We’re in a series on being intentional about what we do. As I stated in the opening article, it’s very easy to get so busy doing tech that we forget why we do it. Last time, we talked about audio board layout, and why it’s important to think that through. Today, we’ll switch gears and look at video, specifically live video.
Maybe I’ll just get these out of the way right now. Here are some things that really bug me when it comes to live video. Cutting to a new shot when there is no reason to cut to a new shot. Cutting from one shot to a nearly identical second shot. Zooming in or out when there is no reason to zoom in or out. Cutting to a shot of the keys player during a guitar lead.
There are more, but those are things I tend to notice. There is a common thread to those peeves—there is no reason to do any of them. Except perhaps, you're just dying to press those buttons beneath your fingers. Now there are plenty of reasons to cut to a new shot, or zoom in or out during a shot. But there should be a reason besides a shot being up for more than 5 seconds.
Respond to the Content
A common mistake I see in live video is not responding to the content. I was one part of a live DVD recording for a major band that you would all know. I thought we did a great job shooting it; we had two front cameras, a jib, I was stage camera and there were a half-dozen POV cameras mounted about the stage. But then I saw the edit; it was horrifying. It appeared that the director wanted to use every single camera every 10 seconds. The pacing of the switch was so fast, it was dizzying. But it got worse.
At one point, one of the band members shared some of his testimony. It was a powerful story but again, the director insisted on switching every 3-4 seconds. Seriously. The guy is talking about how Jesus brought him through some pretty deep stuff and the director is switching every 3 seconds.
I see the same thing happening in churches. Because we have three shots of the pastor, we feel we have to use all three, all the time. Maybe it’s because we don’t want the camera guys to get bored, or have the main camera operator get tired. But those are not reasons to switch! It needs to make sense. And don’t switch from a head to waist shot on camera one to a head to waist shot on camera two. Mix the framing up.
Pacing is Important
A fast song requires fast switching. A slow song calls for slower switching. Someone talking probably calls for no switching (or at least infrequent switching). When we get this right, the video doesn’t call attention to itself; all we see is the content. When the pacing is off, we notice the video. If shot selection is obvious, something is off.
Don’t feel the need to switch just because. Make sure you know where you’re going and why. At the same time, don’t get stuck over-thinking your cuts. Listen to the song, know what’s coming up and go with the flow. This is a really good reason for the video team to know the music as well as the band.
This directive calls for camera ops to be part of the process, too. Good camera people will feel the rhythm of the song and bring up shots that make sense. Pushes, pulls, pans and tilts will all be in time with the music. The team working together can make magic. But you need to know what you’re doing and why.
Every time you press the take button or move that t-bar, make sure you know why. The switch should be moving the song or message forward, not calling attention to itself. Don’t switch for the sake of switching, but don’t get stuck in the mud either. Match the pace of your switch to the content, and don’t feel like you need to use every camera every minute just because it’s there.
Next up: Intentional Lighting