I know there’s a lot of us out there. We prefer the dark, climate controlled edit cave and the soft, warm glow of a monitor. But then our world crashes down and we’re forced to actually go out into the world and shoot things with a camera and everything.
I don’t know about you, but this is my weak point. I’m better at crafting things in the edit (and complaining about the ineptitude of a shooter) than actually shooting it myself (and mourning my lack of skills in the field).
The positive side about shooting your own material is that you know your own weaknesses, and you can plan around them to try to help yourself inevitably “fix it in post.” There are some simple things you can do during a shoot to set yourself up for success on the timeline: taking notes, great pre-production, getting a metric ton of b-roll, establishing shots…thinking like an editor while you’re shooting will really help you out.
And yea, you can work hard to try to get it right, but sometimes you just know things are going south rapidly. Recently, I was in Texas shooting at a trucking company. A majority of my day was spent chasing a couple of semis around the extremely busy Dallas interstates, jumping out of a vehicle, and setting up different shots before they drove by. As you can imagine, I didn’t always have enough time to think about my shots. During one such moment, I jumped right out of the car and into a bed of weeds along the road as I could see the trucks approaching in the distance. I didn’t have time to set my tripod because the ground wasn’t even close to level anyway, so I decided to try it handheld, zoomed in. Ugh. Did I mention it was like 95 degrees? So much sweat.
Here’s the result.
Could be worse, but yea, it sucks.
However, as I was framing, I decided to try to leave in that little antennae tower thingy. Why? I know that camera tracks and stabilizers work best with a really solid reference point that doesn’t leave the frame. There’s a lot going on in this shot between the foreground being blurred and the trees blowing and everything, but that spot is pretty much untouched and available for the software to reference. I opened up Premiere Pro CS6 and used Warp Stabilizer – no motion, position/scale/rotation, auto-scale/crop/stabilize.
Here’s the shot afterward.
Then just now, I was wondering if CS6’s stabilizer didn’t even care about reference points, if maybe it was so crazy anymore it could figure it out. So I grabbed another shot of a truck that came up a few miles behind where I moved the framing to just include the trees, since I had grabbed the shot that would possibly be tracked already. (That’s another good planning thing: only do dumb things after you’re sure you have something viable.)
Here’s that shot.
And here it is stabilized with the same settings.
It did pretty well, but you can see that there’s a funky zoom in it.
Knowing what your tools need from your footage in order to help you fix it in post is a valuable skill if you have to go out and shoot. Obviously the best way is to simply get it right. But I’m honest with myself – I kinda suck at that sometimes, as do most of us – so I plan ahead and try to think about what I’ll need to help myself recover later.
And if anyone has any comments on Premiere Pro CS6’s Warp Stabilizer, I’d be glad to hear them. This is my first time using it, and I don’t think I need to say that it’s about a billion times more usable than the stabilizer in FCP7. But it is. And you can still work while it analyzes, if you didn’t know. SO GREAT!