HANDLE WITH CARE

A guide to transferring HD video losing quality.

So, you just unboxed that brand-new smartphone that shoots incredible 4k and super slow-mo video. Now you can send that incredible footage to your ad agency, or production company, and the videos they edit for your social media site should look amazing, right? So why don’t they? Well, Sometimes it’s as simple as how you send the file.

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Don’t use email or text

While email and text messaging can be a great way to transfer small files, both these mediums have their limits. In fact, they have literal file size limits which is a problem for transferring high definition video files. Even standard definition video files take up a lot of space on a hard drive, high definition files can be twice or even four times as big! Most e-mail and text applications that allow the transfer of these files will compress them, without much concern for quality loss. A compressed video file will be shrunk to a lower definition and will likely have “artifacts”: those glitchy patches of color that freeze while the rest of the video plays. basically, emailing your video to someone is the digital equivalent of mailing them a folded poster.

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Transferring directly to your computer using iPhone or Android

Since you are likely going to edit the video you shot using a computer, it makes sense to directly plug your phone into one and transfer the files that way. If you are editing the videos yourself, you can transfer them directly to your PC. With an android device you can simply connect to the computer directly with a USB cable and select the “charge this device via USB” notification. That will give you options to transfer files from your device’s storage. If you are transferring to a mac you will need to download the android file transfer app, and after connecting your device via USB cable, you can use the app to browse the files stored on the device. If you are getting files from an iPhone, you will connect with a USB cable and then transfer files using iTunes. Many people find this process a little confusing and opt to use an online file transfer service as described later in this blog.

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Save to Thumb drive

Of course, if you want someone else to edit the video, you could take those files that you have transferred to your computer and save them on a thumb drive. Now they are easily accessible and can be watched, transferred, or edited on any device that can read the thumb drive. The way the drive is formatted will determine whether it can be read by mac, PC, or both. Most thumb drives are already formatted to the universally readable FAT 32 file system. If for some reason you do need to re-format the thumb drive, make sure to backup any important files on a different hard drive. FORMATTING A HARD DRIVE WILL DELETE ALL THE FILES ON THE DRIVE! Whether you intend to hand the files over to someone or not, you should back them up on an external hard drive for safety.

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Online file transfer services

The most convenient way to transfer large files without compression is to use an online storage option like Google Drive, Dropbox, or WeTransfer. Google Drive is one of the most commonly used options because, if you have a Gmail account, you have a Google Drive account. That service, in particular, gives you a free 15 GB (gigabytes) of permanent storage. Those 15GBs are accessible to you anywhere that you can log into your account, and shareable with anyone who has an email account. However, the maximum resolution for video files in google drive is 1080p, which is the standard size for HD broadcast, but some phones do boast the ability to shoot in 4k resolution. If you need to transfer 4k files, you could use Dropbox, which works much the same way as google drive, or WeTransfer. WeTransfer is designed to send files as oppose to storing them. It lets you upload up to 2GBs for free to a temporary location on their server. After doing so you are provided with a unique download link. Then the files are ready to be downloaded by whomever you share the link with.

There you have it: nice high definition video, handled with care, and ready for editing.

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Shooting Professional Quality Videos for Social Media on Your Phone

You can do a lot with smartphones these days. But with the overload of video content on social media, it takes a lot more than point and shoot to end up with quality video. Here are a few tips that can help give your video a more professional feel.

Lighting is something that is sometimes easy to overlook. Getting the correct lighting can make all the difference in your video. Natural light is preferable to lamp light. It helps evenly illuminate your subject without affecting the tone of the shot. When shooting indoors, face your subject towards the window if possible. If outside, face your subject more towards the sun. Set up your shot so the camera avoids shooting towards light sources. Too much light directed at the sensor and it loses the information it’s trying to capture, leaving your shot overexposed. Change your position to get as even lighting as possible.

Light It Up

Keep it Steady

You don’t really realize how unsteady you hold your phone until you try to edit the video. Shaky video can cut off important parts of the shot and becomes even more obvious once you add any type of graphics. If possible, use a level tripod, monopod, or other stabilizer as they are designed to keep video steady. If you can’t get one of these, a good last resort is to either prop your phone on a stable surface or hold it with both hands and tuck in both elbows to minimize shake.

Great video can be ruined if you can’t hear what anyone is saying. Try to shoot somewhere with little to no background noise (wind, overhead music, conversations, T.V.s, passing vehicles, etc.) If you’re using the built-in microphone, large empty rooms can sometimes make your audio sound echoey and if you’re shooting outside, it can easily pick up wind and other ambient noise that cannot be easily removed. Your best bet is to purchase an inexpensive external microphone such as a lav mic or directional microphone.

I’m Sorry, What?

Portrait vs. Landscape

The orientation of your phone while recording really depends on which social media platforms you are planning to upload to and what graphics you are wanting to add. For a more traditional ad layout, turn your phone sideways and shoot horizontally. This will give you more room for graphics during editing and be overall easier to watch at full size on different devices without seeing those pesky black bars on either side of your video. However, if you are planning on limited graphics, shooting video vertically may be more beneficial for apps like Snapchat or Instagram.

Before you start shooting, have an idea of what you want the finished product to look like. Know the beats of your video and take multiple takes from different angles as well as close up and further away. Knowing your script lets you know before shooting how many different scenes you’ll be shooting and how many different shots you should be going for. Knowing your location ahead of time will help you plan around lighting and save time when setting up your shot.

What’s the Plan?

Shoot for the Edit

Set up your shot keeping in mind your plan for editing. Make sure you leave enough space around your subjects so they don’t touch the edges of the screen and leave room for any graphics you want to add so they won’t cover the important elements of your video. This also helps if you end up needing to zoom in on the video. When recording audio, it’s best to record a few seconds before and after a line to give space for transitioning between shots.

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We Can Fix That in Post! 5 Phrases an Editor Lives By

With the ease and commonality of high-quality cell phone cameras, more companies are shooting their own videos for social media. While it’s easier than ever to shoot the footage you need without hiring a videographer, the convenience can come at a cost.

After sending your fresh shots along, how many times have you heard from the post-production house, “We can’t work with this”? Often, the fault lies in an innocent mistake you’ve made while shooting. An editor’s least favorite phrase is, “We can fix that in post.” Luckily, we’re here today to tell you 5 favorite phrases of an editor, phrases an editor lives by. Follow the tips below to avoid being the bane of the post-production house and to ensure you have an excellent looking finished project.

1. "Garbage In, Garbage Out”

Non-production folks tend to think that video editors are all wizards, capable of taking something awful and making it incredible with a wave of our wands. But the number one thing to remember when shooting is: “Garbage in, garbage out.”

This is a phrase production people use to remind themselves to get things done right the first time. If your video is shaky, poorly lit, or has noisy audio, you can bet your finished product will be shaky, poorly lit, with noisy audio. There’s only so much correcting that can be done to shots. So, before you call “Action!” look at how your shot is framed; can you see the subject’s eyes clearly? Can you hear them well? If the answer is no, try adjusting your set-up to maximize these factors. The production house will thank you, and your final product won’t look like you hired your nephew in middle school to do it.

2. “Less Isn’t More”

We would much rather sort through tons of footage than not have enough to work with. Make sure you shoot multiple takes of the same lines, better yet at multiple angles. This may seem like a lot of added work on yours and the talent’s parts, but you won’t be kicking yourself the next day after reading a message saying the talent flubbed a line or that a car drove past and the talent couldn’t be heard. If you shoot everything at least twice, you’re doubling your chances that you will have workable footage. If you shoot everything wide, and then do a close-up as well. That way you’re ensuring that the editor has something they can cut to if the first shot isn’t working out. Your talent would much rather spend an extra fifteen minutes in front of the camera than to have to come back a day or two later and do reshoots.

3. "Cutaways Save the Day"

Always shoot more than just the onscreen talent. This goes hand-in-hand with the shoot more rule. If you take the time to get extra footage (called b-roll), it can make a world of difference to your editor and to your finished product. After you’ve shot all your dialogue, get some detail shots of whatever your talent is talking about. Shoot it from multiple angles. Most importantly record each shot for at least 10 seconds without moving the camera so the editor has plenty to work with. Having these extra shots is useful when you need to make a cut that won’t look good on screen. It also makes your video look more dynamic by giving the viewer something else to look at. It’s much better to have too much b-roll than too little. This is also a great time to flex your artistic side a bit; don’t be afraid to try things out!

4. “Shoot for the Edit”

This rule can be a hard one to remember; we’re not all Stanley Kubricks or Alfred Hitchcocks. We don’t always think of things in terms of the visual. When you’re shooting your video, you’re probably more concerned with getting the lines right, but the devil is in the details. You need to shoot for the edit. That means hitting record ten seconds before saying “action”, your talent waiting three seconds before beginning their lines, and holding their composure for at least three seconds after finishing their lines. If you’re making a video with more than one location, you need to shoot your talent walking out of one shot and into the next. You need to sit back and think, “Okay, if I just mushed these two clips together, would it look natural?”

This also goes back to #2. You might think you have everything you need, but there’s always a chance your talent is holding their hands one way in a shot and differently in the next. We call this continuity. You want there to be a continual flow between shots so things don’t look jumpy or stilted. Take a few seconds to review your last clip before shooting your next clip.

5. “Don’t Write More Than You Can Chew”

Even if your talent is capable of delivering your lines perfectly, you don’t want to put long and complex material in front of them for a number of reasons. It’s always best to break the material down into smaller chunks and change the shot between each section. Doing so gives the talent more flexibility with their delivery, and by changing your angle in between lines you make your final edit more dynamic. No one wants to be lectured, and your viewers are more likely to maintain interest if they’re visually stimulated. Think about any movie or TV show you’ve seen in the last five years. It’s very rare that a shot sits on screen for more than fifteen seconds. You can lose your audience if you’re not making a cut every 5-10 seconds. Multiple angles (#2), b-roll (#3), and a more dynamic edit (#4) will keep your audiences’ attention. Save the rolling soliloquies for Shakespeare; instead opt for bite sized sentences with movement along the way.

Remember: we can maybe fix it in post, but we’d rather not. Since we just clued you in on the 5 phrases we editors live by, you can start living by these, too. Now the video footage you shoot will be great, so the final product we come up with will be even better.

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