If you are going to be editing, then if there’s something like a plane that comes over, just cut and do that part again so you’re not going to have that kind of noise and then no noise juxtaposition so it’s not going to sound weird and distracting.
James: Exactly, so what I’m talking about is that I just let the tape run and then I just say the bit that I want to again and then I just go and pop that out and slide it back into where and replace the noisy plane or the dog barking. There are many numbers of natural disasters that can happen on a farm.
Ryan: It’s probably just worth mentioning that sometimes some of those things can just add a bit of character and quirkiness. Sometimes if you’ve done a podcast and your dog has barked in the background, that’s just being something that’s kind of set the scene. You’re in a home based environment and that’s revealed a little bit more about your situation.
Not every bit of background noise is a mistake. You’ve also talked about having the chirping of birds in the background which again adds kind of a little bit of your context in your story so sometimes those things are nice to leave in as well.
James: That’s true and you know when I was travelling and I didn’t have my tripod and the kids were holding the camera, they just couldn’t hold it up for too long, they started dropping it, I was working on lowering myself to still be in the shot and then I sort of laughed about it and sometimes I use the outtakes and I think I connected more with my audience for leaving that in, for being honest. And capturing that moment than to try and have a slick production in that case.
Ryan: I think so and it’s good to know the rules and it’s good to know when to break them and when it’s actually going to enhance your videos.
The Lowdown On Lighting
James: That is awesome. We probably should move onto lighting now because I know that’s another important fundamental. I’ve heard you talking about the difference between natural light and artificial light wherever the two should meet and that sort of stuff.
Is it true? Is it false? How do you do this? You know my cheat is of course I’m usually filming outside because it’s much easier to set up.
Ryan: That’s exactly right. Let’s talk about natural light versus artificial light. By natural light, I basically just mean the light that’s already there so the sun for example. Artificial light just refers to the light that you set up specifically for filming. And there are pluses and minuses for both and sometimes you’ll be using both at the same time.
Just starting off with natural light, like you mentioned the advantage is that there’s very little set up time, you’re working with the light that’s already there. On the other hand the disadvantage is that you have less control and the light can vary quite widely over a short period of time. So especially in a place like Melbourne, where I am, where we have a lot of variable weather and clouds you know coming in and out.
You can start filming with one particular lighting condition and within a couple of minutes the lighting may have changed completely. So that is something that you have to be aware of particularly for longer style videos, if you’re doing a shorter one or two minute videos that’s not as much of an issue.
James: I imagine you’d have to have a raincoat for your camera in Melbourne.
Ryan: Yes, absolutely depending on what camera you got. My camera can handle a little bit of rain but that’s definitely helpful. So just a little bit more about working with natural lights, if you are filming outside and there is some quite harsh direct light most of the time it is going to be better to actually just go into the shadows. Sometimes people think I need to have sunlight shining onto my face for it to look good but if it is a really bright sunny day it is going to create some quite harsh, unflattering shadows on your face.
James: There is no way I could do that. I actually wait until the afternoon and when the sun disappears over the house I film in the front garden. The sun is hidden but it is going over my head and it is shining on all the greenery behind me so I am filming I guess the shade and all that stuff behind me is lit up but my camera is sensitive enough to be able to get the right exposure even on an automatic setting. So, it comes out okay but I couldn’t look at the direct sunlight, no way.
Ryan: That is a really good way to go because what you are basically getting there is a much softer and more even, more flattering light. A lot of that is actually just reflected light so generally that is going to look a lot better. On that topic of reflected light once you look around you, so much of the light outside is actually bouncing from one surface to another. So, for instance when I am filming in an office in the city, often I will notice the sun shining is actually bouncing off an office building next door and coming into the room and these are some of the sort of things that you can use because that reflected or bounced light is so much more flattering and better looking than the direct harsh sunlight.
James: What about if you have artificial light and natural light so you are sort of near your window like you just described. Do you start to combine techniques or are there some tricks to that?
Ryan: Yes. I mean a lot of the time you are going to have no choice but to combine things. You know you might be inside in an office but you might not be able to completely close all the blinds and shut off all the natural light from coming out. Sometimes you are actually going to be mixing two light sources and it is important to know that the light indoors are actually different color to the outside lights.
So if you look at the sort of color spectrum, the outside light is more of a blue light and the indoor light is more of an orange light and it’s important to just be aware of that and make sure that when you are filming you are not ending up with you know, if you are filming yourself or a subject, ending up looking kind of really orange or on the other hand really blue. Now that is called white balance and I don’t want to get too technical but if people are interested in following that up it might be worth Googling that and learning about white balance and learning how to set your white balance in your camera
James: I know I’ve got mine set to AWB which is auto
Ryan: Yes that is a pretty safe way to do it.
James: It is for me because I’ve got three main ways that I film. I film outside, I film inside, and I film in my three-car garage which has the permanent set up of a black, white or green screen and the light is set up in the way that you are probably going to tell me about like a three point lighting set up.
Ryan: Yes, well you just mentioned the automatic white balance and that is worth generally touching on automatic functions of the camera. Often you hear professionals say “never use the automatic functions on a camera”. Now I wouldn’t say that should be a 100% blanket rule particularly for people shooting short web videos for YouTube. Sometimes, your automatic setting is going to give you the best results.
The one thing that you need to watch out for is if there’s a lot of light behind you and your camera’s set to automatic exposure, it’s going to make you look too dark in the frame because it is averaging out the light that’s in the frame and giving a kind of approximate calculations. I’m sure people who have seen this sort of thing where they have used an automatic setting on their camera and they are filming someone with a window in the background and you get that silhouette sort of effect.
James: If you want to see that, just go to Superfastbusiness.com and check out my logo because that’s exactly how I filmed that logo when I was setting up the camera. I did auto focus and I got this dark shadow thing and I realized I’m going to have to move my lights in a different fashion to get a result.
Ryan: Yes, exactly right and I suppose you saw them. It looks pretty cool, I’ll get a shot of that and sometimes these accidents or errors can actually create quite cool effects.
James: Oh that was just my filmmaker’s eye.
Ryan: Very good I like it. So then talking about using lighting, some artificial lighting that’s the thing that gives you a lot of control and so I like that. I like to exert as much control as possible in the filmmaking process and you know, I guess the potential disadvantage is that you are going to need to spend some money to buy yourself a lighting kit. It’s going to take you longer to set up. And it’s a little bit more of a learning curve to set up lights to make it look really good so without going to too much detail on this, just to run through a few key points I think are going to help people.
There are basically two types of lights and we’ve touched on this. We’ve talked about outdoor light, there’s hard lights or soft lights and hard lights are like the lights that shine directly on you like something like a lamp or a work light you know which can create quite harsh shadows and can be very bright and then something like a soft light would be fluoro tubes or LED lighting or a light with a soft box on it which is basically reflected lighting just going to give you a much more soft even better looking lights. So for your face to camera web videos you want to be using soft lights.
James: Right, now that’s good to know and also if you can find an area where you can leave and set up that works out beautifully in terms of setup time and if you’re dong regular videos, so I’ve got my little favourite spots and you know on occasion if I’m doing a lot of videos then I mark them out with a bit of tape so i can setup in the same spot each time.
Ryan: Yeah that a really good idea because sometimes the set up can take longer than the actual filming. So if you can’t leave then setup. Have some marks or even have a draw a little plan of the way you had things set up if you come up with good lighting setup.
Standard Textbook Lighting
So in terms of setting up your lights, the most standard textbook style of lighting is called 3 point-lighting. Now again I don’t want to go into too much detail to sort of overwhelm people so this is a good topic if people want to take their lighting to the next level, do a search on 3 point lighting where you can see some diagrams of the way these lights are set up and that’s going to give you a better visual reference point but it basically involves having a couple of lights in front of you and lights behind you.
Now you might wonder why you have a light behind you. What that basically does is put a bit of light on your shoulders and it gives a halo effect around your head and that separates you from your background and if you start to look at TV shows and films to a more critical eye, you’ll notice that they’re using this sort of effect all the time to separate the subject from the background and give a little bit more of a 3d effect.
James: Awesome, well hopefully you’ll see an improvement in mine if I started using that. The key light and the fill light and the backlight, is that what you call them?
Ryan: That’s right, yes. So the key light is the brightest light that you are going to use and that’s going to be in front of you in about 30-40 degrees to the side. Your fill light is going to be in the similar position but on the other side, so you have one light to the left of you and one light to the right. Now the reason why your key light is a little bit brighter than your fill light is because it’s going to make one side of your face slightly bright and it’s going to create a little bit more of a contour sort of effect.
So if both of those lights are of the same brightness your face would look a lot flatter where this is going to give more depth and that’s what a lot of lighting is all about. It’s turning this flat 2d image that we’re working with into more of a 3d sort of look, with more depth. And your backlight is as I mention the light that’s in the back. You don’t want that to be too bright but just to cast a little bit of light on your shoulders and on your head to separate you from your background.
So this is the most standard style of lighting and I encourage the listener to start experimenting with that sort of lighting.
James: Awesome. Okay so is this expensive?
Ryan: You can spend a lot of money on the stuff. I have. But you also don’t need to spend too much money. I think you can get some really decent lights from places like YouTube. The thing is they’re not exactly built to last and be moved around a lot.
If you’re in an environment where you can just set up your lights in your office or your room and leave them, that’s pretty much going to be fine. You don’t have to have the best quality lighting. On the other hand if you’re moving around a lot, those cheaper lights are going to break and die relatively soon.
I think for a few hundred dollars you can get yourself setup with a really good softbox lighting kit and that’s a great place to start. It is a bit of an expense to get started but if this is going to be an on-going campaign for listeners, something they plan to do for months and years, that’s going to be money really well invested.
Composing Your Shots
James: Awesome. Okay now the next tip is something that I think is fascinating because it’s really easy to spot; an amateur versus professional using the composition rules. Could you tell us about that?
Ryan: So this is the fourth of those four main tips that I’ve been going through and it connects back to when I started with which is about developing the eye of the film maker. Composition basically just means how you setup your shot and how you arrange things within the frame. It’s interesting because there’s a few standard rules that seems like humans are almost pretty much hardwired with. So if you look at like I’ve mentioned photography and painting and films, you’ll start to notice that basically, people frame people that they’re filming or painting or photographing in almost the same way.
Often these same sort of rules of composition apply so I’m going to mention a few of those and the reason why people do it is because it just looks more natural, it looks more visually pleasing and it looks more professional. By following these rules, you’re just not going to distract the viewer away from your content by kind of thinking, “Aw, I wonder why he’s framed it up that way.” On the other hand if you’re creating more of an experimental film where you want to break the rules a little bit, you can play with that stuff as well.
One of the most common mistakes I noticed with people when I first learning photography or filming is that they’ll put the person’s face right in the middle of the frame. That means that there’s a lot of space between the top of the person’s head and the top of the frame.
Working With Thirds
It almost psychologically feels like you’re diminishing the authority of the person and it just doesn’t look quite right. So the first step for framing up the person that you’re interviewing or yourself is imagine a couple of horizontal lines going across your frame. So you’ve got one line at the top third of the frame, and another line at the bottom third of the frame.
So you’re breaking up your frame into 3 thirds. The person’s eye should be roughly along the top horizontal line. Have a look at paintings, have a look at photography, you’ll see that setup is just really commonly repeated and it just seems to look the most natural.
James: Nice, what else you got?
Ryan: Okay, well that’s sort of referred to as the rule of thirds. If you start to look at pictures in terms of thirds, you’ll notice that a lot of things are framed up in thirds. So if you see a photo of a landscape, and you’ve got the sea and the land in the background, you won’t see the line of the horizon in the middle of the frame. You’ll see it either in the top third of the frame or the bottom third of the frame.
The same applies for vertical lines as well. You’re going to see this thing repeated over and over. Often in an interview, you’ll have the person sitting on the left hand side of the frame and then you’ll have something else on the right like a computer or a tree or something like that. As you’re watching films and TV, start to notice this rule of thirds.
There’s one more rule about lines and that’s diagonal lines. And again you’ll notice that a lot of films, objects with diagonal lines will be in the frame and this is about creating a sense of depth. So it might be the sense of a person standing on the side of the road, you’ll notice the road will make a diagonal line going off into the distance. And that’s going to create that illusion of depth.