In this article I will take a look at some of the lessons learned and tips I have built up over the years working in video production. This is by no means a comprehensive list but should serve as a useful guide for improving filmmaking and preparing for a shoot. As always, though, the best way to improve is through continuous practise and making your own mistakes and learning from them. In the meantime, this list is a great starting point with industry insight into video production that will help any aspiring filmmaker/ videographer.
1. Backup Data
This is number 1 on the list for a reason; there have been a handful of unfortunate instances where the memory card gets corrupted or even lost and you have to reshoot at extra cost. Nobody wants this which is why backing up all your files is essential. Thankfully, these days there are a number of solutions to this specific problem: you can back up the memory card to an external hard-drive, some cameras even allow wi-fi transfer if you have a computer handy on location or an extra card slot.
It’s also worth investing in the best memory cards because storage is pretty cheap these days anyway and many big brand cards will have a guarantee so if it’s defective you can return it to the manufacturer and some may even have a lost-file recovery system if you’re lucky.
2. Creative Preparation
Before anything is done, take time to sit with and consider the mission brief, whether that’s a client’s request or otherwise. Consider the budget and what parameters that may be put on the video; you need to be realistic with what’s achievable and that needs to be explained clearly to the client – they may have expectations beyond what’s achievable. Thinking about every aspect of the project is essential prep work.
3. What Exactly Does the Client Want?
If you’re shooting for a client, make sure that there’s been plenty of communication so that each party is clearly aware of what the other’s intentions are. Ensure that you’ve understood the assignment but also that they understand your vision of how to make it a reality. Once it’s completed, there will be some flexibility in the editing suite if the client has a problem. Otherwise a reshoot could be prohibitively expensive or just not possible if the budget doesn’t stretch that far.
4. Hope for the Best, Prepare for the Worst
This is a mantra in the filmmaking industry as well as many others and for good reason, you need to be ready to react to unforeseen events. Any spanner that gets thrown into the works is just further practise that will inevitably help you to improve. That being said, it’s always important to plan as much as possible to be ready for changes in weather, location, malfunctioning equipment and the rest! This will help to inform you of the best kit to bring, how many lenses and any backup camera bodies or extras you may need.
5. Pack Your Camera Bags
You probably already have a checklist of things you need for any given shoot and no doubt this will change depending on the job but it’s always advisable to pack extras if at all possible. A lot of shoots you’ll have a base from which you can keep stock of all the equipment but for some it may just be you with a camera bag so be sure to plan and prepare accordingly.
You may need to bring multiple camera bodies or a lot of power supplies for some shoots while others can be accomplished with just one setup. It could also be that hiring some equipment is necessary for certain shots; careful and considered planning is the best way to pack and prepare.
6. Location Scouting
This isn’t always possible but whenever it is, visiting the location (if it’s outdoors) beforehand can be informative and may even serve to provide some ideas or help what items of kit are most suited to the environment. By taking sample clips or photos you get a strong sense of framing, composition
When this isn’t possible, it’s even worth taking a quick look on Google Maps to get an idea of the area, it’s terrain and what buildings or sites of interest could be used as backdrops. Any kind of extra preparation that can be done is worth doing; just to give you an edge when it actually comes to shooting. This will just add more abilities and proficiencies to your videographer’s bag of tricks that when any kind of surprise pops up, you’ll be able to handle it with ease.
This topic deserves its own article and many have been written about composition, framing and camera angles so I won’t delve in too deeply. It also depends on the person; the great thing about composition is that you can see what works and what doesn’t in other people’s work. When you watch films or TV shows you’ll no doubt see certain shots that look great and others that may just miss the mark so it’s absolutely worth emulating your favourite shots until you develop a unique vision and style.