Tim’s Ten Tips for Terrific Taping

It’s that time of year when it’s time to think about thinking about that video project that’s due at the end of the semester.  Let’s take a minute and go over a few things that will save a lot of pain and anguish.

1. If your camera or recording device records to an internal hard drive or removable media (such as an SD card) check the record settings.  Typically the default settings are a compromise of image quality and recording time.   If the final result is a DVD that will be shown to your professor and classmates you don’t want to end up with a bunch of fuzzy Lego people running around on the screen.  If possible I recommend using the highest quality settings – you want it to look good.

2. Make sure the camera you will be using records the video in a file type that is supported by your editing software.  If you’re not sure, do a quick recording and then copy / download the clip onto your computer’s desktop.  Open your editing software and see if it will allow you to import the clip.  If it does it quickly and directly, the video quality looks good, and there’s audio, you’re ready to move on.  If not, there are usually ways to work around this, but it involves more time and effort.

3. Turn off the date / time display on the camera.  If this is left on during recording it will be there on your video.  Not only is this annoying, it makes it easier for viewers to tell where you did the edits and it also shows your professor that although you’ve been working hard on your project all semester somehow all the video was shot over the last two days.  Ouch!

4.  Turn off any video effects or transitions.  Most cameras can do an amazing assortment of tricks – recording in black and white, strobing, making freeze frames, etc.  While these are nice, you can create all of these later with your editing software.  Unfortunately the software can’t undo them if that’s the way the original video was recorded.  Save yourself a headache and concentrate on recording good, clean video.

5. Use a tripod.  If your subject is stationary your camera should be too.

6.  If you’re not going to use a tripod at least turn on the image stabilization.  It’s not perfect, but it helps (especially if you’re coming down from that sugar high or working on your 5th cup of coffee).

7.  Keep it on the level.  Camcorders and other devices are light weight and easy to handle.  Sometimes there’s the temptation to rotate the camera 90 degrees to make the picture fill the viewfinder better (just like my digital camera!).  The problem is most software programs won’t let you correct for this, and if they do it takes a long while to crunch all those pixels to the correct orientation.  Laying the LCD on its side while you playback your video is not an option.  If it helps think of it in printer terms:  Video recording – landscape OK, portrait Nay. (Sorry, my kids had a unit on Patch the Pony).

8. Always start recording a little early and leave it on for a few extra seconds at the end.  When I’m recording people I always start the camera about 5 seconds before I ask them to begin.  You can always edit out unwanted stuff, but if you start late or the end gets taped over by the next segment its more challenges you’ll have to work around.

9.  Keep the sun, windows, or strong light sources behind you or off to the side.  Most cameras automatically adjust the aperture based on the amount of available light.  If there is a lot of light coming from behind or near your subject the camera is going to compensate by making the person appear very dark or as a silhouette.  Unless your topic involves people in the witness protection program make sure you position the camera properly so their smiling faces are clearly visible.

10.  Take some extra shots.  Before you head out shooting it’s a good idea to jot down a list of the types of shots and scenes you need.  While you’re on location do at least a couple of takes and get some additional shots using different angles and zooms.  With editing it’s always better to have too many good choices than scrambling to find something that will have to do.

11.  BONUS!  Keep the original video until the project is finished.  You’ve heard it many times before (and you’ll hear it many times again) keep a complete copy (and / or the original) of all your video.  If someone records over your tape, the laptop crashes, the SD card gets reused / reformatted /damaged / lost you don’t want to have to pick up the pieces and start all over.

I hope this has been helpful.  If you have any questions or require additional information you can contract me at hupp@maine.edu, (207)778-7445, or stop by my office – Room 002 in the Computer Center.  Good luck with your award winning video!

Tim Hupp
Academic Multimedia Specialist/Video