Things to avoid while filming

by Nathan Stout (of

I wanted to give everyone who will ever possibly maybe film something a few pointers on some basic things to avoid (technically) when filming something. This may be some production like what we do at According To Whim (sketches and such) or it could even be stuff like filming birthdays and weddings. Anything you film with either fancy equipment or just your normal everyday camcorder will benefit from this list.

Avoid: Air Conditioning

Yep, if you are filming inside make sure you turn off your air conditioner (or heater) beofre you begin shooting. Nothing is more annoying that humming noise in the background of your production. Most A/C units are quite and tucked out of sight but some (like mine) is right out there where everyone can hear it. With a decent microphone it can be picked up on your production and become annoying. It is extra annoying when (while you are shooting) the unit cuts off so when you are editing you have angles that have the background noise and some that don’t. At that point it is time to start doing some creative audio editing.

Avoid: Large Spaces (echos, bad pickup)

I have learned (the extra hard way) that you need extra microphones if you are filming in a large building. I have done weddings in large buildings and many times your camera can’t get close enough to the participants to pick up audio well. I suggest that if you are going to shoot something like this that you get an extra microphone, radio microphone, or spare camera to pickup the audio only. This will save you big time troubles.

Avoid: Bad Lighting

This is more true with the cheaper, smaller camera you buy. Lighting will destroy even the most careful setup when shooting something. Your viewfinder might look fine but once you get the footage on an actual television screen you just don’t know. Most cameras will work the best they can in ‘auto’ mode (to compensate for low lighting) but it is mostly up to you to ensure you have enough lights. If you are shooting stuff on a regular basis you can buy some cheap lights at home depot and such. In those cases make sure you don’t light up your shots too much. Lighting (when done right) can make a normal scene look fantastic. Get several different light sources and try different lighting angles. You can make some cool effects by hiding lights and making shadows on your set (or location or whatever).

Avoid: Shaking Camera

Most cameras have that anti-jitter technology which is fine for smaller projects but you really want to use a tripod whenever possible. You should only use handheld techniques when the shot calls for it. Only do it when the scene would be enhanced by the unsteady hand. If you are going to do any sort of special effects you will have to have a steady tripod shot. The more you spend on a tripod the better results you are going to get. Higher end tripods will move smoothly and many will have a level bubble which will ensure you shot isn’t wonky.

Avoid: Autofocus

This is a rule for those who are really serious about shooting simething slick. For most of us using autofocus is fine but many times that function can really mess up a shot when the frame goes out of focus. If you are serious about getting something to look really good, switch off autofocus and adjust the foucs with the controls. It is kinda hard but it is worth it.

Avoid : Rushing

All of the tips I have talked about lead to one thing… more time setting up shots. We are especially bad about rushing though shots. The more you rush the worse it is going to look. The more planning and time you spend before you call for ‘action’ the better it will look. Just take a look at Hollywood… they will take four hours to set up a ten second shot. Once they make the shot it looks perfect. You don’t have to do it like that but if you take a little extra time it will come out looking better.

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