by Cinematographer & Editor Sean Benson, Digital Brew
These 10 tools are for those who want to enhance their awesomeness in their video production and/or want to uphold a professional video service for clientele. These aren’t just 10 things that maybe you should check out sometime, think of them as part of your “Video Kit”. If you want to be the video pro who’s confident and ready to go when asked to do a job, then you need to have some things in place. Before going “out there,” you should set up the resources you need in a way so they’re accessible at all times.
When someone comes to you with a project or maybe you just want to produce a cool video, start by compiling a collection of references to start painting a picture of the style and content needed for that project. Plus, when working with others those references will help you all stay on the same page.
Have a head start. Seek out and bookmark some go-to sources of inspiration that you like. It can be photography blogs, youtube channels, or Vimeo Staff Picks. This tip is for the guys out there. Don’t be afraid to use Pinterest. Pinterest is a part of Digital Brew’s production process. Film-grab.com is another site I love to browse through for visual inspiration.
Don’t be afraid of using inspiration, putting yourself in the equation is what creates originality. If you make some go-to inspiration sources for yourself, you’ll already have a place to get started when it’s time to brainstorm.
Knowledge and Community
Your next video kit tool should be a pipeline to the video world. You’ll be more valuable and make better decisions if you’re current and up-to-date in what's going on in the video production world.
Join trade organizations in your area or online. Join Facebook groups and filmmakers forums. Sign up for email updates on new and interesting projects. Follow filmmakers or videographers whose work you appreciate. This is a great way to network and learn from others in the industry.
Stay on top of new video technologies and how filmmakers are using them. Learn what sources you like to get this info from. It could be on Twitter, a cinematography blog, podcast, or website. cinema5D is a great place to start.
Don’t waste time on sources that don’t interest you. In fact, I just unfollowed a bunch of film twitter handles that I realized were serving me no real useful info. They were just hogging up space on my feed. Don’t fall into those traps!
Don't overwhelm yourself with information, or even necessarily care what everybody else is doing. Just don’t stay in your own little world all the time either.
You’re probably going to need actors at some point, right? Don’t call your cousin just yet. Make sure you are working with someone who will do a good job. Scratch that. Make sure you are working with someone who will do a great job. Obviously, it will cost more to hire your talent than to use your cousin, but this will take your production to the next level. It can make the difference between a stereotypical student film, and a quality production.
Know how to get access to actors. Sites like StarNow and Now Casting are great options but there are other good companies too. These types of services help you find actors near your area. When talking to your prospects, check out their work and ask for video examples if they’re not up on those websites. Then bring your best options in for auditions.
Did one of the actors you worked with impress you? Be sure to get their contact info to hire them again in the future. Start building your connections!
Improve your editing efficiency by creating your own effect presets in your editing software. Think about the things you do over and over again while editing your videos. How can you streamline it?
For example, I use Adobe Premiere and while editing audio I’d always drag and drop and resize “cross gain” on audio clip transitions to smooth out each and every cut. So now I’ve made my default audio transition 4 frames long and gave it a one-key shortcut. Select all and press one key. Done!
You can also download a bunch of really smart presets that save time. For Premiere Pro you can download some for free here.
Get familiar with the area around you to find good filming locations for a variety of different purposes or scenes. Places with good backgrounds or an interesting or practical look make for a great filming location. See a place for a cool scene or a place that adds production value? Write it down and start a list. You can never have enough of it in your reservoir.
Examples: city skyline, soft-lit forest, cool buildings, some indie diner/cafe with owners who love creatives. We found a trendy party room for a nightclub scene with a dance floor, wall lights, and lasers! Rent is by the hour, but still...
This seems like the most obvious tool, but here’s the one thing I want you to know about cameras. Sometimes people get used to their camera quality and they don’t realize that it is not good enough for the types of work and clients they are looking for. Definitely not saying you need to break the bank. I'm going to guess it's not in your budget to buy a top of the line camera. And that is fine, just don’t be at the bottom of the ever-climbing bracket of acceptable cameras for this industry.
If you are going to use a lower quality camera, focus on making the sound extra amazing. Sound quality can be just as impressive.
Or lastly, don’t listen to me at all! We’ll just say you used that outdated or barely working camera as a creative... “choice”.
I’m not really going to get into what all equipment you need for shooting a quality video. If you're reading this, you probably have a grip on at least the basics of that. But here are some extra things that, in my humble opinion, really help to have on hand.
Pocket tool. Stop using your keys to screw on a tripod mount to your camera! It looks unprofessional. Ok, maybe that’s just a note to myself.
Histogram. I always add this to display settings in camera even if the image looks exposed correctly. Depending on how bright or dark it is where you are, your perception of the viewfinder or screen can deceive you. Ever swear it looked good on camera and then on the computer it's all overexposed and blown out? Doh!
Snacks. Ok, this isn't really equipment, but you know how it goes. You're shooting well into lunch time, working late, or maybe there's no time for breakfast. Working on an empty stomach for long enough will cause your performance, decision-making ability, as well as creativity to drop big time. And it's plain miserable. Video pros need to be on their A game from the beginning to the end of the shoot.
Film schools usually only dabble in compositing effects, if that. At least mine was like that anyway. But on the job I’ve learned how valuable it is if you can handle a bit of compositing and post-effects in a program such as after effects. You don’t need to be a big shot at it, but knowing a few simple tricks like masking out unwanted objects, motion tracking, green screen, stabilizing footage, and maybe even adding a bit of motion into your client's graphic logo at the end of a video can go a long way. You’ll be a more well-rounded and valuable video pro.
Use an online platform to hand off your completed work to clients. IF you have clients, that is. We use Vimeo and it’s very easy to use. Depending on how many videos you plan to upload a week, you may want to get one of their paid subscription plans. You upload it, your client streams it wherever in the world they are, they tell you if they want changes or not. They can also easily download the video right there.
DVDs are done. If you have a client who asks for a DVD, kindly guide them to the present. Online Streaming. People have laid thousands of miles of shark-proof ether cables across the ocean so that you can simply press a button to watch and download your videos. Don’t make their work go to waste by sending a DVD.
You’ll need external hard drives to store your work. And you will want to make copies of copies on a separate storage device in case one fails, breaks, or gets corrupted. Which WILL happen to you someday. What you can do is keep two hard drives that mirror each other. Once that fills-up, then you get two more drives and so on.
It feels good when someone comes to you for video work because they know you're organized, reliable and ready to go. And you'll feel more in control and on top of things if you've got resources deliberately in place to keep you ready for action. A true video pro.
About Digital Brew
A video production company that believes in forming connections through visual storytelling. Inspired by your ideas and goals, they craft explainer videos, film logo animation, brand videos, commercials, and just about any type of video your company needs. The team thrives on giving you tools that drive measurable success.