Saturday, October 19, 2013

Filming pets

Filming your pets can be a tricky business, because they won’t adapt to you: you have to adapt to them. They won’t always take direction, although dogs can be trained to follow orders and do tricks, as can some other animals. Other than that, they can be very unpredictable and can spend a lot of time running out of shot, refusing to stay put or doing nothing of any interest at all. And if you can predict what they’ll do in a given situation, the chances are the first time you point a camera at them, they’ll be too interested in the camera.

Our cats, Bonnie and Clyde, are now used to having cameras pointed at them, so most the time cameras get ignored. Even so, getting something interesting on film involves pointing cameras at them a lot. As it happens, there is one thing they enjoy doing with me that is intrinsically interesting: they like to accompany me on short walks.

Still, there’s a great deal more footage that wasn’t used in this video than was used. In a sense, an interesting pet video has to be a sort of “edited highlights”. This one, however, is partly an exception to this, because I chose shots that, put together in the right way, tell a story. To get enough footage to be able to do that meant filming almost the whole time. Shots that might look as if they follow on from each other might in fact have been taken a minute or two apart.

That aside, there is one very important rule when filming pets — and this also applies to children. Get the camera down to their level: their eye level, if you can. For cats, this means holding the camera a couple of inches off the ground: some of those tracking shots involved me walking like a gibbon with lumbago. No wonder it looks a bit rough in places.

One possible way to make this sort of filming slightly more comfortable might be to put the camera on a monopod, and then hold it upside-down. You could then walk normally with a straight back, and you’d only have to worry about keeping your subject in shot and not hitting any stones with your camera. You can then digitally flip the image at the editing stage. The disadvantage of this would be that you would not be able to reach your camera’s controls.

Still, here it is: me going for a walk with the cats.

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