We all know that video is a must-have storytelling tool. But with so many companies jumping on the bandwagon, how can you ensure your video will attract, captivate, and entertain viewers from from start to finish?
Every day, Alex Schmoll works towards solving this exact problem, using video techniques and tools that he’s accumulated over the past 20 years of working as a Producer/Director at Brick House Productions Inc., in London, Ontario, Canada. Brick House’s clients range from corporations and non-profits, to agricultural and munitions companies.
“Brick House is a small custom house, and we don’t churn out templates,” Alex says. “Everything we do is a carefully considered piece.”
To help you create the best video for your business – and your unique story – Alex offers the following tips:
Tip #1: Pre-Planning Creates the Foundation of Success
Although having fancy equipment may help you to create beautiful shots, the key to a well-crafted video is a plan.
“It’s all about pre-production and planning,” Alex says. “On the day when you’re shooting, whatever happens is what happens and you make the best of it. But, as much as possible, you have to go in with things planned out.”
Part of that plan is knowing what tricks and tools you have at your disposal, and using them accordingly.
“Over the years of being in this business, you kind of build a toolkit of techniques and equipment that you like to draw from in order to create the perfect video for your client,” he says. “The more dialogue you have with a client, the more able you are to choose the tools that will help you accomplish your vision.”
Here are some of the top techniques that Alex puts to work for his clients, and why.
Tip #2: Manipulating Time in Your Video to Enhance a Scene
Time manipulation may sound like it’s a term reserved for characters in Marvel’s Doctor Strange, but it’s actually a very useful technique that is both accessible and attention-grabbing.
That’s because being able to see a scene unfold at a different speed, even if it’s ordinary or mundane, (like a drop of water splashing down on a rock), creates the feeling of an ‘epic’ quality.
Here are some common techniques for bending ‘time’ in video.
“I love techniques that look at motion in depth,” Alex admits. “If you have a camera that’s capable of very high frame rates, it allows you to look at things in real time, in slow motion. For instance, people moving in a busy area, or even close-ups of the muscles of a horse running can be seen in a completely ‘new’ way. I love that kind of thing. It’s mesmerizing.”
In case slow motion wasn’t captivating enough, you can take your video down to even slower speeds, as long as your camera can handle it.
“You’d want to use a camera that has very high framing capability that can shoot at around 200 frames per second,” Alex says. “When you play it back as a normal file it’ll play in ultra slow motion. With clips created in this fashion, you can also do time-remapping to ramp it up or slow it down,” he adds. “It’s a cool effect that will draw attention to certain pieces in a shot and dramatically emphasize the action.”
“Time-lapse speeds things up in a way that allows you to draw attention to global patterns in everyday motions,” Alex says. “It’s very beautiful to look at.”
According to Alex, this technique has always been a popular tool to showcase the amazing process of progress at a pace that captivates: whether you’re an artist documenting the creation process of a day of painting, or a farmer showing the progression of working a field for a whole season.
“The process of capturing time-lapse video has progressed a long way from where it was 10 to 15 years ago. It used to be that the format was expensive, time-consuming and hard to monitor,” Alex says. “For instance, it required large canisters of film and a ‘set it and wait’ approach where all the photographer could do was to set up a shot and let the camera click away, hoping that it came together in the end.”
Thankfully, digital photography has helped to solve many of these issues.
“With the advent of digital photography, it’s more accessible now for a broader range of people to use. With as little as $400, you can purchase a camera that you can set to record your time-lapse…and for shorter time periods, you may even be able to use your phone.”
According to Alex, another technique people are using now is hyper-lapse.
“You can create hyper-lapse by moving the camera while you’re shooting a time-lapse,” Alex says. “Afterwards, you can use software to motion stabilize the movement. The result of which, is that you get this ‘moving camera’ effect, at the same time as the other time effect happening. This is an interesting technique to use, whether your subject at hand is a landscape or people moving through frames.”
Hyper Lapse Video Example, by Timelapse Media
Tip #3: Get a Smooth Shot with Professional or DIY Video Equipment
A smooth and steady shot is what separates the professional shots from the amateur, but luckily, you don’t need expensive equipment. You can create a great viewing experience, no matter your budget.
To nail those great shots, Alex offers the following recommendations for both professional equipment and DIY solutions.
“Drones have become a lot more popular and a lot more affordable,” says Alex. “Aerial photography offers a really interesting way to add perspective to what you’re shooting, whether it’s a group of people or a concert, or the view from over a field. It adds dynamism that’s exciting to watch.”
Dollies, Sliders and Roller Skates
“I also love to move the camera as much as possible when in a shot, whether that’s using a dolly or a slider – and sliders can be tabletop or tripod mounted. The goal for us is always to have ‘something’ to move the camera.”
“In certain situations, we’ve also made things that help us shoot. For instance, we’ve turned roller skates into makeshift dollies when we want to get a shot under something that’s very low.”
Jibbs, Gyro Stabilizers and Skateboards
“We have a couple of small jibbs, which are pieces of equipment that look like cranes. We love to raise them in a shot.”
“One of our guys, Darryl, who is my lead Post-Production Manager and Editor, is an excellent skateboarder so we have shots he’s done where he’s crouching low, whizzing by things so you get that ‘flying’ feeling.”
“Another tool that I like is a handheld rig that has a gyro stabilization for the camera. It absorbs the motion of your body as you’re walking with it, making it really helpful no matter what you’re shooting.”
See How Brick House Puts it All Together
If you want to see an example of many of these shots and effects in action, check out this link: http://bhcinematic.com/portfolio.html
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About Alex Schmoll, Producer/Director
Alex Schmoll is a Video Producer/Director, electronic music composer and a technology & media enthusiast. In addition to his work at Brick House Productions Inc., he is also the Director of the London Ontario Media Arts Association (LOMAA)
Visit Brick House Productions Inc. to see more amazing client work.