Video 101: Save your bloopers!

Lessons learned from the blooper reel
Some of our most interesting video was accidental. Near the bottom of my hard drive, dwells my growing “blooper file” of near misses and direct hits. Most photographers have one too.

The cameras were rolling when…

We filmed the live-steam locomotives in operation at the club meeting.  First, a shot of the butane fuel. Then, a tight shot of the long-stemmed utility lighters reaching into the boiler to ignite the flammable gas.  What could possibly go wrong?

We filmed our attempt to pass our 10-inch-clearance camera car through an 8-inch-clearance tunnel portal. In post production we discovered the trombone player in the middle of the marching band was dead.

We ran a three-truck Shay locomotive over a trestle and under our homemade jib. The jib would be artistically raised as the engine passed beneath creating a dramatic high-elevation view. That’s a recipe for something.

Save your bloopers!  

The blooper reel drew gasps when we showed it at our last club meeting . Our audience, however, paid close attention.

Here are some field-tested “lessons learned.”

•    The dirty lens lesson. Wipe your lenses carefully and keep your equipment clean, functional, and well organized. Software can remove dust and smudges but its better not to start with them.
•    Use many viewing angles. Try different camera mounts, and equipment.  One viewing angle gets boring even if it is a good one.  Collect onboard shots, flybys, scenery, wide-angles, close ups, and stills. Add pans and zooms in post production. Mix carefully in editing to keep your video interesting.
•    Frames per second settings. Average light requires 30 frames per second. In strong light, 60 frames per second allows for slow-motion editing. Blurry video isn’t very interesting.
•    Camera resolution is important but not more important than motion stabilization, camera light sensitivity, battery life, and good lighting conditions. Look for them all when setting up your shots.
•    Show stoppers. Spectacular video cannot be filmed with a dead battery or a full memory card. Shaky video is hard to correct and terrible to watch. Generally, don’t photograph children. If you must, announce that you’re taking video. Get permission.
•    Test the trains. Use practice runs to avoid crashing your friend’s high-dollar equipment while filming it.
•    Test the railway. Test for clearances, fallen debris, and mortally wounded trombone players.

Which brings us this month’s video: John’s Blooper Reel. Look away if you must.


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