Trial and error. And video.

After trying to shoot some video, I realized how many components I need to keep track of while recording. All of the things we talked about in class came into play, and I was completely overwhelmed. I felt clumsy and inexperienced toting my equipment through throngs of circus-goers at the opening party for the Citizen Jane Film Festival. I’ll describe some of the mistakes I made and problems I encountered, so that other wannabe journalists can learn from my experiences.

1. The tripod. Going into this project, I didn’t expect the tripod to cause problems for me. Compared to the video camera and microphone, the tripod seemed to be the least of my worries. I even practiced using it before I left for the event because the various knobs and screws were intimidating. When I got to the event, I was confident in my knowledge of the tripod, but no amount of tripod expertise can prevent the awkwardness of using a tripod in a crowded room. I tried extending the tripod legs and got in the way of a lot of people. I would suggest attaching the plate to the camera before going to the event, so you can just pop it onto the tripod when you’re ready to shoot. Find a spot with some space where you can extend the tripod legs, then fold up the legs and carry it to the place you want to shoot from. Try not to smack anyone with the tripod; it’s heavy.

2. The lighting. I was filming in a ballroom that was only lit by pink lights. Even after setting the custom white balance, there was still a pinkish tint on all of my footage. It was also pretty dark in the ballroom. I don’t have any advice for this one, because I still don’t know what to do in this situation. I couldn’t use the video light because the majority of my footage was shot from a far distance.

3. Shot composition. Paying attention to the composition of shots in video is much more difficult than in still photography. In still photography, you can capture a moment in less than a second. In video, it was recommended that you hold a shot for at least 10 seconds. However, I ran into a few situations in which random passerby ruined my shots. I would set up a shot, hold it for a couple of seconds, and then someone would stand in front of my camera and obstruct my view. It seems that nothing can really be done about this; it’s just something you have to watch out for. I tried moving to different spots to continue recording from a different angle, but it was often difficult to get the tripod through the crowd.

4. Focus. The tiny screen on the video camera can be deceiving. I took a few tight shots that looked like they were in focus on the screen. When I imported the clips on my computer, I saw that they were actually out of focus. Pay close attention to the screen while you’re recording, and definitely use the manual focus.

5. Sound. I recorded a video interview, and when I imported it, there was no sound. A few hours later, I realized the microphone was turned off. Classic rookie mistake. The first mistake I made was failing to test the sound before recording the full interview. I didn’t play back the video until I was back at my apartment. Test the sound, always!

Now that I’ve made all these mistakes, I hope that tonight’s recording will go more smoothly. Someday, I hope I will have the skills to produce something like Stephanie Sinclair’s film, Too Young to Wed: The Secret World of Child Brides. It’s a combination of audio, video and stills, and it shares the tragic stories of women who are forced into early marriages.

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