So you want to be the next Spielberg?
Since the inception of YouTube and the camera phone the ability to call oneself a filmmaker has been as easy as pressing a button. Setting yourself apart from other amateur auteurs has become paramount, and the recipe for success is minding the fundamentals.
The following list outlines the fundamental steps necessary to get the most out of your video project:
1. IT ALL STARTS WITH PRE-PRODUCTION
As with most multi-step projects, the most important part of completing a project is in the preparation. It is important to shoot in the order you are going to edit, but details such as time of day and weather can have a major affect on a shoot.
In cooking, the French word for this type of preparation is called Mise en place or “putting into place”. By preparing everything beforehand, it is much easier to overcome any hurdles that might come your way, or avoid them entirely.
Begin with a brainstorming session to determine what the message of the video is. It helps to do this with a team, if applicable, since you may not think of every little detail and sometimes hearing an idea out loud can change your perspective. Begin writing a script that will not only assist you in the actual shoot, but it will give the editor the framework for how it is to be pieced together. If necessary, create a storyboard to help you develop a timeline for how the piece is going to fit together and what shots will be needed to make it complete.
Do you want to see the effects of proper planning? The video below is the perfect example of how planning ahead relieves future problems. Because we did our research, we knew that the day of this shoot was going to be in the low teens temperature-wise. Had we not planned ahead for this, there was a real chance our equipment would have failed due to the cold and our talent could have gone the way of the wooly mammoth.
2. GO OUT AND SHOOT
Once you’re prepared, it’s time to go out and film. There are a million tips that one could give depending on the situation, but there are some that remain consistent throughout any shoot.
Use a tripod whenever possible
Unless you are a world-renowned surgeon, there is a good chance your hand is not as steady as you think. A camera can pick up the slightest movement, so it is important for the benefit of the editor and final product that each shot is still, so that none goes to waste.
Less may be more, but not in production
Just because you think you might have gotten the shot you need does not mean it’s time to start packing away the gear. By getting at least 3 or 4 takes of the same shot, you allow your editor the ease of finding the perfect mixture that will allow for a greater final product.
Once you pack up and call it a day it makes it harder, not to mention more costly, to have to go back and re-film.
3. CREATE A NARRATIVE
Now that you have all your shots (along with second and third takes of those shots) it is time to edit.
Organization is priority number one
Depending on the length of the video you are producing; there is a chance you may have hours of footage or a large number of different shots. Before you even begin thinking about how you are going to piece it all together, you need to organize everything.
By creating a system of organization, it will be easy to find any clip at any given moment, be it an hour or three months after the project has been completed. This is very important when working within a team, as the editor may not always be around to assist whoever needs to find a certain shot.
It might be a visual medium, but the audio makes or breaks your piece
Especially with projects that need background music to help add an emotional flare, it is just as important to make sure the audio is balanced. The point is not to deafen your audience, but you definitely do not want to overshadow the action/discussion in your project. Using instrumentals is the easiest way to avoid having the lyrics or vocals clash with whoever is speaking on-camera.
4. MAKE USE OF ALL YOUR HARD WORK
Knowing your audience should be your first priority. This will point you in the direction of how you are going to create your piece. But now that there is a completed project, it is time to decide how you are going to get this out to them.
Whether it be Youtube, Vimeo, or any number of social platforms, make sure you can get the most out of your video project, as it would be a shame for all your time and effort to be for naught. Correctly titling and tagging your video can increase the chances of your project coming up in a variety of searches.
There are also a number of paid options that, if you have the money in your budget, will assist in promoting your piece to the audience you want.
With these helpful tips, you are more than on your way to winning that Academy Award.