Droning on – the vlog

One of my main photographic interests is creating audio visual sequences, AV for short. In this second vlog I ponder the current progress of an upcoming AV entitled Droning On which is built around a sequence of still drone photographs. I currently have a very incomplete narration written and wondered if putting the sequence into a vlog and recording my thoughts as I watched it would help.

In the event it did, but not in the way I envisaged. I’d set about the vlog thinking that it would free up the creative juices and I’d be able to come up with the additional three or four minutes worth of narrative I needed. In the even I decided to reduce the amount of narration to just an opening sequence, comprising most of what I’d already written and also a one or two sentence close.

It’s worth pointing out that the AV sequence is not complete; the sequence of images is how I intend it but the fades and timings will change when I settle on an accompanying musical track. The one used is YouTube friendly whereas the final version will likely use a piece allowed by my IAC licence but not necessarily allowable on YouTube.

Tales of a First-time vlogger

With a rare free afternoon recently and none of the usual domestic responsibilities as we were away from home I headed off into the Wiltshire countryside; we were visiting family down south and I wasn’t required that Friday afternoon! My aim – to shoot my first video clips with the Fuji X-T3 and more importantly to stick myself in front of said camera. In other words, and despite the denials forming in my mind, it was the creation of a vlog that was vaguely running around my head. I have in the past compiled a few mixed stills/video pieces with the Fuji X-T20 using voiceovers rather than talking to camera. I think my hands featured a couple of times in these efforts (operating the tripod-mounted camera) and on one memorable occasion I ambled into shot, put a filter on the lens and shuffled off again!

So what I was planning was, for me at least, rather heady stuff!

To skip to the conclusion, the end result is OK I think and I enjoyed the whole process BUT there is tons of room for improvement. So what were the key take-outs from this first vlogging experience?

  • Script – use one
  • B-roll – shoot loads then shoot some more
  • Chose locations for taking to camera more carefully
  • Syncing audio is the way to go
  • Try not to start every sentence with “So”
  • Look AT the camera
  • Shooting both stills and video is challenging

Script

Despite what I’d read previously and indeed written in my free writing sessions I did not prepare a script. I do reference this omission in the vlog as I realised ten minutes in that despite having a vague idea in my head the lack of any sort of prompts meant I rambled at times and found it difficult to hold a train of thought. Luckily I was able to remove some of the talking and leave it on the cutting room floor, but there are a couple of occasions when I repeat myself and even niftier editing wouldn’t have been able to save me. The loose idea in my head was to record the elements for the vlog whilst chuntering in real time about my experiences. In the end one entire idea got cut because I wasn’t happy with the flow of words. So, a script, even one comprised of just bullet points would be useful. Personally I like the idea of writing a full script, even if I don’t deliver it verbatim, as this will also give me the raw material for my blog. To be fair though, the loose aim was to reflect as I experienced my first vlogging session so at least what I have produced is reflective of my original aims.

An opportunity just as I was leaving for some drone footage was a godsend in terms of B-roll

B-roll

What can I say? I did not record anything like the amount of b-roll footage I needed. This meant that what I did shoot had to be stretched out more than was ideal for the free flow of the visuals. Thankfully I was able at the end of the session to get the drone out which gave me some B-roll but even then I was scratching around as I did no want to overdo drone footage of rapeseed crops. So, shoot some b-roll, shoot some more than shoot some more again!

Locations for recording to camera

I had my locations sorted in my head before I set off, but three of the four I chose were by the roadside. Initially I hadn’t anticipated this as an issue as I knew the roads quite well, they were all B roads and typically when I’ve been there in the week they have been quiet apart from when folk were going to or from work. For some reason it was like Piccadilly Circus last Friday! I have lots of discarded A-roll where I am either waiting for vehicles to pass or being drowned out by them. Nothing more to say really, except be a little more choosy in future!

Zoom H1 and Rode Lav mic

We will gloss over the shameful scenes at the first location when I forgot to put the lav mic on. Again, I do confess to this in the vlog. After setting both the camera and the recorder running I clapped my hands together sharply providing both a visual and an audible cue for later syncing in my editor. The resultant spikes on the waveforms enabled me to extremely quickly line them up and replace the cameras audio with the external track. I cannot imagine doing it any other way after this experience.

Watch your words

Years ago on a business leaders course I was video recorded for the first time. On viewing the resultant footage I was horrified at how often I said “um” especially whilst thinking of what to say. Well, I am pleased to say that I have largely cured myself of that these days. BUT. There’s always a but isn’t there? I have a new verbal tic. So, can you guess what it is? It will be obvious if you’ve watched the vlog – at one point I started three consecutive sentences with the word “so”.  I had to comment via a caption – another learning point identified.

Eye contact

If talking to the camera was weird, and I mention that too, then looking at it was even weirder.  Fortunately none of the clips are too close-up on my face so it doesn’t show quite as much as it might have done and there is actually one sequence when I managed it quite well but it is definitely something to be improved upon.

Mental gymnastics required

I am a very experienced stills shooter and a very new video shooter. One of these I can do without conscious thought and the other needs 100% of my attention. I found that because I was concentrating so much on how to record the video and set the camera for that aspect then I basically forgot to take any stills or those that I did take were rather hurried. I have no true keepers from the day even though in those conditions I should have been able to have come away with at least half a dozen, especially in the woodland or rapeseed fields. This will get easier with practice I’m sure but I am also going to see if taking two cameras will help. Using one for video and one for stills will hopefully help with the mental adjustments as I won’t have to make any physical adjustments to camera settings. I have a lot of stills taken at 1/50th second for example!

So, in summary, this is only my first experience of recording and producing a vlog and there were other things that cropped up either on the day or in post production. These points here however are the key ones and give plenty of food for thought.

Overall, I enjoyed the experience and got some satisfaction watching the vlog grow on the timeline. I have identified lots of room for improvement (and some not documented here) but I am looking forward to addressing each area as I move forward and also to identifying further ways in which to improve my vlogging skills.

As Arnie said: “I’ll be back!”