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Shot composition

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					Shot composition:

   1. When you’re shooting an interview, tighten or widen your shot from one question
       to another. That way, when you’re editing interview shots into your piece, you’ll
       have visual variety from one shot to another.
   2. The amount of space between the top of a person’s head to the top of the video
       frame is called “head room.”
   3. It’s important to include only the minimum amount of head room in a shot. The
       tighter a shot of a person is, the less head room you need.
   4. In extreme close-up shots, the shot usually looks better with no head room at all.
       In an extreme close-up, you generally cut off the top of the shot toward the top of
       the person’s forehead. That way, the viewer can concentrate on the interview
       subject’s expression and emotions—since the shot is highlighting the person’s
       eyes and mouth.
   5. Lead room (pronounced LEED) is the space to the side of a person’s face. If a
       person is looking to the left (from the viewer or camera perspective), then there
       should be more space on the left of the screen than there is on the right. The more
       a person is angled to the side, the more lead room you should have. If you have a
       shot of someone completely in profile looking to the right, then you should have
       more space to the right of the screen than if the person is looking to the right but
       only slightly in profile.
   6. When interviewing someone, the person should be looking slightly to the side of
       the camera. Their eyes should be at the same level as the camera. In order to
       make sure this happens, the member of your team conducting the interview
       should stand approximately one foot to the side of the camera and should crouch
       or kneel so that his or her eyes are exactly at the level of the camera’s lens.
   7. Try to make your interview background interesting, without distracting too much
       from the person being interviewed. One way to accomplish this is to position the
       interview subject’s chair at a distance from the background, so that the
       background will be a little bit out-of-focus. You can have activity going on
       behind the person being interviewed—just make sure that it relates in some way
       to what they’re being interviewed about. For instance, if you’re interviewing the
       quarterback of the football team, you wouldn’t want to see soccer players on a
       field in the background.
   8. Tight shots are important both for visual variety and to draw the viewer into your
   9. Establishing shots are wide shots that establish the location or setting of a piece.
       These shots are critical for orienting a viewer to where your piece or a scene in
       your piece is taking place.
   10. Changing the height of camera angles can add visual variety to your piece. A
       low-angle shot can be used to add a sense of importance to the subject of your
   11. The over-the-shoulder (OTS) shot helps eliminate unnecessary space between two
       people in your shot, or between two objects, or between a person and an object
       (for example, between the face of a person working at a computer and the
       computer screen).
   12. Always shoot interviews with your camera on a tripod. Whenever possible, shoot
       your b-roll with your camera on the tripod.
   13. When it’s impractical to shoot your b-roll on tripod, make sure to follow careful
       procedure for keeping your handheld shots as steady as possible: Close the color
       LCD monitor. Cradle the camera in both hands, with your arms together and your
       elbows braced against your chest. Whenever possible, avoid using the zoom to
       get a tighter shot—instead, physically move the camera closer to the subject of
       your shot while keeping the lens at its widest setting. The more your camera is
       zoomed in, the shakier your shots will be—if you absolutely must use your zoom
       to get a tighter shot (say, because the subject of your shot is far in the distance),
       then be sure your camera is on tripod.
   14. Avoid positioning the main subject of your shot—whether it’s a person or an
       important object—with a prominent light source behind the subject (unless you’re
       deliberately trying to create a silhouette look).


   1. Avoid yes-or-no questions. Ask open-ended questions instead. For instance,
      instead of asking “Do you like sports?” ask “What sports do you like and why?”
   2. Ask follow-up questions. A follow-up question is a question based on the answer
      that your interview subject gave to your last question. Example: Interviewer:
      “What do you do for fun after school?” Interview subject: “I play piano.”
      Possible interviewer follow-up questions: “Why do you like playing piano?”
      “How long have you played piano?” “Why is piano more fun for you than, say,
      playing video games or surfing the Internet?”
   3. Ask questions that focus on these three things: the reasons why people do things,
      the implications of the things people do (example: “How has your involvement in
      sports affected your friendships?”), and how their lives have been changed by a
      particular activity or experience.
   4. Focus on what makes the person profiled in your piece unique. What sets this
      person apart from other people.
   5. Always ask yourself the question “Why should anyone care about this piece?
      What can I shoot in this piece and what interview questions can I ask that will
      make people care about this piece?”

Camera operation (video):

   1. Try to place anyone you're interviewing in a location where there is good lighting
      on the person's face. If you're shooting the interview in a classroom, for example,
      then try to position the person directly under one of the overhead fluorescent
      lights. Also make sure there is not considerably more light in the background of
      the shot than there is on the person's face. For instance, if you're shooting outside
      on a sunny day, do not place your interview subject in a shadowed area where you
      can see a bright, sunny area in the background of the shot. If you do, then the
      camera will compensate for the bright light in the background of the shot,
      automatically cranking the camera lens's iris down, just as the iris of your eye
        narrows when you walk from a dark area to a bright area. The result will be that
        the face of the person you're filming will be too dark.
   2.   You also need to make sure that your interview shot isn't too bright. Here's how
        to tell if your interview shot is too bright: When you are setting up an interview
        shot, turn on your camera’s zebra pattern, to setting 100. If you see more than
        just a hint of zebra pattern in the person’s face, then either change the location so
        there isn’t quite so much light on the person’s face, or switch to Manual Exposure
        (using the Exposure switch on the back of the camera, next to the battery). Then
        use the thumb wheel to lower the exposure until you don’t see anymore zebra
        patterns at setting 100.
   3.   Always white balance before you begin filming. Zoom in on the white card.
        Make sure the white card is placed in the light where you will be shooting your
        shot. Do not let shadows fall on the white card, unless you are shooting in an area
        that is completely shaded. Press the white balance button in the back of the
        camera next to the battery. Move the thumb wheel until you see the appropriate
        icon for the location where you’re shooting. For interior shots, inside houses or
        buildings, use the icon that looks like a <triangle>. For exterior shots, use the
        icon that looks like a sun. After you’ve chosen the appropriate icon, press the
        thumb wheel in until the icon starts flashing. When the icon stops flashing, your
        shot should be white-balanced. Check the color in the camera’s LCD monitor to
        see if it looks right. Make sure the white balance icon stays on while you’re
   4.   Whenever you change shooting locations, be sure to re-white balance. The color
        temperature of light often changes, even between locations in the same room.
   5.   If you are shooting outdoors on a partly cloudy day, try to re-white balance
        anytime the sun goes behind clouds and whenever the sun comes out again, since
        the color temperature of outside light is different depending on whether it’s
        cloudy or sunny.

Camera operation (audio):

   1. Always turn on your “Audio Levels” meter when shooting. Make sure you see
      two different audio levels for Channel 1 and Channel 2.
   2. If you see the exact same reading on both Channel 1 and Channel 2, make sure
      that the first switch on the audio shoe is on “Ch 1/Ch 2” (not Ch 1), and make
      sure that the plug that connects the audio shoe to the camera on the top of the
      camera is making contact all the way. If necessary, unplug the connection and
      plug it in again until you hear it click.
   3. Always record nat sound (natural sound) when filming b-roll, even if you think
      you won’t use it in your finished piece.
   4. Make sure that the audio level on your interview channel (the channel into which
      your interview microphone is plugged) is at or around -12. If it’s not, then adjust
      the Sensitivity of the wireless mic <receiver> or the AF Out of the wireless mic
      <transmitter> until the level is at or around -12.
   5. Never rely on your headset to tell you whether you are obtaining the proper audio
      levels. Rely instead on your camera’s audio meters. Do use your headset to listen
      to see if you're hearing any unwanted noise, such as the sound of the wireless
      microphone rubbing against the person's shirt or against a necklace.
   6. Just before you begin your interview, make sure that the wireless microphone is
      properly clipped to the interview subject’s clothing, at the base of the person’s
      neck. Also make sure that the microphone itself is pointing up toward the
      person’s mouth, rather than to either side or downward.
   7. Never talk—either to your team partner or to anyone else—while you’re shooting
      b-roll, since the audio of you talking will be recorded on the nat sound, and you
      will not then have “clean” nat sound when you edit that b-roll shot into your


   1. Choose a subject with visual variety and the opportunity to obtain a large amount
      of b-roll (supplemental footage) and different kinds of b-roll shots.
   2. Make sure that the subject of your piece is unique in some way. Also ask yourself
      “Why would a viewer want to watch this piece? What will make the viewer care
      about what’s going on in this piece?”
   3. Make sure that the main people you will be interviewing in your piece are
      articulate, personable, and enthusiastic about being featured in your film.
   4. Look again at the pieces appearing on or on our OETA program,
      “Behind the Lens with Oklahoma’s Future Filmmakers.” Ask yourself if the piece
      you’re considering will be similar in quality and interest-level to the pieces
      appearing on our web site or on “Behind the Lens.”


   1. As you’re editing, save your project at least every 10 minutes. Then, if the
      program locks up, you won’t have to re-do as much of your work. The keyboard
      shortcut for saving your project is Apple (Command) S.
   2. When you’re finished for the day, save your project, close your project, and then
      quit out of Final Cut.
   3. To create a new sequence, Control click in the left-side gray space in the Browser.
      Then select “New Sequence.”
   4. To copy a sequence, Control click make sure the Browser is the active window.
      Then Control click on the sequence you want to copy and select “Duplicate.”
      Especially after you make a series of major changes to your project, be sure to
      duplicate the project and continue editing on the project copy. That way, if you
      later want to go back to a previous version of your project, you can do so by
      clicking that earlier version into your Timeline.
   5. In the Browser information columns, Media Start and Media End indicate the start
      and end times for each original master clip that you captured into the Browser. In
      and Out represent the In and Out points you marked on a given clip when it was
      in the Viewer.
6. When editing into the Timeline, always position the Timeline Playhead where you
    want the edit to take place--unless you’re editing by dragging a clip into the
    Timeline, in which case Playhead position doesn’t matter.
7. In the video portion of your Timeline, if one clip is positioned on a track directly
    on top of another clip, the clip on the uppermost track will take precedence and
    will be the only one of the two visible (unless you lower the opacity of the top
    clip or make the top clip invisible). In the audio portion of the Timeline, all audio
    clips are audible, regardless of what track they appear on. That way, you can
    easily mix a variety of audio at the same location in your piece.
8. When you want to move a clip to a specific place in the Timeline, position your
    Playhead at the location where you want to move the clip, then turn on the
    Snapping function to make sure the clip “snaps” to the correct position in the
9. Keep your A-roll (interview) clips on the same tracks throughout your piece.
    Generally, it’s best to place these clips on V1 (video portion of the clip), and A1
    and A2 (the corresponding audio portions of your clip). Keep any music clips
    you’ve created in Soundtrack on the same tracks also—usually, these will end up
    being the tracks at the bottom of all the audio tracks in your Timeline. That way,
    you can easily isolate your tracks when it comes time to check audio levels.
10. To make a video clip invisible in your Timeline, highlight the clip by clicking on
    it once, then hold down Control and hit B on the keyboard. To make a clip
    inaudible, use the same procedure, but select an audio clip instead. Whenever you
    want to delete audio from a clip, do not delete the audio clip. Instead, use Control
    B to make the audio clip inaudible. That way, if you later decide to add the audio
    back to the clip, you can simply highlight the clip and select Control B again.
11. To make just the video or audio of a clip invisible or inaudible, you will need to
    isolate that clip’s video from its audio. Otherwise, when you click on the clip,
    both the video and the audio will be selected. To select only a clip’s video or
    audio, click on Linked Selection until it’s grayed out. Now, when you click on a
    clip’s video or audio, only the clicked portion of the clip will be selected.
12. When using titles, supers, or graphics, always make sure that the lettering falls
    completely within the conservative Safe Title Area, which is the innermost of the
    two green boxes (in the Viewer or Canvas windows). If you don’t see the Safe
    Title Area, go to the View Pop-Up Menu in the window you’re looking at—it’s
    the far right of the three buttons at the top of the window. Select Show Overlays
    and Show Safe Title.
13. To add the 3-Way Color Corrector to a clip, double-click the clip from your
    Timeline into the Viewer. Generally, you want to add the Color Corrector only to
    clips already edited into your Timeline—not to the original clips in your Browser.
    In the menu at the top of the Final Cut interface, select Effects, Video Filters,
    Color Correction, and Color Corrector 3-way. A Color Corrector 3-way tab will
    appear in your Viewer window. In the Timeline, make sure the Playhead is
    directly over the clip you’ve got clicked into your Viewer, so that you can see the
    video from this clip in your Canvas window. Now click on the Color Corrector 3-
    way tab. Use the slider under Whites to adjust the brightest levels in your shot
    down (and, to some extent, the darkest levels up). Use the Mids to brighten any
    flesh tones that are too dark. Then you raise the Mids and/or Whites, you will
    also need to increase the Saturation—or amount of color—in the shot. Use the
    Saturation slider to do this.
14. When you have finished the final edit version of your project, check your video
    levels to make sure they’re not too high. In the Canvas window, click on the
    View Pop-Up menu. Select “Show Excess Luma.” Check each individual clip in
    your sequence by using the up and down arrow keys to jump from one clip to
    another. You can check the clips only when the Timeline is not playing, since the
    Excess Luma zebra patterns will not show up when the Timeline is playing.
    Whenever you see zebra patterns, especially in faces, use the 3-Way Color
    Corrector to decrease the level of Whites. If doing so makes the face too dark, try
    increasing the Mids. You should be able to increase the Mids a little without
    adding more zebra patterns.
15. Also when you have finished editing, check your audio levels. First, turn off any
    music you’ve created. If you have followed the proper procedure of keeping all
    your music on the same tracks throughout your Timeline, then you can simply
    click the far left button on those tracks—the button that looks like an audio
    speaker—to make those tracks inaudible. (It’s the same effect as clicking Control
    B, except that Control B allows you to isolate individual clips, without affecting
    the rest of the track.) Next, turn off all the audio tracks that have b-roll nat.
    sound. Now, play your Timeline. You should now be hearing just your interview
    sound. In most cases, you will have two audio tracks associated with your
    interview clip. Double-click the audio into your Viewer and click each Channel’s
    tab separately. Look for the channel which has the higher audio waveform. This
    should be the channel that contains the sound from your interview microphone,
    provided you had the wireless mic’s sound adjusted properly on your shoot. (The
    other, lower, channel should be the sound from your camera microphone.) Now,
    look at the audio clips in your Timeline. If you see green triangles pointing
    toward each other (at the bottom of the top channel’s clip and the top of the
    bottom channel’s clip), this means that the clips are a Stereo Pair. Highlight the
    clips by clicking on either once. Then go to Modify at the top of the Final Cut
    interface. Select “Stereo Pair.” In the Timeline, the clips’ triangles should
    disappear. Now click on the clip you identified as NOT containing the audio for
    the wireless mic. If you did everything right on your shoot, this should be the clip
    that had the smaller waveform. Click this clip once in your Timeline to select it.
    Then hit Control B to make it inaudible.
16. Look at the audio meters on the right side of your Timeline. Make sure all of the
    interview audio is averaging around -12. If it’s not, raise or lower the levels
    accordingly, until all your audio is averaging at -12. Never rely on your headset
    sound either to tell whether the audio is loud enough—always use the audio
    meters. Now turn on your b-roll nat. sound tracks. By listening to the mix
    through your headset, make sure none of the b-roll sound overpowers the
    interview sound, since the interview sound is critical to telling the story of your
    piece. When in doubt, err on the side of the nat. sound being too low. Last, turn
    on your music tracks. Again, listening through your headset, make sure the music
    does not overpower the interview and b-roll tracks.
17. You can control playback in your Timeline using the keyboard’s J, K, and L keys.
    Hit the L key once to play the Timeline forward in normal speed. Hit K or the
    spacebar to stop playback. If you hit the L key more than once, the playback will
    speed up. The speed depends on the number of times you hit the L key. The J
    key plays the Timeline backward. Note that all of these functions are only for
    viewing your sequence. They do not actually affect the clips in your sequence.
    For example, hitting thae J key twice will allow you to see your sequence play
    backward in double speed, but the actual clips will not be affected.
18. To select all clips in your Timeline, you can use the keyboard shortcut Apple
    (Command) A. This function is useful, for example, to move all your clips
    forward, if you want to insert clips at the beginning of all your sequence’s clips.
19. To undo your last action, you can use the keyboard shortcut Apple Z. Or, you can
    use Edit Undo from the menu at the top of the Final Cut interface.
20. To expand or contract the clips in your Timeline, use the keyboard shortcut Z.
    Click on the Timeline window to make it active. Move your cursor to a blank
    gray space in the Timeline. Hit the Z on the keyboard. The cursor will change
    from an arrow to a magnifying glass with a plus-sign in it. Now, when you click
    in the gray space of the Timeline, the Timeline will expand. To make the
    Timeline contract, hold down the Option key. In the magnifying glass, the plus-
    sign will change to a minus-sign. With the minus-sign activated, whenever you
    click in the Timeline, the Timeline will contract.
21. If your Timeline is expanded so that some of your clips go beyond the visible
    space of your Timeline, you can quickly see all of your sequence at once, by
    clicking Shift-Z.
22. To split a clip in your Timeline into two separate clips, make sure your Timeline
    window is active. Move your cursor to the gray space above your clips. Hit B on
    the keyboard. If your cursor is in the gray space of the Timeline, you will see a
    small “X” next to the cursor arrow. Move the cursor to the exact spot in the clip
    where you want to split the clip. If you place your Playhead at the spot where you
    want to blade-off the clip, and make sure Snapping is on, then you can simply
    snap the blade tool to the Playhead, click once, and the clip will be bladed.
23. Whenever using a tool other than the default selection arrow in the Timeline,
    change the cursor back to the default selection tool. The easiest way to do this is
    by hitting the letter A on your keyboard.

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