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Veteran film maker offers tips for making the best home & business videos

For Immediate Release

Media review copies, book cover and high resolution photo jpegs available via email, and interviews available upon request. This article may be used in whole or part with a modicum of attribution please. Shorter versions available.

Contact: Barry Casson Toll free: 1-888-522-FILM (3456) or via his cell phone 250-744-8664 or just hit reply and tell us what you need.

Veteran film maker offers tips for making the best home & business videos

You may own a new digital video camera and even have purchased the software for your computer that allows you to make your own movies. But try as you might, it’s not easy turning your recordings into a professional looking piece of work, even if the kids on You Tube make it look really easy!

Veteran film maker Barry Casson, author of the book Marketing with Film and Video, has pulled together a collection of the great tools, tips and stories that illustrate the essentials in how to make great films and movies.

Barry says that you can learn a lot and make great family productions using home recreational equipment. But you shouldn’t think that your little handycam is going to be capable of shooting video for a business. That’s going to require help from professionals with better equipment and capabilities.

No matter what sort of equipment and capabilities you have Barry offers up some of the best advice to make sure you get the most out of what you got. Here are some of his tips for planning and producing your own videos:

¨ First make a plan. All the pros use this technique and you should, too. Plan every detail of your video from start to finish using “PPP”. This stands for Pre-Production Planning. It’s what every savvy producer does to guarantee a successful production and you can never do enough of it. Get a notebook and create a script for your actions and those of the people in your film. Then label your shots so you know what you shot.

¨ Stage your interviews. You probably watch a reporter interviewing someone and right in the middle of the interview we suddenly see the reporter nodding in agreement.  But we know that a news crew only has one camera? So how did the cameraman get to the other position to shoot the reporter nodding?  By filming the two people and merging the sequences later.

¨ Use “Image Displacement”. It’s a great way to keep your editing really smooth and seamless.   Just keep the eyes of your audience in the same part of the screen as you introduce shots. Keeping the main action at the same place will make your editing easier, faster and smoother.

¨ Ready, camera, action. It doesn’t matter whether you are a professional or an amateur film or video maker.  You need to remember this simple phrase, each time you set up the camera — “LFAST”. It stands for level the camera; focus the lens; set the aperture, set the shutter, and set the time code.  Do this every time you set up and you and you’ll be ahead of the game later, when you produce your film.

¨ Make your video like real film. There is a simple but exciting way to make your video look more like film and take away the harsh look of video.  It’s an old Hollywood technique that kept aging starlets always looking good.  Using an elastic band to hold it in place simply put a thin mesh fabric such as a black or white nylon stocking over the camera lens and check out the results.

¨ Make your own camera dolly. You can make a simple camera dolly so your shots move smoothly through space just like the pros.  All you need is two 10’ lengths of 3” PVC pluming pipe, a 4’ by 4’ piece of ¾” plywood and four sets of roller skate wheels.  The wheels are secured to the plywood at all four corners, one set for each corner.

¨ Get the filter look without filters. This is a great technique for amateur filmmakers. Go to the art supply store and purchase a half dozen pastel pieces of show card.  Now instead of white balancing your camera on a piece of white card try balancing on these show cards and you will get a host  of filter like color effects without having to purchase filters.  Great for creating moonlight effects and old time looks to your videos.

¨ Zoom like a pro – slowly. Without the camera rolling, zoom in on the subject (a man seated) focus the camera on his eyes till they look sharp.  Zoom back to your wide angle setting.  Now start the camera and hold for 5 seconds.  Zoom slowly into the close-up, when you get their hold for 5 seconds.  Now if you decide you don’t like the zoom you can hold on the wide shot and cut to the close-up because you have left enough room on each end of the shot.

¨ Use the clean frame technique. Never start a shot with the action of a person already in the frame. Have the person come into the frame from outside the frame and when the action is finished have them leave the frame.  This is called the “clean frame technique” and will be terrifically helpful at the editing stages by providing more choices of where to make the cut.

¨ Improve your vacations videos. Next time you are on vacation and you want to show your audience a specific area, don’t just wander around with the camera.  Start with a nice wide pan shot showing the whole area.  Now go in closer and give your audience more detailed information.  Then go in for some nice close-up shots of even more detail. Just like the pro’s do it.  In addition whenever possible grab shots of people reacting to what you are showing.  Once again, just like the pros. do it.  You’ve practically already done the editing.

¨ Get great color for your video all day long.  Always remember to re white balance your video camera every hour or so when shooting outside.  The early morning sun is very warm in its color but as the day goes on more and more blue sky will make your shots look bluer.  Let’s say you shoot a nice scenic from your hotel window at 8 a.m. and then you take another shot around noon. When you put these two shots together in editing your audience will become very aware of the color difference.

Barry says that some of the biggest mistakes people make are lost opportunities.

¨ Not paying attention to details can be disastrous.

Once he was once searching out a small forested area for various locations for an upcoming shoot only to see a maintenance truck screech to a halt on the road 150 feet from my position.  A man leaped out of the truck and yelled at me to get out of there.  It seems he had picked the wrong forested area.  He had stopped in an old military shooting range with potentially live mortar shells still buried in the grass. Pay attention to signs that say ‘No Trespassing’ and ‘Danger’

¨ Not maintaining “Continuity” Movies are not shot from beginning to end.  They are shot all over the place based on availability of time, location, budget, access to actors etc. So pay attention and makes sure that from shot to shot elements match up.

¨ Not getting “cutaways” The right way to shoot involves more than just the main action.  You must also get “cutaways” (shots happening in parallel time as the main action). You also need to capture “reactions” (shots of individuals reacting to the action). “Inserts” (big close-ups of some part of the scene that without it we wouldn’t get the point).  The gun in the drawer is a good example.  These shots are part of what we call “coverage” which simply means getting enough variety of shots to make the scene work in editing.

¨ Not storyboarding your show. If you don’t storyboard your show you will become totally confused. It has to work on paper first.  You don’t have to be Rembrandt to do this.  Draw out how the scene looks with five story board boxes on each page.  This way you will see the flow before you and know where to go next after finishing shooting one scene.  Make your notes next to each drawing (e.g., note to self “don’t forget to” etc.

¨ Not changing the size of the image. Never take a shot and then move three or four feet and take another shot of the same thing.  You need at least a three times change in image size to make sure the shots don’ appear to “jump” on screen.  If you are going to move your camera and tripod move at least 30 degrees to one side or the other to make the view point significantly different.

¨ Hand holding telephoto shots Don’t under any circumstances hand hold your camera while you are zoomed in on the subject.   Your camera movement under this magnification of the image will give your audience a headache.  You need to be on a tripod for a good steady shot whenever you’re zoomed in.

¨ Not using a good tripod can give you really lousy vacation videos. Some tripods have what we call a “friction head” that is metal against metal as you pan or tilt the camera.  A better type of tripod has what we call a “fluid head”.  This type will give you smooth panning or tilting shots and look very professional.  And remember always pan one way and then stop.  Never pan to the right and then come back panning to the left. Your audience has already seen this point of view.

Barry says that one of the most difficult issues is not ‘seeing’ the opportunities.

Once when he was starting out, it was a rainy day and he sat drinking coffee in a small deli and wondered when the rain would stop.  A veteran free lancer joined him and asked why he wasn’t shooting.  He explained about the weather.  The veteran took out showed of the greatest shots he’d ever seen — dripping faces, colorful umbrella’s, puddles and a host of other great shots.

After that he couldn’t wait for the next rainy day.

If you need help with your films or movies you can reach Barry at the Victoria Motion Picture School.

For more information visit

About the author

Barry Casson has been shooting and directing films and videos for over 25 years. He and his partner Donna Claussen started Vancouver Island’s first film school. He has garnered numerous national and international awards for his films.

Media review copies, book cover and photo jpegs available via email, and interviews available upon request.

Contact: Barry Casson Toll free: 1-888-522-FILM (3456) or via his cell phone 250-744-8664 or just hit reply and tell us what you need.