Ultimately, as filmmakers we would all rather spend our time & energy doing something creative rather than tearing our hair out putting in long hours to “fix” the problems incurred during production. That being said, this is a list of tips we’ve compiled over the years to help streamline both your production and post-production.
TOMMY, CAN YOU HEAR ME?
Always, always, always record audio on each and every camera you have. Always. Even if you never ever plan on using the audio from the on-camera mic, always record audio. Always. It helps programs like PluralEyes to sync video to the “good quality” audio, and is also unbelievably valuable if/when something unforeseen happens to the “good quality” audio that was recorded on a separate device. P.S. Always!
When conducting interviews, don’t talk over the interviewee - always give them a chance to finish talking. Granted, this is not easy - but it is a skill that will definitely take practice. Most interviewers tend to think you’re having a real-life conversation and the verbal exchange is a mutual give-and-take. It’s not - you’re there only to gather elements from your subjects, and the last thing you want to hear in the edit is some off-screen voice interrupting your talent right when they're about to say something amazing.
White Balance is definitely your friend. Auto White Balance even more so. Take the time before shooting, find a plain white sheet of paper, and white balance each camera in your shoot so that your people don’t have orange complexions like Oompa Loompas. If you’re only going to take away one tip from this list, this is the one you want to turn into a regular on-set habit.
Smart slates are worth the extra money. Those are the fancy white and black clacker-thingies that have the digital running numbers on them. All camera houses rent them. Have one of the rental guys show you how to jam sync multiple cameras and never have timecode drift errors ever again!
There’s even apps for the iPhone & iPad that automatically creates slates, generate take numbers, have running timecode, allow you to add notes from set. Some even add a visual and audio marker for syncing. As if all those features don’t already make them SuperAwesome™, there’s even free versions, which definitely fits into everyone’s budgets.
We’ve all done a dual system production where the poor, lonely slate was left behind, never to experience the effervescent joys of a successful production. So if you’re in dire straights and need to use the old school hand clap as a sync marker (I hope I’m not over explaining the obvious here), it needs to be done on-camera so the editor in post can visually see the point where both hands come together. When there’s a clap and the hands go of-screen, this is essentially worthless. Additionally, the hands at a 90 degree angle relative to the camera is best.
GREEN WITH ENVY
Green screens are amazing, and are well within reach for almost any budget nowadays. The key to getting a nice clean key is (and always will be) is nice even lighting across the entire screen. One hard bright light on one side and nothing on the other makes for difficult keys (and bad quality ones at that). Spend the time to light without any talent, and then place a stand-in and tweak the lighting to minimize the shadows.
DON’T FIX IT IN POST
No. No. No. Stop saying this. The corners you cut in production will often bite you in the ass in post. And when they do, your budget will quickly explode. So much of what’s done in video now is primarily gathering elements for post, so please don’t give us any more work - we’ve got more than enough work to do without adding extra hours rotoscoping something that could’ve been fixed on-set in 5 minutes. So, move the C-stand, make sure the boom is out of frame, and remove as many unwanted logos as possible before shooting.
When not writing bitingly-clever articles about what not to do in video production, Mark Panik runs Don’t Panik! - a full service production & post-production company located in Mar Vista, California. He’s recently expanded his efforts and created a new company Socialyze Media that’s focused exclusively on social media production and advertising campaigns for Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Linkedin.