Monday 15 January 2018

Even MORE tips and tricks for shooting Facebook live video (Part 3: Lighting)

Sometimes it's hard for me to admit, but live videos shot with a smartphone or webcam are becoming an increasingly popular marketing tool on social media. The concept is sound; it's a free and easy way to promote yourself to your audience. But as a videographer, it's the execution that often bugs me.

Luckily, there are a few easy things you can do to improve your live videos and to make them more watchable and enjoyable for your audience.. Today, we're going to focus on lighting.


A photon walks into a hotel. The desk clerk says, "Welcome to our hotel. Can we help you with your luggage?" The photon says, "No thanks, I'm traveling light."

Seriously though, light is no joke. We've talked about this before, but it's worth going over again. In video production, we use a 3-point lighting setup which requires arranging 3 or more lights around an interview subject. 

For basic live videos, we don't need to take it to that level, but there are a few easy ways to improve your video lighting. There's nothing worse than your video looking something like this:

That's a pretty extreme example, but it does happen! 

As I said, we're not aiming for Hollywood level video quality here. So here are a few cheap/free ways to improve your lighting (as well as one not so cheap way).

- Utilise light from a nearby window:

If you have those thin white curtains, they're great for video lighting as they diffuse the incoming light, making it nice and soft. This can be quite flattering, as it eliminates harsh shadows. But any natural light source is a good start - just pop yourself and your camera in front of the window and hit record! If it's too bright, move back and try again. Repeat until you've got a good looking image. 

- Use a desk lamp or other portable light:
Small portable lights are great, especially if you can move it around and point it where you need to. A good trick is to cover the light source with a thin white cloth or pillow case. Again, this diffuses the light and helps to eliminate harsh shadows and shiny hot spots on your face. Just make sure the light doesn't get too hot when it's covered!

- Invest in a decent video light:

If you plan to shoot live videos for a long time, a decent video light won't break the bank. A small portable LED light with a battery and a stand will set you back a little more than $200. These lights can be adjusted with the built-in dimmer, and the colour temperature can be adjusted to suit your environment. 

For you Kiwis reading, you can buy a great kit from Auckland based store Photogear:

- Light placement:

For obvious reasons, it's best not to place the light directly in front of your face. If you refer to the lighting diagram above, you'll see the key and fill lights are slightly offset to the subject. 

- Camera location:

We want the light to be pointing at you, not the camera. Make sure there are no bright light sources in the frame - your average smartphone or laptop camera will expose based on the brightest light source it sees, which can end up ruining your shot.

- Brightness:

The brightness of your light source will depend on the environment you're in. It will take a bit of trial and error - just eyeball it.
If you don't have a light with a dimmer, just move the light source closer or further away until the image looks good.

That's it! These are some easy ways to shed more light on your live videos. It's a very simplistic approach and I've skipped most of the complicated stuff like white balance and exposure. For simple live videos, most people are using a smartphone or webcam that will automatically expose the image - so the most important thing is simply to get a bit of light in the mix.

Now go forth and let there be light!

Thursday 23 November 2017

Facebook Live: More tips and tricks for shooting live video and vlogs

Earlier this week I gave you guys some basic tips and tricks for shooting better live videos (see it here). In this post, I'm going to give you some new tips and tricks, as well as go into more detail on some of the ideas I talked about in the first post. 

1) Camera level

Last time I talked about making sure your shot framing is good. This is just as important:

Position the camera at the same level as your eyes. You don't want to be looking up or down at the camera - doing so can actually create interesting psychological effects on the audience that film makers often take advantage of in their movies (ever wonder how they made Tom Cruise look tall in Reacher?)

For example: if the camera is low and is looking up at you, it can make you seem "bigger", and more "powerful". If the camera is looking down at you, it can have the opposite effect.

You want to keep your viewers comfortable. A general rule of thumb is to have the camera at the same level as your eyes. 

2) Camera position

Getting your camera to eye level might be difficult if you don't have a good way to reposition it. If you're shooting with a point-and-shoot camera, a DSLR or even a proper video camera, they should all have a standard tripod mount on the bottom.

You can pick up a cheap tripod on Trademe for as little as $25. You can even get tripods for smartphones (see here).

Having your camera on a tripod gives you the versatility to easily adjust the angle and height of your camera, which makes it really simple to get the camera to eye level.

2) Better lighting

Lighting. Trying to explain how to achieve good lighting in a blog post would be like trying to get a PHD in 5 minutes. And let's face it, we're not trying to shoot Hollywood level productions here. So how good does our lighting really need to be for vlogs and Facebook live video?

Well, there are a few ways you can improve your lighting easily without going over the top:

1) Find a light.
You can pick up a nice bright LED panel and light stand for around $100-150. These are great as they allow you to adjust the intensity of the light, and often the colour of the light too. But for those that don't want to spend too much, you have options:
- Use a household lamp 
- Use natural light from a window

Both of these options are better than nothing. Keep in mind that when using natural light on a cloudy day, the light may change as you are filming your video - so it can be difficult to control.

2) Bounce light off a wall.
Generally you don't want to point a bright light source directly on your face - it creates harsh shadows and often gives skin a shiny look. Direct your light source towards a white wall and then utilise the reflected light instead. 

There is a lot more to talk about, including white balance and the colour of light, and how to properly expose your camera. But we'll leave that for the next one! 

Monday 20 November 2017

Facebook Live Videos - 5 Tips and Tricks for better quality videos

Facebook live videos are becoming increasingly popular - I see quite a few businesses using them as a daily marketing tool on Facebook. They can be incredibly effective at engaging with your audience - and it's really easy to make them better!

These are just the tip of the iceberg - over the next few weeks I'll talk about more tips and tricks, and provide more in-depth details on how to make your videos stand out. 

Here are 5 tips and tricks on how to improve your live videos:

1) Better audio

There is one simple truth about videos: if you don't have good audio, people won't stick around to watch.

Most people who shoot live videos are doing so with a smartphone or a webcam - both of which generally have poor quality built-in microphones. There are two things you can do to drastically improve your audio quality:

1. If you are using a smartphone to shoot your videos, buy yourself lavalier microphone (example here: Simply attach the microphone to your shirt, plug it into your phone's headphone jack, open up your preferred recording app, and shoot away.

2. If you are shooting using a webcam, get yourself a USB desktop microphone, or a USB headset with attached microphone. There are numerous options online (brands to check out include Rode, Logitech and Microsoft). 

When the headset/microphone is attached, your recording software should automatically pick it up and use it.

No more bad audio! Easy. 

2) Headroom

This one may seem simple - but it makes a big difference. When you frame yourself up with your camera of choice, make sure you are the focus of the shot! I see too many videos online where the ceiling or the wall are the primary focus in the shot.
For most live videos involving one subject (you) talking to the camera, these are the two best standard shot sizes:

1. Medium close-up: a tight shot, but not uncomfortably close. The bottom of the shot usually sits at the subjects elbows.

2. Close-up: a tighter shot, showing mainly the head. Can be used for more intimate/personal content. The bottom of the shot usually sits mid-neck, or near the top of the shirt.

I hear you asking why this matters. Well, these are two standard shot sizes used regularly in news, documentaries, movies, etc. People are used to how they look - and it will make your video look more professional. 

3) Lighting

A dark shot screams "amateur". I'm not saying go out and buy a professional lighting kit - it can be as simple as sitting facing a window to take advantage of the natural light.
If that doesn't work, try a lamp or any other light source. Simple!

4) Exposure

Does your camera allow you to set manual exposure? If so, I recommend using it! There's nothing more distracting than the camera automatically adjusting the exposure (brightness of the image) constantly while you're talking.
If your camera allows manual exposure, you can set it and forget it!
One exception: If you're walking around or outside where the light is changing, then automatic exposure can sometimes be easier.

5) Length

This one is simple. Say what you need to say in the shortest amount of time possible! You've only got about 10 seconds before most people will get bored and click off your video - so grab their attention straight away!

And that's it for this round... go and make awesome videos!!

Thursday 29 October 2015

Kawerau King of the Mountain Documentary Project

The Kawerau King of the Mountain documentary has been our most ambitious project to date. We were initially asked by the Kawerau District Council to produce a short 5 minute promotional video for the 2014 race. But after filming the event and witnessing for ourselves just how much energy so many people put into organising and running the race, we decided that a short teaser video would not do it justice. As a result, the project has grown drastically over the past 12 months. The resulting 25 minute documentary covering the last 60 years of the iconic event is nothing short of epic.

Shooting the event was the easy part. It took a crew of 5 camera operators on race day to shoot more than 300 gigabytes (and over 4000 individual clips) of footage. 3 additional operators provided extra interview and race footage during the course of the documentary's editing phase. On top of the race footage, we shot 17 interviews with various runners, organisers, record holders, and even high ranking officials such as the Mayor of Kawerau. Each of these people had an important role to play in the mountain race at some point over the past 60 years of the event, and were vital to telling its story.

The editing is where most of our time was spent. Crafting a story from so much raw footage and hours of interviews is an intensive process. We wanted to really capture the spirit of such an iconic and inspirational event, so we did not rush it. More than 5 months was spent in the editing phase, and the video went through more than a few iterations. But with a great deal of help from Lee Barton from the Kawerau District Council (who was our acting associate director), we managed to pull it off just days before the 2015 event was due to kick off. And today almost 12 months after we originally shot the event, the video has been released online for all to see.

I've learnt a great deal about this amazing event over the past 12 months. This is a project that has taken a great deal of time, but seeing the end result makes the hard work worth it. If watching our video can inspire just one person to take up the challenge and run up that mountain, then we will have done our job well.


Below you can view the documentary. We love to hear your feedback, so feel free to leave a comment or get in touch -

Also make sure to like us on Facebook to get updates on our many upcoming projects.

And if you're feeling adventurous - head on over to Kawerau on Saturday the 31st of October to check out the race and watch the documentary on the big screen.

Wednesday 18 March 2015

Our day out at The Hillary

At 02:30 on Saturday March 14th, myself and a crew of three departed Hamilton for the Waitakere Ranges near Auckland. When we arrived at the Arataki Visitor Center at 05:00 (after a quick stop at BP for a caffeine hit), the start line gantry was being setup and a few runners were already milling around nervously. It was a clear, calm morning and the day ahead promised to be stunning, even with Cyclone Pam's impending arrival later in the evening. The now annual Hillary Trail run was about to take place.

Our crew consisted of Andrew and myself on primary cameras, Murray piloting the drone, and Jason remotely controlling the drone's 4K camera. Our day had been meticulously planned down to the minute. We had over two hundred kilometres to cover between the visitor center and the finish line, which for the runners was a gruelling (but spectacular) 80 kilometers away in Muriwai.

Two cars were packed to the brim with video gear, including a large drone with a 4K camera, real-time video monitoring equipment, three professional video cameras, audio and lighting gear, tripods and stabilisers, various cans of caffeinated liquid, and enough snacks to get us through the day (hopefully).

The event kicked off with race director Shaun's briefing to the large group of excited runners, followed by a few inspiring words from the daughter of Sir Edmund Hillary, Sarah Hillary (whose name lends itself to the Hillary Trail and the event).

After a short walk to the start line and a quick countdown, it was all go as the fifty or so runners blasted off into the night.

Once the runners were out of sight, we shot a quick interview with Sarah and then packed up our gear and headed to our first location, an aid station on Huia Road. We would be pushing the clock for the rest of the day. The drone took some time to get in the air, and batteries would have to be recharged frequently. This is where our dedicated drone operators came in handy, leaving Andrew and myself free to capture the event from ground level.

Unfortunately it's not uncommon for things to go wrong on a big shoot like this one (especially when I'm left in charge of packing the car), and today was no exception. The first issue arose when we realised that I had left the battery charge cable for the drone back in Hamilton. The two massive batteries only provide an 8-10 minute flight time for the 6.5 kilogram drone, so charging them after each flight was essential. Fortunately, our combined electrical "skills" prevailed, and we were able to MacGyver up a temporary (albeit crude) charging solution. It's a mistake I (probably) won't make again.

The time spent on the cable introduced another issue - we were going to be cutting it fine to make it to the next location in time to catch the lead runners. So after frantically packing our gear and almost forgetting Jason, we jumped into our cars and I led the convoy (courtesy of Google Maps) out of the Huia Road aid station and northbound for Karekare. 
It wasn't until about twenty minutes of tedious gravel road later that I glanced at the map on my phone and noticed that we were about to come to a dead end in the middle of nowhere. The usually helpful Google Maps was silently informing us that we'd taken a wrong turn out of the aid station, and to do a U-turn when possible. Our "cutting it fine" had just become "probably screwed". 

Our ETA to Karekare: 70 minutes. First runners ETA to Karekare: 60 minutes. Our day was starting to feel like an episode of Top Gear.

One hour and no* broken speed limits later, we somehow made it to Karekare with about 5 minutes to spare before the lead runners were due to pass through the area. And after finding a car park and partaking in a bit of light sprinting, we arrived at the Comans Track lookout with about 2 minutes to spare before the first runner came blasting through. Just enough time to set up our cameras and press record.

Next up on the itinerary was the 34km start on Piha Beach. The descent into Piha offered up some of the most stunning views so far. We even found time to stop and take the drone up to capture the photo below. Unfortunately, an elderly lady shrieking at us about "disturbing the peace" prompted us to land and head down the hill.

Once at the bottom, we were greeted by the gorgeous Piha Beach. It's days like these that remind me how lucky I am to do this for a job. 

The 34km start saw another 100+ runners head off down the beach. After getting some great shots (from both the ground and the sky) and then cramming in some lunch, it was off to Muriwai to prepare for the finish. At this point our crew split up and Andrew headed off to shoot at a few more locations, including Kitekite falls and the 16km start at Bethells. We'd be meeting up again later in the afternoon at the finish line. 

Due to the traffic and the winding roads, the 60km drive to Muriwai took us well over an hour. But we got there in time to catch Andrius Romanus flying through the finish line around 8 hours and 23 minutes after he started, taking out last year's record.

The next hour or so was spent shooting the incoming runners, and organising interviews with some of the winners. When Andrew arrived at the finish, it was time for me to head down Muriwai Beach to climb the famous Te Henga Walkway. The walkway spans from Bethells Beach to Muriwai Beach, and provides some spectacular views out over the Tasman Sea.

At this point, more and more runners were starting to trickle through, so it provided a good opportunity to fill up my remaining memory cards and exhaust my camera batteries. The sun was sweltering and the temperature was pushing mid-twenties, and I could see the runners were feeling the heat. Cyclone Pam was definitely nowhere to be seen.

Sleep came at around 23:30 after getting home, inhaling a couple of beers and editing a short teaser for Shaun to show at prize giving the next morning.

At the end of the day, my pedometer displayed "25,000 steps, 18km". 21 hours after waking up and travelling more than 500 kilometres, we were spent. 

Overall, we had a fantastic day. The trail holds some of the most stunning scenery I have come across in NZ. And the people are fantastic. Even in the tough conditions, every runner we saw gave us a wave and a smile. We have a ton of amazing footage that we're really looking forward to sticking together. But for now, here's a teaser that I whipped up to keep you all going. 

See you at the next one. 

Jody Arnott,
Ninmo Productions

*ok, that's a lie

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Real Estate Video Update

After a hectic few months, it must be time for a quick update!

 We are really getting into real estate videos at the moment. With summer just around the corner, it is the best time to sell a property. Starting from just $350, our packages are very affordable. Click here to view a summary of our pricing.

We have just invested in a new high-end cinema camera system, the Canon EOS C100.

Paired with wide-angle lenses that are perfect for property interior and exterior shots, it's a fantastic addition to our kit. Check out this video, shot entirely on the C100:

We have a lot going on at the moment, so stay tuned for updates!

Tuesday 3 June 2014

New teleprompter

We've been shooting numerous corporate videos recently, and the need for a portable teleprompter has become apparent.

A teleprompter is a device that allows text to be projected in front of the camera lens, so an interview subject can read the text while looking directly into the camera. This makes for a more natural performance without the need to memorise lines.

We have just ordered a product called the PRomptBox:

It is a small, portable teleprompter that uses an iPad, Android tablet or Smartphone (we'll be using our Nexus 7 tablet). Setup is as simple as inputting the text into an app and selecting the scroll speed. And best of all, it folds down flat in seconds to fit in a small bag!

We're constantly adding to our arsenal of professional equipment with gear like this. Stay tuned for more updates once the teleprompter arrives!