Short Film Tutorial #2: Taking good shots

Screenshot from our short film, “Something Beautiful”

Here’s the second in V Studios’ series of video production tutorials.

A great film is like a collection of paintings achieving a great visual look. Creating a great short film involves good camera work. Don’t let lack of equipment deter you from creating great shots. In fact, you can take great shots even without a professional video camera. Your handheld video camera, the video function in your DSLR, your mobile phones, or even your iPad can do the job, you just have to know how. Here we will list down some basic techniques in shooting good quality video.

Plan your shots

Remember the first tutorial about developing your story? With your story, plan the shots that you need to take to convey that story. List down all the shots that you would like to include.

Know your equipment

Recording a video has never been this easy. Nowadays, you can record a video with your various devices. You can use your mobile phones. (Most smart phones today offer HD capabilities the same with the video function in digital SLRs.) You can also use your iPad, although holding it can be a little uncomfortable but it does have great video quality, as with most of the latest Apple products. The bottom line is, whatever device you decide to use, make sure you know it well. Experiment with its settings and know its various features.

To show you that you can use a device to record your video, watch the video below for an example of a music video shot entirely using an iPad 2.

Remember to keep your recording device steady. Practice steady handling and if the situation permits it, use a tripod.

Raise the lights

Good videography is all about lighting, lighting, lighting. This can be tricky especially if you’re using a smart phone, as most video cameras are not good under low lighting conditions. The easiest way to overcome lighting issues is to shoot outdoors, where even a cloudy day produces enough ambient light to keep your video crisp and colorful. If it’s sunny, try to shoot in the morning or late afternoon when the sun is lower in the sky. When it’s directly overhead, it casts unflattering shadows on subjects’ faces.

If your story needs indoor scenes, make sure that you get enough lighting. Remember that it is easier to make your film look like it was shot in low lighting during editing than re-create the correct lighting environment when you originally shot your film in low light conditions.

Ace the audio

Film is an audio-visual medium. If lighting is the most important element in quality video, audio runs a close second. Unfortunately, this is one area where it can be difficult to achieve professional results. The microphones built in most video-recording devices are fairly basic, recording audio from any direction. If you’re recording live dialogue, make sure that you get your subject to speak as close to the microphone as possible.

If you’re not sure about the quality of audio you recorded, review your shots or use the tools in your camera to monitor audio-levels as you record. If this still doesn’t create good audio quality, you have the option of recording your dialogue during post-production.

Compose your Shots

Composition is an important element in good quality video. Learn how to frame your shots well. The most commonly used framing is to put the subject smack in the middle of the shot. This is actually one of the hallmarks of amateurs. Use the rule of thirds to give variety to your framing. The rule of thirds is actually quite simple. Imagine having lines running vertically and horizontally on your frame – 3 vertically and 3 horizontally. You will end up with 9 boxes and four points where the lines intersect. Instead of focusing your shots on the center box, use the four points to place your subject to give you more interesting framing. The rule of thirds can also be used when framing subjects in photography.

Screenshot from our short film, “Something Beautiful”

Have Fun – They key to making good videos is to enjoy yourself. Sure, your goal is the price; it’s V-Con after all, create fun and exciting experiences. Remember that if you’re having fun, so will your viewers!

Join us again next week! On June 20, we’ll release another video, and on June 22, we’ll post the next short film tutorial. Stay tuned!


P.S.–Don’t forget to check out our main post on V Studios Short Film Contest! If you think you’re ready for shooting your short film, or have already made one, start sending your entries!


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