How to Shoot Video All By Yourself

Jennifer and Andrew show us different ways to shoot yourself when you're in the field working as a "One Man Band."

Video Transcript

Female: Hi, I’m Jennifer O’Rourke.

Male: And I’m Andrew Burke.

Female: In today’s tips and tricks we’re gonna show you some tricks you can use when you turn the camera on yourself.

Male: That’s right. Even when it’s just you and the camera you can still get your job done, and we’re gonna show you some simple tools, coupled with a little bit of common sense, so you can be the key grip, gaffer, and cameraman and just do it all. So come check it out.

One downside about doing everything yourself is that there’s no one to help you carry your gear, which means that if you’re shooting on location you have to pare it down to the essentials. You’ll need a camcorder, a sturdy tripod, a microphone and possibly a stand, a roll of gaffer’s tape in case you need to tape that microphone somewhere, a lighting kit – how many lights depends on how big your kit is and how much you can carry. If you have one light you can use it as a key if used through an umbrella or a soft box at a 45-degree angle between the camera and you.

Female: Okay, now that you have the gear here’s some tips on how to stay in focus. Set your tripod at its highest point and place it where you think you want to stand. Walk over to where you think you want to set the camera and look at the tripod through the viewfinder to check the background all around your tripod, and if it looks okay drop your camera bag, coat, or other piece of gear on that spot. Then walk back to where you left the tripod and place some gaffer’s tape on the ground. If you are using a wide-angle lens, put down two extra tape marks for the frame edges. This way you can move side to side or know where you’ll appear if you decide to do a walk-on. Make sure you view all the objects that might be around you in the background to eyeball the height and make note of lines or poles that might appear to cross through your ears or sprout out of your head.

Return to your shooting spot with your tripod and place it at eye level. Go back to your X spot with your camera, and now that you know where you’re going to stand and where your camera will be, you can now use your tripod as your stand-in so you can focus. Stand on the tape mark, the place where you’ll be standing when the camera is rolling, and manually focus on the tripod head. Then put the camera back on the tripod, hit record, and run back to your stand-up spot.

Male: Without a crew it means that recording sound is up to you. There are a couple of different ways to do it depending on your circumstances.

Use a lavalier. The small clip-on mics work fine in most situations; however, they show to your audience, so you’ll look kind of like a news reporter – unless that’s your goal. They do leave your hands free for movement like opening a car door and demonstrating details.

Hand hold the microphone. These are the most solid and reliable mics around, but you’re limited to a recorder interview use.

Use a mic stand. Boom mic stands that are designed for musical instruments or vocalists will allow you to position the microphone horizontally and vertically. Being careful not to damage the cable, you can hang it from the ceiling or around a chandelier or hanging hook, or loop it over a tree branch. Dig out that gaffer’s tape again and tape it to the back of a chair, a plant, or anything around you.

Using one of these giant flex fills is kind of unwieldy, so you probably won’t want to try this by yourself. But if you have a stiff piece of foam coil like this that I picked up at the local arts and crafts store, it works really great.

Female: If you’re shooting in full daylight, here’s a trick I learned how to take advantage of light and shadows. Hold your hand in the air and turn around slowly, watching how the sun plays across the back of your hand. You’ll see how it can go from looking soft to craggy from angles of the sun. When it looks its smoothest, that’s where you want to shoot.

Now that you’ve set your gear up, shoot some test video to make sure you got everything in focus, no wires or telephones growing out of your head, and double check the lighting is good, the iris isn’t blown out, and the mic hasn’t pointed south.

Male: If you’re looking to minimize bulk or you just don’t have a tripod, you can take the camcorder and hold it yourself. You want to keep it about arms’ length away and try and pre-focus it beforehand. What also helps is to keep it on its widest angle so it minimizes the shake.

And that’s it for tips and tricks. I’m Andrew Burke.

Female: And I’m Jennifer O’Rourke. See you next time.

Male: ‘Bye.

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