Let’s get technical for Website Video Production – camera, lights & sound
September 17th, 2013
Please note: This article is directed toward those with little or no professional video experience, who may be looking to produce a video or film and wish to appreciate some of the technical considerations that go into such an undertaking. There is no way to come up with a wholly comprehensive analysis of all video options available, especially when considering the ever increasing range of video and film cameras on the market. We also wish to make it absolutely clear from the outset that this article is biased toward our own website video production experience. Should your experience diverge from ours or should you wish to express a differing viewpoint borne out of your own production knowledge, we would be more than happy to hear from you.
Your choice of camera should be dictated by three considerations: the video-style you are looking to achieve, the resolution quality, and your budget:
By this we mean the look and feel of the finished product. Are you looking to recreate a film-look, with a shallow depth of field and wider range of grayscale? Or do you want a more standard video look to your end-product? Your decision will not only dictate the kind of the camera you wish to use, but also the lenses that you may need to hire in to do the job. And even if you wish to achieve a realistic look, such as filming for an event, what is the maximum zoom on the camera you have in mind, and will it be sufficient to give you the ideal framing if positioned at the back of the auditorium? Perhaps you will require a longer lens than the standard zoom lens that ordinarily comes with that HD camera.
Setting to one side such niche items as 3D camcorders and POV cameras, video cameras on the market today broadly fall into one of the following four categories: cheap DV camera, DSLR camera, full feature HD camera, and large format sensor cine camera. While it is true that you should only pay for a resolution quality that you will be able to perceive in the final output quality of your video, at Ceres Productions we generally recommend that you film in high definition so as to future-proof the quality of your production. The cost-difference between a DV camera and HD camera is relatively minor compared to the value of retaining high quality footage that will stand you in good stead for the foreseeable future.
Clearly there is a cost-difference between a DV camera and one with a Super35mm CMOS sensor, but that’s not all you have to take into account. As mentioned above, does your production require other lenses and camera accessories? Will you be recording in-camera, or will you be recording at a higher format on an external recorder? What it all boils down to is how much you are prepared to pay and what are the most cost-effective options available to you in order to achieve your desired outcome.
Video production is generally perceived to be and appreciated as a visual medium, sometimes so much so that we forget about that other all-important aspect: recording good quality sound. Nothing can destroy a well-crafted video as much as bad sound design, and it all begins at the point of recording that video. Never rely on the onboard camera microphone to capture your sound!
When recording someone speaking directly to camera, a lapel microphone (attached to the speaker and pointing downward so as to not ‘pop’) is best. But it is always advisable to split the channels on the camera- if that is where you are recording your sound – and to have a good quality shotgun microphone recording on the other channel, to be mixed in later to help achieve a better room tone, if required.
If you do plan to record your audio separately, please do ensure you have a clapperboard to help sync the audio and video rushes later, or worst-case record audio on-camera as well, to use as reference material for later syncing the sound. However, this can cause problems for the editor if you end up shooting a lot of takes.
Regardless of what you’re shooting, ensure that the sound recording is monitored at all times to ensure it is coming through at a good level, with vocals hitting around -12dB but never peaking. Also recording what is commonly called a ‘wild-track’ or room tone is highly recommended.
There is a gamut of lighting options available to the budding videographer, from hard lights to soft lights, fluorescents to LEDs. The important thing is to not only have sufficient lighting but to have the correct form of lighting, too.
You need to know at what colour temperature you will be filming and know that you have the right lamps to match that colour temperature. So if you’re filming outdoors, ensure you have HMIs with daylight bulbs and if you’re filming indoors then ensure you’re using tungsten lighting. You can mix colour temperatures and balance in-camera or colour balance the lamps using CTO or CTB gels, but this is not as easy as it sounds and you’re liable to either come out with an unsatisfactory colour balance or find that you’ve lost too many stops of light from the placement of those gels. This is particularly true if you’re filming outdoors and are trying to colour balance tungsten lamps with CTB gels.
If you’re short on time (and lights) then using a soft light is a quick and easy way to achieve a good spread of light with a minimum of fuss. The downside is it doesn’t allow for much in the way of controlled lighting. For this you need hard lights, perhaps with some diffusion, that you are able to spot or flood.
Also useful is to have a set of dimmers on hands, allowing for easier control over the strength of the light source.
Finally, don’t forget the all important gaffer tape, but ensure it’s the more expensive soft-stick kind. You want to tape your cables down, not only for neatness but also for safety. But you don’t want to ruin your location, or the cables, while doing so.