Step by Step : Shooting Video with the DSLR

Shooting in Sequences

One of a series of posts aimed to help still photographers produce better videos with their DSLRs.

When I am shooting a story, I’m always asking myself: “What’s my lead…what’s my ender?” “Where’s the action headed?” “Where do I need to position myself to be in the right spot?” “What shots do I need to get me from point A to point B?”

When shooting a sequence you have to anticipate the action. Still photojournalists are skilled at this. The way you shoot your story will either lead to an efficient edit, or a hair-pulling nightmare of unrelated clips.

Define your story before you start to shoot, and then shoot with sequences in mind.

Sequencing helps compress time in a video. If you are shooting someone leaving their house, walking to their motorcycle and riding off, it may take a minute or more to show the entire process in real time. We don’t have that amount of time in a short video, so we do a three-second shot of the subject coming out of the house, a two-second tight shot of his feet walking into and out of frame. A four second shot from behind the subject walking up to the bike. Then a shot of the subject sitting on the bike, cutting to a tight shot of his foot kick-starting the engine. Then another tight shot of his hand revving the throttle. Finally, we get a shot of the subject riding off in the sunrise.

Edited together, you can compress that one-minute real-time clip into 20 seconds or less. The cool thing is the viewer understands this sequence and accepts your compression of time. Why? Because they see time compression everyday when they watch TV or a movie.

Top 10 Tips for a Better Shoot

  1. Find your story on the shoot, not when you sit down to edit
  2. Find great moments, compose your shot and be decisive
  3. Get great audio
  4. Shoot wide, medium and tight
  5. Anticipate movement
  6. Hold your shots and record extended moments
  7. Allow subjects to enter and exit your frame when applicable
  8. Use motion and sound to match the feeling of the scene
  9. Shoot action AND reaction
  10. Wear headphones when you shoot and listen carefully

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