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3 Common Filming Mistakes To Avoid

Introduction

Hi guys! Jordan with Motion Array and today we’re going to be looking at 3 common filming mistakes, and how to avoid them.  So let’s jump into it!

As filmmakers, video creators, or whatever you consider yourself, this is the tool that’s going to be bringing a part of your creative vision to life.  So it’s important to know how to use it, and specifically, some common mistakes to avoid. Because if you’re making videos as a part of your career, you’ll probably want them to look more like this, and less like this…

So we’re gonna go over 3 common mistakes to avoid.  Some you might have heard before and some of them you might not be aware of.  So let’s just jump right into it with


The 3 Common Filmmaking Mistakes To Avoid

The following text has been transcribed for optimal reading

1 Jittery Handheld

When I say the word handheld, there’s a couple films in specific that come to mind.  And they all star Matt Damon for some reason.

But it’s important to know that not all handheld shots are created equal.  You might think, it’s a handheld shot, it’s just a shot where the camera is held in your hands instead of on a tripod, stabilizer, or whatever.  But that’s not quite the case.

There’s 1 main thing that makes a big difference to the quality of your handheld shots, and that’s the weight of the camera.  Yeah, believe it or not, you’ll actually achieve better results with a heavy camera than a light one when shooting handheld. And the difference all comes down to jitter.  

It’s a real technical term that’s toooootaly used all the time in the industry, but jitter is basically this:

It’s when your shot isn’t just moving all around, but it’s almost like it’s so unstable that it’s going all over the place.  There’s almost the presence of micro vibrations rather than a person moving it all around.

So how do you fix this?  Well short of buying a much heavier more expensive camera, a really simple solution is to find a way to weigh down your camera.  If your camera is really light, using a shoulder rig can really help to settle those out. But if you’re really stretching to find a way to do it on the cheap, just attach your camera to your tripod, and have one hand on the camera and one hand on the tripod.  Then your footage should be a lot less susceptible to camera jitter.

2  Zooming vs pushing

So basically if you’ve got a character in one spot and want to get a tighter shot of them in the frame during the course of a scene, you’ve got two basic options.  If you’ve got a zoom lens you can zoom in at whatever speed you need until you’ve got them framed differently. But you also have the option of moving the camera closer to them by actually moving the camera closer to them in 3D space.  This second method is called a push if you’re going closer to a character, and a pull if you’re moving farther away from them.

There’s a general rule in filmmaking that may be lesser known to some people.  And that’s

NEVER ZOOM!  Okay we’re done
(click)

Naw I’m kidding, it’s not really that simple.  

The basic premise can basically come down to one look that generates a cinematic feel vs a feeling of unease.  

There could be a lot of different reasons why our brains react to certain ways of shooting differently, and I’m gonna try our best to explain why I think this is.  

Zooming doesn’t feel natural.

There have been times when feature films have opted for the choice to zoom instead of push, but those times as you look deeper, seem to be more about creating unease rather than creating a pleasing looking shot.  Maybe you’re character is being spied on, or maybe there’s something supernatural a foot.

This example from The Shining is one where, no spoilers, we learn some information that’s going to make us feel uneasy.  It’s not surprising then to think that the director of this film, Stanley Kubrick, is known for his films giving that sense of uneasiness.  

Clockwork Orange, The Shining, 2001 Space Odyssey…..Eyes wide shut… (shutter)

But instead opting to move the camera itself closer gives you a more traditional cinematic feeling that instills a little bit more control into the minds of the audience.  Why? Well you have the added benefit of seeing the changing perspective of the scene. Even if it’s just subconscious, your camera moving through 3D space is actually giving more information about the world that your characters are in.  As you move through 3D space, you’re able to pick up on even slightly varying perspectives on the subject, inanimate objects, and the environment as a whole. It’s a good way to give your audience a more cohesive understanding of the world that you’re building.

So here’s my personal rule of thumb.  Always opt to push with your camera instead of zooming, unless you’ve got a really specific and stylistic goal that you can defend with a reason why you’d want to do it.  

The truth is that unless you’re specifically working with narrative story content, 99% of us are creating videos for fun, for commercial use, for businesses, or for some other reason that’s not a full cinematic feature film.  And the farther you can stay away from techniques that are associated with cheap camcorders or awkward sitcoms, the more likely people will see your work as high quality and professional.  

3 Roll Longer Than You Would Think

If you’re watching this video, you’re probably planning on being the person behind the camera for an upcoming shoot.  And if you’re not planning to edit the footage yourself, guess what. Someone else probably is, and there’s some things that you should know that will really really help them out.

And one of the biggest things to make sure of is to have some buffer room on both sides of a take.  There’s this notion that when you capture something, you’re pretty sure you know when it’s going to start and when it’s going to end.  On sets with an established director, you’ll have someone yelling cut and making the decision of where to end.

But if you’re doing more run-n-gun solo style work, you’re going to need to make those decisions yourself, and it’s not abnormal for people to want to start filming right where you imagine it would begin being used for your film, and then cut as soon as you feel like, yeah I think I got the shot.  

But here’s the problem, once you get to the editing room, you start to see footage in a whole new light.  If the pacing or tone of the film changes as a result of that scene, you might want to draw it out and make it feel slower, which is impossible to do unless you have more footage to work with.  

What does that look like though? Well for example l if you’re getting some b-roll, just hold until you get that urge to stop recording, and then hold of for even longer.  Simple as that. But why is this so important?

From a technical perspective, it gives you what are called handles on either side of your footage.  The good stuff that you end up actually planning to “use” in your shot is this good stuff in the middle, and the outer edges here are what are considered the handles.  

Let’s say that you planned on doing a hard cut to the next scene.  So you shot it with that in mind. But in editing you wanted to toy around with doing a dissolve instead.  But you cut the shot as soon as it completed what it was scripted to do, and so now all of the dissolve cuts into that moment that you wanted to see.  But if you leave a handle on the end, a couple seconds of footage after that nice part you liked, then the dissolve can now happen after that part you liked was seen, and then slowly fade into the next scene.

Or if you wanted the audio from the next scene to come in before the video cuts, known as a J cut.  Then you’re limited to when this can happen because you can’t stretch out this part of the shot any longer.  Even if you never end up using those extra couple of seconds, having a little bit of unnecessary footage is better than wanting desperately to do something, and then just physically not being able to.

So from a technical perspective it’s really beneficial to hold your shots long.   But from a creative story driven perspective, it’s equally, if not more important to hold longer.

My favourite example is from the final scene of “The Graduate” from 1967.  After breaking up a wedding mid ceremony, the two rogue love birds jump onto a bus to be frugally whisked away into the sunset.  It was supposed to end rather quickly with a moment of holding hands and laughing about following true love’s bliss.

But the person designated to yell cut in the bus...totally forgot to.  So the two actors, still in character, progress over the course of about 60 seconds from jubilation, to happiness, to normalcy, to uncertainty, and then ultimately to a tone that feels like they’re saying “what in the world did we just do!?”

That small mistake lead to one of the most memorable and praised scenes in movie history.  And it serves as a lesson that you never know what you’re going to get from just holding a shot a little bit longer.  It may cost you a few extra gigabytes in storage along the way, but chances are you’ll be way happier by taking a moment to let the shot come to a natural conclusion on its own, rather than artificially cutting it off before you even get to see what happens next.  

I hope you found this video helpful. If you did, as always we’ve got lots of other tutorials ready to view for free here at motionarray.com.  Please give us a thumbs up and if you’d like to see more tutorials, we’ve got lots of other Premiere Pro TutorialsAfter Effects tutorials, and filmmaking tutorials for you to check out!

Thanks for watching and see you in the next video.

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