Firstly, if you haven’t checked out ‘Part 1 – Planning’ then I would recommend you do so.
Secondly, its also worth noting that everything I am about to tell you is completely self taught or learnt on the job and therefore is not a definitive list of Do’s and Don’ts. Take this advice onboard or ignore everything I say, the most important thing is that you find your own path and are happy with what you create.
Thirdly, go and buy a dressing gown! I’ve put off buying one all my life in the fear it would transform me into an old man but I picked one up an hour ago and I feel like a king!
Anyway! Filming, shooting or whatever you want to call it is by far the most important part of improving your videos. You can be incredible at all other stages of this process but if you’re working with crap footage you’re going to struggle to put out anything worth watching. To put it bluntly… you can’t polish a turd.
Much like the previous blog I’m going to run through a list of tips and techniques that will hopefully help you reach a higher level of video making. Some of these things are simply pieces of advice that may not seem like much but have a dramatic effect on the look of your shots. Others are rules that if you break, I will personally come to your house and loosen the bolts on your toilet seat so it never stays in the place you want it to!
We’re going to start with one of the more important points that could result in a faulty toilet seat…
Correct exposure! (Mainly over exposure!)
Just don’t do it! Blown out shots literally tear production quality away from your video. It’s also something you can rarely save in the edit. If your friend in their white t shirt is lost in the sky because its so bright, you’re probably not getting him back! Every camera has the ability for its settings to be adjusted resulting in a correctly exposed image and its your job to learn how to do this.
Admittedly in incredibly bright locations you will struggle to expose your shots, especially if you are trying to maintain a fixed shutter speed across your entire video, your aperture can only close so much and your ISO can only go so low! But, this is where you have hopefully done some planning into the type of environment you would be shooting in and previously purchased some filters.
There are a huge array of different filters which I will probably do a blog on sometime in the future but for dealing with exposure you want to be looking at Neutral Density (ND) filters. These are literally dark pieces of glass or plastic that mount to your lens and reduce the amount of light hitting the sensor, therefore enabling you to correctly exposure your shot.
Something that can be a real struggle is shooting in a location with harsh shadows across it resulting in a mix of really dark and bright areas. The best advice I can offer here is use multiple angles and keep your subject and the area around him correctly exposed at all times.
One thing I will say is that occasionally it is possible to use over exposure as an effect, for instance creating silhouettes. So, as always, experiment with your camera and the environment you are in and see what you can create!
‘The use of sound in an edit can have incredible effect so if you want to capture it and use it properly, plan it out and make sure you minimise background noise as much as possible.’
The composition of a shot is one of those things that sometimes can take you a little while to get right, but when you do, you get this feeling of ‘oh shit, this shot suddenly looks so much better than when it did when I was standing a meter to the left!’
For those of you wondering what composition is, I’m going to quote part of an article I was just reading written by a guy called Arthur Aiello.
‘By virtue of its very nature, video is a medium that is judged largely on the way it looks. As such, qualifying video as “good looking” or “bad looking” can be very subjective. After all, different people have different opinions about what looks good.
Fortunately, you can hedge your bets and err on the side of “good looking” by paying careful attention to video composition. Composition is at the heart of making attractive video, because it focuses not on things like story line and plot development, or even the more technical issues of color balance, lighting and audio levels. Rather, composition is all about the placement of your subject(s) in the frame so that the effect is as pleasing to the eye as possible.’
So to put it bluntly, composition is making sure that all the elements of your frame, subject, background, foreground etc are placed visually appealing locations.
One of the most important pieces of information when it comes to composition is the rule of thirds. As you can see from the image below the shot has been separated into a grid of horizontal and vertical lines. By placing important elements along these lines, for instance the horizon on the horizontal lines and your subject on one of the vertical lines its very easy to create attractive shots. For a better understanding I would honestly just recommend googling ‘rule of thirds’ and looking at the image results. Within minutes you will start to get the idea!
Another blog I want to point you in the direction of is one written by Andy Day, also known as Kiell. Andy was, in my eyes, the first proper Parkour photographer and was a part of the original UF crew. If you don’t know who he is, you’ve most likely seen his photos before and I would recommend checking out his website for some old school UF nostalgia. www.kiell.com
Andy’s blog puts a lot of focus on creating visually attractive shots before you have even placed your subject in the frame yet and its definitely something you can directly apply to your filming skills. http://blog.kiell.com/composition-a-parkour-frame-of-mind
One thing to bear in mind with composition is that its a hell of a lot easier to correctly compose a static shot. The second you add a rapidly moving glidecam shot to the mix it gets a little bit harder to work in the rule of thirds which brings us neatly on to our next topic!
‘Stick on a prime or zoom lens and change the way you capture the action.’
Shoot numerous angles!
So what happens when you shoot numerous angles you ask?! It makes your whole editing process a billion times easier!
Don’t you hate it when you’re editing and you realise the one angle you shot didn’t quite show that jump for the size it truly was, or the athlete’s movement is a bit slow for the music you have chosen, or one part of the run was really over exposed, or for some reason it just didn’t look right… you get the point! By shooting numerous and varied angles of the same movement or run, you can eliminate all of these issues.
Obviously the most important part of this is your athlete, don’t go pushing them to do the same move over and over if he’s getting tired or not comfortable with it. But, at the same time, repetition is a great way to train! The prime example being Sergio’s G.U.P videos. There’s pretty much a direct correlation between how good those guys are at linking their movements and how many angles Sergio crams into his videos. He has those guys repeating stuff over and over until he has the right shots and they’re happy with their movements.
I just want to go back and touch on my point of struggling to compose shots when using a glidecam. To put it simply, not every shot has to contain incredible composition. In my eyes the perfect video ranges from beautifully composed wides to racing glidecam closeups. It’s all about finding the balance that works for you.
Shoot lots of them! They should be named saviour shots due to the fact they can get you out of so many issues when you’re in the edit. Two of the biggest things I encounter when editing is a run being a bit too long and placid for the song i’m using, or the athlete stumbling or slowing at some point in a run. By shooting a mix of angles and close ups throughout different stages of the run, you are covering your back in the edit should you need to use them to make the run seem more rapid or cover up any little mishaps.
‘Don’t use cuts between angles or any other trickery to make things seem ridiculous. It will break peoples trust in your videos.’
Vary your focal lengths.
It’s all good and well changing your angles and keeping the same wide angle lens on your camera, but if you really want to have some effect and add some more production value to your video, stick on a slightly tighter prime or zoom lens and change the way you capture the action.
Now this wont always apply to all videos as you may want to maintain that close, fast and wide angle style a lot of videos lean towards, but if you’ve never done it before its definitely worth trying out. It can totally change the look and feel of your overall video if you mix in some clips that have been shot from afar with some nice foreground or some closer stuff shot on a prime lens to give you that gorgeous shallow depth of field look.
Don’t be afraid to go Dutch!
Admittedly, this was something I didn’t really get into for quite a while and since I did I have no idea why it took me so long. A dutch angle is one where you slant the camera to its side slightly so that your verticals are not well… vertical! It’s one of those things that can be really overused but when done right it can add a really aesthetic and creative feel to your shots.
‘You can even shoot down the line, just. But do not cross it. This is one of those rules of film making that you basically do not break.’
In the previous blog I touched upon different pieces of equipment such as a glidecam or sliders that will enable you to create camera movement within your shots. Now I will explain, in vast detail as to why it is such a benefit to your videos….
….You ready? It looks awesome.
Granted, beautifully composed static shots can also look awesome, but you are here to improve your freerunning videos. If you really want to capture the energy of the sport you need to get that camera moving and as I said in the previous blog, the best way to do that is get hold of some kind of stabiliser like a glidecam or a gimbal.
With this you can create smooth running shots alongside your subject, add depth by incorporating some foreground into a dolly style shot or even introduce new elements of the environment into the frame. The possibilities are endless and just waiting for you to explore them.
Be true to your environment and your athletes!
No-one likes a cheat, its as simple as that. Obviously you want your athletes to look good and theres nothing wrong with clever composition to make a jump look slightly larger than it is but don’t use cuts between angles or any other trickery to make things seem ridiculous. It will break peoples trust in your videos.
There are occurrences where you may be required to create a fake movement for the sake of a client where they require something out of the ordinary, for instance the massive front flip to crash matts by Jaydn Clark in my After Dark video, but don’t then deny the fact you faked it when you get called out.
‘By creating a clear space for your athlete to move in you are minimising the chances of a passer by getting in the way and getting themselves and your athlete injured.’
Don’t cross the line!!!
This is another toilet seat one… in fact if you break this one I will actually just remove the bolts all together so that every time you try and lift or sit on that thing its going to skid all over the place and end up falling off the bowl!
I’m going to explain a scenario I see far too often in freerunning videos that breaks my heart into a million pieces every time I see it.
The athlete is running towards a jump. It’s being filmed from the side so that he is running from the left side of the screen towards the right. This jump is the mother of all jumps. Is he actually about to jump this?! Holy shit he is! Just as he is about to take off, the video cuts to another angle of the jump and suddenly the athlete is in the air jumping from right to left?! What the hell just happened?!
Before you can really think, the video has moved on to the next scene and you’re left confused. You know the athlete made the massive jump, you want to be happy about it, but that confusion you had when the second camera angle crossed the line was enough to detract from the overall impression of what should have been an awesome jump.
If you still don’t understand what the line or the 180 rule is, hopefully the image above will help you understand. Draw an imaginary line perpendicular to the direction your camera is pointing and then do not cross it. You can even shoot down the line, just. But do not cross it. This is one of those rules of film making that you basically do not break. Very occasionally it can be used to great effect, but when it comes to freerunning videos just do not do it or you will end up on your bathroom floor.
This is another huge benefit of shooting multiple camera angles, especially ones with movement in them. By using these you can move where the line lies. The 180 rule only applies to the shot before the current one. For example.
You are filming a static angle of an athlete running left to right. You cut to a fast moving glidecam angle that moves from this left to right viewpoint in front of the athlete and round to the opposite side to show the athlete running right to left. Now you can cut to another static angle of the athlete running right to left without confusing the viewer. Without the glidecam shot in the middle you would be unable to mix those two static shots without breaking the line.
Know what frame rates you are shooting.
This is a short one but its pretty important. Unless you are Sacha Powell your use of Twixtor probably looks terrible. Most cameras these days have the ability to shoot up to 60fps, a lot of them higher. If you want to be using slowmo in your edit, make sure you are shooting at a frame rate you can slow down. Simple!
Clear the frame.
If you are just out shooting some random training with your friends with no real focus on making a proper video then clearing the frame isn’t really necessary but generally its a pretty good thing to do.
Firstly, it makes your shots look so much nicer! A nice clean shot with just one athlete as the focus is so much more appealing that a shot crowded full of random pedestrians and other people training.
Secondly, its safer. By creating a clear space for your athlete to move in you are minimising the chances of a passer by getting in the way and getting themselves and your athlete injured. It does have its downsides in the sense that you can sometimes get a small crowd gathering to watch once they see cameras and an area getting cleared but I would take that over someone getting landed on any day!
Capture your environment.
Not everything you film has to be freerunning and it might not be everyday you film at these locations! If you are somewhere cool with interesting culture then shoot it. Varied content in a freerunning video adds so much more depth than just constant action!
‘Always overshoot because its very likely some of the stuff you shot simply will not work in your edit.’
Are you recording audio?
This is really a question that you need to ask yourself before going into every shoot and I will explain why.
Obviously your average DSLR and the majority of video cameras record audio while they film and this is great as it means, if you need it, you already have the ambient noise of the movement you are capturing. Its also incredibly useful for capturing the audio of interesting interactions with the public or members of the public without pointing a camera in their face.
But the reason you need to give it a bit of thought as to whether you want to be using the audio in the edit is because your ambient noise may be picking up stuff you would rather not hear, traffic, passers by or your friends messing around behind camera.
The use of sound in an edit can have incredible effect so if you want to capture it and use it properly, plan it out and make sure you minimise background noise as much as possible.
Shoot more than you need.
Another short one to finish this blog off. No-one likes getting into an edit to realise they are going to have to overuse the slowmo and throw in some outtakes just to fill the song they really wanted to use. Always overshoot because its very likely some of the stuff you shot simply will not work in your edit. Also listen to the song you plan to use, imagine what kind of filler footage would work and shoot that as well. You don’t want to overdo the filler but it can be a nice break from constant freerunning.
Well, That concludes what I have to say regarding all my tips for filming your videos! Hopefully you have found it educational and I haven’t missed too much out!
In my next blog of this series I will be covering Part 3 – Editing!
Giles Campbell Longley
The Motus Projects
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