5 Ways to Up Your DSLR Video Game
These basic steps will make your videos shine
Journalists, social media managers, Kickstarter fundraisers. Everyone needs video content nowadays. While there is no substitute for a professional videographer in making a high-quality video, there are a few things you can do to make your DSLR videos better.
1. Get good audio.
Sound is crucial to a video, perhaps more than the visual aspect. Poor audio is the first thing that signals to viewers that it’s a low quality production. My advice is to invest in a basic shotgun mic mounted on your DSLR. It’s a great option if you’re in more of a run-and-gun situation, and don’t want to worry about syncing your audio later on.
2. Use a tripod.
A tripod can add enormous value to your video. Smooth pans and tilts and less shake. It's a no-brainer. Here’s a cheap one for $50 that should do the trick.
3. Set up your composition.
For an interview, keep the person’s head to one side of the shot, and leave them some room on top. If it’s more of a fluid situation, you don’t always have time to think about composition, but the rule of thirds can give you some guidance. Always make sure your horizon line is straight, and try to find objects that can give your shot some depth. This means thinking in terms of layers. For example, shooting past a coffee cup that is out of focus, focused on someone standing in the middle layer of the shot, then another out of focus layer of activity or interest behind that person. Makes for a pretty picture.
4. Think like an editor.
Visualize how your shots will come together, and what you need to make a shot interesting. That means getting some good b-roll for your poor editor. You don’t want a whole video of talking heads. Your editor will also appreciate if you stay on a shot for 10 seconds. That gives her plenty of time to get what she needs.
Do some technical tutorials online. Lynda.com is an incredible resource, but YouTube and Vimeo have lots of great lessons as well. Learn about f-stop, shutter speed, frame rate, and lighting. It sounds complicated, but the basics are comprehensible if you take the time to learn. Most importantly, don't be afraid to ask questions. We've all been there, and most people appreciate that you're trying to learn.
DSLR cameras have made video an accessible medium, and encouraged thousands of amateurs to take up the craft. With some effort and focus, you can easily stand out from the crowd and create beautiful videos of your own.
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Thursday, June 25th, 2015
In my career, I've been lucky enough to witness fascinating and life-affirming stories unfold all over the world. When I traveled to Amman in January 2014 to shoot the documentary Three, about the refugees from the Syrian crisis who are flooding into Jordan, I never expected that the most moving story would be about our fixer and translator, Maha Alasil.
We had asked Maha, the daughter of an Iraqi diplomat and humanitarian in her own right, to introduce us to refugees whose stories needed telling. We met a young mother who had lost her husband in the cruel Eastern Ghouta chemical attacks, a grandmother whose sons had disappeared into a notorious regime prison, and Sultan, a dark and brooding Free Syrian Army fighter who had nearly died in a shootout and was recovering in Jordan.
A few days into filming, my co-producer, Justin Salhani, and I discovered that the upper-class, worldly Maha was in love with Sultan, the Syrian fighter who spoke only Arabic and had never attended college. When we left Jordan, it seemed all hope had been lost for the pair, as her parents were deeply opposed to the match. The story has come to an emotional conclusion, and has been rendered beautifully by Justin in the latest issue of Latterly. You can read it here in a story he calls "Maha's Soldier".
If you enjoyed Justin's story, and are rooting for Maha and Sultan, please consider making a donation to their organization. Because it is a personal effort being made by the couple, there is virtually zero overhead, and they are directly targeting Syrian families most profoundly affected by the crisis.