Last week, Chris Cruise at KMPS in Seattle posted a video on YouTube that gives the basics on how radio personalities can shoot better video. I wrote a piece on the subject last year after reading an article by Fred Jacobs on the importance of adding visuals to radio. Unfortunately I never published it until now. I've been adding video to my stations for the past 7 years and wrote down some things I picked up along the way that might ease your transition and minimize the trial and error you'll have to endure. I call this Video School For Radio Peeps.
One of my biggest pet peeves is vertical videos. If you're using a smartphone as your primary camera, hold hit horizontally, not vertically. This will ensure your video fills the frame and the viewer won't feel as if their wearing blinders. Even "America's Funniest Videos" asks for submissions to be sent in shot horizontally. I personally feel that I'm always missing out on something when I watch videos shot with vertical phone. It also kinda feels claustrophobic. Also, think of it like this, if you were listening to audio where one channel kept dropping out, you'd get annoyed, right? That's the same feeling vertical videos elicit in me.
Keep the camera steady...no matter whether it's an iPhone, a Flip Cam or a DSLR. A moving camera can be disorienting to begin with (Think "The Blair Witch Project"), but when it comes to shooting video for the web, a moving camera presents issues with the codecs used to encode the pixels. Shooting moving images with an unsteady camera causes tons of distortion in the image, resulting a very blurry or pixelated video that can be downright unwatchable. There are lots of cheap clamps and holders for smartphones that can be used with regular tripods to give you a steady shot.
Having the camera not pointing at the subject speaking. This happens a lot with artist interviews. The camera is on the guest exclusively and the interviewer is behind the camera. You end up with a lot of dead time with your subject just sitting, looking back at the host and not really doing anything. If you do interviews, make them two-shots, with host & guest sitting side-by-side, so the person talking is always in the shot.
Talents who treat every take like it's a radio break. I had to edit video of one of our jocks talking with "little monsters" outside of a Lady Gaga concert. For every separate shot, she set each one up as if it were the first time. Thus, I had to cut out the first few seconds of every interview, many times clipping the content. Here's my recommendation: shoot the interviews or the "meat" of your video. Then once you know what you have, you can shoot a single set-up and a close based on your content.
Shooting Coverage or B-Roll footage. One technique that can help on the last two points is what's known as coverage or b-roll. The idea is that you have additional footage to "cover" your edit points and illustrate what the subject is talking about. When you're doing an interview and you can't do a two shot, try shooting the interview with the camera on the guest. Then go back and have your talent ask the questions again, with the camera on him/her. Also get some reaction shots of your talent nodding, also known as "chin boogies". Cut the two together and you have a two camera interview. When at an event, coverage can help add to the narrative of your video. Shooting signage, crowd scenes and various activities, especially when subjects are discussing them, can add variety to your video and help in the editing process as you cover the obvious edits and avoid "jump cuts".
Poor Audio. We're in radio. There's just no excuse. I can't stand it when I see a professional video set up shot in an air studio and they use the camera audio. You're in a radio station! Run a feed from the board directly to the camera If you're using a camera that doesn't have an audio input, like a smartphone, record the audio and add it to the footage in post production by lining up the waveforms and muting the camera audio. The same can be done with talent shooting a stand up. Have them use a microphone attached to a recorder and add that audio to the video in the final edit.
In addition to bad audio, bad lighting also makes for bad video. When I started shooting video at the radio station, I would always steal the two floor lamps from my APD's office that had three adjustable lights to help brighten my scene. When I began using greenscreen, I invested in a set of compact florescent softbox Lights for about $200 to evenly light the background for a good result.
Keeping these things in mind as you shoot video for your station's web pages, and social media feeds, and even simple Vine or Instagram videos, can make a huge difference in the quality and watch-ability of your video content.