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Production Tips and Tricks
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Tip #24

Lighting: If you're on a tight budget like most of us, you can come up with make-shift reflectors for outside shoots to help with your fills. An easy way to make a reflector is to stretch out aluminum foil across a big piece of cardboard, like a cut up cardbox box for instance. The reflector can then be used to reflect sunlight into the shadowed area.

Tip #25

I'm in the post-production stage of a documentary at the moment and am working specifically on motion graphics for the project.

2 programs I would strongly recommend for this type of work: Photoshop and After Effects. After Effects is like a video version of Photoshop. Imagine the same capabilities as Photoshop (to some degree) only you can make everything move. And I mean everything - effects, objects, masks, etc.

If you know how to use both, they also integrate quite well and you can really take advantage of that. Learn your software!

Tip #26

Be sure to do your research on release forms!

If you're shooting in public, be aware of people in the background. If you catch someone's face in the background and you can identify their features, you'll need a release form from that person to use the footage or you'll have to distort their face in post-production.

If you shoot footage of an event, like a concert or a speech or a book signing party, etc., you'll have to get a release form from the people that organized the event that allows you permission to use footage from their event.

Same with music, you need to obtain the rights to use any copywritten music. Some music is considered public domain now, but you'll need to look into what's considered public domain.

Do your homework on release forms, it's a subject that can come back to haunt you later!

Tip #27

When it comes to scouting a location there are a number of things to look for besides getting the ideal shot:

Does the site have power? If you're going to be there all day, you'll need a power source if you're using lights and cameras. The cameras will have batteries to run off of, just make sure you have plenty of batteries and that they're all charged. The lights will need a power source though, so if you have no place to plug in, you'll need a generator.

How's the parking? If you have a lot of people on your crew or a lot of extras involved, parking definitely becomes an issue, especially if you're shooting in the middle of a city.

Bathrooms. 'Nuff said.

Are there stores nearby? There's always that "we need (fill in missing item here)". So, having a store or a mall close to your location can make the production run a bit easier.

With regards to compressing your videos for the Web...

Be sure to thoroughly examine your export options when it comes to exporting your video for the Web. Sometimes videos will end up being way too big for the internet in terms of file size and even though the video may be streaming, it can take quite a while to download over a slow internet connection.

There are programs that specialize in compression like Apple's Compressor and Cleaner from Autodesk. Check out the different settings in both programs as they offer an array of different compression choices. If you're using Premiere Pro, look into the Media Encoder as it also has a lot of different choices when it comes to compression.

Be sure to experiment with the different codecs and their settings. Results can vary in terms of quality due to variations such as camera movement, graphics and effects.

Tip #28

A good book to check out for camera work, lighting, and more is Bare Bones Camera Course for Film and Video by Tom Schroeppel. It's available on This is one of the books I used to have my students buy when I was teaching college classes.

I've been doing this work for over 20 years now and still seek out good books like this to learn more about the craft and refining my own techniques. Books like this can help you not only improve your techniques in terms of how to work with a camera but also save you a lot of time with passing along more efficient methodology.

Tip #29

When preparing graphics for your projects using programs like Photoshop, be sure to check out the new document presets when you're first setting up the file. The latest versions of Photoshop have presets specifically for different video formats.

You've got to look for a number of things:

Color mode - RGB
Resolution - 72ppi (usually)
Pixel Aspect ratio - this will vary between DV settings and square pixels dependant on what your project calls for

There are also filters in Photoshop that will help set up or correct problems with stills you may be using in your project. 2 examples are: there's a filter that will set your colors to broadcast safe. There's another that will smooth out the horizontal lines that stills can sometimes generate when they're exported from a video program, the filter that will correct that problem is called De-interlace.

Tip #30

Another big issue is continuity...

Watch what your actors are wearing from one day of shooting to the next, make sure their clothes match up if you're shooting the same scene over multiple days. Same thing with their hair, their hair styling should match up as well.

The environment plays a role too...If you have to break the scene down and finish shooting the same scene another day, it's a good idea to have a digital camera handy so you can take a picture of the scene. You can use the picture for reference when you have to set the scene back up again and get all the props in their appropriate place.

Tip #31

Watch your temperatures!

Extreme temperatures can really screw up equipment. Don't leave cameras or sound equipment stored in places that are either really hot or really cold. This is especially true if you have a 3 chip camera that might be particularly sensitive to temperature changes.

When in doubt, take the equipment home with you!

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