One of the best things I did recently was work as a volunteer cameraman at a charity shop to where I live. The video would be a 30-minute documentary on the work of a children's charity. As a group, we have traveled to several rehabilitation hospitals in several cities in Vietnam.
As a speaker, I always try to perfect my storytelling ability. But as a videographer, my role now shifts to looking from the outside; first to recognize the story and then immediately record it in the video. I have already started using the video arsenal by doing video blogs for my website. I already knew and practiced some videography skills. But a few events surprised me and helped me grow my expertise.
Here is my scenario. I traveled with our team of 11 interpreters and hospitals providing full-day workshops to parents and young children with cerebral palsy. The rooms were cramped. It was hot and humid. By the end of the day, the children were tired and crying. Sometimes I had to jump from room to room shooting scenes of children from 9 months to 17 years old. I sought to capture the emotion in the faces of mothers and their children. I also wanted to profile each of our healthcare professionals who volunteered to work with these children.
We would leave the hotel by 7am and not return until 5pm most days. In addition to wanting to visit and have dinner with our team in the evenings, I usually had no less than two hours of work in my room, backing up, reviewing and indexing the entire days of videos I collected. But I was in my element because there was a lot going on around me. I felt I had a story to tell and tell. The following are tips I have learned that I would like to share.
1] Don't assume that you will only hold the camera and record the video. You may need to step in and be a producer, choreographer and editor – from the beginning to the end of the video production. Also, your editor will allow you to record the video exactly the way you want and save you valuable valuable later editing time.
2] Make sure you have enough battery power – enough to power the camera all day. Buy the largest battery you can. I had 2; 1 for the morning and 1 for the afternoon. Some days we were out for 12 hours. Make sure you also buy an external battery charger. The built-in camera charger is poor standby. Don't rely on it when you shoot your way everyday. You would not want to risk blowing the camera electronics while charging the battery. One reality was that I did not have a backup camera. If it had broken, I would have sat out of work.
3] Have a travel backpack that you can easily carry and access during daily video skipping. I was 2. The main thing was my carrying with all my video equipment. When traveling, you do not want to report your sensitive video equipment. For day trips, bring a smaller backpack with lots of pockets that you can comfortably fold over your shoulder or back so you can easily access it while shooting.
4] Have a long extension chord for your hotel room when backing up your videos and recharging your batteries every night. I took this advice from a work colleague traveling abroad and it saved me big time. The hotels we stayed at usually only had 1 plug that was easily accessible, though across the room from where all my laptops and video devices were placed. If I didn't have this long power cord with me, I would be in a terrible situation.
5] Make backup copies every night, not two. Review them to make sure they are properly copied before deleting from the camera. I made 2 backups; 1 on the laptop drive and the other on the external USB drive.
6] Have a laptop with a video viewer so you can view your videos to make sure you have the necessary shots that are not flashy or out of focus. I had a video browser installed on my laptop so I can quickly watch my video of the day, ie. lighting, scrolling or maybe a bit too stirring. Errors made today can be corrected for tomorrow's shooting.
7] Make sure you have enough spare SD memory cards. Sometimes they can become bad or get lost because of their small size. Maybe you found good content and decided to take longer to record everything.
8] Hold the hand strap on the camera. If your camera falls out of hand, you have 1 more chance to save your camera from bouncing on concrete. This saved me several times, especially in the hot climate when the workdays were 10+ hours and I was tired.
9] The wrist should be marked as your country's flag. Mine was a red TEDx tape and actually started a few conversations with other tourists and the eventual business card exchange.
10] Wear hiking shorts with lots of pockets. I had SD cards, batteries, a notebook, a pen, a water bottle and everything else in my pocket.
11] Tripods are big and cumbersome. I had a telescopic carbon monopod which was great for getting me into tight spots quickly. It also adapts on the go. It was so comfortable holding and adjusting the telescopic legs. It was also great for crossing my head to people when a crowd developed around my topic. Canopies also make a dramatic impact. There is nothing like getting into the subject of a story.
12] You may have a story in mind, but be prepared to follow a segway story or 2 that may unfold before your eyes. Always be on the lookout for scenes and stories that unfold around you. Keep your camera and microphone turned on to record this video with good sound. These can be masked blessings that will give your story a twist or a twist. Remember, you might also collect enough good footage for 2 or 3 additional stories to edit and publish later.
13] You always have a video camera on hand during the day of filming – even in the evening when you are with the crew for dinner. You never know when a video story might break out in front of you. You want to be able to record it. While taxiing, I got a very insightful opinion from one of our Vietnamese interpreters on the history of CP in Vietnam. True episodes like this just can't be repeated.
14] The camera must be visible around your team or subject. Subjects will become so accustomed to you that they will not know in the end whether you are recording them or not. This is great for capturing those candid shots. My purpose was to record them at work around parents and children as honestly as possible. We all know that as soon as cameras appear, people go to the stone door, store it, and rehearse it. You want to catch them as relaxed, open and natural as possible.
15] Be sure to bring a variety of energy bars and snacks, including water in your pack or pockets. I haven't and there have been days where we haven't eaten in a while. You want to keep the energy. Nothing worse than hunger pangs or thirst that will keep you from recording videos.
16] The most important thing is to index all your videos daily while your day is still fresh. I started skating after the first few days and started to forget which clips were where they came from. I quickly corrected this by doing an excel list on my laptop, indexing by clip number and briefly describing the scene, location, and significance. I did this every night in my hotel room while I recharged the batteries and backed up. If you know which story to follow, you can start tagging certain clips to use in your documentary. This saves you time when you get home. It was also helpful for me to review all the clips every night to get this into my mind; what I was tired of and what I still needed.
17] Keep your videos up to 2-3 minutes long, even for one minute. Once back in Canada, I found that it was much quicker to find a video by searching 5 one-minute clips than if I were looking for 1 clip in 5 minutes. This discovery completely surprised me.
18] My key topic Laverne and I have come to an agreement is that every time she feels the epiphany of emotional comments ready to surface, she will signal to come as soon as possible and record my monologue. These comments will be streamed through the documentary to truly reflect what happened during our three-day mission. It helps the videographer to get to know their person quickly by spending some time with them over coffee, drinks or meals. In this case, it's been easy since Laverne and I have become good friends in the last few years.
Upon returning to our hotel, at the end of the day, we always had a one-hour conversation in the dining room, giving each team member the opportunity to share whatever they wanted, whether it was related to their workshop or their real feelings in general. This is the time to grab ideas for other video clips that I could record the next day. It was also a great way for the team to build and share their experiences as a group in a far away country.
There he is; my tips for aspiring videographers. I am already looking forward to my next video journey in which I will further refine my skills mentioned above. Good luck video magazines!