Rifts and tips after training with the camera

Panasonic camera
Photo Credit: Cristiana Ferrauti
Working with the camera could be a bit difficult, especially if you cannot practice many times just immediately after the first session.
For this reason, on the 5th of October, an autumn sunny day – such an unusual sunlight in London – two university colleagues and I have caught the occasion to move the first steps.

Planned some days ago, they have borrowed all the material on Friday.
The equipment comprehends: the camera (a professional Panasonic model), recording kit and the tripod.
Every item has is own padded bag, which will save the delicate and precious piece from involuntary hits. However, the utmost care and attention are required.

After the initial setup of every component (stage which required quite a bit of time), we have started filming.
Personally, after nearly two weeks when the teacher has accurately explained us how each part works, I forgot the functions of some of the numerous buttons which fill the panel on the side of the camera.
Anyway, we have improved our abilities during the day.

Some mistakes, but also some good points. In particular, my colleagues have already had some experiences with shooting tasks, so terms like “wide shot”, “action” and “cut” has soon become part of my vocabulary.

When I got home, I jotted down a list of the weak points found during the day.

Rifts & Tips :

-          - Ask the permission.
Every time you want to film in a public place, whatever is the purpose of your project, you need a permission. Ask to the chief of the event, the director or the person in charge of the area.

-       -  A brief plan before you go: number of interviewees and some questions you will ask, the route, how many shots.
It should be a draft, not necessarily too detailed: just an idea of what you are going to do and a memorandum of things-not-to-forget.

-         -  Dress up.
Tie long hair, colour with blush any pale face, wear comfortable but trendy clothes. What you say during the interviews is very important, but your appearance on the screen has also its influence.

-          - Free your hands.
Bring with you only what you really need (mobile phone and some money). If you have to adjust cable or audio level, large and useless bags will remain unattended. Otherwise, someone should keep an eye on them, failing to do his work.

-          - Adjust shift levers, so that the movements of the camera will be smooth (especially for the wide shots).

-          - Be prepared at least with two different microphones: one for ambient sounds and the other for the interviews. It will help to distinguish the background sounds from the voices of the interviewees.

-          - Adjust the focus correctly, as well as the Iris.
It is better to lose two more minutes before starting than realize at the end of the day that the footage is too dark.

-          - Not too many prepared questions.
Pay great attention to the answers and try to simulate a “natural” dialogue. Interaction is the key element.

As many other skills in life, working with the camera requires a lot of practice before getting confident with this wonderful device.
However, trying with someone else would help: you learn from the others’ experiences, have fun and…do not have to bring all the equipment alone!

I am looking forward for the next occasion.
The crew: Alex Xi Zhang, Li Ying and I
Photo Credit: Alex Xi Zhang