Whether you’re going to do the editing or you’re handing off to someone else – there’s a lot of little things that we sometimes forget to do on location that would have really made editing a whole lot easier. Here are 13 little things you can do on location to alleviate some of the nasty hang-ups during editing.
1. Label your tapes
Duh… but sometimes when your running and gunning you forget to put a label on it. Then when you get back to the editing bay and your staring at 10 different unlabeled tapes… Or worse, you reach into your camera bag for a tape and you pull out an unlabeled tape and, thinking it’s a blank tape, pop it into your camera…. and then…
Which brings us to:
2. Record Lock your Tapes/Cards
If you don’t want to loose what you just shot, lock the tape/card so it can’t be recorded on. It’s that little plastic sleeve on that tape – enable it and you’ve locked it from recording. Simple technology that’s been around for 20+ years – but a lifesaver.
3. Record Ambient Location Sound
Although you can usually pull a decent sample for noise reduction purposes from the pauses in recorded sound, having about 20-30 seconds of ambient sound can help fill in emptiness elsewhere. Before you shoot, grab yourself a bit of ambient sound – even if you never end up using it.
4. Wipe that lens clean
Another one of those duh things but it’s something that’s easily forgotten until all of a sudden you have the sun or a light in the shot and every single speck of dust on the lens suddenly lights up like a Christmas tree.
Keep that lens clean and dust free.
5. When shooting B roll – leave room at the front and end of your shot
You’ve planned out a perfect pan over that beautiful scenic outlook- now make sure you hit record a few seconds BEFORE you perform your pan and shut off a few seconds AFTER you complete your pan. Even if you think you’ll never use it, always give yourself or your editor some wiggle room on how to use the footage.
6. Gain is not your friend
Unless you’re running and gunning, gain is just a way of ruining your footage. Gain is essentially just an electronic way to make your image brighter at the expense of lots of digital noice. Gain is a fine tool in a situation where you can’t up the lights and what you’re shooting is still too dark. But if you CAN control the lighting on a scene, there’s no excuse ever to use gain.
Sometimes you’ll miss the grain in your low rez viewfinder only to find your footage speckled with nasty grain when you get to the editing room. Always try to shoot with a gain setting of 0db or less and use gain only as an option of last resort.
7. If the Audio is important – always monitor with headphones
You wouldn’t shoot video without looking through the viewfinder (actually, I knew someone that did – total epic disaster). If audio is important, don’t just trust the VU meters to tell you that your recording sound – actually listen to it with a set of headphones. You may hear things that you didn’t expect such as hums and background sounds that you can try to fix before they become a headache in the editing room.
8. Make sure you’re recording from the mics you WANT to record from
Related to #7 – a lot of cameras have built in microphones and if you’re not monitoring the audio through headphones, you can easily mistake the audio coming from the onboard mic as coming from an external mic. Always make sure that the audio you’re recording is coming from the proper mic by gently tapping or scratching the mesh.
9. Even if audio isn’t important – record sound
Even if you know that the audio from this B-roll shot will never see the inside of a speaker, record audio from the on board mic anyways. You never know, maybe you’ll catch something amazing that you’ll wish you had the audio for.
10. Don’t break the Timecode
Timecode is an incredibly useful tool for organizing and backing up materials when you get into post production. Timecode is a record how the video is laid onto a tape when it is first recorded and can be used to automate capturing – but only if your tapes have a continuous unbroken timecode.
Blank tapes start off with nothing on them. As you record on to the tape you lay on the timecode. The way to break the time code is by stopping, rewinding, previewing footage, and then going back and recording on other parts of a tape leaving gaps of blank tape in between what you’ve recorded. These gaps force the camera to reset the time code which means you’ll have two spots on your tape with identical time codes – making the time code practically useless in post.
If you expect to be stopping, rewinding and previewing footage on location you can pre-record a timecode to your tapes before shooting. To do this, just put a tape into your camera, and just record the entire tape with the lens cap on (or with color bars if your camera has that function). This lays down a continuous timecode for the entire tape. When it’s done, rewind and record on the tape like it was a blank tape.
11. If you rewind and preview, DON’T RECORD over your last shots
If the Timecode issue wasn’t enough reason NOT to preview your footage until your done shooting, the possibility of loosing takes because you accidentally recorded over them gives you an even more reason not. If you prep your tapes as described in #10 you can always fast forward after you preview and make sure you see the black or color bars before going back to recording.
Better yet, there are software options like Adobe OnLocation that act as a video assist where you can preview your takes without even touching the tape. These record video onto a laptop via firewire which makes them instantly previewable after recording. Even a simple VHS video recorder connected to your camera can help take the preview functions safely off your camera.
12. Be Aware of what’s in your Frame (and what’s not suppose to be)
Television have something called Overscan which means that not everything that’s in the frame will be on the screen – TVs will chop off about the outer 5% of the frame. This can cause problems if your monitoring on the television and you don’t see the tip of the boom mic as it slides just barely in from the top of the frame.
If your camera has an underscan capability (it shows you EVERYTHING in the frame by making the image smaller) learn how to use it so you don’t get nasty surprises.
13. Focus, Focus, FOCUS!!!
With the popularity of HD cameras, focus is crucial – not that it wasn’t crucial with SD cameras. Don’t accept looking at the viewfinder from a yard away. Get in there and get a good sense of the focus. Learn to use your camera’s focus assist and how you can use auto focus to help find the focus but be careful leaving the camera in auto focus as this may cause the focus to shift in and out.
Also learn to use your camera’s focus aids like Peaking (which highlight edges that are in focus with a color like blue) and Expanded focus (magnifying the image in the viewfinder to get a better look).
I hope these tips help you on your next filmming adventure – Happy shooting!!