My special expert guest, Bruce bishop, is a professional videographer and owner of Big Muddy Motion. The suggestions he's going to share with you will apply to any type of video excursion, even if you're just shooting video with your iphone. Because remember folks - we all start where we are. You may not be able to have a professional videographer right now but that doesn't mean you don't need a video! And it doesn’t mean your video has to suck. I want you to adventure into new things to tell your story and with these tips from Bruce you'll be starting off on the right foot.

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Hosted By
Monica Maye Pitts
Monica Maye Pitts Chief Creative Officer

Setting the Stage for Great Video with Bruce Bishop

My special expert guest, Bruce bishop, is a professional videographer and owner of Big Muddy Motion. The suggestions he’s going to share with you will apply to any type of video excursion, even if you’re just shooting video with your iphone. Because remember folks – we all start where we are. You may not be able to have a professional videographer right now but that doesn’t mean you don’t need a video! And it doesn’t mean your video has to suck. I want you to adventure into new things to tell your story and with these tips from Bruce you’ll be starting off on the right foot.

Podcast Summary Notes:

Monica:  Is the first step looking for a good spot to film? How do you know a good spot from a bad spot?

Bruce:  Video really all comes down to lighting and sound.

It’s about whether you have lights or not, you know, you’re capturing shadows and shades of lightness. So lighting is critical for the visual experience of the consumer. And sound is obviously critical for the audible experience. 

So you know, just looking at where light comes in, if we’re filming in an indoor scene. I think one thing that gets underestimated quite a bit is how much space we actually need. You can obviously film wherever you need to and however you need to in a pretty small amount of space, but if you want to produce a higher quality final product, there’s a few things that will really help and more space is certainly better. 

So the first thing I’m going to look at if I show up on a location scout is do we have enough room to be able to separate our subject from the background and from the camera.

I’ve been put in situations where somebody wants to be filming in their office and I walk into a cubicle. Sure I can put the right lens on the camera and point it at your face but it’s gonna look awful. And so you know one thing I think gets missed a lot is separation of the subject from the background. So here’s a prime example where I’m sitting today, about eight feet from this wall behind me. If you move your subject from the background, you’ll be able to get a little bit better depth.  The things in the background are a little more blurred out–they aren’t quite such a focus, but they’re there. The next is how far the camera is going to be from the subject. So you know, I’ve got another six feet or so between me and the camera. So your subject from the background is a big one. 

And then where’s the lighting coming from? A lot of people, if you’re filming your own, probably don’t have five or six big fancy lights for lighting your subject. 

So hopefully you’ve got light coming in the window. You don’t want sunlight coming directly in the window, but a nice, soft light. So those are a couple things I look for; do I have enough room to set everything up, and where is my light coming from? 

If you have the luxury of having your own lights, I would just as soon get rid of all the natural light in some cases, and just light it exactly how I want with artificial light. 

The next thing is sound. So you know sound is something that gets greatly overlooked. 

And I think people underestimate how powerful microphones that we use are. If there’s a distracting sound, that is something that the consumer is going to pick up on pretty quickly and you’re going to lose their attention. I’ve gone as far as unplugging refrigerators, unplugging ice machines, turning off air conditioners–all these little things that maybe you live or work in this space so you’re numb to it because you always hear it. But as soon as you fire that camera up, it’s just this whine in the camera that the person who doesn’t work there everyday, they’re gonna notice it and they’re not going to focus on your message. 

So, you know, when I film in my studio, the air conditioner gets turned off. We’ve had a children’s preschool going on in the next door, you have a train go by, a bus go by, not to mention, you know, echoey type rooms. I’m sure this isn’t the greatest footage in here (referring to his own office), but anytime you’re gonna have a big space, you’re gonna have a lot of echo and you need a special microphone to get that taken care of. So those are all things that I’m going to look for when I show up.

If you’re going to be filming with a consumer type camera or an iPhone, you’ve got to be more conscious of these things. I can get around some of those things with professional equipment, whether it’s lighting, or changing the type of microphone I use, but if you’re using the audio or the microphone on your phone, you are more at the mercy of your environment.

Monica:  You mentioned earlier the importance of distance from the camera. Can you elaborate a little more on that?

Bruce:  A lot of it depends on what your messages are, what you’re going for, what is the ultimate outcome of the video.

When you separate your subject from the background, you draw more attention to the subject., You can see behind me that there’s stuff going on; there are some cameras back there, there are some lights back there, but maybe you can’t quite tell what they are. Meanwhile, I should be in crystal clear focus. So your eyes detect that there’s stuff going on behind me that fits the narrative of what we’re talking about. But you have no choice but to focus on me because I’m in focus, pun intended. So that helps create an appealing environment while keeping the focus on me.

You can also change the distance of the camera with different lenses. If you’re gonna be shooting with an iPhone, you’re probably going to be closer. You do not want to get in a situation where you’re zooming in with an iPhone camera, because the more you zoom the worse the video quality gets. So get the right distance without zooming in. With a phone, that might be four or five feet. 

The other thing depends on how you want to frame your subject. So in this case, and in a lot of interviews, you might be framing from the sternum to the top of the head. On the other hand, If you’re outdoors and you’re filming a construction site or somebody who’s working on a site, you’re probably going to be a lot further from the subject in order to fit the environment into the scene. 

For a podcast like this, four or five feet in front, you know, another six or eight feet behind, and you’re in pretty good shape.

Monica:  Do you think it’s preferable to film in situations where people are sitting or where they are standing?

Bruce:  The first thing to take into consideration is what fits your narrative; does it make sense for somebody to be standing or sitting?

Wherever appropriate, I would generally pick sitting in most cases, because nine times out of ten, you’re going to be filming somebody who is not comfortable in front of the camera. They’re going to have awkward tics, they’re going to have awkward movements. They can’t see what you see behind the camera. They don’t know if they’re moving off scene and people tend to wander if they’re standing. So they might tap their foot, they might sway from side to side. There’s a lot of things that happen to a standing person who’s not comfortable in front of the camera. Unless the scene were to just require standing, I’m going to pick sitting most of the time because it keeps that person static. I don’t have to worry about the lower half of their body tics or anything like that.

On that note, anything you can do to make people comfortable is better. (Monica always has goodies, combs, mirrors, dry shampoo, hairspray and powder for in-person guests).  We’re dealing with businesses and people who want to tell their story, but this may be the very first time they’ve had a real camera shoved in their face.  It’s a very uncomfortable situation with bright lights, cameras, people talking, and then high expectations to get it right.

And you as the facilitator can do a good job of clearly communicating with people what they’re going to do, if they’re going to have a script, if they need to read the script, where you’re going to put it, give it to them ahead of time, if they need to memorize it, etc. Those are all things that you can communicate ahead of time and make sure that they’re comfortable in the situation.

Monica:  So what are some other ways we can improve lighting and backdrops?

Bruce:  Lighting is everything. Sound can be turned off and dealt with later, but the lighting has to be right.

You can change the lighting to change the mood of what you want to talk about. If you wanted more of a dark, ominous type feel, maybe part of your scene is telling a story from the past or something like that, and you want to feel kind of scary and dark, then you’re gonna want more shadows and one side of the face is going to be darker, and the other side’s gonna be lighter. 

Then there may be cases where you want to be light and airy, and you want everything lit pretty evenly. So it really just depends on what message you want to portray. But generally speaking, you can’t go wrong with even lighting. You don’t want a bunch of shadows on one side of the face. 

The bigger thing is really trying to light your subject and your background separately. 

Otherwise, what you’re seeing will look pretty flat. You can see what I’ve done here is I’ve got a light shining right on me. So I stand out from the background. The background can be kind of dark. And so that’s a good way to kind of draw attention of the viewer towards the subject. So if you can separate and light them individually, that makes a big difference. 

Glare is a big thing to watch out for, and it’s very tough to manage. Especially if you’re outside. Outside you’re gonna have all the light in the world that you possibly need, but you’re gonna have too much light in some cases. Inside, going too dark is generally going to be your bigger problem if you don’t have artificial lighting, while outside too bright is going to be your problem. Whether it’s glasses or a bald person like myself where you’re going to get glare off top of my head, you have to figure out ways to soften the light to fix that. They make diffusers which are more or less bed sheets that you can use to block some of the light to try to keep it from being so harsh. 

When filming outside, if you’re at the mercy of whatever light nature is going to give you, filming in the first hour and a half of daylight and the last hour and a half of the evening will provide you with the best light without really needing a lot of auxiliary lighting. So if you’re stuck outside, then utilize that time frame as best you can. You do not want to be out there filming at noon, because it’s pretty unflattering.

Monica:  Do you have advice about what people should wear in videos?

Bruce:  Tight patterns are generally awful.

The way cameras interpret tight stripes, for example, can make them appear to vibrate on the person wearing them. Different types of lights work in different ways and, whether your eyes can perceive it or not, like pulsate. So if you have that busy pattern, you’re going to get what almost looks like the shirt moving on its own. So stay away from tight stripes, polka dots, tight tight patterns.  Generally speaking, I’ll tell most people solid colors work best, or big patterns. 

The other thing is to think about your background. 

So if you’ve got an outside background and you’ve got somebody in a floral shirt, they’re going to blend right in like they’re wearing camouflage. White video is getting more and more popular where you have just a white background. You don’t generally want a white shirt with a white background; you can end up looking like a floating head. Same thing for a black shirt and a black background. We do a lot of white and black backgrounds. You’re gonna blend in. 

I doubt very many of your viewers are probably doing this but I do a fair amount of it; If you’re doing green screen or blue screen work, If you wear green, or you wear blue, you literally will be a floating head by the time the scene is over.  So whether you’re filming alone or you’re filming someone else just remember never to wear clothing the same color as your background. And stay away from the tight patterns. It never hurts to bring changes of clothes to a shoot to see what works.

Monica:  Are there common mistakes you see all the time or other absolute “DON’TS” that you want to share?

Bruce:  Be wary of auto-focus.

If you’ve got auto focus on your camera and your subjects moving and you’re trying to film in one cut, autofocus could cause an issue. On newer cameras, autofocus literally tracks your eye and keeps that in focus, but older cameras or consumer type cameras don’t track as well. If you’re trying to film that scene and the subjects come moving forward or back, whatever the case might be, you’re going to have parts of your clip in focus and out of focus and it’s going to become unusable. So that’s a big one. Use manual focus if you have that option. 

Sound is another one. 

Take a step back and listen for sounds you may have become desensitized to and think about what else in the scene might cause those types of distracting sounds. 

Camera quality is a factor, of course, but people are making multi-million dollar feature films with iPhones, so it can be done. It’s just about paying a little more attention and the lower quality camera you have, the more attention you’ve got to pay. 

Outside of that, I mean, it’s really just an eye thing. It’s capturing what you want out of the final shot. Make a shot list; what do you want this to be? Don’t just put somebody in front of a camera and say, “Hey, just just tell us something about something”, because they’re going to clam up or they’re not going to get you the right message and you don’t want worse content out there than doing nothing. So you know, have a plan, have a message that you want to get across and do it. 

If you’re not doing video now, one of the bigger things I think I can tell you is STOP NOT DOING VIDEO, 

because 82% of all internet traffic consumed is video right now. And if you’re not telling your story for yourself, somebody else is probably out there telling your story about you for you… without your input. And it’s probably not the message that you want. 

Also, 34% of job applicants are more likely to follow through with an application if there’s video involved in who they’re going to work for. So, you know, I think a lot of that goes to the newer generation. They want to know the story of who they’re doing business for or who they’re working for. They want to know where their food comes from. They want to know the story of the people they work for, the products that they buy, and they’re moving more away from the big box stores. They want to do business with local companies, but they want to know who you are before they do that. And whether that means that they want to come work for you, or they want to buy your product, they want to connect with you. And video does that time and time over better than pictures or text.

I think people trust video more than images or text because it’s much harder to fabricate. 

We all understand photoshopped images and how easy it can be for anyone to alter the way things look.  We all recognize stock photos. Talk about smiling, happy people. I can go online and in 30 seconds you will see an image on my web page that shows smiling, happy people. I don’t know who any of those people are, but they’re happy. But video is hard to fake. It seems more genuine. You can connect much easier with a video and hearing somebody talk. Pictures can be beautiful, and they can tell a great story about your business, and they absolutely be part of your marketing plan. But you know, video is what people connect with.

Monica:  One thing that I feel like you do really well for us as you always have your filming from multiple directions just in case something goes wrong!

Bruce:  That leads to another tip; pay attention to what you like about what other people are doing.

Monica:  Any final advice about setting the stage for great video?

Bruce:  Yes, so I would say come up with a plan.

Don’t just call Monica or call me and say, “Hey, I want to do a video, I have no idea.” I mean, that’s a great place to start. But most people get inspired by something. So sit down and think about what your story is and what you want your clients, potential employees, or customers to know about you and your business and what products or services you provide. 

Then brainstorm what the best way to do that is. Don’t just point a camera at somebody and say, “Hey, tell them where you came from, and what you do”. That can certainly be a part of the message. The higher the quality, the easier it is for viewers to connect with you and your purpose. So think about what that purpose is. And then build a shot list, do a location scout.

One of the worst mistakes I think people make is with location. They say, let’s just meet there and film that day, and never go there ahead of time. And then you show up and you’re like, Oh, my God, I don’t know how to deal with any of this stuff. Unless it’s just unfathomably far, I always do location scouting. So I don’t want surprises on the day of the film.  Check on whether there are enough outlets.  Check to see if you will have enough space to film properly.  Check to see what the lighting conditions are.

The other thing is the talent; that’s probably one of the biggest challenges I face.


And there’s not always an easy way around it. You can have somebody who’s just gung ho, and they’re ready, and they agree. And they’re going to read the script, and they’re going to memorize it. And they’ve got it memorized, and they show up and they look beautiful, and everything is perfect. And you flip those lights on and hit “record” and it turns into a clam. It happens a lot more probably more often than it doesn’t happen. 

There are some ways around that. Sometimes in videos of someone talking, you will see the side of their face more than you see the front. Sometimes that’s just because that person needs to read whatever they’re going to say. And you don’t want the camera necessarily in front of them, because they’re looking just off to the side and you can tell they’re not talking to the camera. That looks awful, so it’s a lot better to show them from the side and take your money shots that you can get right in the front lens. 

Consider a teleprompter. That is something that I’ve invested in, because using a teleprompter is going to be the easiest way to do it for some people. You know, a read script never sounds as good as genuine speaking. But sometimes that’s one way you get through it. 

Another thing I would say too, when it comes to scripts, is that sometimes it’s not always best to give your talent the script ahead of time because you want the most genuine off the cuff response you can possibly get. If you’ve given the person the questions, or told them what to say, then it doesn’t come off as genuine sometimes. It’s just like if you’re reading from a teleprompter, you don’t write like you read so things just sound a little bit different. 

As the videographer or the producer, I would say to go into it knowing what responses you want from your talent. 

You’re gonna have a lot of cuts and a lot of takes. There might be a specific thing you want your subject to say – it could be a compelling line about why you should do business with their company. Well, if you tell them that’s what you want them to say, it doesn’t always sound very good. So, instead, think about asking a long list of probing questions that might lead to your subject saying exactly that thing. And I think that’s the difference between just showing up with a camera or being an actual producer is when you can ask the questions that gets your talent to say the things that you want them to say. And then it’s more like a conversation between you and the person that you’ll cut together to make a nice clip after it’s over. But if you can ask the questions that get them to say the nice, crisp, genuine answers you’re looking for, that’s gold.

Monica:  How can people get a hold of you?

Bruce:  There are several different ways;

I’m on social media. So find me at Facebook or Instagram as “Big Muddy Motion”. You can direct message me. Like and follow always helps! I’m on YouTube and then I’ve also got a web page www.muddymotion.com so you can see some of my work there and also send me an email or a message at [email protected].

Monica:  Thank you so much for your time today Bruce, I appreciate it!

Bruce:  No problem – thank you for having me on!

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