Mistakes Beginner Filmmakers (and Photographers) Make... #2
And How to Fix Them!
When I was in college, and even before that in high school, one of the curious questions I had when filmmaking and taking photos is “When should I hold the camera and when should I use a tripod?”
I’m sure there are quite a few people out there who wonder the same thing. I’m going to start off by saying this:
Photography and Videography have rules; which should only be broken if you know they fully and can break them correctly. Yes, I know, that sounds odd. So let me explain.
Colleges will teach you that filming hand held is a bad technique. Which, in a way, I agree with them. Hand held should only be used if you can do it properly. Most cameras are too heavy to hold for the length of a scene, and even shoulder anchors can be a burden. I use a Nikon DSLR which isn't heavy, but the equipment used for using it hand held can also be burdensome. Using a tripod gives you a steady shot and give you control over who or what is in the frame every second of the scene. Below is a group project from my freshman year of college. It was shot mostly with tripod and dolly (will cover this tool in a later tip) and one scene where we used a GoPro to shoot some first person perspective.
Warning: Quality is low due to submission requirements at the time. This was shot in 1080p 30fps with 2 Canon Rebel T6 and GoPro (not sure what model we used) Exporting and uploading full quality files at the time would have taken a while and a lot of bandwidth.
This video was a fun one to shoot, but as I look back on it now it's very static. If it were to be remade I would have probably done more handheld shots to give the sense of fear, worry and anxiety of the main character as he discovered "Oh crap, someone is following me."
Benefits of using a tripod:
Using a tripod gives the video stability in scenes like serious conversations that are not confrontational. The motion of the camera slightly moving doesn't distract you from what's being said and the person speaking is in the frame the whole time.
Side note: I am speaking as if my readers already have some knowledge of photography and videography. Such as knowing what head room, lead room, and rule of thirds are and how they apply to both (or one) of the mediums.
Using a tripod is the best option if the camera you're using doesn't do well in low light settings. Such as taking photos of the moon or shooting video in a florescent lit attic. Your camera needs light in order to "see clearly".
With the minimal lighting your shutter speed is going to have a hard time capturing a crisp, clear image even if you have your f-stop as wide as your lens will allow it. The tripod keeps the camera still enough that, with the right camera settings, you'll have a clean footage.
There are a few cons about using tripods. You don't have that much freedom to have creativity with your shots. Sure, you have the panning, tilting, dolly in and out (if you have a dolly), but it doesn’t let you be you. The artist. I’m not saying wing it without a tripod, but learn with it then let your juices flow.
Going Hand Held
When you have mastered framing and composition while using a tripod you’re ready to take it to the hand held step. Creativity strikes when you literally have control of the camera. Like I said before, don’t wing it. There are happy accidents that could lead to amazing footage, but don’t plan to wing it.
Going hand held is like driving for the first time without your parent or instructor in the car, and many times they try to test their boundaries while driving. You gotta keep it as still and straight as possible. This technique should be used to convey emotion of characters, tone of the environment, action or thoughts in the point of view your story is written.
Here is a music video I shot completely handheld. The original plan was to shoot it all in one take and I circled around the singer. Whike filming the “shooting in one take” idea quickly went down hill. So with multiple takes and angles and editing I made it work and I think it turned out to be a pretty well done hand held video. It’s not perfect, but better than I thought it was going to turn out.
Again, it’s not perfect, but personally I think he helps convey the message being presented. Going hand held should be a creative choice to get your message across, not just because it’s easier or quicker or more convenient. Sometimes in order to get the best shot, either compositionally or emotionally you have to decide what’s best for the quality of the video rather than what’s best for the operator at the moment. Some of the best shots are done because it was well though through and not done on a whim.
Subscribe to my YouTube channel to see more videos filmed my me: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCM7rTkadU_dc4feytZMgL1w
Check out my website to check out my photography: auldssa.wordpress.com