I have to write about this somewhat inane and bizarre topic because it’s been driving me crazy, and it keeps popping up everywhere.
Be warned, this is a bit of a rant. But it's one that could save you time and money. So...probably worth your time.
Let me set the scene for you. You’re creating a long video - say fifteen minutes long - and you want it to look nice and clean and snappy and professional.
You don’t want any of your inevitable line flubs to be in the video or at least not the vast majority of them - a little personality is fine, but that major melt down where your eye twitched for twenty seconds...
So you tell your videomaker that there will need to be some edits to keep everything nice and clean and professional.
They have a brilliant idea.
They will shoot with two cameras. Most excellent!
So they have two cameras at the shoot, one is set up right in front of you. The other is set up at your side.
Your not a video-making expert, so you think nothing of it.
Off to the races you all go. The video shoot goes swimmingly and everybody is most pleased.
Until, of course, the final videos come back.
You watch them. You like them. But something is off.
You’re not sure what it is. And since you come off looking reasonably intelligent, you’re not too worried about it. It could have been worse!
Let me tell you what was wrong with your videos and why you could have saved yourself some money on your video shoot.
You did not need two cameras or two camera operators. And every extra camera you add to a shoot adds money, that you pay, out of your pocket.
Which is fine, if that extra camera is going to give extra value. But what happens when the extra camera doesn’t give you extra value and in fact makes your videos a little bit awkward and not as interesting?
Nothing happens. You’ve just wasted some money - a few hundred dollars. That’s all. It’s not the end of the world. But it is pretty silly.
What am I talking about?
I’m talking about the ridiculous trend towards side shots in the middle of a talking head video!
If you’re a newbie, a talking head video is where someone speaks directly into the camera sharing their ideas and tips about a topic. It’s usually done in a shot that contains just the upper body (thus the phrase “talking head”) but it can be a wide shot with the whole body as well. The point is that the person speaks directly into the camera as though the camera were a single person.
I’ve seem at least ten videos this week alone that had side shots in the middle of a direct address, and every time I see one I cringe about the lost money, and time, and power.
If you don’t know what I’m talking about, let me save you some money- watch the video below where I’ll illustrate what in tarnation I mean.
Now that we're on the same page, let's get into the nitty gritty.
Why is interrupting a talking head video with a side shot so ridiculous and so wasteful?
Every single time you do this you interrupt the viewer.
The key to a talking head video is the fact that you are speaking directly to the audience.
That is actually the only reason talking head videos diserve to exist. Speaking directly to your audience is a beautiful thing. Your audience feels like they are there in the room with you. They feel like they are the only person that matters. It’s like being in a one on one conversation.
The second you switch to a side shot, your audience has just been told that they no longer matter.
They are being told that some random person who is standing next to the speaker matters more then they do.
If you’re not a video fiend and you don’t know much about how framing and camera angles effect the audience, then this might not make much sense to you.
So let me put it like this... Imagine you’re talking to a friend. You’re in her kitchen having a cup of tea and talking about this new technique you learned to get more website traffic.
You’re really enjoying all the material she’s sharing with you.
Suddenly, a man walks into the room picks you up out of your chair and plops you unceremoniously onto a different chair at the end of the table, where you are no longer looking into her eyes. You’re staring at the side of her face. And for some reason she doesn’t turn and look at you. She just keeps talking to the place where you used to be sitting.
You want to go back to where you were or yell at her “Hey, I’m over here now!”
You were enjoying the connection you had with her, seeing her face and looking into her eyes, but you can’t seem to move or speak. For some reason you’re paralyzed, unable to go back to your original seat and you’re tongue won’t work - the words won’t come out.
After 30 seconds the man suddenly picks you up again and moves you back to the original chair.
Thank god, you think. I hope he leaves me alone and lets me stay here.
But of course he doesn’t.
30 seconds later he moves you again.
And so it goes for the remainder of the conversation.
That would be insane! You would never go visit that friend again.
Yet this is exactly what is happening in countless videos across the land.
Of course in the video world it’s not quite as obvious, but it’s still extremely weird. It’s going against the laws of audience interaction.
If you only have one person in your audience. And you are speaking directly to them. And they are not moving from their seats. And you are not moving from your seat. Then you have to keep the camera angle the same for the entire video. (And yes I know those were all fragment sentence, but this is video treason we're talking about!)
You’re not filming House of Cards! There’s no trampling through multiple sets. It’s just you and your audience and your sofa. Why would you change the camera angle? You wouldn’t. Except that you’re trying to hide the fact that you’re human and occasionally you hem and haw and mess up your lines and say inappropriate things or act like a madman.
But rest assured there is another way to save face when shooting long video interviews or talking heads.
So whatever you do, don’t let an overzealous video maker shoot the side of your head if you’re doing a talking head video. There is no good reason to do such a thing. That being said, don’t be mad at your video maker if they’ve already done that.
It’s gotten so common these days, I can see why many a desperate video maker would do this.
But instead of the crazed side shot, I suggest one of the five perfectly good solutions below.
1. Shoot in very high resolution and crop in and out with every cut. This means your final video will need to be delivered at half the original resolution and thus is only possible with certain camera set ups. Not my preference but it can work.
2. Use a two camera set up where one camera is in a close up and the other is in a medium shot.
3. Utilize jump cuts. This is where you simply cut from one take to the next without any concern for continuity. It seems crazy, but we're so used to seeing this technique that it doesn't really bother the human eye at all. That being said, it's best for videos that don't take themselves too seriously.
4. Utilize swishy transitions - WIPE, PUSH, SLIDE etcetera. (Add a sound effect to go with the transitions to make it look even more intentional)
5. Utilize titles at each cut. Non video people refer to these as slides, but if you want your editor to think you're super smart call them titles.
6. Use stratigically placed video footage (referred to as B-roll) or photos that bring to life the message you’re sharing.
7. And finally, use a variety of the above options.
Badaboombadabing, you just nailed a long form video and your audience has no idea that an embarrassing ramble got left on the cutting room floor. Well done!
Want more? Check out the full episode of VIDEO SOUL: DIY on this same topic.