Now technically, this list can extend to anyone who is inexperienced in the field of filmmaking (not just conservative filmmakers), however over the past several years these are the mistakes that I’ve seen many conservatives/libertarians make who are trying very hard to break into video production for all of its culturally persuasive potential. This is not meant to poke fun at conservatives, but rather show them what they need to do to avoid these common mistakes, most of which I made several times myself while first getting into video production.
5. Ridiculously Long Introduction Slates
The last thing someone watching a video on youtube wants to do is sit through a fancy 14 second introduction slate that serves only to deliver the title of the video. Most people will either skip further ahead into the video or just watch something else. It only takes a couple of seconds for the audience to register the information in a titled shot. As soon as they’ve finished reading the information in the shot, their impatience distracts them from the video’s content.
Some may attribute this to some sort of societal lack-of-concentration problem with the generation raised on social media, and maybe they have a legitimate point, but if you were watching 5 videos under the same channel, with 15 seconds of introduction slates each, wouldn’t you rather save those 75 seconds of your life?
There are exceptions to this. My reel uses my introduction logo for about 10 seconds, but it does so while revealing new, exciting, stylistic content/information every second to keep the audience engaged.
Ultimately, the goal is to figure out how long it takes someone to read the shot, then cut to your next subject matter. ScrewAttack does a fantastic job of this in the first few seconds of their video:
I strongly suggest that you keep your titled introductions at 3 seconds or less. This way your audience doesn’t even have a chance to skip ahead, even if they want to do so as soon as they see a title slate.
4. Improper White Balance
During CPAC 2014 I was hired by Tea Party News Network to shoot a series of interviews with Scottie Nell Hughes, Vandon Gene, and Jennifer Burke speaking with various politicians and media pundits. After wrapping up one of the days, I was walking down the hall when I realized a young woman, with no video production experience, from another news organization was by herself trying to figure out how to use a camcorder.
I stopped to give her a basic run through of the camcorder she was using (an AF100), but the biggest issue she had was that all of her shots that day were completely blue! The reason for this was that her white balance was improperly set. She was using lights with a blue color temperature, but had her white balance set to 3200K, which resulted in a very blue picture. She should have had the color temperature set to the color of daylight (roughly 5600k).
When you are white balancing you are basically telling the camera what color you consider white. It then adjusts the color of the image based on what its frame of reference for white is. When you white balance a particular color, it will create an image that has the complete opposite color of what you white balanced. For example…if you white balance the color red, your picture will suddenly look green, because green is the opposite of red. Because white is a culmination of ALL colors, the camera sees the opposite of white as every color in the spectrum, producing an image of proper color.
This improperly white balanced shot below is set to 5600k. The color temperature of tungsten bulbs is about 3200k. Since the white balance is off by 2400k it produces a red image. Notice the area inside the lamp that is supposed to look white actually looks yellow.
This shot below is properly white balanced, with the white balance set to 3200k, pointing directly at a 3200k tungsten bulb. Notice that the area inside of the lamp is much closer to the color white.
3. Poorly Lit Greenscreen
The process of chroma keying (in most cases, greenscreening) is basically just taking a particular color (or range of color/tone) and replacing it with an image. When your greenscreen is not lit sufficiently and/or evenly, it will result in what we call a very bad key, creating a number of undesirable outcomes: parts of your subject disappearing, parts of the greenscreen being seen, the subject being surrounded by mess of cruddy-looking pixels, etc.
Below is an example of a very bad key. Notice the man’s shirt is gone (he was wearing a green shirt) and the edge of the subjects are severely fragmented. This is because the greenscreen was not lit properly and the subjects’ color and tonal range were too similar to the chosen color of the key. The subjects are also out of focus.
Below is an example of a better lit, but not perfect, greenscreen. Most of the greenscreen is well lit, except for the slightly darker patch in the bottom-left corner, that produced some problems in post, but it was minor enough for me to key out. I also have to exercise caution, as my eye color is green.
Even after greenscreening, people need to remember to color correct their subjects, otherwise they will carry with them an ugly tint of green. I’ve seen a lot of conservative videos online that show evidence of people forgetting to shift those green midtones/highlights out of their subjects, but I won’t mention any names.
2. Terrible Sound
Unfortunately this is all too common in so many politically-related videos I watch online. Most of the time people rely on their built-in camera’s mic to record their sound, which can work if you’re very close to the camera, but it will not if you’re further than 3-4 feet away from the built-in mic. The result of improperly using a built-in camera mic is a terrible echo sound in the audio which sounds hollow and unprofessional. It distracts the audience from the focus of the content in an art that’s supposed to be invisible.
Below is a terribly compressed scene from a series I attempted to produce 11 years ago during my first year of college. The sound is absolutely horrendous, but it provides a perfect example of what using a mic sounds like when it’s far away from the subject. In this case it was a built-in mic.
To avoid this, spend the money to purchase a lavalier microphone, which you can clip to your subject (so that the mic is pointing toward the subject’s face, unless it’s omni-directional, in which case pointing it to the side can work) and plug directly into your camcorder. This is probably the easiest and cheapest solution to the problem. You could also purchase a shotgun microphone, which is usually higher in quality, but because they are uni-directional with a very thin pick-up pattern, it requires following your subject’s movements precisely.
This clip below is a segment from a tribute video I made for my late friend, Ken Stafford. The sound is so much better simply because I’m using a lavalier microphone clipped to the shirt of the subject.
1. Too Much Time Spent to Make One Point
We’re all guilty of this. It’s an easy enough mistake to make in videos, particularly with politically-related videos, when holding the attention of the viewer is crucial to having the positive impact you want to have on the audience. The problem is that if you spend too much time making one point, the audience will abandon your video.
One helpful method is to state your intended claim in one sentence, then follow up with supporting statements for the point, but keep it very short and succinct. As soon as you make your point with as few words as possible, immediately move on to the next point. Your audience will thank you for it. It’s better to leave the audience wanting more rather than wanting less.
Filmmaking is hard, because it requires both technical and artistic ability. We will often fail when attempting to make a great video with viral potential, but if we can learn from those mistakes, failure becomes a stepping stone rather than a discouragement.