Video Grammar: Single Camera Technique

Back with more Video Grammar basics for digital journalists!

Reviewing our VG checklist so far:

Next up: developing good shooting technique to facilitate the editing of your visual “statements and sentences,” (a.k.a. the montage).

NOTE: Professional shooting technique assumes the editing of your material later. Plan the shoot, shoot the plan.

So, how does a journalist shoot enough to enhance their story and have enough to edit later? One shot at a time, baby!

It’s called Single Camera Shooting Technique and pro shooters use it to “acquire” all of the shots they will need to edit an appropriate visual statement together later. In VG, framing and composition are visual verbs and nouns, single camera technique is the sentence structure. Single camera technique was developed back in the early days of film and was designed to give directors (and digital journalists!) maximum control, allow for footage to be shot “out of sequence” and facilitated editing. It’s genius in its simplicity which is why it remains a standard shooting convention in film, news, documentaries or any other genre shot using only one camera.

Briefly, here’s how it works: each shot is planned and executed before you start recording. The shooter makes all of the critical aesthetic decisions (exposure, focus, framing/composition and the type of shot – wide shot, close up, medium shot ) ahead of time and then records one shot at a time.

Once each shot is recorded, the shooter repositions the camera for another shot and/or angle. Before each recording, new aesthetic decisions have to be made on the above criteria BEFORE recording each new shot. It’s easy – move, setup the shot, look at the frame, make aesthetic decisions, record, stop, move…repeat.

When done successfully the shooter ends up with a variety of shots, properly framed, in focus and correctly exposed that can be arranged and rearranged in the editing process to tell a great visual story, or as I believe video was intended, to enhance good writing or a killer piece of music!

When it works, it’s a beautiful thing. Like this simple visual story shot by Jamie Stuart of a snow storm.

NEXT TIME: The seven sins of bad shooting technique!

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