5 Tips For Filming Better Footage

6 May 2015

If you’ve ever watched one of our live album recordings, attended a Hillsong Conference, or watched one of our videos on Facebook or YouTube, then chances are you’ve come across the work of Richard Cause.

He’s the lead cinematographer in our Creative team, and alongside an amazing team of film-makers, is involved with filming much of the video content that comes from our team. He has a passion for capturing and telling stories that ultimately point people to Jesus and build His Church.

We asked him to share some of his tips from years of experience, for anyone that might be involved with creating videos for your team or church!

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There are a bazillion blogs on filming and equipment, but just let me start by saying, these are my own personal opinions as a result of 15 years experience in the industry… tried and tested. Hopefully this helps you somewhat!

1. The ‘Glamour’ filter.

Lighting can really transform an average shot into something bewildering.

So filming when the light is good is really important. Where possible, ideally I’d like to film during dawn and dusk, ‘Golden Hour’ or two. Sure, this means some early mornings, but totally worth it.

So really, the natural filter is the best glamour filter.

2. If it needs mood, then give it some… Obvious right?

Most of the filming I’ve done, including interviews, I’ve used natural light from a window.

But I think about where I’m placing the person too. I don’t like to over-light — some light and shade is always good. Mood lighting, and the way you light someone can be an asset when you’re telling a compelling story. Think about turning off a few lights, or closing the blinds a little when you next set up.

So take a risk and leave those 5 LED banks, 2x Space lights, 4x Dedo spots and 2x lighting directors at the office… make it simple.

3. Watch your background.

There’s no need to stack the background with bad props from the storeroom. Think about this — is your subject the main focus of your shot or do they blend into the background? We want whatever we’re filming to be the point of interest, not the background.

Here’s some good questions to ask, when deciding on the background:

Can it be plain? And of course, does it make sense to the story we’re telling? Or is it just too distracting?

4. ‘Focus’ on the Project.

I’d normally think ‘Does this help tell the story I’m trying to convey?’ We all should know that the story is ‘KING’, but the space is important too. Most stories about people, we ask to film in their house or the point of interest. A story about summer camps that’s filmed in winter around a fire, just cause it looks good… well we may have missed the point, huh? So focus on the project and what footage can best help it be told.

5. Are you tactful?

Do not rush too much, and always plan ahead. It’s best to walk into a shoot well-prepped.

That way you can get the best out of your team, and use your time wisely.

So take a minute to stop and think before you walk in the door, take a deep breath.

It only takes a minute, but can really change the mood in the room, from walking in crazy like “we need to get this done!!” to “OK we’ve got this”.

So be tactful, don’t be a bulldozer.

5a. Cause I can — What equipment is actually needed?

Let’s take us as an example… most of our work is filmed on DSLR cameras.

Realistically, it’s due to tight turnaround times, so make sure you seriously consider your final delivery.

There’s no need to film everything on RED or ALEXA, though it’s temping (and you’ll sleep better at night cause you’re not transcoding for days).

Most of our projects that are larger and have more time to be creative (Albums, Conferences, Vision Sunday, etc), we film on RAW cameras so we have more room on the post end to play with things creatively.

So more me, I go into a project looking at all the possibility of equipment, and in the end try to limit myself with what to take. The more you do this, the better you’ll become at working with what’s in your hand.. then thinking “I wish I had this and this and this”.

Enjoy your filming in the end, for me I try to make it less of a strain but more enjoyable… They’re the memories you want to keep. Hopefully these little tips help you get there and enjoy it along the way!

Richard Cause

P.S. I’ll be writing a blog on our day-to-day kit bag soon, so stay tuned.