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Video Shooting Tips

Jason James Gairn

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Here's a few tips on shooting and editing cool tree work videos.

Shoot the action from as many Points of view as possible. Usually the single shot from the ground is problematic as it results in silhouettes of the action. this isn't always a problem and in some cases is great. the beach tree vid in the mist is a good example of where this works well. If your camera has a manual exposure facility, pump it up so the sky blows out but you can see what the climbers doing.

Getting another climber in the tree or at a vantage point just above the main working climber adds drama as we can see the ground. Using a wide angle lens for this increases the perspective and makes it look as if you are much higher. The helmet cam is a nice touch as in RCO's poplar-crane vid (also multi POV shots) If you want to risk a camera, strap it to the timber that is to be lowered or craned off. Ensure the camera is facing the climber. Once again with a wide angle lens.

shoot interesting close up shots (called cut-aways) to edit to when the action seems to drag. these could be the saw cutting through the wood, the climber handling the equipment, faces of ground crew or onlookers etc.

setting up a locked off camera with an angle of view that can see the entire tree, and letting it capture all the action in one shot is great if you speed it up to show the progress of the entire job in few seconds. Some cameras have a time lapse style effect, which will save on tape.

Don't pan across the action for no reason, if there's movement, pan with it, but resist the urge to pan across a static scene. Its better to shoot multiple static shots of the scene with a longer (zoomed in slightly) lens and edit them together to get a montage of the scene (Hitchcock was the master of this to create tension), than it is to sweep across in one go. The same goes for zooming. don't zoom unless theres a really good reason to, like some object is moving to wards you. If you have to zoom, pan at the same time to disguise it. If you can use a tripod with a video head. This will give a smooth shot from the ground. Don't recommend one up a tree. Although you may be interested in a gorillapod (google it)

As far as editing is concerned, come into the action as late as possible and leave as soon as possible. this will ensure the final video will an exciting pace. This doesn't necessarily mean fast editing, indeed some shots need the time for them to work. We have all seen videos that have a guy at the base of some tall tree cutting for five minutes before the money shot of splintering wood at the end. Avoid this. Better to just show the last few seconds.

Music is really good for pasting over the edits to give a fluid and continuous video; but sound recorded on site can have the same effect. If you record some of the natural sounds (wild track)for about 5 mins then lay this down under everything else, it will have a pro effect. Even bird song before the saws start up is cool. If you can lay your hands on a radio mic, get the climber or/and ground crew to comment on whats taking place at the time. We'd love to hear all the `by golly!'s' and `blinking heck's!'.

Please don't take this mini film school as criticism; as I've seen some really amazing and inspirational vids on this site. I just thought this might raise the bar and one day we could have an arb film festival at one of the shows.

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excellent post indeed. ive had many a job in the past that i have had very disappointing video footage from.

Theres no second chance either, that 1 takedown is the only one of the same you'll do in your lifetime, would be great to have some great footage to look back on later on in life.

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  • 1 year later...

I've got a pretty good little camcorder and am taking more vids.... My problem at the moment is that I leave too much in I think.


But I'm going to keep a copy of your hints and tips above looks really good. And also my groundies girlfriend sister I think is a director at channel 5... if anything comes up I'll mention your name.

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  • 1 year later...
  • 6 months later...
what editing software would you reccommend????


My recommendation would be start of with imove then progress to FCP both those programs are for a mac.

Two other tips try and keep the camera as steady as possible or your project will look like the blare witch project.

When you edit try to cut your shots down to 4 seconds or so, people, tend to switch off after that you may find your shots interesting but your viewers won't.

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  • 4 years later...

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