One of my current clients is a top education consultant who gives conferences all over the US. Testimonials from these conferences are most valuable when the participants are fresh from the event and eager to share their experiences. Of course, it's not always practical for me to travel with her to every conference, so I came up with some tips to help her record quality video testimonials on her own – and you can, too!
You might think you need an expensive camera to get great footage, but testimonials can be filmed with any kind of camera. Even an iphone or an ipad can produce excellent footage if a few simple guidelines are followed.
1. Find a quiet place. In-camera microphones are notoriously bad, and excess noise of people talking, furniture moving, silverware and plates, etc. can ruin your audio completely. If you hear clinking plates or squeaking chairs, pause the recording and move to a quieter location.
2. Stand close to your subject. In-camera microphones are notoriously bad, so standing close to your subject will help get clearer audio.
3. Make sure there is light on the participant's face. If there's a window nearby, have them face the window or position them at a 3/4 angle so their face is illuminated. An illuminated face shows expression which can convey far more than words ever can. Avoid filming your subject with their back to the window, the camera will get confused and you'll end up with a dark silhouette. Likewise, avoid direct overhead lighting and harsh shadows.
3. Stabilize the camera by holding it with two hands, with your elbows pressed against your body. Leaning against a wall will provide additional stabilization.
4. Tell them to rephrase the question in their answer, and be silent as the participant gives the testimonial.
Q -- What did you think of the presentation?
Answer -- "I thought the presentation was absolutely amazing!"
Q -- Would you recommend this conference to others?
Answer -- "I would absolutely recommend this conference to everyone I know!"
5. Get it twice! If you don't get the answer you want, if the camera wobbles or there's excessive noise or two people speaking at once, it's fine to ask the participant to give the testimonial again.
6. Bonus Tip! When filming a conference or lecture, turn the camera around to capture the audience response. Aim to capture applause, laughter, smiling and nodding - a happy, engaged audience will do wonders for your testimonial!
Were these tips helpful? Let us know! Or add your own tips in the comments.
Last night I had the pleasure of filming the opening celebration at Miami Country Day School's new Center for the Arts. I was honored to learn that our fundraising video was instrumental in helping raise 16.5M to build the center.
This incredible building contains enormous state of the art classrooms for music, photography, visual and performing arts - and a beautiful theater. Several alumnae from the school performed, including opera singer Sandra Hamaoui.
This was such a fun shoot because so many things went right: the lighting and sound in the theater, the performer's dramatic costume, and her stunning performance. I filmed with a 70-200 zoom lens from a choice vantage point from the front of the stage. The opera had 4 movements, which allowed me a few times to practice that zoom at the end.
This is how exceptional video happens!
Yesterday's Google doodle of Mary Pickford really resonated with me.
Mary Pickford was a silent film actress who co-founded the United Artists film studio. She was also a writer and film producer, and a skillful negotiator.
It's rare enough to see a woman behind a camera, but the cat on her shoulder, the luminous blue background and the low afternoon light on her face takes it over the top! I can't seem to find an artist credit for this wonderful image, but bravo to whoever made this.
When light fragments into a gauzy spray, it's called bloom. Usually this effect is achieved with a diffusion filter and very bright light. No such filter was used in this photo, and the light was pretty subdued. So I have no idea how the bloom on the edges of this orchid came to be. All I know is that I really like the way it looks.
Why is this flower just as engaging from behind as it is from the front? The answer is in the illumination. An unconventional angle or subject can make a wonderful photograph when the light brings the subject to life.
This concept can be difficult for beginning photographers to grasp. We see a lovely photo of a flower, and we assume it's the flower that's gorgeous at any time of day, and that a great photo can be achieved just by pointing our camera at the flower and pressing the button.
The secret to good photography - also the foundation of good cinematography - is not the subject, but the way the subject is illuminated. Good light can mean any number of things - gentle morning sunlight, diffuse light from behind clouds, or hard summer light bounced from a wall. But it's crucial to understand that the subject alone should not warrant the photographer to snap the image.
This is why devoted photographers tend to drop whatever they're doing and run to take a photo on the spur of the moment. Lighting is always changing, and we want to capture the magic moment when the illumination is perfect. In 30 seconds or even 10 seconds, the sun might disappear behind a cloud, or become too strong. The trick is to be ready in the moment. (The other part of the trick is to be very familiar with your camera's settings! More on that later. . .)
Here's a video I filmed and edited over 3 days. The aquatic performers were swimming at the historic Wreck Bar at the B Hotel on Fort Lauderdale beach. I wanted to facilitate the illusion that the swimmers are somewhere deep in the ocean – or deep in the subconscious – so I cropped out the bar as much as possible and went for tight close-ups of the performers.
This swimshow was one of the most enjoyable subjects I've filmed. It was a delight working with rehearsed performers who knew how to position their bodies for the camera, and use their faces and hands to express femininity and allure. I was most impressed with the elaborate detail of the costumes, full of textures that reflected and scattered the light in a myriad of ways.
Water is an incredibly sensuous medium. It physically slows down movement, allowing the eye to see paths of motion that would ordinarily not be visible. A silk flower blooms before your eyes, and each strand of the swimmer's hair seems to be alive. Watching these already lugubrious movements filmed in slow motion is not only fascinating, but relaxing and hypnotic.
My inspiration for this came from videos of Jean-Baptiste Mondino, Bunny Yeager's photography, and a lifetime of watching shampoo commercials on TV.
If you're in the Fort Lauderdale area, I highly recommend checking out the MeduSirena Swim Show at the Wreck Bar. They swim on Friday and Saturday evenings.
By middle school I had already decided I wanted to spend my life making films. I couldn't wait until 8th grade so I could be an audio/visual aid. I would watch with fascination as they wheeled a cart into the classroom and set up the projector, threading filmstrip through the machine which hummed with a pleasing click-click-click in the darkened room. On the first day of 8th grade I breathlessly told the administrator to make Audio/Visual my elective. Her response: "Only boys can be AV aids. You'll have to pick something else." When I asked why, she told me that's just the way it's always been.
I came home that day deflated and unsatisfied with the administrator's vague reasoning. My mother suggested I collect signatures from students who agreed that girls should qualify to work a film projector, and present the petition to the administration. So I did exactly that, carrying a handwritten petition from class to class collecting signatures. I had no problem filling up the sheet. Boys and girls alike were more than happy to sign. Some grabbed the clipboard out of my hand and were adding their names before I could even finish asking. In one day I collected nearly 300 signatures, and became the first female Audio Visual aid at Bay Point Middle School.
There is no doubt that my early experience as a projectionist helped pave the way for having my own production company. It was that year spent working hands-on with the medium I loved which gave me the confidence to pursue a career in film, in spite of the difficulties I would face in a field which offered very little precedent for women operating cameras. Unfortunately, I had to endure many more episodes of gender-related harassment, discrimination and lost opportunities, most without the triumphant ending of this story.
And yet, I persevered, and it worked for me in the long run. Today, many of my clients are women who are more than happy to trust their vision to another female.
Female cinematographers are still very rare. Most of the images we see in movies, television, and still photography is filmed by men, from a male point of view. Men point their cameras at women, and other men, and tell us how the world should be perceived. What is inherently wrong with this isn't the male perspective, but the lack of a female one. Balance of gender influence is necessary for a civilized society.
I'm really getting into the photography and films of the French fashion photographer Jean-Baptiste Mondino, so I'd spend a few posts writing my impressions of his work.
This video for Chris Isaac's tune "You Owe Me Some Kind of Love", made in 1987, is seemingly very simple. There's no obvious narrative and nothing "happens". Yet the video never gets boring. Let's take a look at why.
Much of the pleasure of this video is achieved with the camera panning from left to right throughout the entire film, as various objects are slowly revealed, and then disappear. Musicians and a model are displayed through multiple image planes, and it's a careful concoction of camera movement, lighting, choreography and textures that holds your interest. Lush flowers pan across the foreground, revealing the model in a floral dress, on a floral sofa. A gold scrollwork rolls through the middle ground for no apparent purpose but to create textural interest. Silhouettes appear against a purple sunset backdrop. These objects are not randomly selected. Like a masterfully blended fragrance, there's no one element that sticks out over anything else, and your attention is gently drawn to a focal point - a pair of eyes or lips, Mr. Isaac's face or the body of his guitar. Objects are lit with flickering lights to create continuity between the textural elements. The camera pans across the back of Chris Isaac's head, taking advantage of his incredible profile (it's so nice, why not show it twice?) and this rotating motion is mirrored in the movement of the guitarist who appears next. These repeating motion effects are simple and pleasing. At nearly every point we have something new to look at, or a new way of looking at it.
There are some wonderful blogs that talk about cameras and gear, and this is not one of them. As much as I love shooting, I've never been a gear-head. I'd rather just get out there and film. But I'm about to make a profound change in the way I work (by way of a camera upgrade) and I think it's relevant to talk about why I have stuck with the same piece of equipment up to this point.
I film exclusively with a Canon EOS 7D, mounted on a fluid head, often with a monopod, and sometimes with a tripod. It's a great little machine – portable, rugged and discreet. It looks like the kind of thing you'd take snapshots with, and as a documentary cinematographer, this detail is invaluable. People are notorious for altering their behavior when they think they're being filmed, but the little 7D isn't particularly intimidating. Especially the way that I use it.
I love the look of the 7D. You can get a dreamy look with very little depth of field, and there is a "grain" to the image reminiscent of film.
Many years ago, in 2009, the 7D was Canon's most advanced camera, and one of the first with the capability to shoot video. This revolutionized digital film making, because it offered a video camera with manual controls and interchangeable lenses at a reasonable price. But a lot has changed since then. These days, the camera tends to get associated with entry-level videographers and less sophisticated productions. So I get some strange looks when people ask what I shoot on, and I tell them I use a 7D. I can see it in their faces. . . Why???
The answer is very simple. It's a great camera, and I'm very good at using it. There are plenty of video production companies that make it a point to have "state-of-the-art" cameras. But how many of them make it a point to learn how to conduct a more meaningful interview or craft a compelling story? It's not that hard to upgrade your camera, but being able to create powerful narratives requires skills that money can't buy. In fact, sticking to basic tools and learning to master them can be a highly effective way to foster creativity. 10,000 years ago, early humans painted the walls of caves using the most primitive and rudimentary materials. And yet the paintings are elegant and sublime, and still have the power to move us today.