The many aspects of filmmaking can’t all be expressed in a short article, but here are a few helpful tips to get you on your way:

PREPARATION


Like everything else at summer camp, one of the most important things for a successful project is preparation. Preparation and proper planning will help you run a smooth and efficient production. Figuring out what you want to shoot beforehand will save you the worry of it during production and allow you to focus on how to shoot it.

Sit down alone or with the members of your team and brainstorm exactly what you want to shoot. What kind of video are you making? What do you want to say? It’s helpful during this time to come up with an outline for your video. Just as you wouldn’t teach an activity without a curriculum or put on an evening program without a plan, you shouldn’t shoot any footage without having a specific script for your video. Whether you use a basic outline, a detailed script, or illustrated storyboards, this is the blueprint for your final product. Remember, there’s no one specific correct way to create your video’s blueprint. Whichever works best for you.

If you’re working with a team, this is the time to assign positions for everyone involved. At it is at camp, a crew functions best when everyone knows their specific responsibilities. Who will corral campers and staff? Who will run the camera? Remember filmmaking is a collaborative effort. Doing everything by yourself will not only lose you useful input from others but it may also lead to a nervous breakdown when you try to do everything on your own.

You’re ready to start shooting, so here are some basic filming tips.

SHOT LIST

It is always advisable to make a list of all the shots you need. This list is obtained by looking at your outline or script. Most film or video projects are shot out of order to maximize light and locations.

The best method is to shoot your exteriors (outside) shots first, starting in the morning so you can get as much light as possible (do the opposite if you are doing night shoots).

If you have three different scenes that need to be shot in one place, “shoot out” the location by doing all of them at that time and then move to the next one.

SLATE

The stereotype of a movie shoot always starts with a guy with a clapboard in front of the camera. This practice is actually very useful and will help you later during the editing process. Using your own version of a clapboard – such as a piece of paper or a small dry erase board – write which tape or memory card you are using, what scene number it is and what take number. Remember to take notes about which takes you liked. If the second time was better than the fourth, make a note that it was your favorite take (these are called CIRCLE takes). Using this basic organizational method will help your editing go a lot smoother.

WHITE BALANCE

Regardless of your camera type, always make sure you WHITE BALANCE before you begin shooting.

There are two different types of light: Sunlight and man-made light. Without getting too technical, the color temperature outside in natural daylight falls around the 5,600k (kelvin) spectrum whereas man-made light is in the 3,600k spectrum. You may have observed this yourself looking at exterior footage with a blue tint, or interior footage with an orange tint.
 
The key is to white balance your camera when you start shooting and every time you move from indoor to outdoor or vice versa, or if you move between two indoor locations with different light setups. Some cameras have an automatic white balance, while others do not. Refer to your camera’s instructions to find out for sure.

White balancing on most cameras is simple enough: hold up a white sheet of paper in front of the lens, make sure it fills the frame, and then push the white balance button to set it.

COMPOSITION

Shot composition is a self-explanatory term; how you compose the elements of each of your shots. If you want a person speaking in the foreground of your shot while there is a waterfall behind them you have to make sure that you can see them both in the frame. Adjust accordingly to get the desired look.

Your original script or outline will help you determine what you need for each shot. Are you creating a piece about your returning staff for this summer? Then you probably want to get close ups so their faces can be seen easily. Are you showing campers the new cabin that’s been built? In this case you’ll need a wide shot, showing the entirety of the cabin and its surroundings. Keeping your video’s purpose in mind will assist you as you compose your shots.

LIGHTING

One of the easiest things about shooting videos at camp is access to one of the cameraman’s best friends: the sun. While sunlight is great for shooting your video, keep a couple tips in mind.

If you are outdoors and want a shot of someone talking to the camera or interacting with another person on camera, make sure the sun is behind you. Not only is the sun a star, it acts like one if you get it in frame, and it will drown out your other performers.

When shooting, observe where the sun’s rays fall and place your subjects so that they can receive even light. It is also helpful to have them tilt their heads up slightly to avoid shadows on their faces. Another way to combat this is to build a bounce card. Take a piece of cardboard a few feet long and wide and tape some aluminum foil onto it so it is nice and tight and doesn’t flop around. Then use it as a reflector to get light in the faces of the actors. This will help eliminate shadows and keep everyone looking good for the camera.

When lighting indoors, make sure the room that is well lit and remember to always check the eyepiece of your camera or the LCD screen. With most modern digital cameras, what you see is what you get. If it looks bad in either of those, odds are it will look bad when you play it back.

AUDIO

Last but certainly not least is audio. You might have some beautiful footage, but it won’t make any difference if you can’t hear or understand anything being said because of a loud generator or screaming kids in the background.

Try to shoot in areas that are quiet. Make sure your performers project their voices so the camera can pick them up and so that your viewers can hear you. At the same time, be aware of loud noises causing audio clipping. Clipping occurs when sounds are so loud the camera microphone shuts down so it doesn’t blow out. Have you ever heard looked at footage with a lot of wind blowing and the audio goes on and off? That’s clipping.

PRACTICE

Like everything else at camp, you will only get better with practice. Take time to go out and experiment with the camera. Shoot a few short pieces until you feel comfortable enough to move on to the next level. Even if you’re not the next Spielberg, you’ll have a lot of fun!

Article courtesy of Summergy Media, the camp industry's leading production company specializing in promotional videos for summer camps.

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