Flip Cam Tips: How to Shoot

1) In most cases – unless you’re recording a meeting or event — limit the length of your shots. If you just keep the camera rolling all the time, you’ll have one long piece to download and go through. Keeping a shot down to 1:30 minutes or briefer will mean for easier downloading and tighter edits. As you’re shooting, look for a moment that seems like a natural stopping point. Cutting the clip off at the right time helps in the editing process.

2) Avoid unnecessary and fast pan shots. Instead, stay with an image and let the action move through the scene you are taping. When panning a scene, hold the camera steady and move it very slowly. Keep the subject in focus. In all cases, keep the camera steady as much as possible and avoid jerky movements. Bracing your elbow with your non-shooting hand, or keeping your “shooting elbow” close to your body, can help steady the camera. A tripod, sold separately, can also keep the camera stationary. I recommend buying a tripod.

3) Avoid using the zoom feature unless necessary. The digital zoom will result in loss of image resolution. Though magnified, the image has less quality than what you would get from a camera with an optical telephoto zoom. Instead of zooming, stay at the wide part of the lens and move your whole body closer to the subject. This will also make the image more stable.

4) In an interview setting, be as close to the person as possible for the camera microphone to sound good. This means you do not use the zoom on the camera but you hold the camera and stand close to the interviewee for the recording. This also helps in situations where you just want to record audio (you can import the audio only into Avid from the flip cam video). If you have a tripod, you’ll have a much easier time with interviews. Your arm won’t get sore and your images will be steady.

5) Adjust for ambient noise. Make sure the sound around you is not distracting. In particular, try to stay away from or minimize your exposure to street noise or lots of talking. If you cannot get away from intrusive background sound, then make sure to include the source of noise in the shot behind your interviewee. That way, the image explains where the extra noise is coming from.This makes the distraction more acceptable to the viewer.

6) Avoid high-contrast scenes as much as possible. Dark shadows will go black in the transfer,and shadows across someone’s face will not transfer well. Try to put your interview subject in even light so their face is in an even light level throughout. Also avoid backgrounds behind the subject that are too bright or too dark, since this will increase the image contrast and make the image hard to see on the Web. If you are inside a building, try to avoid bright walls behind a dark-skinned person when doing interviews or b-roll. The contrast could be too extreme. Also avoid the fluorescent flicker of lights on the wall behind someone, particularly overseas, where the electrical power is a different voltage and produces a light flicker with cameras set for United States electrical current settings.

7) Always carry extra AA batteries!


About Lisa Phillips

I am an assistant professor of journalism at SUNY New Paltz and the author of Unrequited: Women and Romantic Obsession (HarperCollins, 2015) and Public Radio: Behind the Voices.
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