Notes from a Editor to Camera People

I was recently asked for feedback from a Cameraman from and editors perspective for a job I was editing.  I have also asked other editors for things that help in the edit that camera people can do.  Here are some notes.  Following there should get you better footage and help you get hired again/build a reputation.

A general point is that if you are working with a director it is your joint responsibility IMHO to get cutaways/general views (GVs).  You should always check with the director if you have not been asked for them/got them.  Not having good/appropriate GVs is the main reasons that edits are difficult and time consuming.

Try to think in terms of sequences, this is why it is important for you to know the story that is being told.  What is the beginning (often a wide establishing shot).  What details shots, GVs, actuatiy shots (shots of people doing stuff) will be useful as cutaways during interviews.  Is there something that can be used as an end shot.

This is also important for cutaways.  Short sequences of cutaways work well.  Just a single cutaway to cover a curt normally looks contrived.

The maybe not obvious but very useful.

  • If recording sound film 20-30 seconds in each location when no one is talking (if possible), ideally a minute.  This ‘wildtrack’ or ‘room tone’ is extremely useful when editing to allow the interview to breath (i.e. adding short gaps) or under photos or general non interview footage.  This can be combined with shooting a ‘portrait’ of the contributors that are sometimes useful.
  • This also applies when getting GVs/cutaways.  Always have the microphone on and record sound (be good if audio levels are set but for this auto levels is often OK), 
  • Non sync shots of interview are useful (shots without the mouth in shot).  Be creative.  Detail shots of eyes, wide shots from interesting angles etc.  You can just get the contributes to generally chat after interview (with director) as idealy you don’t want to do this during the actual interview.
  • If you are shooting with a DSLR/steeped aperture photo lens changing the aperture during an interview makes the exposure jump and is not usable.  A decent Variable Neutral Density filter solves this problem but don’t use a cheap one (is softens focus and introduces colour cast).  LCW ones are great and not expensive.
  • Get an establishing shot of the exterior of the building/where the action (i.e. wide shot) and interview is happening.
  • interview POV (point of view) shots are useful (shot in the direction contributor is looking).
  • This can be tricky (and is a joint responsibility between you band director) but listen to interview and make a list of pick up shots you need (shots of stuff they are referring to).  Generally trying to get these (if they are close) by pointing the camera at them during the interview is a bad idea as you may miss crucial facial expression.
  • Coverage is key.  Get lots of cutaways and each cutaway should be at at least 2 different shot size from same direction. Not having cutaways is the thing that makes and edit difficult.

Obvious to most people but mentioning for the not so experienced

  • Use a tripod whenever possible for interviews and static general shots.  Does not have to be a heavy or expensive tripod (if you are travelling light) for static locked off stuff.  If not shoot slightly wide (i.e. 5-10%) so the shots can be stabilised in the editing software and framing maintained.
  • If you are hand holding (especially with heavy kit) there is a tendency to point the camera down (to rest your arms) as soon as contributor has finished speaking.  Wait at least 3 seconds (preferably 5).  You may get useful facial expressions and having a few seconds after talking is very useful (if not essential) for pacing in edit.
  • Re-framing when possible can be very useful.  Either do it quickly when there is an opportunity or slowly if there is not (slow zooming can be used in vision).  Bigger shot sizes as interview gets more intense are good but generally changing shot size during interview will make it easier to add cuts without using cutaways.
  • If you are not working with a sound recordist get away from where people are talking and record general wildtrack if you have time.  This can be combines with getting very wide shots but does not even need a useful image.
  • Getting nod shots/listening shots of interviewer and interviewee is useful (with just them in shot from same angle). Can be very useful.
  • Tuck microphone cable inside clothing.
  • Other details shots (hands/stuff they are talking about) is useful.  Avoid the groin! believe me I haver see this actually used (badly) in broadcast.
  • General shots with people in them are very useful, again ideally on a tripod.