In the time since Doc was last on the podcast, there have been ever-increasing changes and improvements to technology. For example, cell phone cameras have gone from little grainy pictures to 4K. It’s insane how much things have changed even just in the last couple of years. Because of this, Doc’s perspective has changed somewhat too, and he feels some of the advice he gave last time is now outdated.
Doc’s advice is to start with the basics. Some people are producing videos online that look good but sound terrible. If you can’t get the video to at least match the audio, he says don’t make it. Sound and lighting is the thing that separates you from or makes you an amateur. If you have to choose from the two, take the sound, because you can look at a picture and think ‘it’s ok’ but if the sound is bad it’s unlistenable. The majority of things today will have half-decent video because most cameras these days are so good that you can work around shoddy lighting. If you’re going to hire out for anything, hire an audio guy. That’s how important it is. If you see a video that looks good but sounds horrible, you will turn it off. It’s that simple. Make sure you’re getting quality audio and do what you can for solid lighting.
Doc says if you can afford it, hire somebody that has the proper gear and knows what they’re doing. It’s one thing to have a mic but it’s another thing to know how to record. There’s a huge difference between recording audio for a film versus recording a podcast episode. In the podcast, usually you’re in a contained environment. In a narrative setting, the elements might be a little out there so you need to be aware of the little sounds that you’re hearing the background. At least reach out to someone in your area who has the gear and let them guide you on what to get and what’s available in your area.
Doc hesitates to list specific brands of quality gear because things are changing so quickly. However, he suggests looking at getting a basic shot-gun mic, and doing your research. There are some amazing tutorial videos on YouTube that provide great videos of comparisons between two microphones, which can be really helpful. You want the professional level, but make sure you do your homework.
The importance of pre-production
Doc is really big on pre-production. He says podcasts are often rushed but in film making they don’t do rushed projects, everything is planned out. He likes having a solid game plan in place, making sure everyone has the right gear and there are the right people to operate that gear, and that the production is as great sounding as it looks.
The more planning you do up front the easier it is on the back end. In Doc’s freelance work, planning also helps when managing the client. If you do the preproduction there is a blueprint set up of what the client can expect so if they come back and say they aren’t happy or it isn’t what they expected, you can refer back to the pre-production blueprint. A lot of times people don’t understand what it takes to make a video or what that video may look like in the end. In that kind of client situation, ask if they’ve seen a video or movie that they want their video to look like. That makes it comfortable for client and creator and gives time to clarify whether the creator can actually create what the client is asking for or whether they need to refer on. Doc says pre-production meetings can drag out though, so he recommends doing pre-production for your meeting on pre-production!
Applying the screen-writing approach to podcast planning
Doc suggests writing out the podcast planning as a screenplay because having the blueprint is really vital. His opinion is that if we don’t know where we’re going, we’re going to get there and where we end up isn’t going to be good. If you aren’t good at writing and don’t feel comfortable about it, find someone who is. Make sure that you get something written out so everyone on your team knows where you’re going, even if the team is just you.
If you’re doing something with multiple characters, you can start visualizing what that character should be. Pre-production isn’t the most fun part, and for Doc he doesn’t enjoy the post-work editing either. He finds the best part is actually filming the piece. However, it’s important to appreciate the pre-production process because it makes everything else seamless.
Do the best with the equipment you have
Doc advises not to get too caught up in the newest, upgraded technology. In terms of cameras, 4K is really popular right now and it’s growing. If you have a DSLR, don’t be ashamed that it isn’t 4K. Use it. There’s a feature film on Netflix right now that was shot entirely with an iPhone! But this iPhone film had solid audio. If you’re doing things correctly and you’re giving a picture that’s worthy of the audio, you’re fine. Don’t worry about what the newest, greatest thing is, don’t be in a rush to upgrade it, just do the best with what you’ve got.
Doc is keen to answer questions from listeners. He didn’t go to school for video production, he learned it all from mentors. The mentors meant a lot to him so the least he can do is help others in the same way, which is why he does his podcast.
Find Doc at filmakersfocus.com or follow him @filmakersfocus on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. And if you’d like to, you can follow Doc’s comedy @dockcomedy on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
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