The Great Journey in Photography

Moving Pictures II

Great Blue Heron

420mm f6.3 250iso 1/250sec

Before I start this post I want to make it clear that everything that I am going to write about video today and next week is all about first time videographers. I often get into advanced topics when it comes to still photos but the video scene is the beginners basics before having any special gear made just for video. We are going to start on the premise that this video is in general going to be shot at long focal lengths, and we will see how things turn out. For now a few do’s and don’ts for starting out.

First don’t is choosing a video editor. Unless you know for sure that it is something you are really going to want there really is no need to spent any money to edit your video. I know for many photographers the Mac is the computer of choice and it always comes loaded with the latest version of iMovie. That is all you need, in fact, it is an excellent editor that I will go into more as you read on.

Panning is essential in video. Unless you want to have the most boring clips in the world you will at the very least need to have some pans. Problem is you can’t do pans with a regular tripod and ballhead and handholding a long lens is not an option either. My suggestion is to avoid the panning with the camera and take advantage of the Ken Burns Effect in iMovie. Take a wider still clip, zoom in a bit, and use the effect to pan across the scene. You can also zoom in or out while panning for an even nicer look. If you are shooting for an aspect ratio of 4×3 (like for a iPad or iPhone) you may not need to zoom in at all. Just the conversion of ratios may give you enough room to make a nice pan.

Do have a game plan. Often called a storyboard you need to know what you need to shoot before you shoot it. A good video is made up of many clips close, far, and intermediate, laced together. A great exercise to show just how complex a good video can be is to watch one of the old episodes of the TV program “Law and Order”. During the courtroom scenes count the seconds between clips. You will notice a lot of “one, two” and rarely make it to “five” and almost never make it to “ten”. Point is you have to mix in a bunch of different shots. Once again Apple’s iMovie is a good starting place. Although they are kind of cheesy and not really appropriate for bird photography the themes bundled with the application has some storyboards built-in. You can use those storyboards as a template for building your own storyboard.

Last is Audio. Don’t even waste your time recording audio with the camera microphone. Unless you have some more expensive audio gear all your sounds are going to be horrible so I suggest making the video silent, have voice over, or music. Audio is a category in itself and even if  you are very serious about making good audio it is going to take a lot of time, practice and money to make it worthy. I think you are best served to wait till your moving pictures are as good as they can be.


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