Video Tips for the Traveling Student

by Rustin Dwyer, PLU Videographer

If you have a smartphone in your pocket you are a filmmaker. The question is, how good of a filmmaker do you want to be? Filmmaking is all about choices – what to show, what not to show; what to highlight and what to obscure. Every decision you make behind the lens impacts the end result. Let’s take a look at a couple of tips to help you make the choices that will tell the most important story of all- YOUR STORY!

Story: First and foremost – what is the story? Are you in a beautiful new country filled with rugged landscapes or intricate architecture? Are you in the company of a vibrant and colorful personality? Is there an event taking place or something being constructed? This is not always an easy question when events are unfolding before you in real time. Take a minute and think about what should be the main focus of your video. What are you trying to share with the viewer?

Subject: When searching for the story it helps to find a subject. This could be anything that interests you: a location, a landmark, an event or a person – including yourself! Chris Jordan ’15 spent his J-term working with the students of Richmond Street Boy’s School in Port of Spain, Trinidad. Instead of focusing on the tropical scenery or daily life, Chris narrowed his focus to the creation of a mural. By narrowing his focus, Chris was able to find a simple narrative and put together a fun, informative video (all on a go-pro!).

Coverage: Now that you have decided on (or, at least, narrowed down) your story and subject you need to get coverage of it. The best rule to remember is show, don’t tell. How can you visually express your idea? Sometimes this can be an easy task. Here’s an example: Venice is a beautiful city full of color life and canals. I only had a few hours to shoot and was able to compose some shots that expressed this idea.

This isn’t rocket science — sometimes it really is as simple as:

1. Find something interesting
2. Point camera
3. Hit record
4. Repeat!

Another good tip when getting coverage is establish then expound. Let the viewer know what they are seeing, and then go in for a closer look:

While you’re shooting, don’t forget that video is all about movement. The most important aspect of video is motion.

There are two easy ways to capture motion:

1. Move the subject: Is there something visually interesting about the way someone walks? Does the wind move the subject? Is there traffic or rushing water?
2. Move the camera: Maybe your subject is static or too large to fit into your field of view at one time. Just remember that the camera is the viewer’s eye. If it darts from place to place haphazardly the viewer will be confused or possibly even motion sick!

Audio: Video is a medium rooted in motion, but that doesn’t mean we can discount audio. In fact, good audio can tell the story just as well as your imagery. Is someone nearby playing music or singing? This could provide you with a perfect opportunity to grab some relevant (and free!) music to score you piece with. Another good rule – if you are not the subject of the piece BE QUIET! Let your subject speak for themselves, or better yet not speak! This video is a great example of using ambient sound to tell the story. The wood carver doesn’t say a word but the sound and imagery tell the story.

A few last notes on shooting with your smartphone

Landscape.: ‘Nuff said. Phones shoot in 16:9 format . You wouldn’t watch a movie in 9:16, so don’t shoot one!!
Sound: Just like when shooting with your go-pro/action cam, DSLR camcorder or smartphone – The thing has a microphone on it. Unless you are shooting a music video, you’re going to want that sound.
Portable: Your phone is with you wherever you go. That means you have a mobile recording studio with you at all times. Take advantage of that.

Have a wonderful study away experience, Lutes! And don’t forget: LANDSCAPE.