One of the best things I have done recently is to take a working holiday as a volunteer photographer in a charity where I live. The videotape will be a 30-minute documentary about the work of a children’s charity. As a team, we went to several rehabilitation hospitals in several cities in Vietnam.
As a speaker, I have been working hard to improve my storytelling skills. But as a videographer, my role now shifts to the outside world. First identify a story and then immediately capture it into the video. I have started using the video library to create a video blog for my website. I already know and practice some photography skills. But some incidents surprised me and helped me develop professional knowledge.
This is my situation. I went to the hospital with our team of more than 11 interpreters to provide full-day workshops for parents and young children with cerebral palsy. The room is tight. Hot and humid. At the end of the day, the children were tired and crying. Sometimes I have to jump from room to room to capture scenes of children from 9 months to 17 years old. I have always wanted to capture the emotions on the faces of mothers and their children. I also want to introduce every health care professional who volunteers to work with these children.
We will leave our hotel before 7 in the morning, and in most cases have to wait until 5 in the afternoon. In addition to wanting to visit our team in the evening and have dinner with them, I usually do not less than 2 hours of backup in the room, reviewing and indexing the video I collected. But I was involved because a lot of things happened around. I think I have a story to capture and tell. Here are the tips I want to share.
1) Don’t think that you will only take a video with your camera. You may also need to join and become a producer, choreographer and editor-everything from making videos to making videos. In addition, you, as an editor, will enable you to capture the video the way you want, and save valuable time for future editing.
2) Ensure that the battery is sufficiently charged-enough to power the camera for a whole day. Buy the largest battery. I have 2; 1 o’clock in the morning and 1 o’clock in the afternoon. We went out for 12 hours in a few days. Also make sure you have purchased an external battery charger. The camera’s built-in charger does not stand by well. Don’t rely on it when you shoot on a road trip every day. When charging the battery, you will not risk blowing up the camera’s electronic components. One reality is that I don’t have a backup camera. If it breaks, I will be idle.
3) Having a travel backpack, you can easily carry and use it in daily video jumps. I have 2 of them. The main thing is all the video equipment you carry with you. When traveling, you do not want to check in. For your day trip, please use a small backpack with many pockets. You can sling comfortably on your shoulders or back for easy access when shooting.
4) When you back up the video every night and charge the battery, please lengthen the chord for your hotel room. I got this tip from the international travel of my work colleagues, which saved me a lot of time. The hotel we live in usually only has 1 plug, even if all my laptops and video equipment are placed in the whole room of the room, it is easy to reach. If I don’t have such a long power cord, then I will be in trouble.
5) Back up the video to an external drive (if not two) every night. Before deleting from the camera, check them to make sure they were copied correctly. I made 2 backup copies; 1 in the laptop drive and the other in the external USB drive.
6) There is a laptop with a video viewer so you can view the video to ensure that the photos you want to take are not jerky or unfocused. I installed a video previewer on my laptop, so I can quickly watch the video of the day, that is, too much lighting, panning or shaking. Today’s mistakes can be corrected in tomorrow’s shooting.
7) Make sure you have enough spare SD memory cards. Sometimes they may deteriorate or get lost due to their small size. You may also find good content and decide to shoot for a longer time to capture everything.
8) Connect the wrist strap to the camera. If the camera slides out of your hand, you still have 1 chance to prevent the camera from bouncing on the concrete. This saves me several times, especially in hot weather, when the working day exceeds 10 hours and I am tired.
9) There should be some brand marks on the wristband, such as your national flag. Mine was a red TEDx lanyard. I actually started a few conversations with other tourists and eventually exchanged business cards.
10) Wear hiking shorts with lots of pockets. I have SD cards, batteries, notepads, pens, water bottles and all other items in each of my pockets.
11) The tripod is big and stupid. I have a telescopic carbon monopod, which is perfect for getting me into tight places quickly. It can also be adjusted instantly. It is so comfortable to hold and adjust the telescopic legs. When a group of people develop around my theme, it is also very suitable for moving people. Shooting overhead will also increase the dramatic effect. Nothing is more important than going directly to the topic of the story.
12) You may think of a story, but you are ready to follow a Segway story or two stories that may be unveiled before your eyes. You must always pay attention to the surrounding scenes and stories. Turn on the camera and run the microphone to capture a video clip with good sound. These may be blessings in disguise that can change or derive your story. Keep in mind that you may have collected enough good movies for another 2 or 3 stories for future editing and publishing.
13) Always pick up the camera on the day of the filming-even during dinner with the team at night. You never know when the video story will appear in front of you. You want to be able to capture it. During the taxi ride, I got a very deep insight into Vietnamese CP from a Vietnamese interpreter. Such a true plot cannot be repeated.
14) The camera is always visible around the team or subject. Your subjects will become so accustomed to them that you eventually don’t know if you are photographing them. It’s great to capture those candid shots. My goal is for them to work around their parents and children as frankly as possible. Everyone knows that once a camera appears, people will become expressionless, alert and rehearse. You want to capture them as easily, frankly and naturally as possible.
15) Make sure you have a variety of energy bars and snacks in your backpack or pocket, including water. I didn’t. We stopped eating for a few days. You want to stay energetic. Nothing distracts your videotapes more than the pain or desire of hunger.
16) The most important thing is to index all video clips daily in a day that is still fresh in your memory. After the first few days, I started to slip and start to forget where the clips came from. I made an excel sheet on a laptop, indexed by fragment number and briefly described the scene, location and importance, and quickly corrected this problem. I do this in the hotel room every night while charging the battery and making backups. If you know the storyline to follow, you can start marking specific clips to be used in the documentary. This will save you time when you get home. I also find it very helpful to view all the clips every night so that it can be embedded in my mind; I have enough, what I still need.
17) Keep the video clips no longer than 2-3 minutes, or even less than 1 minute. After returning to Canada, I found that searching for five 1-minute clips to find video clips was much faster than searching for one 5-minute clip. This discovery completely surprised me.
18) My main subject, Laverne, reached an agreement with me. Whenever she felt an epiphany about an emotional comment that was about to surface, she would signal me to come as soon as possible and record her monologue. These comments will be scattered throughout the documentary to truly reflect what happened during our three-week mission. By having coffee, drinks or meal time with them, you can help the cameraman quickly understand the subject. In this case, it is easy because Lavern and I have become good friends in the past few years.
Returning to our hotel at the end of the day, we always give a 1-hour report in the dining area, so that each team member has the opportunity to share whatever they want, whether it is about their studio or their true feelings. This is when I used to learn about other video clips that I could shoot the next day. This is also a good way to build teams and share experiences in remote countries.
You have it; my tip for aspiring photographers. I am already looking forward to the next video tour and I will further improve the skills I mentioned above. Happy video diary!