How To Shoot Great Video

Lesson Details

Subject: Shooting

Title: How To Shoot Great Video


How To Shoot Great Video

In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell makes the point that if you do anything for 10,000 hours, you can become a world class expert.

Practice the piano for 10,000 hours and you can become a world class concert pianist

Practice tennis for 10,000 hours and you may not win Wimbledon, but you can become a world class tennis player

Play chess for 10,000 hours, and you may not become a Grand Master, by you will become an extremely accomplished chess player

Becuse we spend so much time watching TV, movies and videos, by the time you reach the age of 21, you have already spent an astonishing 30,000 hours watching video, TV and movies. So, you are already a world class expert in video and filmmaking - you just were never aware of it.

In this lesson, we are going to teach you how to tap into that inner knowledge that you already have. You already know what a video or film is supposed to look like.  Now, all you have to do is use that vast reservoir of knowledge and learn to apply it every time you go out to film something.

How To Get Started

In this series of lessons, we are going to teach you how to shoot for the cut. That is, to just shoot the video that you need to produce the story you want to tell.

Old time camermen and women and videogrpahers will tell you to 'shoot everything' to make sure you don't 'miss anything'. 

This doesn't work.

And it makes for a mess.

You will end up coming back with a big pile of footage that you will spend hours if not weeks going through.

From now on, you are only going to shoot exactly what you need to tell the story you want to tell - and nothing more.

In a word, I want you to shoot almost nothing.

But we want what you do shoot to be perfect.

Industry standard is a shooting ratio of 20:1. That is, you shoot 20 minutes for every mintue that makes air or the final cut.

What that means is that you are throwing away 95% of your work

This is a waste of time, effort and money.

It also makes life very confusing when you go go edit

We are going to strive for a 3:1 shooting ratio or lower

To do this, you will have to learn to think before you shoot.

Something almost no one ever does



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Before you start shooting any story, I need you to think about what it is you want to get in the end. I know that seems a little strange, in conventional television, we go in, we see something, we start shooting right away. We accumulate tons and tons and tons of stuff and then we come back in the edit room. We screen it all and we put it together. When I was starting in this business at CBS at the network, they used say ‘shoot a lot to give the editor choices’ Actually this makes no sense whatsoever because you are the editor. So, we’re going to learn to shoot in a very minimalist way. This is contrary to everything you’ve probably thought about in terms of filmmaking or television or video before. But I want you to shoot almost for the piece that we’re going to make and this requires some thinking and some discipline.

This is not that unusual in a creative world. If you were a writer and probably many of you have been writers or you have tried to be writers and somebody said to you ‘I need you to write 250 words on something, you wouldn’t write 10,000 words spread them all out on your table and go ‘I know it’s in here somewhere, just let me find it’. Take a sentence from here, and a sentence from here, and a sentence from here and slam them all together.

Now those of you who have worked professionally in television before, you’ll understand right away that that’s the way the industry has always worked which is actually a crazy way to work. It’s time-consuming but more than that, it’s destructive to your ability to really focus on what makes a great piece. This notion of accumulating tons and tons and tons of stuff. So instead, we are going to simply going to change the process entirely. And the first thing I’m going to teach you how to do is to understand what it is you need to shoot before we even talk about how you’re going to shoot it.

Now, how do you know what it is that you need? The funny thing is, you know it already. You just don’t know that you know it. So, when you’ve gone through this process enough times, you’re going to be able to walk into any shooting situation and look around and go ‘I need that, I need that, I don’t need that, I don’t need that, I need that, I don’t need that, I need that, I need a sound bite.’

And from those elements alone, we’re going to put together a very perfect piece. People who’ve been working with my system for a long time, People who’ve been working me for twenty years or more actually shoot almost one-to-one ratio which is almost incompressible in the business, but for us that’s a normal way of working. You can understand it if you drive your ratios down so low, it saves you time it saves you cost. And more than that, it buys you the time to think about the story that you want to do. Television and video are a minimalist business.

They’re a minimalist business because at the end of the day, you may make a minute or two minutes out of a day’s work. But that minute or two minutes is the only thing that your viewer, or your audience is going to see. Even if you’re making an hour film or an hour documentary, you may spend a year making that hour documentary. That’s thousands and thousands of hours, but at the end of the day, the only thing the viewer gets to see is that one hour, so it’s that one hour, that one minute, that two minutes that we’re going to focus on. And there’s a very specific way to do it and that’s what I’m going to show you how to do.

© Michael Rosenblum & Lisa Lambden 2015 to 2020