Thursday, August 13, 2015

Do video right

Few things have changed the playing field in working with the media more than the advent of high-resolution digital video easily at hand. Every cell phone, SLR camera or tablet seems to be equipped with the ability to take insanely clear video which can then be shared by social media or sent to reporters if they are unable to get to the event or can't get close enough to get the shot. 

Most cell phones can take good looking videos
So, if you are going to do video, you are going to have to learn some of the basics to make that video look as good as possible. Here are the top three tips I have heard time and again to get the best from your videos.

Avoid vertical videos. You walk up to a scene, break out your smartphone or tablet and, holding it one handed, you start taking video. You really want that shot. Unfortunately, you are holding the phone vertically, as if you are about to talk into the mouthpiece. 

This is bad. It's not how video is broadcast, so TV stations have to play with the video you send them to make it look OK for their screens. Typically, you will have some kind of large black bars on either side of the video, making it look very distracting. 

If you won't take my word for it, how about Mario and Fafa from Glove and Boots?  They have a great explanation in their outstanding Vertical Video Syndrome YouTube classic. 

Get it stable.  Sure, being in the middle of the action can be filled with pulse-pounding excitement. But, if you want someone to use your video, you are going to have to make sure that you do a few things to ensure it's watchable.

A few rubber bands and a camera tripod could work in a pinch
Try to shoot with your camera on a tripod or use some other device or prop (the hood or roof of a car, perhaps?) to stabilize your shot. If none are available, stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart and tuck your arms in close to your body to create as stable of a platform as possible. Watching shaky video can make people feel sick. So sick, in fact, that theaters screening the movie Cloverfield had to warn patrons that they might experience motion sickness due to the shaky hand-held filming technique. 

A warning for the 'queasycam' feeling moviegoers might expect
Also, be sure to spend enough time on your subject to give viewers a good idea of what they are looking at. A rule of thumb is to focus on your subject and count - silently - to ten to ensure you have the shot. 

Get it out as fast as possible. Remember the importance of timeliness when it comes to news? The same rule applies when it comes to video you will release. The beauty of shooting video on a wi-fi enabled device or cell phone is that it can be shot, edited and uploaded all from the field. And, with a free Dropbox, Google Drive or YouTube account, that video can be up and out to the media or on your agency's webpage in mere minutes. 

How easy is it to do? Using my iPad last spring, I conducted an experiment at one of our county parks. In less than an hour, I shot, edited and uploaded this video - from my car. 

Again, this was just messing around to see if it was possible. With some practice, this would become considerably easier. 

Of course, there are many other important rules and recommendations to follow that will make your video that much better. Who approves what you shoot? Can you attach a supplemental microphone to your device to improve audio quality? These are obviously the considerations you will want to keep in mind as you move ahead into the wonderful world of shooting video to help get your message out to the public. 

Tom Iovino, Public Relations Strategist
Hillsborough County, Florida

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