Friday, May 04, 2012
Moving From Stills to Video (Part Two)
I wrote about this stuff in my e-book, Zen and the Art of Portrait Photography. In it, I mentioned contemporary photographer, Vincent Versace, who once said, "A still photograph is called a still photograph because the picture doesn’t move, not because the objects in the pictures are not in motion.” Versace added, “The photographer's mission, should he decide to accept it, is to capture motion with stillness." Conversely, a videographer's mission, should he or she decide to accept it, is to capture motion with motion. D'uh, right?
I'll share a personal story which might help underscore this; a story I also wrote about in my e-book and in the same chapter as the Versace quote.
About ten years ago, I was editing videos that were produced, shot, and directed by a well-known photographer whose work appeared regularly in a world-famous magazine known for high-quality photographs of exceptionally beautiful, sexy, and alluring women. (He has since passed away. RIP, my friend.) It was his first venture into the world of video. He painstakingly, artfully, and beautifully lit, posed, and composed his models for the video. In fact, he did so in the same skillful ways that he had done with so many models for his photographs. While we sat in the editing room viewing the clips he had shot, he seemed quite happy with his work... until the models moved, that is. He lamented that his hard work at presenting the models in exactly the same sort of light, real and figurative, as he would for his photographs suddenly did not have the same impact and appeal as when he photographed them in identical ways. He asked if I thought once music or other elements were added in post-production the impact he was hoping for would then be achieved or reinforced. I told him those things will certainly help, but he wasn't overly encouraged by my response. It wasn't that I thought he'd done a bad job lighting his models, he didn't, even when his models were moving, but he seemed to expect them to be perfectly lit at all times. That just ain't going to happen, nor should it.
From a lighting perspective, shooting stills and shooting video isn't all that much different other than the lighting gear you might employ. (Unless you're already using continuous light for your still photography.) The big difference comes when you're shooting video and the subjects will be moving around. With video, you're not always lighting them as if they'll remain in the same spot for the duration of the shot. Another "D'uh," right? The good news is this: If those you're lighting for video will be moving around, your subjects don't need to be lit in the same precise way you probably light them for still photography. Unless, of course, you're shooting an interview or other static shot where the subjects will remain in the same spot. You see, in real life, people move in and out of shadows, the light changes from one spot to the next, and so on. While you definitely want to set your lighting so it looks good throughout the shot, it doesn't need to look perfect, for lack of a better word, as they move about. Video often allows for more "reality" being on display than many still photographs allow for. I will say that I often direct those in front of my video camera to "cheat" to the light or be mindful of the the light but that doesn't mean I'm looking for perfection throughout the shot. I simply want them to be aware of the lighting, perhaps where the best lighting is, and in ways which present them in the best light when it counts. I do this even when I'm shooting in natural light without much of anything helping out, lighting-wise.
Composition, framing, angles, and camera moves are extremely important when shooting video. Unlike using Photoshop in your still photography where framing and composition can be changed, video post-production offers less opportunities to do this. Yes, some editing programs allow you to re-size the shots but it often negatively impacts the resolution. All that preaching I've constantly done about getting it right in the camera takes on whole new meanings when it comes to shooting video!
With video, things like composition, framing, angles, and camera moves go beyond aesthetics. They can be incredibly important elements in terms of communicating to the audience, whether you're leading viewers to something or purposely misleading them or creating different emotional responses. Those elements of camera work are key, often more so than with still photography, in terms of telling the story. There are few things which will set your video apart and make it look professional than good camera work. In my next update, I'll talk about some techniques for taking your camera work to a professional level.
The pretty girl at the top is Ally from a somewhat recent photo shoot.(Click to enlarge.)