I’m really trying to complicate life for myself these days. But the art of videography really interests me.  In this post I’m going to tell you how I have recorded video and how I intend to do it again in a better way in the near future. But first, here are a few reasons why this has captured my attention.  It’s important you know why I’m doing this, so you understand the motivation behind some of the choices.

  • I’m fascinated by the attention span and the combination of science and art that can either retain that attention span or completely lose it. Social media is rotting our attention span. It’s written about in many places but here’s one article on the topic. I got into this more in the past few years because when a video is posted to Facebook, a viewer only needs to watch the video for about 15 seconds before it’ counted towards the number of views that the video has had.  But people who watch the video for longer are more likely to engage with it.  That could be difference between a sale or a passed opportunity. Videos can’t just be interesting or informative, they need to have dynamic visual and audible content that engages the viewer.
  • All of this visual curiosity goes back to the very first books I read on website design twenty years ago. I learned back then about contrast, why you shouldn’t put large moving images on a site, why scroll bars on the home page are a bad idea, why pages behind lots of layers of links aren’t very popular and more.  It because obvious that to make a good website, the visual interaction was way more important than the content during those first few seconds that a visitor landed on the site.  That initial first reaction is now way more important. Every 10 seconds or so, you need to make a brand-new impact to keep a person’s attention because there’s so much content out there, if your video isn’t appealing, there’s another twenty funny cat videos for them to look at.
  • Video is incredibly creative. I really enjoy reading about camera placement. Of course, it’s very easy to get bogged down in the technical side of this but people are all about the angles. And the angles should change regularly to keep the eyes interested and the attention on the topic.  Some movement is also good.  So, it’s kind of the reverse of what applies to website design.  People try to get really creative with angles.  For example, one person whose material I enjoy reading explained in great detail a segment where he was poring water into a glass.  First, he put the camera into the fridge so that when he opened the door, the camera was looking out at him.  Then he put the camera facing down when he put the bottle onto the counter.  So that the video was now taken from the top.  Then he held the camera so that it looked like the video angle was from the perspective of his hand reaching for a glass.  His last segment was then poring the liquid into the glass.  He put the glass on top of the camera and videoed the liquid entering the glass from the perspective of looking up from the bottom.  This very simple activity of taking a bottle out of the fridge, putting it on the counter, getting the glass then filling the glass with the liquid in the bottle was done in four segments.  This made it very dynamic and interesting for someone watching what would otherwise be a very boring task.  This is just an example, but it highlights the freedom and potential for creativity when shooting a video.  The really interesting and fun thing for me is trying to think of ways that might be interesting to capture these different angles.  I haven’t practised this much. And at the moment my ideas are very basic. But with some help, I intend to get a little more complicated.
  • Of course, the technical side of thing interests me. Video was such an unattainable medium to create up to a few years ago. But the technology has become so much more usable and accessible that it’s now within our grasp.

So, how am I going to become in any way proficient in creating something in a medium that is inherently visual? I’m not sure. But What I can say is here’s how I’ve managed to get results so far.

  • Use the iPhone. Voiceover makes the camera interface completely accessible.
  • On the iPhone, take a picture if you aren’t sure that the people you want are in the shot and to make sure there’s enough light. Voiceover should tell you how many faces it sees and if the picture you take is blurry.
  • Take in landscape. E. with the phone on its side. Make sure Voiceover tells you that you are in landscape before you hit the button.
  • Use the volume up or volume down button to start and stop the video recording. It is easier when holding it straight to use these buttons as you aren’t tempted to tilt the screen.
  • Get help learning how the phone feels in your grip when it is straight. In later versions of IOS 13, Voiceover will tell you if you need to tilt left or right.  It then makes a sound when you are straight. But you want to make sure the camera isn’t facing too far up or too far down.
  • If in doubt, ask someone to take the video for you. I’ve rarely been told no when I ask someone to take over. In fact, people are always curious as to how I was going to do it in the first place. If they tell me they aren’t good with cameras, I joke that they there’s no doubt they will be better at it than me.
  • Feel free to record a really quick note at the beginning of your video to say what you are trying to capture along with when and where you are recording. You can easily edit this out later in iMovie.  But leave yourself some time.  Moving along the timeline in iMovie with voiceover on both the Mac and the iPhone is not as exact as it is for someone who can see as the increments are specific with Voiceover.
  • Use a Gimbal. I bought a cheap one a year ago and I’ve never looked back. Really bad pun.  But seriously. The gimbal makes things so much easier.  Just put the phone into the bracket, turn on the gimbal and let it do the rest.  It will keep it straight and facing forward. Depending on the gimbal, you can even use special apps to help you focus on people so that when they move, the gimbal moves along with them.

iMovie is accessible but be prepared for the following work around on the iPhone.  To enable the controls at the bottom of the screen, find the timeline with your finger.  Now with your other hand, turn off voice over.  Do not move your finger.  When voiceover is turned off, tap once.  Now turn Voiceover back on. The controls are now exposed on the bottom.  I do this about 200 times when editing video so it’s a very quick process. But triple tapping and holding doesn’t always work. But this does.  Also, if you have problems setting the play head to a specific location, just listen to the video to the point that you want to cut from then hit pause.  You can then work from that point.

There are a few ways that I aim to improve my set up and my video recording results.

  • I’ve invested in an 18ml lens for the iPhone. Nothing will ever beat the video captured on a professional video camera or even a DSLR, but these methods aren’t accessible. So, a separate lens will do the job nicely. One of the main reasons I wanted a wide-angle lens is because by making the field of view larger, I know that no matter what way I point the camera in, I’m much more likely to get something in the shot.  I’m hoping, and so far this has been accurate enough that even if I don’t get the people centred, that mishap will firstly be forgiven by my audience or looking at this more positively, potentially the off centre shot will help feed that dynamic angle objective that I was talking about earlier.
  • Better gimbal. The gimbal that I’ve been using is basically a very complicated version of a selfy stick. However, this makes retaining certainty in relation to the exact direction the phone is facing in a little difficult at times when it’s busy.  So, the gimbal I have gone with now has the mount on the side and allows for two handed operation for much better awareness of the direction I’m trying to record in.

I’ve spent months now talking with people in person and online about video angles, equipment, lighting and technologies.   I have learned a lot but I’m only scratching the surface.  Some people have been really interested in what I’m trying to achieve so have actively tried to find ways of helping me with methods of ensuring that everyone is in frame.  With all of my shots taken in a wide angle and zoomed perspective in land scape, I’m always going to be the most basic of videographers but that’s fine. I’m really okay with that.  I still think I can have some fun with learning about angles and movement and although my videos won’t be spectacular, I’m going to have some fun learning what does and doesn’t work.