Tricks and Hints - Things I've picked up along the way.
- Anticipate the action - I always am thinking 60 seconds ahead of the action. When an animal turns its head my camera is already panning in that direction.
- Clean that Lens - I carry a small portable lens cleaning kit. When you are shooting against the sun, even the smallest lens specs will be illuminated and ruin your shot.
- Make a Cheat Sheet - I will use the time I spend on stand, in a blind, etc. to make a list of of the edits I need to shoot to wrap up the video.
- Make Focus Marks - on many cameras with manual focus, you can actually make tick marks on the focus ring that line up with a mark on the lens housing. For example on my Panasonic I have a 20 yard focus mark so in low light or in a pinch you can quickly move the focus ring to 20 yards - where most of my shooting occurs.
- Never forget your head cleaner - one of the biggest problems I had with my cams was head distortion. Regular cleaning of your video heads will minimize these problems.
- Always carry a spare battery & Tapes - I never go afield without a fully charged battery and at least 1 spare tape.
- Use Headphones for audio - Most Prosumer cameras have a headphone jack. Bring a pair of IPod headphones and plug them into the jack. When you film your edits or especially your hero footage, do a sound check with the headphones prior to filming. You will be amazed to find out that 50% of the time your audio is going to be too loud or too soft. Adjust accordingly.
- Look at your footage before you leave the field, or before you gut your animal - I can't count how many times I've reviewed my footage only to find something drastically wrong with it, like a spot on the lens or your shotgun mic hanging down into the frame. Check it out, correct the problem, and re-shoot.
- People will hate your Video Project - get over it - I always warn people ahead of time that I am a pain in the ass when it comes to shooting footage. People who are part of the hunt will often get annoyed and you may feel pressured to cut out an edit or rush a video shot. Try to get past that. The people with you will get over it eventually but the opportunity to film that critical edit will be gone forever if you walk away from it. Try to involve others only when absolutely necessary so you can film everything you need as many times as you like.
- Look for photo opportunities at every turn - something as simple as a skunk walking by your stand can be used as supporting footage. Film everything you can. Tape is cheap.
- Remember the 20/1 Rule. This rule is more like 40/1 for amatuers and beginners. Simply stated for every 20 minutes you shoot, only 1 is typically useable in your project. Beyond Adrenaline was shot over 3 years and approximately 200 hours of footage over 15 hunts to make a 6 hunt DVD of 2 hours.
- Lack of a tripod – treat your camera like it is covered with anthrax. Your goal should be to never touch the camera. It’s unrealistic – I know – but it’s a good rule to keep in mind. The exception to this is when you need to shoot handheld, like following a blood trail or filming your buddy over his shoulder on a stalk. In these cases always brace the camera to minimize movement. If your camera is like most it has a stabilizing feature – USE IT! The most compelling footage in the world is worthless if it gives your viewers a headache.
- Zoom Fever – Zooming is only necessary for the original composition of the scene, or when the scene drastically changes location. Other than that, treat your zoom button like it is covered with maggots. Frame the scene so the animal is 25-33% then leave it be. Zooming distracts the viewer, and it is impossible to cut edits into a scene while it is zooming. Edits can only be spliced in from dead-stop motion. If it were up to me, I’d remove the zoom button from outdoor cameramen until they understand how and when to zoom.
- Auto Focus – You’ve all seen clips of a great deer walking by trees and the camera focuses on the tree and the deer goes fuzzy. This is the autofocus adapting to the most prominent object in the frame. What’s more, if the deer keeps moving, it’s hard to get the camera to focus back on that deer after the tree moves out of the frame. This is where predicting the game trail comes in very handy. It allows you to pre-set your manual focus so when the animal appears, you can pan on him and the closer objects will appear fuzzy. This creates a professional scene with compelling footage. The viewer stays focused on the animal the entire time.
- Dawn and Dusk Shots – If deer were actors they would all be unemployed. They rarely show up during prime video lighting – opting instead to appear when the video camera can barely expose them. I can’t tell you how many huge bucks I’ve passed up in Kansas because they came in too early or late for video. This is where our very first question comes to play. Do you want to hunt? Or do you want to video? Sometimes you have to choose one or the other. If you consistently choose to shoot in low light, you will likely never get a decent video of your shot on film.
- Cheezy Shots and Sayings – Maybe it’s my Northern upbringing but one thing which bothers me on hunting videos is what I consider “gooberisms.” It’s like anything, the first couple of times you hear them they are cute, but after the same cliché is used 400 times it really starts to be silly. I don’t know where some of these sayings originated from but in my opinion they need to retired. Here’s a short list of common gooberisms.
Sucky Audio – Lots of people spend a lot of time thinking about getting the video composition and shot just perfect – then completely forget about audio. Audio is not as important as the video – but it’s a close second. The only reason I say audio is not as important is because you can always dub over the video with narration or music if you need to. But it greatly diminishes your footage. The most important thing to remember about capturing audio while shooting hunting footage is to use a shotgun mic. I never shoot anything, be it a kill scene, approach footage, edits or hero footage without my shotgun mic. You don’t have to have a $2000 mic, most of my stuff is shot using a sennheiser shotgun mic which runs under $200.
Cursing - I’ve been known to let out a few expletives in my day, but I am Mother Theresa on camera. Leave the expletives out of your footage. This way you can show it to kids without cringing, or feeling guilty and apologizing for your indiscretion. It also becomes absolutely necessary when shooting for TV, Internet, or DVDs.
Redneck Habits – Let’s face it, some of us are not exactly Robin Leach when it comes to style, manners and grace. Many of us are downright rednecks and proud of it. But that doesn’t mean those habits should be displayed ‘in your face’ on a video. I can’t tell you how many video’s I’ve seen where guys were chewing tobacco and spitting it on TV. Also, if you’re following your bear guide to a bait site ask him to pull up his pants or avoid the angle altogether. Nobody wants to see anyone’s coin slot on a Video.
- “Now, THAT’S WHAT I’M TALK’N BOUT”
- Any laugh that sounds like “He He He”
- “He’s Down for the Count!”
- “I SMOKED Him”
Lesson 8 - Editing, Post Production and Burning to DVD