Multimedia Cringe.

My friend recently sent me this link from the Sun-Times [] about gratuitous zooms in film. She correctly observed that if you don’t want to watch it in film, odds are you also don’t want to see it in multimedia (unless it’s breaking news, like a tornado or something— then all bets are off). And it’s high time I discuss some basic sins of multimedia.

Multimedia is a saucy wench. It can make or break your story depending on how well executed it is. Here are some pointers to keep you out of trouble whether you’re shooting with a point-and-shoot, cameraphone or molto-expensivo piece of love equipment.

1) Zoom
DO. NOT. ZOOM. Ever. Well, at least in the same shot. None of this start-the-shot-with-a-wide-scope-and-zoom-in crap. This is not America’s Funniest Home Videos. This is SPARTA! the real deal.

If you want to shoot close ups, shoot them but separate from your other shots. Which brings me to my next point…

2) Shaky-cam
ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS use a tripod. Or something solid and sturdy. Not your friend’s shoulder. You are not allowed to hand-hold the camera unless it’s a really special circumstance like you’re being attacked by a bear. No shaky-cam shots, please. This is not the Blair Witch Project. I don’t want to get motion sickness by watching your lovely multimedia.

3) Bad light
The camera is not going to pick up what you see. The camera is going to shoot whatever you set it to see. Therefore, to avoid bad light, dark pictures, etc. enact the following sequence of events:
a) check the settings. Make sure your camera is set to the correct environment.
b) check the white balance. Make sure it knows what you recognize as whites.
c) use a flash if you have to. Even if it’s the weenie flash on top of the camera.
d) invest in a light kit! Or, use the daylight/natural light/room light to your advantage. It’s okay to tell your subject to move.

4) Pan
Unless you’re a broadcast person and know what you’re doing with pans, don’t do it. They’re either too fast, too slow or too bumpy. If you want to pan, stick to multiple range shots (close, medium and far away) and then compose them to achieve the effect you’re going for. 9/10 pans wind up just ugly.

5) Not close enough

6) No planning involved
Planning is a CRUCIAL step to good multimedia. I tell my students this all the time. You have to go into a project/interview/shoot with some general idea of what you’re looking for and what you want to achieve. Poor planning will give you poor results. Good planning will allow you to have fun and be creative with your multimedia-gathering.

7) Disregarding your audio
It seems like a secondary component to photo and video however, audio is probably the most important part of your final project. Make sure you have clean audio without fuzz, external noises, peaks and distractions. Invest in an audio recorder that’s more than $45. Then sync up your audio and your video in production. If you use the camera audio it’s usually poor quality and not properly balanced. Use your headphones. Good audio makes or breaks a good project.

8) Stop talking
I know this is counterintuitive to the interview process but stop talking. Let your source do the talking. They’re the main event, you are the stage crew.

This is enough info to get you started. If I think of anything else, I’ll add to the list. Also, if you’re looking for a good starter kit for multimedia this is a good shopping list:

1. camera that shoots video and photo
2. audio recorder
3. external mic (optional)
4. lavalier mic (optional)
5. tripod
6. memory cards
7. light kit (optional)
8. flash (optional)
9. computer with video editing software
10. time

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