John Wahl with TMHS students


  • digital or analog; almost all are digital now
  • high-definition video
  • mountable on tripod
  • a mic input
  • avoid tripods with ‘cookies’ (the little hook-up-to-camera piece – the cookie is removable and often gets left with camera, making tripod worthless)
  • if no tripod, keep camera arm’s elbow tight into side to steady the camera
Videotape that fits the camera
  • label it with name and project title
  • run about 30 seconds of footage that’s NOT important at the beginning of the tape
    • if a tape gets damaged, it’s usually the beginning of the recording.
    • for downloading into FinalCut Pro or other programs, you need ‘header’ footage that will not be usable in editing (so you don’t want the header to be crucial footage)
    • use the first 30 seconds to est WHITE BALANCE – put a piece of white paper in front of lens
    • GRAYSCALING – holding a grayscaled sheet to lens and checking that those gradations are visible on the video image
    • Also, test the audio mic input
  • Camera’s on-board mic is poor
  • Avoid capturing surrounding background noises
  • Small hand-held mic; or a lapel mic
Three lights
  • To implement ‘three-point lighting system’
  • Light bulbs
  • Extension cords & power strips

What’s the Three-Point Lighting System?
  • A system that forms a triangle of light sources around the subject
  • Key Light – the primary light
  • Fill Light – illuminates the side of the subject opposite the side illuminated by the key light
  • Back Light – Illuminates from the rear in order to separate the main imagery from the background (when it’s on alone, you get ‘halo effect’)

John’s Gear Tips:
-Know your gear: what to use and how to use it
-Mark your gear so it doesn’t disappear

  • Scout the location
    • If the location is someone’s home, ask for a pre-production visit to investigate power sources, light sources, background, etc
  • Think about the COMPOSITION of your shots
    • Rule of Thirds
      • Divide the visual shot into 3rds horizontally
      • Line up natural horizontal images with those horizontal lines (ie the horizon)
      • Divide the shot into 3rds vertically
      • The four points around the center of the image are potential good focal points in your shot
    • The Four Design Principles
      • Contrast
      • Repetition
      • Alignment
      • Proximity
    • Framing an interview:
      • The eyes of your subject should align with the upper third line, and one eye should line up with a vertical line
      • Subject should be looking toward the empty space in the center of the grid
    • Angles and types of shots
      • Consider using multiple cameras for interview work
      • Extreme wide shot – sets the whole scene where the interview takes place
      • Wide shot – can see the whole space of interview; subject’s whole body
      • Medium shot – waist up
      • Medium close up – head and shoulders
      • Close up – head only
      • Extreme close up – face fills the frame
      • Tilt up shot
      • Tilt down
      • Zooming in, zooming out
      • Bird’s eye view
      • Medium high shot – positioned slightly above the subject; suggests position of authority
      • Eye level shot
      • Medium low – positioned slightly low, suggests largeness/child’s perspective
      • Worm’s Eye view – shooting from very low (ie the ground); subject becomes huge

  • Check your GEAR SETTINGS:
    • Audio settings
      • they ‘default’ to the lowest audio setting (12-bit, 1 channel)
      • we need to switch the audio settings to 16-bit (the highest input)
      • if the cameras are recording at difft audio rates, then the computer editing program will have troubles
    • Check the aspect ratio – it should be at 16x9

  • Rule in film: ‘say dog, see dog’ – If the interviewer talks about something, the viewer will want to see that thing
  • After the interview, analyze what was discussed – then go capture footage of it, considering what type of shot you want
    • These are ‘cut-away shots’ or ‘B-roll’

IV. JANUARY TEAMS – 3 to 4 people each
1. Director of Cinematography
-white balance
-16-bit audio
-16x9 aspect ratio

-what shots do you want? John suggests—
-wide ‘2’ shot
-close up of face; what angle? – eye level, high, or low
-3rd camera = moving camera
Production Assistant (same as Lighting Director)
-marking tapes
-taking notes – name of interviewee, length of interview
-note which camera got which shots (shot 1 = closeup; shot 2 = wide angle; etc)

2. Lighting Director
-save cookies for tripods after shoot
-check for power; organize cords and power strips

3. Audio Director
-setup mics
-test audio ahead of time; check tape to ensure that you’re capturing audio
-have a backup audio source in case of failure
-on headset during the shoot to monitor audio levels

WEB RESOURCE: - a Student Filmmaking Page

IV. RYAN’S TIPS FOR PROTOCOL DURING INTERVIEWS (to be discussed in more detail in January)
-Prepare the gear and the shot set-up before the interviewee arrives, if possible
-Be subtle about alerting Ryan / other leaders when you’ve begun recording. Shouting ‘rolling!’ or ‘action!’ will only make the interviewee feel nervous.
-Never correct the interviewee or ask him/her to move or adjust position for your shot—WE, the crew, must adjust for him/her.
-Be ‘Film Ninjas’—silent & invisible to the interviewee as you capture your excellent footage.