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Idea Exchange: Capturing Great Video with Simple Devices

Content by Robert Luna | Post edited by Hanno Strydom

Toward the end of 2014 the MacPhail Music Learning Lab hosted guest presenter, Robert Luna, 
Creative Director & founder of Luna Creative Technologies, in two sessions about capturing great video using industry level approaches, adapted for everyday use with simple devices like consumer cameras, camera phones, tablets and web cams.

Session Videos
Both sessions were video recorded. At Mr. Luna's request, access to the videos is restricted only to MacPhail faculty members. Contact us to request the links for these videos.

If you own a video camera, camera phone, web cam or any other kind of simple and accessible camera, you've probably wanted to use it more in your teaching. Why? Because isn't it easier to show and tell than to write? Yes. But guess what? You still have to write a little. Not a novel or dissertation, but you at least need an outline. You need to write the outline "recipe" before starting to make the video. This recipe makes your video project flow better and alleviates having to go back and forth between the editing and shooting stages because something didn't work, or you forgot to cover something with a close-up or establishing shot. It should also provide a bigger picture of what videos you may want to produce in tandem or in the future.

So make your video process as easy as following a salsa recipe! Think of it as if you were a team of three people involved in developing, planning and delivering a story. This story will be created for video.
In this story each "character" adds to the making of the video and each ensures you are making the best possible video with the tools you have at hand.

Let's get started!
From what I have gathered you are presenting information to students, offering supplemental technique and practical information. Organization, preparation and optimization of the available tools are the goals here. Working smarter and maximizing time efficiently would be nice as well, right?!

1. You have a device that can capture video and audio.
2. You have instructional information that you want to convey to a specific audience.
3. You will take the time to plan for video like you would take the time to plan for a lesson.

Your team of 3: (Psssst. They're all you.)
1. Content planner:  The one writing the "recipe". The one who keeps the project on time and on topic.
2. Focus Group: Keep your target audience's point of view in mind to make sure what your building makes sense.
3. Producer/Director: The chef putting all the elements together.

Your Components:
Basic lighting and the use of reflected light
-Source (what's available to you) and 3 point lighting scheme when available.
-Find the most light in the room and guide it close to the subject.
-Use incidental light as needed. Lamps, overhead, practical, etc.

Primary sound considerations for your recordings
-Get the subject you want to hear as close to the mic as possible without distortion.
-Use mics like the headphone mics that come with smart phones when no others are available.
-Make a test recording. Verify it sounds like you want it to.

Basic scripting and storyboard preparation
-Write or type out your intentions and all information you want to convey.
-Practice delivery well before the actual recording time. Have someone else read your outline for clarity.
-Prepare what the visuals will look like. Use sketches or found images to align with your vision.

Shooting for the edit; imagine you are looking at the finished piece.
-Are you getting the camera angles needed for clarity?
-Is the amount of footage you see sufficient to convey your message? If not, change your approach or add to it.

Common Mistakes:
1. Not using an outline or basic script to guide the shoot. Fix: complete the final narration BEFORE you shoot. Include alternative "takes" as back up. Rehearse. Read your copy no matter how brief, out loud.
2. Video is dark or blurry. Fix: move the objects or procedures you are shooting into a brighter spot with room to have distance and closeness for each of your shots.
3. Plenty of light in the room but subject is not clearly seen or is backlit. Fix: Place subject with light hitting subject at least at a 45 degree angle. Bounce light with a white card or foam core. Use a secondary light source, optimally that matches your primary light source in color temperature. Meaning if it's an indoor light, match it with a like source. If it's daylight, use a bounce card (white card or foam core).
4. Assuming that Videopgraphy works like photography. Photographers aren't automatically videographers because they have a camera that shoots both photos and video. Take some time to learn the differences between photography and videography. In Jared Polin's latest promo video for his teaching courses on photography, he covers videography for photographers. In the video below Polin reveals some of the key differences between the two mediums:

In the most common professional approach, the Production Cycle looks something like this:

Most likely, in a teaching environment, there isn't the luxury of multiple weeks for each stage. Here's a simplified production outline:

Sample Videos
Example 1: Potek Glass

Potek Glass from Robert Luna on Vimeo.

Took 5 non sequential days to shoot and about 80 hours to edit

Example 2: MUSÉIK / ION Concert Media

Bill Eddins :: ION Concert Media's MUSÉIK software from Robert Luna on Vimeo.

Took one day to shoot and about 25 hours to edit. Click here to see the storyboard for this video.

Example 3: PowerPusher E 750

PowerPusher 750 Electric Wheelbarrow product video from Robert Luna on Vimeo.

Took 10 hours to shoot and about 30 hours to edit.
Example 4: Most basic movie ever!
(took under 3 minutes to create concept, shoot and edit)

Equipment used:
  • iPhone camera (standard lens)
  • $2 Videoshop app 
  • Prop (Thumbdrive)
  • Available daylight from screen door 

Example 5: Another short video

Equipment used:
  • using an iPad with a wide angle lens
  • Movie Mount on iPad allowing tripod mount and accessory mounts (details here)
  • edited with Videoshop app. 


Take Aways
  • Take advantage of all lighting available in your space
  • Dress the "set" with as little clutter as possible. (Use a backdrop like a fabric or paper backdrops if necessary)
  • Be aware of your surroundings regarding sound. Always check our spaces your frequent to see if they might be a good place to record. Even if it's just for the audio portion of your project. 
  • Shoot as many angles and variations as time allows. You'll be glad you did during the edit. 
  • Sometimes it's better to demonstrate, then narrate the exercise versus trying to do it all at once. 
  • Be brief and purposeful in what you include in the video. 
  • Break up your video with other scenes like graphics, images, white board drawings...

Sample Planner to Create a Video

Make a "how-to video" on the drum Paradiddle
What you'll need to make this video:      
  • drum pad or drum
  • drum sticks
  • exercise book
  • camera with audio capability
  • audio recorder or use the camera's system
Instructions: (Write a script or at least an outline)
  • This is a sticking pattern ...
  • Alternating two patterns RLRR LRLL ...
  • Sticking and speed of exercise ...
Plan and secure a location

Make storyboard
  • Opening and establishing shot of what you will be instructing
  • Shot of items needed
  • description of setting (optional)
  • demonstration of how it should look or be played (quick)
  • breakdown of elements or approach
  • close ups of wrists and what timing or rhythm should be attempted
  • further instructions on prescribed amount of practice and options on trap set
  • wrap up with an invitation meet up again on the next video instruction
Make shot sheet
  • On camera welcome [MS]
  • On camera specific topic intro [CU]
  • Descriptions of items needed  [MS]
  • Description of setting  [MS / CU]
  • Break down of elements or approach  [MS]
  • Prescribed rehearsal of what student has learned [CU]
  • Close [CU/MS/WS]
  • Full speed rudiment [CU]
  • Full speed  [MS]
  • Traditional grip version  [MS]
  • Matched grip version [MS]
  • Repeat for slowed down exercise  [MS] and [CU]
  • wrists emphasis  [MS]
Shoot the video

Edit video

Links to Useful Applications and Resources

Background tools for content building --
- Evernote - Available in Apple and Android app stores - https://evernote.com
- Elevatr app - http://home.elevatr.com
- Reflector app - http://www.airsquirrels.com/reflector/
- Concept Maker app - http://concept-maker.com
- Any photo camera app - My personal favorites are Camera+ (http://campl.us) and Slow Shutter (https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/slow-shutter-cam/id357404131?mt=8)
- iTalk app (audio recording) - http://store.griffintechnology.com/italk-premium
- Videoshop app. (video editor and publisher) - https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/videoshop-video-editor/id615563599?mt=8
- Free editor for Mac - http://www.wondershare.com/video-editor/free-video-editing-software-mac.html
- 7 photography tricks for your smart phone- http://www.lipstiq.com/others/7-photography-tricks-you-didnt-know-your-smartphone-can-do/
- Lenes for iPhone http://photojojo.com/store/

Examples of great video production, technique and storytelling:

How-to video for purchase (produced by NY based photographer/videographer Jared Polin): http://froknowsphoto.com/dslr-video-guide/

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