Category Archives: videography

Leave the Camera Rolling

I’ve heard some filmmakers advise to keep your shots short, under 30 seconds ideally or even under 10 seconds. This is supposed to make the footage easier to edit, and I can see how it would. However, I strongly disagree with this mentality, and speak from experience when I say:

There’s no reason to end a shot hastily. Ever.

It’s true there are times when you should grab your camera and run in order to protect your equipment and/or avoid certain death. In fact, there are plenty of these times. But if you’re ever tempted to press the button and end the shot in a rush, have some compassion for the editor. It’s so much easier to chop out shaky sections in post rather than magically make lost footage appear.

For example, during my filming of a video for the Adirondack Scenic Railroad, I intentionally took a shot of two people working with a camera and unintentionally picked up the dialogue of train folk in the background. When a conductor shouted, “All Aboard!” I immediately ended the shot, since I had plenty of footage of the two people I intended to film.

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What I didn’t realize is how desirable the background dialogue was going to be. My trigger-happy habits caused me to lose the iconic “All Aboard!” audio, which I cut in the middle of the phrase.

Lesson of the day: When in doubt, leave the camera rolling!

The Day I Became a Videographer

In my freshman year, I was a camera operator for the TV Club. When we put on a talent show in the auditorium, I got a better than front-row seat, hiding behind the giant 80’s TV camera with my heals hanging off the stage, trying to keep its bulk from rolling off and smashing to the floor two feet below. That show was one of the greatest highlights of my college career.

Too soon, the TV club fizzled. The student president was deeply interested in television production and transferred out, and no one took his place. I’ve occasionally wondered about transferring—I’m a video and writing person at a polytechnic institute—but never thought about it that seriously.

This is why. I believe that if I’m really serious about my profession, I’ll be able to pursue it almost anywhere. Transferring to a school with more video classes would be pointless for me, because if I’m not able to drum up video business right here, I’m just not that serious about it.

Do what you can, with what you have, where you are. – Theodore Roosevelt

One month ago, I wandered into Career Services, just to see what opportunities awaited discovery there. I had a conversation with the director, and said I was interested in videography. He asked what type. I said I did documentaries. Then the director told me about his idea for an informational video series about Career Services—how to do business interviews, resume-writing, and internship preparation. He showed me many video examples of what he wanted, and said maybe I could be his summer intern. I set out to make a professional video demo, to get this job.

One month (28.5 hours) later, my demo was ready for viewing. I made sure that it was high-quality. The Career Services director loved it! This summer I’ll have my first videography job, and be one step closer to a dream career. And none of it would have happened if I didn’t walk through that door a month ago and say I did videography.

“If you are going to be a writer there is nothing I can say to stop you; if you’re not going to be a writer nothing I can say will help you.” -James Baldwin

Videography and writing aren’t classes you take, they’re crafts you do. Be a go-getter. Get yourself noticed. More often than we think, we have everything we need right where we are to be who we want to be.

Play with Your Tools

5 years ago I bought my little Fujifilm camera for under $100. Its lens is small and its capabilities limited, but it is waterproof and portable. When I got that camera I was so excited that I ran out to play with it immediately. I took pictures of early March ladybugs, of driveway gravel, of old rose hips from past seasons—anything that caught my eye.

Through experimentation, I learned how to trick the autofocus and autoexposure into doing exactly what I wanted by first focusing on my hand before taking a photo. I learned what range the little camera performed best at—when the subject is 3”-5” away. Through 5 years of exuberant play with my cheap equipment, and tens of thousands of photos, I became one with my tool.

A camera is an instrument that captures visual music. Learning to use a camera is the same as learning to play guitar or piano—you haven’t really got it until your body can do it without you.

After five fun years, I bought a new camera. It’s a canon, with a great black eye to suck in the light of the world. It’s capable of so much more, but not yet—not in my inexperienced hands. So I’m starting the process all over again, to play with the tool until I know it so well that my fingers find the buttons on their own, and I’ll intuitively know what images the camera can capture beautifully and what isn’t worth trying for. The learning will begin when I put down the manual and venture out into the world with my trusty camera sidekick.

If there’s something you love to do and you allow yourself to play with it, you will become a master. The time will pass unnoticed. And the process of discovery will go on forever. For me and my camera, there are as many experiments as there are images in the world, and then some.

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