What makes a video interesting...

Posted: 4/30/2012 1:46:14 PM

From: In between the Pitch and Volume hand ~ New England

Joined: 12/17/2010

I have been browsing the internet and youtube to listen/watch some theremin perfomances. I've come across fantastic ones, medium ones, mediocre ones (many of those!), and then I started thinking about what makes me like one more than another one... well, of course, the theremin playing, if it is dreadful, i will probably only listen to 10 seconds of it then quit cause my ears cannot take it any longer... But then i realized that even if their theremin playing is despicable, the set up was lovely and the lighting and positioning was awesomely put together so i keep watching...

so beside the theremin playing, what do you consider really important when you watch a video? I know it's very wide subject, and it's ok. Just share what you'd like openly :)

Posted: 4/30/2012 7:36:31 PM
Chainsaw Willie!

From: Just a short walk away from Nike Missile Site S-13/14

Joined: 1/28/2011

ANYTHING other than merely showing the instrument, the players hands, and the players belly.  A lot of youtube videos are from a perspective I don't care to see.

On the other extreme are the videos recorded in the dark basement, with a television screen flickering in the background, and a catbox on the floor.

Also I think it is odd how many people fail to do ANY editing.  It would be nice if they would at least snip out the part where they walk back to the instrument from switching on the camera, and the part at the end where they walk toward the camera and we watch their hand get bigger as it reaches to switch off the camera.


Oh yeah,  Crocks,  NO CROCKS unless also wearing clown makeup and a squirting flower.

Posted: 4/30/2012 10:48:27 PM

From: Northern NJ, USA

Joined: 2/17/2012

"I've come across fantastic ones..."  - Care to share some links?

Visually I guess I don't care too much, but audio wise I appreciate high fidelity and a minimum of sour notes.  For some reason I'm most drawn to Theremin playing that closely resembles the female voice (like your excellent "Coral Island Sunset") - I'm not a huge fan of the Clara Rockmore sound.

Posted: 4/30/2012 11:08:05 PM

From: Jax, FL

Joined: 2/14/2005

Of course the playing should be good but there should be some editing in the video.

A plain static one-shot video is pretty boring no matter what the angle is.

Posted: 5/1/2012 2:44:09 AM

From: Hillsborough, NC (USA)

Joined: 2/13/2005

Would anyone be interested in writing an article for our blog with tips on making your theremin video more interesting? 

Posted: 5/1/2012 4:53:43 AM
Thomas Grillo

From: Jackson Mississippi

Joined: 8/13/2006

Hi All, Jason, I'd certainly be interested in writing an article on video. However, I'll just leave a few pointers here.

I stand guilty as charged of having posted the awkward walk-on, walk-off vids back before I learned editing. Even had the one camera point of view which might as well have been a security cam. Maybe I should've edited in the blinking record indicator and frame, and set it to black and white for good measure. LOL.

Especially when performing a long piece, you really want to be using multiple cameras tastefully placed to provide an interesting progression of changes in points of view.

Audio is incredibly important. But there are challenges of all sorts here. Sometimes, you'll get autio artifacts that you did not encounter with just a web-cam shoot in which the onboard camera mic was used. Some videographic thereminists like to do direct line level recording once they've sorted out whatever was causing the artifacts at eh electronic level, while others like to place a microphone near their amp or theremin speaker, and run the audio directly into the camera, or if the camera lacks mic or line level inputs, then they/we have to resort to brute force, and opt for separate recording devices to capture audio. I use a Zoom H-4 to capture my audio because there's a noisy refregerator that chatters, and bubbles to no end, and it's only 15 feet away. My mics pic it up nomatter what. But doing audio captures to another recorder in addition to the camera means learning to sync audio. Enter the clapper board, or at least a single clap at the start of recording to help line up the audio and video in editing (post production). Oh, that brings me to another challenge which even I'm fighting to this day. That's an annoying problem where you work to get it right, and the final cut starts off in nicely, but later on, the audio and video have drifted out of sync with each other. That's a codec issue, and also has to do with formats.

In short, you'll get much better audio by doing line level recording to the camera, or digital audio recorder, or by parking a mic near your speaker, but count on learning to sync audio. You can use a mic boom stand, or have a volunteer stand just out of frame with a boom pole mic held over you to capture your audio for you.

Lighting is incredibly important. Yeh, I've been guilty of breaking out the old clip lights in my early vids, and using the worse possible lamps. NEVER use those little par bulbs, those 20 or 40 watt reflector bulbs. They just don't produce a wide enough throw, and you end up with an uneven, nasty hot-spot. I've recently started using entry level professional studio lighting which can be found on Amazon at fairly reasonable prices. Some of the lighting I now have to select from include CFL daylight balanced bulbs in reflector lamps which accept umbrella reflectors. Softbox lighting makes for a very nice form of lighting which gets rid of the hard shadows ordinary lighting can cause. I've recently upgraded to the new LED panels, but you've got to be careful with both CFL and LED panels as these produce some RF problems with theremins. You need at least 4 or 5 feet of space between the lighting and the pitch rod.

Once you've got the lighting type you want, you need to figure out where to put the lights so that you, or your subject are lit in a manner which is pleasing to the eye. This becomes complicated once you start bringing in the other cameras into the mix. From the basic level, you want to use this simple setup for lighting in mind. It's called 3 point lighting. You want a key light which is going to be your brightes one to light the main features, while a lesser light, known as the fill light will just fill in the dark shadows to produce a more realistic lighting on camera. The 3rd point of lighting is your hair-light, or back light. It's usually parked above and behind you so as to light your shoulders, and produce an edge of light around your features. This will help bring you out from the background.

It's important to use studio lighting that allows you to add or comes with barndoors. These are black flaps which are seen on the front ends of lighting. They allow control of the lighting so as to stop it getting into the camera, and to confine it to desired areas of the set or talent. My lights are the simple umbrella lighting reflectors which allow you to attach barndoors to them. Just have to check the diameter of the two products match up properly so they mate correctly.

By the way, modern cameras don't need as much light dumped on the scene as the older tube type cameras, or even the solid state cameras of the 80s and 90s did. So, you don't have to break the bank on high powered lighting until you're working with larger sets than the average corner of the room shoot. (like mine ;) )

Most of my CFL lamps use 25 to 45 watt bulbs. It's important to keep in mind that these bulbs put out a light equal to a 200 or more watt conventional halogen bulb. Don't let the wattage fool you. Same goes for LED. My new panels use only 50 watts when set to full on, but put out the same as a 500 watt halogen (each). It's a good idea to consider dimmable lighting as this will allow for more creative lighting schemes.

These days, it's easy to think "OH GOD MY FUSE BOX!" when you see modern lighting kits rated as 2000 watts. But unless the kit uses halogens, the quoted wattage is not the "consumed" wattage, but what the given kit outputs when compared with halogens. Very likely, when all the CFLs are on, you're only drawing about a couple hundred watts at most (all lamps on). Most kits have 3 or 4 lights, and stands, as well as umbrellas, and or softboxes, and a stowage bag. Just search "lighting kit" at amazon to see all the offerings there.

It's important to make sure your backgound is also well, and evenly lit as appropriate for your shoot. Sometimes you might want a darkened background with low-lighting on you for soft or slow music. Other times, you might want a brighter scene.

Another way to control or modify light is to use bounce reflectors. These can be done DIY with white posterboard, or a car's windscreen sun reflector, or cardoard with aluminum foil on it, or painted silver, or even light gold. These are great for providing fill lighting when it's not possible to park another light on set for fill lighting. They can also be used on exterior shoots too. Also available on Amazon.

Colored lighting also helps A LOT. You can either use coloured lighting, or best of all, gels, which allow color control of the light. Mostly, videographers will use certain gels to correct or balance the lighting, but different coloured gels produce emotional effect on set. But be careful about rapidly changing lighting such as sound activated colour changing lighting. You might need to set everything to manual on your camera or the constant changes in lighting will freak out the auto iris and auto focus of the camera. Slowly changing lighting works well, especially when you're just learning to work with sound activated lighting in video.

Where multiple cameras are used, it's also good to have all cameras being the same or as close to the same model as possible. Otherwise, you'll see the change in picture quality from each camera as you switch from one to the next in post production.

I started out with Aiptek cameras which are rubbish compared to the ones I'm using now, which are 2 Canon HG-20s, and a Canon HFS200. They both have identical video charactoristics, but the former is capable of wired remote controlling via a LANC controller, which allows that camera to be mounted on a camera jib crane. When shopping for cameras, it helps to make sure the camera does not produce a bright line down the screen when bright light enters the lens. I hate when that happens. Also, make sure you get cameras that allow the attachment of lens hoods, those box like things hanging off the end of cameras. You see this on motion picture cameras, and news cameras mostly, but are now available for the consumer / pro-sumer cameras. Thse help stop stray light entering the lens at wide angles, and causing unwanted lighting artifacts.

Ok, that brings me to the next important thing about making videos cooler. If you have the room to do it, you'll want to bring in a jib crane which also can be found on Amazon. I have two. One's meant for use outside, while a much smaller mini-jib is designed for use inside the studio. Jibs allow you to add motion to the camera/s so you're not stuck on a tripod with at least one camera. Jibs need not cost thousands until you're working with heavier cameras than the ones we are used to using on youtube. My large jib is an 8 ft / 12 ft crane depending on job, and it costs about $400 (not including monitor and motorized pan and tilt head). My mini-jib is only a couple undred, and does not need a monitor. But it does need a tripod head to allow the operator to move pan and tilt the camera while moving the jib. Youtube has tons of howtos on diy jibs (NOT RECOMENDED FOR $$$ CAMS) as well as vids featuring cranes like ProAm and other makes.

Motion really adds a whole new dimension to video. I'm planning to feature some jib work in an upcoming youtube vid. Well, as soon as I can get the family together to do a shoot once school gets out for Summer. ;)

Perhaps the most important way to do the most creative videos, especially for longer vids, is to do a storyboard. Doesn't have to be complicated, just quick little sketches that show how you want a given scene to look on camera. Comes in handy if the setup is complex, and has many scene changes. Really saves a lot of wasted time setting up only to find that something did not work to plan.

Back when I was doing the Theremin Lessons DVD, I had to do ALL of the above, including learning to use more higher-ended editing software.

The most important rule here, is KEEP IT SWEET AND SIMPLE, yet interesting.

I like to make minor changes to my set after a couple of videos. You don't have to go overboard, and totally redesing your set on subsequent shoots. That corner is where you live when you're practicing day to day on the theremin, so it's treated as a living space, not as a television set. Well, um, guess in my case...well. you kno. LOL ;) But perhaps the most boring thin on earth is to see an unchanged setup vid after vid after vid. I've made that mistake too. Even a change in lighting scheme can make a lot of difference.

Oh, and then, there's appearance. How you dress for the part makes all the difference. How you feel when you're on set will also be important. So don't bother turning on the cameras if you're in a bad mood. LOL Time of day is very important. Men, if you do a shoot at night, check and make sure you're remembered to shave. Nothing worse than 5:00 shadow, especially on HD cameras.

Oh, that brings me to this one. Avoid performing with an open window behind you during the day. You'll end up as a dark shadow in a bright square. Not good. Better to use the light entering the window to light you, and the scene with. (Even better on cloudy days).

Back to moving cameras now. If you want to have cameras being moved around, and can't afford a jib crane, you'll want to at least consider adding a handheld rig called a camera stabilizer. You can bild these cheaply, or for under a hundred dollars, you can find some stabilizers that are not overpriced. But the better ones do cost mega $$$. Lean to use the camera's stabilizing features too, in addition to the handheld stabilizer. Shoulder rigs are cool too.

Track dolly systems tend to require a lot of space if you decide to do more advanced motion techniques with cameras. These can be done at the DIY level fairly cheaply. I did one for a short vid a while back Not to hard to build and setup.

I have a playlist in my youtube channel where you can find tons of videos regarding how to do all of the above in greater detail than I can here without doing a book on the subject of video. That reminds me. There are several good books on amazon kindle and nook which deal with lighting for video, and how to shoot professional video.

Oh, one last thing. If you're doing a talk for a lesson vid, and you're doing it fully scripted, you'll want a teleprompter. It's that funny looking angled glass hung on the front of television cameras you seen in news-rooms. These need not be expensive either. You can DIY one, or for about a hundred bucks, you can buy one on Amazon designed for use with the ipad, on which you can run teleprompter software. This lets you park a camera on the teleprompter so you can just read the copy, and look like you're looking right at the audience, and not as if you're reading old-school cue-cards. I did a DIY teleprompter back when I shot Theremin Lessons. Very challing for me with my vision as it is. LOL ;) At least I could enlarge the text so I could use one.

Be creative, but don't over-do it. Also, asky your self the following question before hitting that upload button: WOULD I PAY FOR THAT?

Watch and rewatch several times. You never know what ends up in frame that you might not have scripted for. Like the odd roach going up the wall behind you, or the icecream truck going by in the middle of your lecture. (yeh, happened to me too.)

RESOLUTION MATTERS! If your camera is capable of higher resolution, and you know your computer can handle it, by ALL means, use it! But be careful when exporting the video. You want to avoid exporting in such a high quality the viewer needs a massive broadband connection to view your work, but you want a balance of file size and video quality. This does take some researching, and manual reading to get right.

OOOoo! that reminds me. WHITE BALANCE! Make sure to do a white balance check, and learn to use the color correction / auto-balance / auto-color features of your editor. Color grading can make or break any production, nomatter how large or small.

As videographic thereminists, we have to learn to wear most, if not all of the hats worn by just about everyone you'd encounter on a major theatrical production. It can seam daunting at times, especially when doing multi-cam shoots, but patience will pay off.

Keep it fun and interesting, and don't be afraid of trying new things in video.



Posted: 5/1/2012 7:31:31 AM

Joined: 3/30/2012

That's a pretty comprehensive "How To" there Thomas. Well done!

I would put sound quality way up the top of the list. A great many YouTube clips are ruined by poor sound. (Turn the fridge off for the session and put a big sign on the door saying TURN ME BACK ON!)

When it comes to lighting, I believe the color temperature of the bulbs is more important than the wattage. Glad you mentioned white balance. It's so easy to do, but also so easy to forget to do.




Posted: 5/1/2012 11:23:16 AM

From: Jax, FL

Joined: 2/14/2005

Those are all good tips, Thomas.

Playing well is key -you have that part handled very nicely, Thomas.


You may also want to focus on some techniques that can be used by someone with a limited budget. I'd say that most YouTubers don't have access to any professional equipment at all.

There are ways to use natural lighting, for instance.



Posted: 5/1/2012 1:04:02 PM

From: In between the Pitch and Volume hand ~ New England

Joined: 12/17/2010

Thanks Thomas for the tips... But as diggyDog said, I am on a very limited budget and getting all the supplies that would make my YT videos a little better would break my bank! so I guess i'll start slowly get things a little here and there...

Posted: 5/1/2012 1:06:26 PM

From: In between the Pitch and Volume hand ~ New England

Joined: 12/17/2010

Dewster ~

I really enjoy Randy george's channel, Thomas and Coalport's.  There are great videos on there :)

thank you for the kind comment on Coral island Sunset... :) That is nice of you to say!

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