As with all things: becoming a better video maker is all about practice. Do the thing! Test things out! Experiment!
Over time you’ll develop a better eye for what works and what you need to put some extra effort into. Aside from this you will also start to notice what minor details that make or break a shot, details you might have been completely oblivious to when you started.
In order to help you on the way we’ve listed a few things that we’ve found are typical beginners’ traps.
Whether you’re a seasoned video maker or completely new to the process – these are low effort things that’ll improve your videos greatly. Let’s begin!
Hold your camera horizontally
The first one is quite obvious and something you’ve surely come across before: holding the camera the “right” way when filming. What the “right” way is, is of course subjective (in some cases). But generally speaking it means that you should avoid holding the phone vertically when filming for a horizontal 16:9-format.
That way you won’t end up with black bars framing a very slim vertical video; making the content less professional looking.
Times are changing, however, and the foundations of old are no longer absolute truths. Driven by the development of social media, new formats like 1:1 and 5:4 are gaining more and more popularity – both in private and professional use.
Like we’ve mentioned before there are definitely times when you would do better by applying the modern standards. The point we’re trying to make is to keep in mind what you are filming and for what context. That way you’ll get better results more often and better content in the long-run.
Binge reading scripts
When making a thoughtful and well-produced video, it really helps having a proper manuscript.
Writing down what you want to convey is essential to make sure that the final product turns out as good as you want it to.
The tricky part is figuring out what to do when the script is done and you’re ready to start shooting. Say that you’re making an editorial video, and you’re looking straight into the camera. The script consists of two full A4 pages – and you try time and time again to read it all the way through, remembering every syllable.
Is it easy? No. You forget things, your throat gets sore, the tempo of your reading changes and the energy usually dips after a while.
The most obvious solution is naturally to chop up the script into smaller parts and focus on more manageable amounts at a time.
Doing this not only helps with remembering what you’ve written, but it also gives you greater control over the takes. Knowing when and where to put emphasis, you can direct the tone of the recording to your liking in order to make sure the message comes across.
Furthermore, this also makes it easier to go through previous takes without having to scroll through a lengthy video looking for specific parts. That way you can see whether you need a new take or not.
Essentially, don’t make it harder than it has to be. In most cases, the takes don’t need to be word-from-word what the script says. As long as you get the idea across it should be considered a job well done.
Inconsistencies and continuity errors
Spotting goofs and continuity errors in big budget movies can be a fun sport. It is, however, not as funny when you find yourself on the receiving end.
Something that many beginners find out the hard way is how you need to stay consistent to avoid bad or (sometimes) unusable footage. Sudden, out of context, changes in the frame distracts and disconnects the viewer which in turn makes it harder to get your message across.
The list of potential errors are (almost) endless but some of the more common categories are things in the background and foreground coming and going (like a coffee cup moving back and forth).
Similarly putting clothing, say a jacket, on and off also draws the audience out of the movie.
We all remember the faux pas in Game of Thrones – when a Starbucks mug suddenly appears in the middle of a middle age-esque fantasy setting. The crowd went wild.
Light can also be a problem. Especially during winter time. With the sun setting – lighting conditions change rapidly. What was once a perfectly lit interview can turn into a murky mess. Of course this can vary depending on geographical location, but even minor fluctuations can have a big impact on the image, which makes it more difficult to edit back and forth between takes.
The errors don’t even have to be in frame to be distracting though. We’ve mentioned the importance of sound quality earlier – but it can still be surprisingly easy to dismiss how well everything picks up on microphones. Opening and closing doors, dragging a chair across the floor, smartphone notifications are just some examples of things that will be heard in the final product.
There are times when environmental sounds are impossible to avoid completely. Like on a conference floor or near traffic, for example. But then the viewer also has an idea of what is going on as it will be displayed on screen.
Having a door slam shut in the middle of a sentence in an otherwise quiet room causes distraction because it has no context and therefore only serves as a distraction.
The lesson is: make sure to minimise surrounding noise the best you can. And maybe don’t pull a “Game of Thrones”.
Zero margin footage
Some mistakes can be written off as spoofs (and sometimes even add something to the end result). Others might be annoying but passable if the rest of the video works. Then there are those that can ruin the entire video.
This isn’t about accidentally corrupting files or messing up the file transfers. No, the most common beginner’s mistake is to be too hasty with clicking on the rec button.
Planning for a scene and then finding the perfect location is all in vain if you don’t actually grab the footage you need. Most beginners tend to find their subject, click “rec”, let it roll for 2-3 seconds and click “stop”. If we fast foward to the editing process they now have a very short clip where the start and end needs to be trimmed – which doesn’t leave much to work with.
Another aspect could be that, again, something you didn’t notice when filming shows up in the clip. There could be a person walking by in the background that makes the footage unusable.
Similar problems can occur during interviews as well, if you start recording just as the interviewee is about to start answering. Sometimes it takes a half of a second (or something that effect) before your camera app starts recording. So you’re risking losing the start of the interview answer.
Stopping the recording right after the person is done talking is also problematic, as it won’t give you any room to let the image breathe.
The fix for all of this is to start working with margins when filming. Simply start recording a few seconds before you “intend” to and let the camera roll for an additional 3-4 seconds afterwards. In real life this would mean that the full clip becomes around 10 seconds total.
Now when you edit you have a lot more creative freedom as you can choose exactly how long and which part of the clip to use.
Summary and conclusion
Video making is in many ways all about giving yourself the best prerequisites possible before editing. After all, a good editing job can enhance good footage, but it can’t make up for the really bad parts.
There are obviously countless things that can go wrong while filming and many of them are out of control for the common video maker.
However, having a general sense of what is or isn’t working can many times help you overcome obstacles, or at the very least give you the chance you work around them.
We at Qbrick aspire to teach you all things video related; big or small. The examples mentioned above therefore aren’t meant to be cautionary tales to scare beginners away but instead a way of highlighting common beginner’s traps in order to inspire and hopefully hurry up the progress. If you want to know more be sure to check out the other blog posts and don’t miss out on our the video series How To.