Five Tips for Shooting Outdoors

Now that the weather’s warming up, why not film some of your next video outside? Indeed, some of the best online videos are created right in your own backyard, on the streets of a city, or in a park. Basically, anywhere the lighting is good and the ambience is interesting.

We’ve put together a list of useful tips for using these factors to your advantage. Use them to get the most out of your outdoor filming efforts! Keep reading to get the tips.

1. Use the sun as a backlight.

By placing your subject between you and the sun, you can achieve a backlit or “halo” effect that emphasizes the outline of your subject. This can be a desirable effect for romantic or emotionally charged scenes. As a bonus, the subject doesn’t have to squint into the sun.

This technique works best when the sun is at a 45 degree angle. If it’s too low, you risk getting lens flare, so try this after midday. Find out more about how lighting works for video in our recent post.

2. Use the “golden hours” of daylight.

Another option, depending on the look and feel you’re going for, is to film when the sun is low in the sky. Roughly an hour after sunrise and an hour before sunset, the sunlight turns golden.

This magical time is referred to as the “golden hour” because nearly everyone and everything looks better in this lighting. Filming with the sun at your back will give your subject a rosy glow.

3. Use a wide aperture.

By manually selecting a wide aperture and zooming in on your subject, you’ll be able to blur the background and sharpen the image of your subject. This is a nice way to visually create ambience without distracting from the subject.

This is particularly important outdoors because it will help minimize the impact of any unwanted movement in the background. By limiting visual distractions, you’ll keep the focus on your subject.

4. Use a microphone.

Perhaps this goes without saying, but outside environments tend to have ambient noise. This can negatively impact the sound quality of your recording.

To solve this problem, use a clip mic or a boom mic—both of which you can place close to the person speaking—to make sure the focal sound is the speaker, not the background. You can find out more about getting the best sound in your video in our recent blog post on the topic.

5. Use filters.

Most cameras these days come with a variety of filters that will eliminate the slight annoyances of outdoor filming that can be distracting, like reflections and glare. A UV filter, for example, will reduce glare, while a polarizing filter will reduce reflections from water and windows.

Read your manual to find out what filters your camera has, and use them! If your camera didn’t come with any, don’t fret. You can often fake this in post production, or buy specialty filters for your camera.

6. Avoid autofocus.

Shooting outdoors often means that there will be several objects in your depth of field, such as buildings, trees, etc. This can confuse the autofocus.

If you’re not careful you’ll end up with footage that keeps focusing on the trees behind your subject, and blurring your subject. Always try to use the manual focus when you’re shooting outdoors to keep this from happening.

Do you have any tips to add to the list? We’d love to hear them. Feel free to leave them in comments below, or give us a shout via Twitter



How Much Does a TV Commercial Cost

I can not tell you how many times I’m asked that question either casually with friends or more often from prospective clients and my answer is usually a very tongue and check, “Well, you can probably find somebody on Craigslist for about $300 or you can go to an ad agency, staff A-List talent and make a Super Bowl Ad for $20,000,000. Right now you are coming in somewhere in that range.” I'm seeing clients demand for video increasing but they don't always understand what they are purchasing as a creative buyer. 

There used to be a rule of thumb that a video cost $1000 for every finished minute. We always thought that was pretty funny because a :30 spot should then cost $500. That's nonsense! The fact is, the content duration has very little to do with price. Production value is where the overall price of production is determined. 

So let’s look at a few pieces and production workflows that can help educate a buyer in the market for content on how far money goes on video content and who to reach out to. I’m basing this off of what I see in the San Francisco Bay Area’s market where the demand for video production is around Branded Content for the web as well as commercials.

Let’s assume a media buyer was looking for a video selling a Ford Mustang as we take a look at these three tiers of video production:

The Videographer

Budgets $500 — $5000

Typical work : Event Coverage, start-up videos, corporate interviews, how-to-pieces

Typically this is a lone solider who wears a lot of hats. New and clever names are emerging to describe this type of video maker such as Preditor (Producer/Editor) or Shreditor (Shoot/Editor). Like the previous names suggest they are often a one-man-band where they shoot and edit. We are seeing more and more competition in this space. The only barrier for entry in to the industry of video production is to have access to a camera and a computer. Some people like the control of doing all parts of a production and as their workload increases they get better cameras and computers but stick with this workflow because it works for them.


The Production Company

Budgets $3000 to $250,000

Typical Work : branded content, local commercials, internal videos, corporate pieces, university outreach, local broadcast spots, ad agencies

In this tier of production you are going to get a group of collaborators who start to specialize in different aspects of production who have likely built a book of regular clients. There will often be a director or producer who has the relationship with the client as they carry a project through from start to finish. In a small to mid-sized production company you’ll see people wearing multiple hats but when the workload increases individuals stick to their strength and delegate the responsibilities. Oftentimes a production company has many relationships with outside vendors and specialists such as: talent agencies, gaffers/grip houses and special equipment operators who they might collaborate with. Most production company's have a physical location with a couple editing bays and serve as a post-house and many of their employees are editors. A majority of production houses will also have a studio space for filming. We are seeing some higher-end production companies representing a roster of talent with whom they may pull from to pitch toward clients on upcoming projects.


The Ad Agency

Budgets $50,000 — Unlimited?

I lightheartedly began the article about the Super Bowl commercial being astronomically expensive. Well, I wasn’t joking. I’ve worked on one before and let me tell you, they have very, very big budgets. The ad agency is the right direction for many established brands that need to focus on campaigns across different platforms of advertising where video (commercials) is just one of those channels. What a client should expect from an ad agency is a polished campaign and wide reaching placement of advertisements. Oftentimes an ad agency wins big accounts because of their creative track record, think Don Draper pitching copy in Mad Men.

While an agency might have an in-house video production team for smaller jobs they often outsource the bigger jobs to a production company. As budgets increase one should expect the look and feel of a Hollywood film. There will often be concept and narrative to a piece. The crew that shows up to shoot a high end commercial is going to be very departmentalized - much like when you sit through the credits of a feature film and you read job titles like "Script Supervisor" and "Best Boy" and wonder what all of those people do on a project.