Right before the start of spring semester, I was charged with creating a short instructional film that succinctly explained our COVID safety guidelines to students. This was my first time doing a multi-scene film shoot where I was both the filmmaker and the one being filmed. I shot the entire video solo (although my son held my laptop as a teleprompter). I wanted to record (pun intended) and share what I learned.
The Final Project
Gear I Used
- Camera: Sony A6000 mirrorless camera
- Manual mode, Wide Metering, Custom white balance, Wide Focus
- Lens: Sony 35 1.8 . Used to shoot the talking head shots
- Lens: Sony 16-50 : Used to shoot a wider angle shot with me sitting in a study area (1:13), also me at the book pickup location (2:21)
- Audio: Lavalier Mic plugged into my Android phone with Recording App
- Laptop: Used PowerPoint as a teleprompter
- Video Editor: Hitfilm Express (free or very low cost)
- This free video editor is a great tool. It allows you to automatically sync audio from two separate sources.
Gear that would have been nice to have
- A few of the shots indoors would have benefited from video lighting, rather than just relying on the available light. Our 2nd floor of the library is quite poorly lit. Lights would have made it much easier to match exposure and white balance across all of the inside clips.
- White balance card
- I used a piece of white paper to set my custom white balance with each shot. I’ve since purchased a white balance card set.
- An external monitor
- Having an external monitor to frame, setup and review shots would have helped me identify areas to improve the shot.
What I learned
I learn something new with each project. Here’s what I picked up this time around.
Working with a short deadline
I was given the assignment on Monday, had a script and shot list ready by Tuesday, and filmed and edited on Wednesday. The video was posted to YouTube on Friday, which was my deadline for inclusion in a news story that would be emailed to all students in the campus newsletter. If I had more time, I would have returned to reshoot a few of the clips.
The outside shots at the beginning of the video were bit overexposed. I shot this sequence around 9:30, and this was actually the first sunny morning in many days. If I had filmed the outside shots closer to 7:30 or 8 while the sun was lower, or if it had been a bit more cloudy (as it had for the past week) the exposure would have been a bit easier to get right. In the spring or fall, the leaves from the nearby trees would have helped to diffuse the light as well.
In addition to the outside shots described above, I was also not happy with the shot in the book stacks. I was facing a window, which was ideal, but the shot was still very much over exposed. The cause of this did not seem obvious at the time, but I realized when editing the video what I did wrong. When framing my shots, I had my son stand in for me to frame the shot and set exposure. He was wearing a very dark blue shirt. I wore a light blue shirt. Setting the exposure using him in the frame caused me to be overexposed during the actual recording. Next time we’ll wear similar colors, and I will shoot multiple takes.
I also set the camera light metering to “wide.” While this worked okay for most of my shots, the outside and book stacks shots were overexposed. Next time I will use center-weighted metering for the shots where I am in center of the frame.
Staying in focus
For the shot in front of the book self-pickup area (2:12) I used the Sony 16-50 kit lens as I needed a wider angle for the shot. Unfortunately, the lens decided to focus on the book shelves behind me and the sign to my left, resulting in me being a little fuzzy and out of focus. It’s not bad, but still noticeable. Next time I will set the focal point manually, though this is challenging to do when you are filming yourself.
The Final Take(away)
Unfortunately the video never made it into the all-student email newsletter. The video is posted on our “safe study” page on our website, and has been viewed about 70 times so far. Nevertheless, I learned from the project and got to practice my filmmaking skills. As a matter of fact, I applied what I learned just last week, where I had the opportunity to film a colleague. Learning from prior successes and failures helps to make future projects better. It’s also a lot easier to film someone else!