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How to Start to Shoot a Video: 10 Tips for Novice Filmmakers

To try yourself in the world of video, you need more than a camera and a microphone. Today we will talk about the basic principles of framing, lighting, and other aspects of a good movie. To learn how to professionally shoot video, you do not have to go to the Institute of Cinematography. You can easily find many short-term courses on the Internet where you can be taught how to shoot video, but thousands of successful video bloggers do not have specialized education.

Now you can try yourself in the role of a videographer, armed with the cheapest smartphone with an acceptable camera: you need to at least outline the basic principles of shooting.

Creating a video starts with an idea

First of all, ask yourself a question, what to shoot in a video? What are you going to do?

The most essential step of any shooting process is coming up with an idea, around which your future video will be built around.

No matter what type of a video you plan on shooting, no matter how long it is, and how much money you plan on spending on it, you cannot just get all your equipment and crew and drive to a location with the idea that you will come up with something on the fly.

The better understanding of your idea you have in your mind, the easier it will be for you to formulate it, to translate it to your crew, and there will be less confusion during the shooting process.

Turning ideas into a script

To turn an idea into a script, you have to have a lot of experience and knowledge. The more knowledge and experience you have, the easier it will be for you to translate your idea into something tangible by using that knowledge, by using all the tricks you’ve learned on the way.

Maintain the spark that ignites in your head when you start writing a screenplay. It is important to use this moment to the fullest, write everything that pops into your head, and make the most out of this spark.

Draw sketches, diagrams, create lists, do everything that you want and need to translate the idea that is in your head into something tangible.

Now it is time to shoot the video!

Shooting a video: 3 steps for beginners

How do you shoot videos? Here are the three main steps of shooting a video that you need to know.

Pre-production

How to start shooting a video? First comes pre-production. The pre-production stage of a video shooting (preparation for filming) includes: project management, writing the director’s script, storyboard, and animatics, castings, selection of the filming location, props, etc.

The director’s script is a summary table for all frames with parameters and mandatory elements (sound, props in the frame, actor, plan size, etc.), worked out by the director and cameraman.

Storyboard and animatic - sketches of a video in the form of a sequence of frames are displayed with a preliminary sound to gain an understanding of the required frame duration (designer, director, and cameraman are involved).

Project management - coordination of the entire film crew and customer representatives (this can be a manager involved in the entire project, its terms, revisions, etc.).

Selection of locations - search for filming locations, inspection and photographing of objects (apartments, pavilions, natural and urban locations), assessment of capacities for connecting high-voltage devices, arrangements for use (scouts and project managers are involved in this process).

Castings - ads, searching for people, scheduling test shoots, recording them on video, approval with the client.

Props - search, purchase, or rental, making all the necessary arrangements with shops, delivery of all of the equipment to the location.

Production

The production stage of video filming (shooting) includes the work of the film crew and the production of video material.

Participants: director, cameraman, lighting, assistants, post-production representative (video designer), project manager, sound on the stage, make-up artists, dressers, etc.

Usually, a video production company, a shift begins in the morning and takes up all the daylight hours. In the first half of the day, a stage is prepared (the place of shooting), the light is set up, and the props, the scenery, the actors are preparing for the shooting. After that, each scene is filmed in a storyboard in turn. Also, the shooting of backstage photos and videos can take place during this phase (you can then use it to publish videos about your shooting process and your teamwork).

Post-production

Post-production - work with the material after filming. It includes rough cut, rough sound, final cut, filtering, processing, color correction, 2D and 3D graphics, final sound.

Now let’s look into some video shooting basics that you need to know.

10 tips for newbie filmmakers

There are films that you watch once and forget about them completely afterward. And there are such films that have been talked about for years. Those works that are revisited by viewers and pass through generations. The ability to create a real masterpiece is not contained in the basic set of abilities given to us from birth; it comes with the years and great experience. And, of course, knowledge. Thus, if you are just a newbie in the art of filmmaking – here are some of the most important tips on video shooting that you have to keep in mind to become a great filmmaker.

1. Create a close-knit team

99.9% of the success of the final product depends on teamwork. Cinema is a collective art. When I took the first steps, I still did not understand how important it is to tell another person about the picture that I have in my head. A whole team is working on the movie - everything invented cannot be realized by the director alone. We need actors, a camera crew, sound engineers, and so on. Working as a team seems simple, but it's really hard work. You need to understand how to communicate with people on the site, how to communicate so that you are correctly understood and heard.

2. Practice more

How to shoot a video and get better with time? Only practice will help you reveal yourself in directing. You need to shoot something all the time, help someone on the set, try different techniques, and do something non-stop. Every day, you need to learn something new. This process never ends. This also applies to technology (the release of new cameras, optics, a leap in shooting, and video display capabilities), and creativity. It’s nice to remind yourself sometimes that you are not a genius. It is very important to maintain the ability to reflect. This is difficult because some works can be reviewed only sometime after release to take a critical look at the bigger picture.

3. Do not limit yourself only to directing

How to shoot a video and assure great teamwork in your crew? A director is a man at the helm who tells everyone where to move. To understand where to move, you need to know who does what and how everything works. I would advise you to be able to do everything from editing, ending with sound and color, and working with the camera. If you don’t know how to be a good videographer, then how can you control their work? For a beginner, the most important thing is to try yourself and immerse yourself in the process as much as possible, and if you want to immerse yourself in the process, you must understand all the stages of creating a video product.

4. Be flexible

Sometimes, in the course of action, it becomes clear that the initial idea is not as good as it seemed. Be flexible enough to change course or tweak an existing idea. Do not be afraid to change the script if it seems to you that it is not good enough.

5. Watch as many movies and videos as possible

You must always be in the know. Analyze the work of others and learn from their mistakes, if any, or strive for a higher level at which the other director is.

6. Combine genres

When a genius shoots a video, you can see how many genres and ideas blend into one. When we talk about filming videos and mention geniuses, the first name that comes to mind is Quentin Tarantino. He has his style, yet he always finds new ways to come up with something new. Most of Tarantino’s films are about violence, but they are all different! It doesn’t occur to you to go to the guys from Metallica and ask them to make the music quieter. You have to be creative with what you do. There will be parallels in your works, it is natural, but you have to try different things, combine genres, do something creative, but only if it is what you want to do. Don’t try to experiment just for the sake of it.

7. Don't be afraid of mistakes

Be prepared that at some point, all the accusations will fall on you. It is you who is responsible for all the actions and events that occur during the shooting of the film. And, you know, the worst thing you can hear is: “Ah, did you make that movie? It sucks." And you just have to agree with this person because you did not do a great job at directing the work of the operator, technicians, gaffers, and everyone else who was on the set. Mistakes are invaluable lessons that we should not be afraid of. Act without fear; everyone tends to make mistakes. Try something new, evolve, and improve your skills. And learn to admit your mistakes; otherwise, what's the use of them?

8. Keep the balance between trends and classic

If you want to increase the popularity and success of the final product, then shoot videos on popular topics. No need to copy other people's ideas. Add your highlight so that the viewer draws attention to you, remembers, and comes back for more. But don’t forget about the classics, when everyone follows a certain trend – all of the content becomes indistinguishable from one another.

9. Do not postpone the shooting of important scenes, shoot here and now

How to shoot a professional video? With a tight schedule, the scenes that were shot last turn out to be the most compromised – sometimes, there simply isn’t enough time to shoot a large number of takes. Therefore, the shooting day is best to end with short or passing scenes that are not so important and which can be quickly re-shot in case of failure. 

10. Make sense

The best thing you can do is give at least some sense to something in the overall picture of the meaninglessness of our life. The worst thing about the universe is not that it is hostile but that it is indifferent. And it makes you give up. Bring meaning into your work, and it will help you to find purposefulness not only for yourself but also for your audience.

While shooting video is simple, being a great filmmaker is hard. Some spend all their lives trying to get the recognition that they want, but they always fall flat on their face. But it is not about how many times you fall; it is about what you get out of these failures, what lessons do you make, and what new knowledge you make out of your mistakes.