Recording is a War Zone
Digital video production can be an obstacle course on set for those with the highest level of endurance. So many variables and technical follies are involved that there are moments in the field that feel like a war zone. Even capturing good images can be difficult, and it is easy to get unusable visuals. If you keep in mind a few important things to avoid when framing up images then you can hopefully avoid some common imaging mistakes for dailies and eventually final digital video projects.
Avoid the Sides of the Frame
One thing that novice digital video filmmakers often forget about is that ten percent of the image on each side, the top, and the bottom, are going to be cut off in the final product. Though technology has developed to try and remedy this issue, it is still a safe bet to keep all-important information in the middle two-thirds of the screen. These things would include main action points, faces, and all visual and directional vector points. This is a unique part of digital video image framing as opposed to the framing of other types of fine art images.
Don’t Pick an Overpowering Background
If you are recording a person or object, and they are the main focus of the clip, then make sure their background never overpowers them. It is great to find a colorful, and detailed backdrop for them to be in front of, but do not make it more interesting than the subject. In a similar fashion, never allow text into the background unless that text is meant to be read. The audience will always read text if it is legible, so avoid things like wall signs at all costs. Black backgrounds are a difficult choice, so you have to make sure it is motivated in your digital video imaging.
Don’t Cut Off At The Joints
Try to never cut anybody off at his or her joints, mostly because it will make the viewer feel uneasy about the image. People need graphical vectors to indicate things that are off screen, and if parts of a person’s body are cut off on joints then it will appear as if they have parts of their body missing. Often times the audience will not notice this consciously, but they will unconsciously be aware than an image does not look right and it makes them uneasy.
No Close-ups on Flawed Faces
If you are recording a person who has a lot of blemishes and wrinkles on their face it is best to avoid an extreme close-up. If you are too close to these kinds of imperfections on someone’s face the audience will just focus on each individual mark instead of the totality of the person. You always want to view the person fairly, and if you focus in on their flaws you will not be doing them a service. You may want to bring in a little bit of video angle creativity when creating your framing and imaging.
Under any normal circumstance, which excludes very active recording where you cannot miss any moment, do not ever use auto-focus. This is an unnecessary tool that is more likely to mess up your images than keep them in focus. It tends to focus in on things that move closest, so if someone walks in front of the lens it will focus in on them and then have to refocus on your subject.