Video is prevalent in our lives. Not only do we stream professionally-produced programming into our homes all the time, we see huge and increasing numbers of videos on social media.
Here are a couple of tips.
Many people shoot videos vertically (holding the device up and down — portrait mode) when making video because their smartphones are constructed to be held that way, in the palm of the hand with the camera at the top. A case can be made for vertical videos, though it is a thin case at best: they are popular because smartphones are popular. This is a part of the logical fallacy called appeal to popularity, and it basically says that everyone likes it or does it, so it must be right, even if it’s not.
I would urge you to look at anything and everything you stream into your home, from Netflix Originals to NBC Nightly News, and tell me which, if any, are vertical. Additionally, when any vertical video is shown in programming, it is almost always masked on the sides so it will appear horizontal. Takeaway: turn your phone on its side the next time you make a video and your narrative instantly looks 10 times more professional.
We seem to have passed through a short-lived era of overuse of drones. Adding soaring drone-produced video to your movie can either add to the narrative or create a pointless distraction. For a while, maybe the last couple of years, every piece of video included something shot from a drone. Too much drone footage says, “I’ve got a drone.” Takeaway: use drone footage sparingly, and only when it moves the narrative forward.
It’s tempting to set your phone or video camera to its highest possible quality settings, like shooting at 120 frames per second, but consider this: Hollywood movies are still made at 24 frames-per-second, and that seems to be the way the human brian best ingests motion. Takeaway: there are times to shoot at high frame rates (like when you are planning to turn it into slow motion, a technique called “overcranking”), but the default should be between 24 and 30 frames per second.
Videographers and filmmakers all over the world have known since the beginning of the movie and television industry that sound, particularly natural sound, is a tough knot. Time and again in amateur video we see the photographer zoom in to what he or she is shooting, so we see the subject, but mostly hear the scratches of the hands on the camera and comments by those close to it. Takeaway: if you want natural sound, get closer, the closer the better. If you feel the need, for whatever reason, to shoot your video from far away (photographing sports, for example), it might be a smart play to get a Bluetooth microphone.
Finally, we’ve all seen home movies or home video that looks shaky or is filled with movement that makes us dizzy and distracts from the show. Takeaway: hold still. Unless you have a Steadicam and some training in camera movements, zooming, panning, tilting, trucking and dollying are all likely to just give the viewer a headache. A tripod might help, but isn’t a must-have thanks to in-phone or in-camera image stabilization.