On October 20th, Team #SJUforPEC documented the 25th Anniversary Block Party of People’s Emergency Center’s Community Development Center (PECCDC). Our job was to take photos and videos of the event in order to create a 2-3 minute video that will be shared throughout PEC’s social media. In order to effectively capture this high energy, exciting, commemorative event, there were steps we needed to take to ensure that we left with the highest quality footage. Here are our trade secrets...
Research the Organization
It is important to do in-depth research on your client before attending an event. Our team conducted background research on PEC, which included analyzing their social media, exploring their website and reading about the issues the nonprofit works to address. We also met with Trish and Meg of PEC and learnt firsthand more about what they do, and we were able to ask questions and voice concerns. They also gave us a tour of the neighborhood and showed us where the block party would be held, which gave us a sense of the space where we would be working. This research gave us insight into PEC’s “why” and their mission of nurturing families, strengthening neighborhoods and driving change. We were then able to apply this knowledge to the anniversary block party, where we actively engaged with the community through thoughtful conversation.
At this event, we wanted to film a few brief, informal interviews with members of the PEC community to include in our video. To prepare for this, we made a list of questions we could ask. A useful method for going about coming up with questions, is to find the gaps in information - things you can’t find on their website or social media. The questions should be open ended and give the interviewee a chance to express their personal experiences with the organization. You want to be able to guide the interview without restricting the subject to yes or no questions.
Test all Equipment
The last thing you want is to discover a malfunction with your equipment or realize it’s out of battery as soon as you get on site. The best way to prevent any device related mishaps is to thoroughly test your equipment for defects of any kind. This means taking test photographs and recording video or audio clips. Also, don’t forget to fully charge your gear before the day of your event. Stocking up on batteries and chargers seems like a common sense tip but it can be easy to forget these small items as your are packing everything up. Events and interview sessions can be long running and the equipment you will be using doesn’t have an infinite supply of energy. Double checking before you leave to make sure you bring plenty of extra batteries and chargers means you never have to worry about missing the perfect moment!
Know Your Gear
It’s not only important to test your gear, but to know how to use it. In the days leading up to your shoot, try practicing with whatever equipment you’ll be expected to use. If you’re unsure how to use a certain device, see if any of your group members do, and ask them to show you. Make sure you know how to turn the camera on and off, how to adjust the aperture and focus, and how to attach flash if it’s needed. Determine how you are going to capture audio and ensure that you know how to work the microphones.
Make a Shot List
Go into the shoot with an idea of the type of photos and videos you are aiming to capture. Planning beforehand will help you stay on task and organized throughout your shoot. You’ll spend more time getting quality content rather than wasting time trying to figure out exactly what you’re trying to capture. For example, brainstorm a list of individuals you might want to interview or, if you’ve been to the location, shots that you think would be appropriate for b-roll. If you haven’t been to the location, you could also plan shots as soon as you get on site. Though it is good to have an idea of what you’re going to shoot, you should also be able to adjust to the environment and whatever gets thrown your way. So don’t have strict expectations; let the event play out organically. With a mix of planned and spontaneous shots, you’re sure to leave with some great footage.
Take Practice Shots
Before your interview subjects arrive, or the event you are covering begins, make sure to take a few practice shots with your equipment. This practice time not only allows you to refamiliarize yourself with the equipment so you can confidently handle it but it also allows you to fully survey the area where you are working. If you are interviewing, take a quick practice video to test out the lighting and sound in the area. Walk around the space taking a few practice photos and find the best places to stand to capture those wide angle action shots as well as some closer, more intimate photos and b-roll footage. Taking practice shots gives you the opportunity to adjust yourself and the equipment as needed so you are prepared and can wow your interview subjects and others at the event.
Test Different Lighting
Lighting can be tricky. You don’t want a harsh shadow casting down on the interviewee but you also don’t want them to be blinded by light and squinting the entire time. If you are using lighting equipment, it is important to test it out and adjust before using it on any potential photo or interview subjects. When possible, use natural light and shadow (but do it wisely). Natural lighting poses the same difficulties as lighting equipment so make sure to test, test, test!
8. Have Fun with It!
This tip should go without saying, but we truly believe that the material comes out better when you are having fun and your heart is truly there.