Run and gun. Fast-paced action. Excitement. Adventure. Welcome to the world of capturing the everyday extraordinary happenings on a film set!
I got my first digital camera for my 16th birthday. I loved taking pictures of nature, my family, friends, and things just for fun. We made silly videos together and I edited them with Windows Movie Maker. A few years later, I kept growing in my love of film and photography as I made short films, a documentary, filmed weddings, and took pictures of fun events like family camp and music festivals and posted them to Facebook.
In 2011 I was asked to be the event photographer at a homeschool convention, and I continued doing a few films and senior/family portraits on the side. As we started up the academy in 2014, I eagerly took on the role of the behind-the-scenes photography/videography department and doing editing and social media as well. This year I was thrilled to be part of the Rubber Ducky movie team as BTS Director.
Since filmmaking moved from a hobby, to a part-time, to a full-time job for me, the best way I kept learning was through just doing! Over, and over, and over again. I feel like I’ve grown so much in just the past 3 years as I’ve had the chance to spend more time practicing, and I still have a long ways to go. I’m so thankful for the opportunities I’ve had, the people I’ve worked with, and mistakes made through trial and error.
Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way about BTS videography/photography:
1. Be in the Know
Whether you’re working for an event or on a film set, knowing the schedule is super important. What’s happening, and when? You need to know what’s important to capture, where people will be, and what time you need to be where. Of course you can’t get everything, but it’s important to prioritize and know what you need to get.
What does the director/event coordinator want as a final product? Are they wanting to use the footage to promote their company, or have a light-hearted highlight reel of the event? Maybe they want a 10-minute BTS film to put on a DVD, or 5 short films, or just a quick, 30-second cut. Ask questions, and also make sure you’re on the same page about what the director is comfortable with you doing as far as interviews on set, etc.
3. Tell a Story
Every film has a story. When I first started doing BTS short films, I thought it was just throwing together different clips from the event with some fun music in the background. But I’ve been learning that it needs to have a story – even if it’s a simple one! People will connect much better with your film that way. For example, for the Texas Trek video I helped put together, we decided to go with the simple flow of waking up, packing, driving/flying, arriving, the event (somewhat in order of when things happened), then ending with similar shots to the beginning to tie it all together.
4. Know Your Style
Believe it or not, there’s not just one style for BTS work. It can be cinematic, more run-and-gun, just clips put to a song with vocals . . . do the research and find what style works best for the project you’re doing! And be sure to talk it over with the director as well. It’s important to know this ahead of time (at least the general idea) because it will affect how you shoot.
So, there’s two kinds of interviews I like to do. One is the on-set, in-the-moment interview. The pros to this is that you capture the feeling, emotion, and action right there as it’s happening. The thing to be careful of is not bothering the person you’re interviewing – ask them before you start rolling if it’s okay you ask them a few questions, and just be aware of moments that are stressful or emotional that may not be the right time to be filming.
The other type of interview is, of course, a sit-down interview with intentional lighting/background etc. This kind of interview is more formal in some ways, but it gives you a chance to ask any questions you want and cover subjects you couldn’t/didn’t while you were on set/at the event. Mixing these two types of interviews is great as well.
Also, be intentional about the questions you ask. Remind them to repeat the question back to you (i.e. What did you do today? Today we . . . ). That will help immensely in editing. Be confident and creative in thinking of questions that will make them feel comfortable, and draw them out to get the details you need.
6. Get a Lot of Coverage
Try lots of angles and ideas. Be creative! Either have the camera moving, someone moving, or something interesting happening inside the shot to keep people’s attention. Live footage (especially photos) can capture the funniest moments and faces of people, and it’s sometimes hard to get one where you’re doing things right and they look like themselves. So I’ll say it again – get a lot of coverage. To balance that out though, you do need to be decisive and know when you got the shot so you can move on and not have a ton of footage to sort through afterwards. ;)
7. Technical Tips
Here are a few random ideas I’ve learned from trial and error, and from others, that have helped a lot:
- Hand-held is the best, but hold the camera as steady as possible (too much shaking looks ameatur)
- Get the shot for longer than you think you need (this really helps in the editing room!)
- Consider creative extras such as timelapses, using shots from the finished film, slow motion, go pro, etc.
- Good audio is super important! It doesn’t have to be expensive – I’ve used a small mic on my Osmo, and attached a shotgun mic to a DSLR. It’s imperative for interviews (especially with other things going on around that are noisy) and it adds a lot of quality to have noise from any shot, even if it’s not an interview.
- Wide shots are great, but don’t do just that – get some personal close-ups as well. Rack focusing is a real fun one to do!
- Cut, cut, cut. Remember, most of the people watching probably won’t have the same emotional connection to the event/film that you do, so the shorter the better.
- As far as settings go, I personally love manual. I think it’s great to learn manual and get comfortable with it, and with switching fast. With doing BTS work though, it’s okay to use auto some too, since you’ll have a lot of situations where lighting changes quickly. It can be difficult when that happens, or when you’re constantly switching from video to photo and back again. But getting experienced at manual and knowing your camera and what you want is a great experience.
8. Study Others’ Work
Watch other BTS films and look at pictures, and see what you liked about them, what makes them good, what kind of music they use, etc. And then get out there and do it yourself!
Doing behind-the-scenes work is not easy – you’re constantly running around and on your feet to capture all those details (including during meal time occasionally!), then, of course, there’s late-night offloading, editing, and uploading. But it’s so fun and rewarding to be able to be a part of all the departments in a way, to capture the action, and to see the final product!
I hope this has been helpful – learning is a journey, and one I’m excited to be on with you!
This article was originally posted on the Midwest Christian Filmmakers Academy (MWCFA) Blog