Day 1: Shooting video

Yesterday my students went out with their HV20 cameras to shoot for the first time. Their (ungraded) assignment was to get the five shots described in Michael Rosenblum’s “Five Step Method,” which is much like the sequence you’ll find described in a lot of beginner video books. Basically, you are shooting five specific close angles of one person who is performing an activity. (Not “performing” as in acting; you tell them to pretend you’re not there and go about whatever it is they are doing.)

I sent the students out in pairs to two different food courts near our classroom building. They didn’t need to get any audio or tell a story — just get the shots. One student shot someone eating lunch and got the five prescribed shots. Then the other student shot someone else who was also eating.

Afterward we plugged the cameras into a widescreen TV and watched the tape. Everybody’s tape. We had a few very good close-up face shots. We saw some very nice two-person shots. We found it was most difficult to get good close shots of people’s hands. We also saw that instead of getting only hands or only the face, some students stood too far away, and their shots looked too much alike.

We laughed our heads off at a couple of wild swinging shots where the student forgot to turn off the camera. I am teaching them to frame the shot, hold the shot steady for 10 seconds, then turn the camera off. We also saw some cases where the shooter succumbed to the temptation to follow the action — the hamburger moving up to the mouth. Hey, that’s a perfectly nice shot, but we’re not learning that yet.

Discipline. That’s what Rosenblum pounds on in his Travel Channel Academy sessions. Our first task is to train ourselves to shoot with self-discipline. (If you’re curious, read my posts about attending the TCA. My course syllabus is open source, but I’m not giving away Rosenblum’s material there.)

Watching all the tape together afterward is the best possible learning experience. All the students tried to do the same thing, and all the results were very different. It’s absolute proof that video is an expressive medium, and what goes into the camera depends on who is holding it.

9 Comments on “Day 1: Shooting video

  1. That’s much the way I teach students to shoot video in my Electronic Newsgathering Class. We watch several examples I’ve shot of simple sequences so they understand what I mean by the term. I also show several examples from the NPPA Television Photography Award Winners reel. Very advanced, yes, but I want the students to see sequences in news stories.

    I also find students are very shy at first, afraid to get close to their subjects. We laugh about the many “headless” people they shoot because they forget to shoot faces.

    I even show the first 5 minutes of Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds” because he was the master of using very simple sequences to tell a story.

    We use Rich Underwood’s Book “Roll! Shooting TV News” as our text. I like it because it teaches students how to shoot and edit by using personal stories of working news photographers, editors and producers including the late, great Ray Farkas.

    And you are so right about what goes into the camera depends on who is holding it.

  2. Hi Mindy
    Thanks for the credit the reference and the link. I appreciate it. I also appreciate your not publishing the materials. Hope you are getting on well. We’re just finishing up yet another class.

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  4. I like David Dunkley-Gyimah’s meme.

    He teaches what he calls the “3-6-9” principle and it dead simple to train and remember.

    Three different angles. (Med, Wide, Tight)
    Hold each shot for six seconds. (min)
    Shoot from nine unique locations.

    It’s what you have all been saying – only he uses fewer words.

    3 – 6 – 9

    Do that and you’ll have the assets in hand to edit.

  5. Hi Mindy!

    You have no idea how happy I am to hear you’re teaching your students video. It’s something I feel very strongly about, but you knew that.

    I’m so jealous that I’m not taking your class right now!


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  7. What is the person called that gets shots they are told to get, ‘pan left, wide shot, etc.’ and the person that captures what they see and feel in order to tell the story. I have done both, both positions take discipline, but I feel when I am capturing the shots the way I want it to be seen, I am not just ‘a camera operator’…… this a correct classification name.

  8. @Bobbie Evoy – The videographer.

    You’re right: The term “camera operator” makes it sound like the person has no brain and makes no independent contribution. I don’t like it.

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