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Top Filming Tips & Techniques

written by: Shane Burley•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 1/26/2011

Here are some of the most important filming tips to make sure that you get usable images.

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    Successful Filming

    The process of actually filming a scene or event is more complicated than people realize. You can purchase the most expensive film or HD camera, use the best sound equipment to match it, and make a lot of changes during post-production, but if it was not filmed adequately from the start then your footage is never really going to work for you. The most important filming tips that you can try to think about for your production often are non-technical and are true to most motion camera situations. Here are some of the most important filming tips that you can begin to apply to your own vision.

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    Image Framing

    The most important part of image creation when filming is going to be around the framing of the image, and this actually employs some of the most classic elements of the visual arts. Many of these filming tips come directly over from paintings and photography, dealing with how subjects and objects are positioned against the frame of the camera lens. The camera position is one of the creative areas of your entire film project, but there are still some principles that you can follow to be successful. When you are constructing a video image make sure that you position the subject more toward one side of the frame, having them shift their forward position toward the opposite side. Allow some negative space in front of them, this will make sure that they appear as though they are looking into an open world instead of a claustrophobic space.

    One of the other important filming tips around image framing will be around the use of symmetry and asymmetry. Most symmetrical images should be avoided in video imagery because it tends to be less visually complex. Instead, asymmetrical positioning of the subjects and objects will add energy to the image.

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    Lighting

    Film and digital video capture the image of light reflecting off objects, which means that you need to address the lighting in a scene as the primary concern. This takes a couple different avenues, especially since you have to balance the character of the lights used on the subjects in the frame and the intensity for proper exposure. Filming tips usually include the need for matching the lighting position to both the characters and mood of the scene, but that is really only part of it. The most important thing that you are going to need to focus on with the lighting is having the exposure match the needs of the camera, which is a balance between seeing it properly and getting the right depth of field. To do this well you will want to block out the actions of the scene first to see what the camera needs to move between, then put in the lighting positions that you want. From here you will then adjust the exposure until you get the light meter readings that are going to match the correct camera settings.

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    180 Degree Rule and Avoiding Jump Cuts

    Filming is intended to maintain continuity in a given scene, especially if that is a narrative scene. When you are editing the footage that you recorded you will need to maintain the geographic space of your video world, which is why you want to respect an invisible line of action in your camera positioning. This 180 degree rule means that you should not cross a line going through the middle of the scene, only presenting angle from different angles on one side of this line. If you jump over that line it will appear differently in the video image, and it will look as though the subjects and objects moved around in relation to each other. This is going to break the continuity of the audience watching the video even though they know that there has not been a repositioning, so continuing the 180 degree rule is an important rule to set unless you have a reason to break it.

    In the same way, one of the most important filming tips to follow is to avoid jump cuts. Jump cuts occur when two different camera angles that are very close to each other are cut together. What happens here is that the image of the subject appears to jump really quickly, and to avoid this you need to make sure that your camera angles are at least thirty degrees away from each other and possibly even have a little different of a focal distance.