Television field shooting tips

Journalists putting together television packages have a lot of "moving parts" to keep coordinated. It's terribly frustrating to spend time doing a field shoot and then to discover at production time that nature has conspired against you. Common problems are audio spoiled by wind in the microphone and subject faces lost in shadows on a sunny day. Here's a couple of pointers for dealing with these.

Wind in microphone

This is often a problem in West Texas, but it can come up just about anywhere. If you know it's windy, then try this. If you're doing a standup, stand with your back to the wind and keep the microphone in really close to your body.

An alternative on this theme would be to stand close to a building and let the building block the wind. In either case, you should use your headphones to listen to your audio – while you are in the field. Make whatever adjustments you have to.

Harsh shadows

You just got your video subjects to stand so that the microphone is shielded from the wind. Now they have harsh shadows across their faces. When you are shooting footage outdoors in bright light, it's easy to get shadows that obscure faces or other things you are trying to show. Try one or more of these.

  1. Use lights to fill in the shadow
  2. See if you can get your subject to turn just enough into the sun that the shadows don't obscure their faces.
  3. If turning into the sun is not a good option, see if you can get someone – just off screen – to hold up a piece of cardboard or foam board to shade the subject. OR you might try using an automobile windshield sun blocker to bounce light onto your subject.
  4. Move into the shadow of a building.

Window in an office

One of the most common video mistakes students make is to interview a person in their office and to have a window in the background. The camera will read the light from the window, and your interview subject winds up being really dark. To cure this, you have two choices:

  1. Use the small portable Frezzi lights that you can check out with the camera. You may need to filter these lights.
  2. Set up a camera angle that simply does not have the window in view at all.

Barrel sounding audio

Do NOT rely on the on-camera microphones to capture audio, especially voice audio from an interview. Unless you have the microphone up very close to a person, you will have "hollow" audio that sounds at worst as though your subject is speaking from the bottom of a barrel. The solution is to get a remote mike up very close to the person.

Online help

You may find help in any of the following documents: