Basic Tips and Techniques for Filming

Rule of Thirds:
Something to be aware of is having the focal point of your shot about 1/3 of the way down from the screen. This mimics how you actually see scenes in real life. This is especially important when we are seeing a person face to face. The eyes of the person you are focused on should be at 1/3 down from the top of the screen.
When filming a moving object, or something with direction to one side of the space, leave more room in front of the object than behind. Make more room where it is going.
Here is a site with photos explaining the rule of thirds.

Use a tripod (or other device to place your camera on) as much as possible. When you are holding the camera with your hand, find something steady to lean on. If you are sitting down, use your leg to steady the camera. Use a pole, the side of a building, a bench. Hands usually shake, look around you, you can usually find something solid to help you stay steady.
You don’t have to get a big clunky tripod either. I had a small, 3 inch tripod. It was very handy and versatile. You set it up anywhere, and you have a lot of options for camera angles, not just limited to being flush with the surface.

Be aware of external sound. Cars moving in the background, scenes in crowded places like bars or restaurants will drown out the audio you are trying to pick up – unless you have an external microphone. The sound may be half of the filming experience, it’s easy to forget about it, but sound is as necessary as the picture for producing your video.

Don’t count on fixing ‘it’ later. It’s easy to say that you will do a voice over or use some editing technique to fix some mistake later. In reality, its much harder to fix it in editing (post) than to just film it over again. Shoot extra shots, do multiple takes; it’s better to spend a couple more minutes shooting than to get home and realize that you are short on the footage you need. Ayayay.

Keep in mind the capabilities of the final destination for your video. The capabilities of a movie theater are much greater than that of internet video (such as Flix55). The resolution of internet video is much smaller and even the sound capabilities are not as refined. Think about how you are watching videos: on a small screen on your computer and with computer speakers. For what we are doing, we don’t need professional equipment.
And we may not want pro equipment either: Go in public, you will get much less attention (and distractions) filming with your camcorder than with a big professional model with microphones coming out the top. Blend in.

Make sure you have an extra battery, and extra tapes just in case. When you are stuck, you will pay anything for some more juice or more tape. I suggest you buy accessories in bulk, you can get 10+ tapes off sites like ebay or amazon for the same price as a few at brick and mortar stores like best buy (buy online if there is little chance you will have to return the product).

Use zoom as little as possible. The pictures quality may suffer, but more devastatingly, the camera footage will be much shakier.

Shoot with the light not against it. You want your subjects to have bright faces, rather than the sun or another light source being directly behind them (unless you are going for that effect)

Technical Tips:
Become familiar with auto vs manual focus.
Sometimes you do not want to focus in on what is directly in front of you, then you will need to manual zoom. Most handheld cameras, under manual focus, will focus on the crosshair or dot or square in the center. Put that mark on what you want to focus on, press the manual focus button, and when what you want is in focus, frame your shot.
And focus on the EYES.

White Balance:
Many new cameras are relatively good with automatic white balance. Basically whenever you are filming in places with different lighting sources (sun, fluorescent lights, halogen lights, etc.), the camera will need to re-white balance whenever you switch locations. When the video looks blue and washed out, this is usually as a result of not white balancing. To white balance, focus on something completely white (a piece of paper, a t shirt, a wall) and press the button on your camera to white balance.

Helpful sites
Basic Camera shots, great rules and terms. Use the awkward shots sparingly, if at all. You have your story to tell, don’t complicate it by adding low angle/high angle/ extreme close-ups. In a 90 minute movie, you might see these camera angles used 9 times in the movie; the rate here is 1 per 10 minutes – that is a good ratio for not getting too artsy and still convey your ideas.