clean your camcorder lenses.
Ok, final step before the actual shoot - check your focus. I like to set my focus at a full telephoto zoom.
Check your focus before starting your shoot
If your video centres on a person, try to zoom all the way on his or her eyes. Then bring the camera out of focus and slowly bring it back in. Stop when the white reflections of light in the eyes (called specular highlights) are clear.
You should also remember to focus on the subject farthest from your camera. And after tweaking and setting the focus - don't touch it again. However you zoom from that point on - in or out - the subjects will then stay in focus.
Ok, as you can see, you can save yourself from a lot of stress and prepare for a better video shoot by following the seven tips above. You certainly can find more steps to add into the checklist as you gain more experience, but this is a good starter list. If you're interested in learning more, here's a videographer's checklist you can download.
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