GUERILLA VIDEO RECORDING - SOME QUICK TIPS
I mention this again and explain why in the audio section, but try to get the camera closer, instead of zooming. And never ever use digital zoom while recording.
If you have a tripod use it, unless you need to move the camera position over the course of the shot. In that case, a dolly is a nice idea if you have one handy; all that means is a platform with wheels the tripod can be mounted firmly onto. You can make do with a skateboard or wheelchair or something if that is needed. I am not against handheld camerawork per se, it has its place, and I'll admit I use it more than I'd generally like to, but shaky cam has little place outside found-footage or documentary style video. If you want a sense of immediacy it's an option but it can be fairly annoying if overdone.
I like the strategy of stabilizing optically while shooting, using the optical stabilization of the camera if present, and then stabilizing somewhat, further, using the digital compositing tools in a program such as After Effects, Fusion, Davinci Resolve, or HitFilm. There's some work involved but you can reduce shakiness a bit in post. Just know there'll be a slight loss of resolution in the footage as a result of that type of process.
The more you can keep the camera stable from the get-go when shooting handheld the better. The 'steadicams' used by Hollywood are nice but out of reach for most of us, same with large cranes and jibs and dollies with tracks. So forget the 'pro' equipment and make a cheap steadicam, which basically gets 60% of the effect of a pro one by weighting the camera down with a counterweight. There are $10-$15 DIY designs circulating online but the core idea is simple. If you can hang a bit of weight directly under the camera that has the same weight as the cam itself, you'll find that the camera will be more resistant to wild wobbles and swings because the counterweight will compensate for some of the motion. A 'heavier' camera also tends to seem more cinematic to people, same with shooting in a wider aspect ratio than the old 4:3.
I like the Xiaomi Yi 4k, personally. It's a great high-res budget camera that admittedly will shoot very wide angle but that's good insofar as you can crop down a bit for stabilization or aspect ratio purposes and still have everything look great in 1080p or so. For upscaling old SD videos recorded prior to modern HD digital cameras, I've used Infognition Video Enhancer's superresolution upscaler and may soon switch to Topaz AI Video Enhancer if there's ever a breakthrough in my work that'd allow me to justify the cost involved!
These aren't flawless methods but they're surprisingly decent ways to pull, what I sense is fairly credible '720p' from old source video that was shot in 720x480 originally. But nowadays HD is easy, even 4k is pretty affordable, so do that in the first place, if you can.
As far as other camera issues, try using manual focus if you can use it, if your camera has it. (It's good if it does.) The reason autofocus is a problem is that at times it'll blur for a second or so when adjusting to a change in depth. Manual controls are nice; they'll allow you to keep that from happening as it may when a fast moving object crosses the center of the camera view, briefly obscuring the background that's farther away. This will result in a rapid camera autofocus mess if you have the cam on autofocus, and that's not ideal.
And then for slow-motion, it's better to record at high speed - high framerate per second - than to slow in post. Not that you can't interpolate in post but, it'll look weird if there's not enough source data to work with in the first place. And given the way many digital cameras now can shoot at 60 or 120 fps, this is an obviously good way to get those slow-motion or miniature effects shots. (I do a lot of VFX work and you can see I've got a few articles on VFX and miniatures work here!)
And recall that adequate lighting is valuable; you'll wind up with grainy, dark footage if everything isn't lit well. Know that while natural realistic lighting's often perfect for your video, there might be opportunities to push for more interesting but still logically valid lighting effects, maybe involving cast shadows, lighting from below for that goofy/creepy look, backlighting (silhouette lighting) or colored lighting which can be done with acetate gels or filters over a light source. Just make sure they can withstand the heat of the light.
Also, you can do some atmospherics stuff with fog machines or easier, a fog spray (these aerosol spray fog-in-a-can things do exist and are nicely portable) and not only will that produce a light haze, it can create shafts of light - a classic effect that pretty much depends on having some sort of dust or fog or some other particulate 'stuff' drifting in the air.
As for directing actors, well, just make it clear what's going on in the story and who their character is, what their emotions, reactions, tone of voice are, etc, if you can, do as many takes as you need to get a decent performance, and try to get them comfortable with the idea of the camera being there. Sometimes the actor will notice an inconsistency in the script, or make a suggestion that they think could improve the video, and the smart thing to do is evaluate their idea and if the suggestion by the actor will actually improve the scene, change it on the fly, or shoot both variants. But there will be some cast members who make suggestions that are bad. Don't brush off these but explain why they won't work - why they'll make the video worse or will screw up the other scenes connected to them. Once in a while an actor will point out a glaring plothole or unexplained element in the script that you hadn't caught. The best thing is to listen and find a way to address the problem, and the worst thing you can do, generally, in this case is to go all Michael Bay and just tell the actor to shut up. It will only result in resentment and usually the end result is a worse video.
Simply put, I like having a fun, and civil atmosphere when recording a video. It's a party in my mind, it's productive, sure, and it's work, but I provide some food and I try to focus everyone on the goal of making the video turn out as well as is possible. Sometimes I'm the only one who really cares about the project, but often the cast members latch onto the craft of telling the story as well and when that happens it's awesome. I am famous for rapid setup of shots, being a one-man creator, writer, cameraman, director and crew, and doing relatively few takes per shot. What I like is this off-the-cuff shooting style, that is lean, fast, simple, doesn't waste a lot of time. Being the one-man crew (and writer, director, producer, studio, cinematographer, vfx artist, editor, etc) I don't need to coordinate or wrangle a ton of crew members and keep them on the same page, and I can focus on the actors and checking things off of the script, I don't use a shot list, BTW, I just check off lines of the script. And I think dragging the shoot out too long can make it boring for everyone and sap the creative energy of a shoot anyway. That's how I do things, dirt cheap, fast, efficient, it may not be exactly how you want to go but it works for me and I recommend it.
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