Flip Cam Tips: What to Shoot

Remember, less is more if you plan your shots and the interview ahead of time. You can do your interview first and then take what you heard and decide what cutaway shots (b-roll) to get. Always try to cover a scene with a wider cover shot for location identification, and then go in to get close-ups, which give the viewer an intimate feel for the setting and the action. An effective use of the camera is to record a stand-up of someone relating an anecdote or explaining something that is happening in the background.

Before you begin shooting, coach the person to think for a moment about what they are going to say – and who the audience is. If your source seems long-winded, it’s okay to tell her or him to stay within a specific time limit — 1 minute is good. That limit will help them focus their thoughts and keep their comments to the point. Once you turn the camera on, the first thing the person should do in a standup situation is say who they are – “Hi, this is Jane Doe and I am the parish nurse here at First United Methodist Church in Anytown, Arkansas.”

Direct your camera in such a way that your subject doesn’t fill the frame, and the viewer can get a sense of place from the background.

Get a lot of b-roll. B-roll is supplemental or alternate footage intercut with the main shot in an interview or documentary. You want to have several choices for b-roll footage for every location you use and every person you interview. For locations, take wide shots from different angles as well as close ups of elements of the location – for example, a wide shot of a dorm, then a closer scene shot of the dorm entrance, then shots of the lounges, rooms, etc. For people, you’ll film them during their interview and then get b-roll of them “in action”: their daily routine, going to classes, doing extracurricular activities, socializing, etc.

Shooting Footage
Once you start to shoot footage, move around to different spots to get a few different shots. Also, be sure to take some footage of the area that can be used to cover mistakes or provide transitions. It’s a good idea to have multiple pieces of this so-called “b-roll” — scene shots of street signs, doors, entrances and buildings — each lasting 30 seconds or more. It can also establish a sense of location and provide footage for voice-overs.
While your camera probably came with a good zoom capability and you can move it around as you film to pan, keep these effects to a minimum. A little goes a long way when it comes to pan, tilt, and zoom.
When you’re recording video for use on the Internet, follow these guidelines:
• Use low-action shots whenever possible.
• Make sure your subject is well lit from the front.
• Strive for good quality audio to go with your video.
Avoid small objects that often don’t come across well in small video windows.

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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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