From the moment you click on a link, you are privy to the variety of online entertainment turning your computer monitor into a visual media carnival. From Youtube to Vator.tv, there are numerous video sites reeling people in to watch their content. People can watch anything from a documentary on sea monkeys to people pitching their next big idea to potential investors. Videos are being uploaded at an overwhelming rate and there is no doubt in my mind this will not settle down anytime soon. In fact, it is pretty much been set in stone as the future of how we will view entertainment. So I guess the question is how do you want to make your mark on this video blank canvas, as paint by numbers or Picasso?
In the online video world, both paint by numbers and Picasso have their place. The web is large enough to mix commercial, narrative and artistic video simultaneously and harmoniously; that is what makes it so great. In this and the following posts to come, I will discuss everything from purchasing the right equipment to finding the right talent and even which video codecs and players work best. This information will help you on the path to the style of video you want to produce and put your name or company behind.
So you are asking where do I start? Well a lot of great directors, writers and my graduate professors told me that, ”story” is the key. They are definitely correct. I will touch on that later, but first we need to figure out what sort of production work you will be doing. Is it a weekly video blog, a promotional piece for a new product or a video short that you are hoping to pitch? Also, is this video’s final resting place going to be the web or are you intending to send out DVDs or even push your video for the next Tribeca short film entry?
These questions are very important to ask before going out and blowing tons of money on things you don’t need. For the sake of speeding this up, we will assume that your target is the web, with the ability to send out DVDs as well. So this is where we shall begin this journey, in the purchasing of equipment, mainly the camera and the accessories needed to go with it. I will discuss computer systems, software and lighting setups later in this series of blogs.
Okay, let’s discuss choosing the right camera. People will argue by saying you can shoot a decent video with a low-end mini-DV camera and a cheap light kit, ”it is not the tools, it is the person who wields them.” I could not agree more in most cases when shooting a video, but we all don’t have access to a great cameraman. I don’t think Robert Richardson is going to hop of Scorsese’s new film to shoot your next production, so you should choose something that will be easy to use, last, and not be obsolete in a week (which most things are in the electronic world).
So what makes a good camera? Well many people have different tastes; some prefer Canon to Sony or Panasonic to JVC. The key thing to remember here is form follows function. Just cause it is bright and shiny doesn’t mean it will shoot the same. There are a few key things a camera should have to make it effective in the field, first of which is a great lens.
Most cameras today come with excellent lenses from companies who branched out there knowledge from SLR cameras to video cameras. Leica, Zeiss, and Fujinon lenses can be found now on a lot of consumer and professional cameras on the market. Just make sure to look for one with a good Digital Optical lens. It is usually referred to, as digital zoom, usually 10x or 12x is good. Don’t fall into the whole digital zoom feature as a sales bonus, which is different than optical. This just lets you know you can zoom in 120x to view your subject. This is a marketing gimmick for consumers who hope to catch a blurry Bigfoot while hiking in Glacier National Park. The camera can have a 120x digital zoom; it’s irrelevant! You want to get a good long shot so invest in a good telephoto lens.
Another key factor when purchasing a camera and one I find to be at the top of the list is XLR inputs for audio. I try never to use the cameras built in microphone as they pick up every noise and usually don’t sound that great anyway. My advice here is to pick up a few external microphones; a lavaliere and shotgun will work nicely. This will give you more control on what sounds you want to focus on, whether it is one person or a group. These microphones are much more effective than the ones that come with most cameras.
If you search around the net you can find great deals on both kinds and if you are stuck with picking brands, I like Audio-Technica and Sennheiser, both are good and priced fairly reasonable considering the high quality. Also, consider buying one that uses phantom power, which draws power from the camera and doesn’t need batteries, very useful. There are tons of microphone manufacturers out there, and it basically comes down to which one will fit your setup best. I recommend doing a little research to find the best brand in your price range that will serve your purpose.
Last, but certainly not least is what format on which to shoot. This will depend on the brand you selected. You have your choice of HDV, DV, DVCAM, Hard Drive and even straight to P2 cards. I am a huge fan of Panasonic’s P2 cards and cameras. They give you the option of shooting DV directly to tape and to shoot other formats to P2 cards. Their cameras also come with a great 4.5mm Leica lens and probably one of the best audio subsystems on any prosumer camera out there. You also have the ability to shoot up to 1080p and you can never go wrong with HD, especially if you are in this for the long haul. This camera is more expensive but will definitely not be out dated in a few years, allowing you the ability to shoot broadcast quality HD for years to come.
The question here is how much money is in your budget? My advice is if you can afford it go for the Panasonic HVX-200 and a few 32GB P2 cards. This camera has been around a while and does a great job of covering the spectrum of frame rates and resolutions, especially for web or DVD. If this camera is too expensive look at Sony’s HVR-V1U, which has a lot of the same features as the Panasonic, but is cheaper. Remember one thing, this video will be compressed for web, so either of these cameras will work great.
Jumping into the world of online video can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be. You can go down to your local Best Buy, pick up a camcorder and start shooting, or really plan the setup, which will take you through the next few years of production. This is a decision you must make on your own; just remember that the most important thing really is the content you are shooting. There is nothing worse than a very visually stimulating image mixed with horrible acting and/or boring content. CSI: Miami anyone?
More to come”¦”¦”¦”¦
Senior Video Producer
Without humor, life would be a joke.