Video Production: a series

The democratisation of our media – including the continuing work of the Scottish Socialist Voice – has given birth to high-quality internet streaming video and affordable camera equipment, often in the form of broadcast quality high-definition video in the palm of your hand. This liberates creators, broadcasters and filmmakers.

Cinema bears its fruit; one of the first films of note that grasped the possibility of home-made media was Jonathan Caouette’s intensely personal documentary, Tarnation in 2003. Telling the story of his life and relationship with his mentally ill mother – the film was initially made for a tiny total budget of $218.32, using free iMovie software on a Mac home computer, and went on to critical acclaim. The power and decreasing cost of cameras, audio capture and computing power have exploded since then.

As your elected social media co-ordinator, I regularly and clearly see the difference in engagement between posts with embedded graphics and video, to those without.

Union Dispute

One of our strongest successes was in the recent RMT “Keep The Guard On The Train” dispute. I phoned our party workplace organiser Richie Venton, packed a bag of gear, jumped on a bus, negotiated with the union rep and shot an interview, complete with covering material. In a nearby coffee shop, I edited the interview down to five minutes – with a two minute version for Twitter. I then loaded it to YouTube and party Facebook. It was received well, timely, shared extensively and we received plaudits for it – clearly explaining the dispute and the Scottish Socialist Party’s support for the strike.

Anyone who uses a computer and a digital camera with video capability can learn to do this.

Smartphones, or tablets can capture video and sound. These portable machines are available widely, and allows a filmmaker to farm out pieces of footage to collaborators. For phones, it requires a little experimentation with the included camera app to get the best quality results – and a little bit of technical know-how getting the captured files to a computer.

Available to all

Modern computers are powerful and often boast basic video editing capability “in the box”. Entry-level software available at no or nominal cost – such as iMovie for Mac, Windows Movie Maker and Kdenlive for Linux – allow its users to create edits, add music, fades and titles. Premium software, such as the Adobe Creative Cloud suite includes extensive visual effects capability, colour correction, audio restoration, cleanup tools and animated graphics. However – these pieces of software require more powerful computers to run efficiently, and come at a cost.

All such software can export the finished result into a self-contained highly compressed file which can be uploaded to social media sites such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter quickly and easily.

Challenge

But you need to shoot material to make use of them, therefore I call a challenge to branches. Try it out yourself – shoot the materials to assemble a two minute video. In the next issue, I’ll explain the fundamentals of video editing and how you can improve what you make in the future.


Tips

Set the scene
At the start of a scene, try to show the viewer three things:

  • Who is talking?
  • Where are they?
  • Why are they here?

It doesn’t take much to do this: just an establishing shot of the outside of the building or the room they’re in, perhaps adding a caption.

Prepare your questions

A good interview has structure. Ask clear opening questions, with the option to ask interesting follow-ups. Pay attention to what is said. If you, or expect your viewers to be unclear on a given answer, ask your subject to explain the point they made.

Frame your subject well

This is a matter of taste and subject. I’d recommend a medium close up – head and shoulders in frame. If the subject likes to use gestures, position the camera further back to encompass them.

In camera preparation

Just before filming, clean the lens, then lock focus. Tap the focal point on your camera app screen, or if using a DSLR, rotate the focus ring until the image is sharp. Use the subject’s eyes as focus point.

The human element

Use care with negotiating interviews – reassure your subject, but gently direct them if they’re losing track. This is a performance, feel free to rehearse.

Location Location Location

When looking for a good spot to conduct your interview, try to get as many of these as possible.

  • Soft diffused light – it is flattering to your subjects, making them look attractive.
  • Soft furnishings for better acoustics and less echo in the room – making dialogue clear.
  • An unobtrusive background is good. Stray individuals walking in and out of the shot is distracting. Lots of people quietly milling about is fine.
  • Ensure there’s enough space so the subject isn’t right against a wall . This looks bad and reflected sound hurts speech intelligibility.
  • Something to prop yourself or your camera on. A tripod is best, but not necessary with a seat and steady hands.

Shoot lots of material

Demonstrations. Public meetings. Street stalls. Door-knocking. Leafleting. One-to-one talks on the street. These shots are invaluable for illustrating a point, or to disguise when you need to make cuts for clarity in interviews.

Repeat for clarity
Video is cheaper than film.

A take is a scene recorded continuously at one time. In the case of an interview, it is the answer to a question from the interviewer. If you are dissatisfied with the way the shoot is going, do as many takes as you can to get an uninterrupted and clear result. If there are interruptions, you can use bridging material to cut the interruption and cover it.

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