Mat Trim’s top ten movie-making tips

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Mat Trim Mat Trim has been an independent professional photographer for over 30 years and in his time has used hundreds of different cameras and formats including video.

He's agreed to share his top ten tips for better video photography to help you get the most from our Today's Special Value camcorder.

"Now that spring is here and the weather's getting better, we are all beginning to think about the summer and our holidays. It's probably a good time to think about getting the video camcorder out and ready for the season.

Doing a quick service on the camcorder now will save you time and grief later. The first thing to check is the general condition - that there are no obvious cracks or damage and that the battery charges and holds a charge.

Sanyo Xacti CG20 Full HD 10MP Camcorder with 5x Optical Zoom & 4GB SD Card The second most important thing is the lens - make sure it's clean and free of marks or scratches. To clean use a lens brush and a lens cloth remembering to brush first, then clean it gently with a lens cloth. DO NOT USE FLUIDS! With just a little of your breath, carefully polish the front element.

Lastly, check your memory cards to ensure that you have archived the footage on them to CD or hard drive and then reformat the cards so that they are ready to go before checking all the accessories are still available and working.

There’s not a great deal of difference between stills photography and video photography, the disciplines have many similarities. They both use light and control in the same way with focus, exposure and composition techniques. The only real difference is the extra dimension of movement in video photography.

Below I have listed my top ten tips for better video photography. If you follow these when you next video a family event, holiday or any occasion I am confident your footage will improve immediately.

Joby Gorilla Pod Travel Tripod GoGo with Flexible Gripping Legs 1. Use a tripod
It sounds obvious but because we now have movement in the equation, video without a tripod can be very shaky and distracting. It could be a monopod or even one of those fabulous Joby Gorilla Pods they sell here on QVC but keep the camera still.

2. Treat each shot as if it were a photograph
Remember it's still photography, albeit moving. Use the same compositional techniques, think about litter bins, things growing out of peoples heads and all the other things you don't want.

3. Don't zoom
At least don't zoom whilst recording. Zooming during recording can make viewers seasick and can be very distracting. It’s a better discipline to stop recording, zoom in to the subject and then restart the session. If zooming is part of an effect remember to do it slowly.

It's probably worth mentioning that it’s a good idea to watch films or TV dramas not for their content but for their techniques because you will very rarely see a zoom during a recording.

4. Remember movement
Sounds a bit daft but if nothing is moving on the video it may as well be a still photograph. Try to introduce movement into your footage. Don’t wait until tourists move out the way, leave them in and they will add scale and movement to the shot.

5. Don't talk
Try not to narrate or talk during the recording unless its absolutely necessary – the microphones on most consumer camcorders are designed for sounds to the front of the camera and as you talk from behind its sounds muffled and even worse as if you are in a toilet. Use the cameras built-in microphone to record effects and atmosphere and add narration afterwards when you’ve had a chance to practise or even write a little script.

6. Use contrast
This is a way of adding interest to your video by using contrasts like, light and shade, little and large, wet and dry anything you can think of that will add a little something extra to your production.

Rule of thirds 7. Rule of thirds

This is basic photographic composition and just means try to divide the picture into thirds vertically and horizontally. For example, don’t put the horizon across the middle of the picture it's either 2/3 sky and 1/3 land, or vice versa.

Also try not to put the main action in the middle of the screen, in your mind's eye divide the picture into thirds and put the action into one of those thirds.

8. Slow pans
This isn’t a new range from cook's essentials, it just means that when you have to sweep (pan) across a large scene (and it's better if you don’t) do it very, very slowly. When the video is viewed on a TV the pan speed is magnified ten-fold and is usually far too fast for our eyes to keep up with. And yes, you’ve guessed it, viewers will get seasick again!

9. Look into the camera
When filming family or friends, who are addressing the camera, get them to look into the lens. It sounds simple but a lot of people have great difficulty doing this and will often comment to the person operating the camera. When you look at the footage they look either disinterested or are looking off into space and it just doesn’t look right. It takes a bit of practice but it just looks so much better when they look right down the camcorder lens.

10. Keep to the right or the left
When videoing people try to keep them to the right or the left of the picture rather than in the middle, especially if you are doing interview footage. Have a look at the news on TV, they very rarely have the reporter right in the middle. It just looks so much better and links back to the rule of thirds."

See our Today's Special Value Sanyo camcorder

Read Mat's tips for still photography

4 Comments

  1. jean wise April 28, 2010 at 12:00 am -  Reply

    Hello Matt, I recently went to a very special birthday party and took my camera to video the event and was very disapointed that the movie came out very dark and not very clear at all so I am unable to send the footage to my friend as you can hardly see anything on it, most disapointing. Request for your advice as to why this has happened.

  2. Damian April 29, 2010 at 10:43 am -  Reply

    Hi Matt were can I get a Brush to Clean My Different Camera Lenes

  3. Jo Trim May 13, 2010 at 8:31 am -  Reply

    Hi Mat
    When are you next on air? Your loving sis Jo xx

  4. David Peacock September 5, 2010 at 8:59 pm -  Reply

    Hello Mat,I always enjoy your camera presentations and infact a few years ago purchased the Fujifilm S5800 after watching your tv presentation and which has consistently provided me with excellent pictures! I also dabbled in 35mm 3D some thirty years ago and just wondered if the new Fuji W3 3D camera will ever pop-up as a TSV anytime soon as I see it is being released on the market this month??!! Any information you an provide would be much appreciated.Many thanks.
    David Peacock.

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