Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Filming woes

It seems such a simple idea: a camera, a tripod, and a microphone is all you need to make a video featuring yourself standing in front of various bits of landscape. After two days and nothing to show for it, here’s what I have learnt:
  1. Autofocus cannot always be relied upon to focus on your face even if it almost completely fills the frame. It does sometimes, but sometimes it will focus on the background instead.
  2. Manual focus is tricky when you have nothing to focus on because what you are focusing on — i.e., yourself — is standing behind the camera trying to focus. You can try focusing on the patch of ground you’re intending to stand on and then tilt the camera back up to start filming, but if you’re using a lot of zoom because you want to throw the background out of focus, that trick isn’t quite accurate enough, as becomes painfully apparent in high definition.
  3. Automatic Gain Control allows you to control the input level of the microphone. Use it wisely if you want audio you can actually use.
  4. Take note of where the telegraph poles are in an otherwise empty field, and don’t position yourself between even a very distant one and the camera.
  5. Trying to get your face evenly lit in bright sunlight will make you understand why the professionals use huge lights even on the brightest of days.
  6. Stand near a tree, and you’ll find it impossible to light your face at all without washing out the background. A camera’s backlight setting does nothing more sophisticated than increasing the brightness.
  7. Never, ever stand anywhere near an electric fence. Electric fences interfere with the camera’s circuits. Audibly.
  8. If you do clip a lapel mic to your jacket, remember that opening the jacket will mean you’re no longer speaking into the mic.

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