Things don’t always go to plan. It just is what it is. And the same is true for when it comes to the day of your shoot. Things can sometimes go awry, regardless of how tight your pre-production prep has been.
Take it from me. I’ve been doing this for over 15 years now and even now, 9 times out of 10, something still happens on set that requires a quick fix. It can be as a spare battery going missing or as big as your talent being under the weather – and only giving you 30 minutes’ notice (yes this has happened to me).
With that in mind, here are my top tips to keeping a cool head for a hassle-free production.
1. There’s No Place For Egos
You need everyone on your production to follow your lead, from the caterer to the second AD (assistant director). That means showing authority. It doesn’t mean being an autocrat. Respect goes a very long way on set.
Morale will always affect every aspect of your production – so do what you can to keep people involved, engaged and positive. It’s very normal for shoots to be upwards of 10 hours plus. After people have arrived, set up, tested, rehearsed, and so… time soon passes, as does energy.
The last thing your crew wants is an overly overbearing videographer that neglects to notice all the hard work they’ve put in thus far.
2. Have A Back-Up Plan for Your Back-Up Plan…
While this one is kind of obvious – and essential to preventing any massive disasters – it’s not an easy one to plan for.
Why? Because It’s near enough impossible to have a backup plan for absolutely everything that could go wrong. We’re human, after all. That said, this is what I would consider making sure you are prepared for:
Have a second or even a third location in the bag
There are elements you can’t control. What happens, for instance, if the heavens open up? Do you call off the whole shoot? That’s not going to do you any favors. So always have another location in the bag.
Always pack a second camera
There have been a number of times I’ve needed a backup cameraman. For example, I was in the Falklands many, many moons ago and got sand in my RED camera. Unsurprisingly, it went kaput. Luckily though, I had my trusty Canon DSLR to hand.
Have your talent agency on speed dial
It’s rare, but it does happen – sometimes, for one reason or another, your talent fails or is unable to show up for a shoot… which you find out about at the last minute. It’s important to have a last-minute stand-in lined up.
Trust me, I know all about the downsides of this. There was this one time that a producer didn’t have a backup, failed to let us know there was an issue, and completely misjudged the importance of this shoot. It ultimately set me back thousands of pounds.
3. Lights, Camera… No Wait, Just Lights
Make sure you are familiar with your surroundings. And, importantly, understand how the light will react with your set. Is there a mirror in the shot? Or a window at a funky angle? Is your talent wearing glasses? And so on. All can have a huge impact on the quality of your footage.
Always make sure there is a degree of flexibility to move and rearrange your lighting. The last thing you want is light bouncing off the likes of glass, mirrors and pictures, and being visible to the viewer. it kills a level of authenticity about a scene.
One final point for this section. Lens flares, as much as I adore them, can be more trouble than they’re worth if their usage is poorly thought out.
4. All Quiet On The Set… Please
I’ve always found this tip(toe) to be a genuine lifesaver – film without wearing your shoes. If you’re moving around a lot on set and capturing handled footage, moving around in your socks will help to cut out the sound of a second pair of footsteps and cut down on noises that might interfere with the interviewee’s audio.
It also helps you to be a little more aware of your surroundings, whether it’s treading lightly to avoid squeaky floorboards or stepping on the pesky cat’s tail. Obviously, this isn’t going to be a great tip if you’re shooting outside in a muddy field. Always wear your wellies.
5. Double, Triple, Quadruple? Check Your Settings
Jumping from filming interviews to capturing some b-roll? Trying to get some of that silky smooth 120fps slow-mo footage to cut in between the narrative?
No problem. But always double-check you’ve changed your settings back to your desired typical frame rate (usually 25fps). You don’t want, for example, to be jumping back to more interviews and shooting them in slow-mo, as you’ll be well and truly screwed in post.
The same logic applies when jumping between different scenarios. Just check, check, and check again all your settings.
Key Takeaways For A Hassle-Free Production
- A positive, engaged and motivated crew will make your production run a lot smoother all day long
- Things don’t always go to plan – so have a backup plan (as well as a backup plan for when the backup plan fails)
- Be aware of your surroundings – make sure you can be flexible with set designs and lighting setups
- Make sure you’re wearing matching socks – leaving your shoes at the door will cut out any excess noise
- Keep an eye on your settings between every shot, take and setup – you really can’t ‘fix that in post’
We hope you found this article on hassle-free production insightful useful! For more on how we can help make your captured footage shine, head to our main website.