QUICK TIPS FOR SURJ ACTION VIDEOGRAPHERS

Hey all,

Thanks for being one of the video volunteers. Here are some quick suggestions as you go out and capture the work with your iPhone this week and in the future.

I've written up a lot of detailed suggestions here that might be helpful, so check that out, especially as a reminder to keep your phone charged (video takes a lot of battery power), etc. We're talking about doing a video training webinar, but for now, just keep a few other things in mind. 

Sideways and steady. As much as possible, keep your phone sideways rather than in vertical position, and hold it as steady as possible. This can be hard to do, especially in a tense situation.

Tell the story. Get a variety of shots so we know what's happened. Some shots from a distance or from above will show us the size of the crowd. Close-ups of individuals will help convey the emotions of the moment. 

Edit as you shoot. The videos that we are editing for Facebook, etc. are only around a minute or two long. So be selective about how much video you capture — the more footage you upload, the longer it takes to download it and assemble it in the editing process. 

Go easy on the panning and zooming. Too much moving of the camera makes the images difficult to use, so steady shots are usually preferable to too much panning (moving the camera from side to side or up and down). Also, avoid zooming as much as possible, because in a mobile phone it really messes with image quality.

Think in short shots. Often, it's a lot better to take a bunch of short shots rather than keeping the camera running continuously. This depends on what's going on, of course. If it's dramatic moment (a confrontation with police or Trump supporters, for example) you want to make sure to get it all. But other times, feel free to just shoot 10-second clips.

Avoid the flashlight effect. It's very common for people to wave their camera back and forth at an event. Here's an example from a vigil after the terrible shooting in Orlando. 

 

 

 

 

It is one long shot with the camera moving back and forth. It's not very interesting, it's a little dizzying to look at, and it's really hard to stitch together with other shots during editing.

Now watch this short video I made at the same event with my iPhone. Notice that instead of keeping the camera running, I made this video from 8 or 10 very short shots. Together, they tell a more interesting story. Big difference, right?

 
 


Gear: If you have a few dollars to spend, you might want to get a monopod like this one ($14) to help you get steady shots and to raise your phone above the crowd at times. If you get one, you will need an adaptor to connect the phone to the monopod. One like this ($10) will do the job and can also be used for hand-held shooting to keep the phone steady. But! A monopod can be grabbed away by the police, or make it harder to run away, so use your judgment. It might be too risky. You could also pick up a small microphone like the Olympus ME-52W ($18), that plugs into the headphone jack and will provide better sound quality than your phone's built-in mic.

After the action: As soon as you can, please upload the video files to a Dropbox folder and send the link to your SURJ contact and to me. Files in .mov format are strongly preferred.

Advanced Level: If you have the time, or already have photography or video skills, I would recommend you download either Filmic Pro or Movie Pro app, both of which allow manual adjustment of focus, ISO, audio levels, and much more. You can watch a Movie Pro tutorial to learn more. 

Safety: When you are looking through the lens of a camera you might not be aware of sudden changes around you that could put you at risk. It's good to do this with a partner who can hold some gear and keep an eye on the situation.

Other Ideas: Check out these summaries below from On the Media and the ACLU.

That's all for now. If you have questions, send me an email to me at chris@christopherlandry.com. If there's something else that should be on this page, let me know that, too.

Thanks!