Journal-World staff photographers no longer document their subjects with only a digital, still-frame camera. On several assignments now we are documenting personalities and events with a video camera. The video is then used online as additional content for expanded coverage of a subject.
Of course with new equipment comes the need for new skills and shooting video definitely requires different skills than shooting still images.
From my background in still photography to my initial forays into video, I've learned a few things that have helped me make the transition. Here are three beginner's tips that have helped me in my introduction to video and might help other still camera enthusiasts make the transition.
1. The 10-second rule. This was one of the first things I was taught and have stuck with when shooting anything with a video camera. Once you have framed up a shot and hit record, let the camera run for at least 10 full seconds before thinking about hitting the stop button. Shorter pieces of video are difficult to edit into useful sequences.
2. Use a tripod. Unless you are doing a remake of "The Blair Witch Project" or you just enjoy making your family and friends dizzy, you should use a tripod to avoid unnecessary camera shake. If you don't have a tripod look for flat surfaces or other ways to support and steady your camera.
3. Think in sequences. To best tell stories in video, different points of view need to be linked together to provide the viewer with movement and varied perspective. Coming from a still photographer's experience, this is not hard to understand, but it has been harder to apply to video than I imagined. Still photographers move around a subject and shoot photographs from different perspectives with the goal of capturing just one moment - that single shot that best documents the subject.
Storytelling with video requires many angles of a subject that can be linked together. Let's say we are doing a story on an artist welding a piece of sculpture. Here is a possible series of video shots that could create a storytelling sequence.
1. Wide shot of artist welding on his sculpture in studio space. This establishes the scene.
2. Medium shot from over artist's shoulder showing the sculpture and where he is welding. This gives the viewer the artist's perspective.
3. Tight shot of the welding torch flame as it hits the bronze sculpture. Brings the viewer in closer.
4. Tight shot of the artist from behind sculpture, possibly on his welder's mask with a reflection of the flame and sculpture. This shot reverses perspective again and brings the viewer back to the artist.
With these four clips of film you would have the start of a sequence that tells a simple but visually interesting story.
The next time you watch a TV show or a movie, pay attention to the way professionals create sequences from multiple film clips. Then see if you can use some of the above tips the next time you document a subject or event in which you want to tell a story.