Geoff shooting the video from top with EOS 80D.


Making a video story

When you shoot your video story, it is vital to have a subject that interests you. This focuses your attention, driving you to capture the essential elements that keep your audience watching until the end. The following tips will guide you on how to capture all the footage required to tell your own stories.

Plan your shoot

Geoff drawing storyboard with pencil in a notebook.
Get your idea on paper and prepare your gear.

Planning your shoot helps to make sure you capture all the necessary footage. Writing notes about the content you want to film – and how you might approach it – organises the shoot in your head before it happens.

Prepare your gear before the shoot; charge your batteries, and clean your lenses. Remember that batteries run out faster when shooting video than stills, so make sure you have extra ones. Format your memory cards in your camera so that they are ready for the shoot. Video files are large so you may need memory cards with more capacity.

Most of the cameras have a built-in microphone that can record sound, but you will capture better audio with an external microphone, like the Canon Stereo Microphone DM-E100. Cameras such as the EOS M6 Mark II have external microphone ports for when you need to ensure your sound is crystal clear.

Establish your setting

Set the scene for your movie with a series of wide shots of the location. Mix these with some details and extreme close-ups of the environment you are filming in. Zoom lenses with Stepper Motor (STM) – options include the EF-M 55-200mm f/4.5-6.3 IS STM, EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM and RF 24-105MM F4-7.1 IS STM – are great for movies as they work smoothly and quietly.

Make sure you move around the location, and avoid shooting from the same position. This footage will be the opening to your story, and will show the viewer context and location. Try to capture at least ten seconds per clip for these establishing shots, so you have some wiggle room in the edit.

Present the subject

Shot from video Robot Man with the subject named Alan standing in front of the camera.
Capture the environment of your main character to introduce them to your audience.

Present the main character of your movie by showing details of where they are and what they do. Take different clips of the subject in action, and try unusual compositions and lighting styles. Many cameras, for example the EOS RP, EOS M50 or EOS 6D Mark II, allow you to use autofocus when filming, which you can rely on to keep the subject’s face in focus.

Talk with your subject while filming, this makes their expressions much more natural. It also can help you discover another layer of their character you might want to capture on video.

Use close-ups

Isolating specific items with a close-up shot builds interest. These detail shots can be very helpful when you are editing your movie.

Not all close-ups need a macro lens – your standard lens may be fine in many cases. Zoom in as much as possible to make subjects larger in the frame, while isolating them from their background.

Textured items and patches of colour are ideal for abstract detail shots. Don't forget to move the camera, bringing the detail into the frame from an out-of-focus background.

Try different perspective and experiment

Geoff crouching on the floor taking a video of the robot with EOS 80D.
Go very high or get down on the floor and take some time to try something different.

Try to capture your subjects from unusual angles. Not all shots work out, but you won't know if you don't try! Change your viewpoint by getting above your subject and shooting down, or get on the ground and shoot up. Shooting from underneath your subject can give a totally unique perspective. A Vari-Angle touch screen, like the one on EOS 850D, can be very helpful with that. Altering position can make your video much more dynamic than shooting entirely from a normal viewpoint.

If you're shooting beyond the subject in your foreground, select a specific focus point to keep the background sharp while introducing some cinematic foreground blur.

Rethink your composition

Think about how to best position the elements in your frame. Sometimes normal composition approaches like the rule-of-thirds and leading lines, work well. Make sure to try other viewpoints, for example, using symmetry, to create alternative shots.

Make use of detail shots and extreme crops to hold the interest of the viewer. Try different angles and viewpoints and discover your own style, to make your movie stand out from the crowd.

Play with speed and time

Geoff leaning over EOS 80D on a tripod filming a robot.
Use time-lapse to condense longer scenes for more dramatic effect.

Jump cuts are helpful to add pace and drama to your movie. Shoot similar sequences from the same angle, then jump between different parts of each sequence, to transition from one moment to the next.

If your camera has a time-lapse or high frame-rate capabilities, you can use them to play with speed and time. Engage the viewer with a time-lapse sequence, to compress slow-paced action into shorter clips. Use the high frame-rate capability to slow down fast action.

Build the suspense

To start building to the finale of the movie, you need to create visual tension. Do this by using a range of shots, extreme close-up and wide shots. Reframing the camera from a neutral subject to the main final scene is a good way to move the video to this final stage.

Keep shots short to build the suspense. Remember that you can always take a few seconds from a longer clip, so try to capture a few seconds of spare footage before and after the content you want.

Capture action and reaction

Geoff looking at the LCD screen on the back of EOS 800D filming Robot Man video.
Don’t forget to capture the reaction, emotions of the subjects in the video.

Change to a fully charged camera battery before the final scene begins. You don't want to miss any of the action because of a flat battery. Also, make sure you have enough space on your memory card.

It's essential to capture the final action of your film, but don't forget the reaction of the characters involved. You may need to move around at speed. Keep the camera rolling and try to move it smoothly. Canon Tripod Grip HG-100TBR, which works best with smaller cameras like EOS M6 Mark II, can help you get steady footage. Change the shot from wide to close-up by moving your position and zooming the lens. Aim to capture the feeling of being involved in the action around you – you want your viewers to feel engaged.

Have fun

Have fun making your movies, sometimes things don't work out as you planned, but you learn a lot from these situations. By building rapport with your subjects, you discover more about people and world around you.

When you're capturing a movie, you are in control of how the story is told. When you work with people, you will ultimately influence their portrayal of events and situations. Your movie has a part of your personality in it, so enjoy making it.

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