Updated: May 8, 2020
I originally wrote this short blog post a few years back, but it still applies to today. Just a few friendly reminders for field shooters to keep in mind so things go smoothly later on during postproduction. - MK
I was making the rounds of my favorite discussion groups via LinkedIn this morning and came across a question in the Final Cut Pro Editors group. It was from a cameraman who wanted to make sure he had all his bases covered when shooting in the field. He wanted to make a list of "reminders" he could keep as a checklist for himself and his crew – to make sure they didn't miss anything while shooting in the field, and to avoid any potential "embarrassments" in front of clients or later on down the production/postproduction pipeline. So I wrote back the following:
"In terms of audio-related reminders… Be sure to monitor your audio in the field with good quality pro headphones that cover your ears – in other words, no iPod earphones. At the start of recording each interview, have your on-camera interviewees state their name and title as well as have them spell their name on-camera. (You could also grab a shot of their name tag, if it is being done at a corporate event/convention). Also be sure to record about 30 seconds of continuous silent "room tone" at the end of each interview location your editor can use to help cut the piece together seamlessly in post. (If possible, slate that section, lock down your camera on a shot like a boom mic, or make it a separate video/audio clip so your editor will be able to locate the "room tone" quickly while editing.)"
"Also, other interview related reminders: vary the shot between wide, medium and/or tight only between each question asked… Please, PLEASE don't try to do zooms in the middle of the person speaking unless you can do it flawlessly (sorry, a personal rant there related to a recent project). Also, leave enough room in the shot frame composition-wise on tight shots to accommodate for name supers and other graphics. And try not to shoot every interview in the exact same setting (unless it is in limbo, with a backdrop or green/blue screen)."
I suppose one other thing to add, particularly since so many people are now shooting video using DSLR cameras... please invest in an eyepiece/viewfinder or good quality portable field monitor to make certain your shots are in focus. Especially with the DSLR's since a really shallow depth-of-field is part of what makes these shots so sexy. People on camera sometimes have the tendency to move around a lot while being interviewed-- like moving forward or back to emphasize a point they're making. Adjusting focus is even more critical when your subject is moving around in the shots (like a "walk & talk" segment). Please make sure your subjects are in sharp focus and that your camera isn't actually locked in to an object in the background. Don't rely on just the small LCD screen on the back on the camera-- everything looks sharper on a tiny monitor. While there have been some advances in terms of digitally fixing focus for certain cameras in post, most don't have that capability and there is little we can do to fix a poorly focused shot. So please check your focus often!
I admire the cameraman from the original LinkedIn post for asking for input for his list, and for being thorough enough to put one together in the first place. He probably helped make a lot of other people's efforts much easier -- and happier-- down the line!