Before You Shoot: A Checklist

by Kaitlyn Mitchell

Hey, Stringr! Yeah, you: If you’re serious about selling video regularly on the Stringr platform, but don’t want to invest in an expensive video camera, you should consider purchasing some attachments for shooting with your smartphone. Here’s your pre-shooting gear checklist, as well as a few tricks of the trade to keep in mind before heading out into the field.

iphoneshot

Prepare your phone

  • Make sure your battery is fully charged, and go into airplane mode to conserve battery. Wifi networks can still be accessed in airplane mode, but being connected to wifi and bluetooth will also drain battery.
  • Clean your lens — the sleeve of your shirt will work in a pinch.
  • Get rid of extra media and apps on your phone. If you need those apps for personal use, get another phone to be used specifically for shooting. So next time you get an upgrade, save your old model for shooting!
  • Test the sound and image before you start shooting the actual event, and play it back to make sure the sound comes through and the image isn’t blurry.
The user interface of the app FiLMiC Pro, available on the app store for $9.99.

The user interface of the app FiLMiC Pro, available on the app store for $9.99.

Lock autofocus and autoexposure

  • If you download See it with Us or FiLMiC Pro, you’ll be able to select an appropriate brightness and camera subject distance. These apps allow AE, AF, and AWB locks.
  • If you’re used to using an actual camera, remember that smartphones control exposure through shutter speed and ISO only. There is no “f:stop” control on your phone.
mobile-gorillapod-0246_600.0000001350315352

The Mobile GorillaPod can be attached to your arm to steady your shot.

Stabilize the camera

  • Use a tripod, rest your phone up against something, or hold your arms as close to your center of gravity as possible to reduce shaky footage. The heavier your phone, the more you reduce the sway. Watch our video blog on handheld shooting here.
  • Newer smartphones have stabilization built in — make sure that it is turned on.
  • Check out our video blog on tripods for more information.
  • Some specific models that have received positive reviews are: GorillaPod Mobile, The Keyprop, and GripTight Mount.
A reporter photographs musician James Taylor using an Apple iPhone as he gives an interview during the final day of the Democratic National Convention at Time Warner Cable Arena on September 6, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina.

A reporter photographs musician James Taylor using an Apple iPhone as he gives an interview during the final day of the Democratic National Convention at Time Warner Cable Arena on September 6, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Shoot for the editors

  • Most cameras cannot keep up with movement, so stay at as wide of an angle as possible.
  • NEVER zoom in and move; in fact, it’s best to avoid zooming all together. Digital zooms degrade the image.
  • Allow subjects to enter and leave the frame. Check out our video blog on framing your shot here.
  • Separate your interview subject from the background whenever you can, and don’t film your subject in front of windows or a bright background (otherwise, you won’t be able to see the subject).
  • Always shoot horizontally!
The Ampridge Mighty Mic.

The Ampridge Mighty Mic.

Get good sound 

  • Smartphones usually don’t allow you to monitor sound levels, so shoot a test and play it back while wearing your earphones to make sure that the video has audio.
  • Get up close and personal with your sound source if possible — this will eliminate extraneous sound.
  • Consider using a second phone for audio (just in case).
  • Wind will ruin your audio: If you have an external mic, put a softie on it. If you’re shooting with only your phone’s mic, try to block the wind with your hand if possible.
  • Consider an external microphone that plugs into a headphone jack. Some reliable models are: The Mighty Mic, Røde Videomic Go, and DXA-SLR Ultra Adapter (this one is advertised to be used with a DSLR camera, but it can be used with iPhones).
  • See our own video blog on getting better audio here.
The OlloClip lens will give your smartphone telephoto abilities.

The OlloClip lens will give your smartphone telephoto abilities.

Fragment your world

The Anamorphic Adapter lens.

The Anamorphic Adapter lens.

How-To: Shot Variety

Shot variety is essential for making your video stand out to customers on our platform. Learn the tricks of the trade in this video tutorial by our video producer James.

THE STRINGR BLOG

One of the best ways to be a successful stringr is to capture a variety of shots. This will help you shoot a sequence that will tie together nicely.

But capturing a sequence isn’t always necessary. Shooting a variety of wide, medium and close shots, gives editors more to work with.

No matter what the request is, begin by working around the location. If you are close to the subject, work your way backwards. If you are far, work your way forward. To begin, record a variety of shots moving in one direction.

Once you have several wide shots, take a few steps forwards and repeat that process, shooting several medium shots while moving in the other direction.

After shooting at least three different shots in each phase, step closer and do another pass capturing close shots.

Finally, after gathering a number of different wide, medium and close shots, capture…

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Children on the Spotlight: Ethics on how to film children

Filming kids in public can get you into muddy waters when it comes to journalistic ethics. In this blog post, we’ll explain how to make sure you’re not breaking the law in this situation.

THE STRINGR BLOG

By Nilda Melissa Diaz

Receiving a request from Stringr often, if not always, means that you will be filming complete strangers. People going about their day at a street fair, sports fans tailgating, passersby after a vehicular collision etc. The law is on your side as you can record people as long as they are in public areas, such as sidewalks and streets. But what should you do when it comes to filming children?

PHOTO CREATIVE COMMONS LIC.

Children טף

Children and minors are not exempt from being recorded and photographed in public places. But the general consensus in the media is to proceed with caution; they’re seen as vulnerable human beings. This is why B-roll often includes the back of their heads, their legs or a somewhat blurred image.

The Ethical Journalism Initiative (EJI), “a global campaign of programs and activities to support and strengthen quality in media”, launched in…

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How-To: Shoot Interviews

Shooting interviews is an essential skill for any Stringr. Check out our easy tips for acing MOS and other types of interviews in this video blog.

THE STRINGR BLOG

Before pressing record, you NEED to always think about your subjects position within the setting. How is the light? What is the light source, Is it too dark or too light? What about the surrounding audio, Is it noisy or near something that can make noise?

Knowing the answer to these questions will enable you to quickly adapt to any situation, whether you are shooting inside or outside.

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When you see a video request from Stringr, sometimes we’ll ask for interviews. Interviews, sound bites or SOTS as they are called in the news business are important because it allows those on the scene to share their perspective.

This makes knowing HOW to shoot a basic interview a key skill if you want to be a great videographer.

Here are the basics.  Let’s start with…

Sit-down interviews

When shooting a sit down interview you can set up lights or utilize…

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How-To: Shoot Tilts & Pans

Check out this short video blog on adding tilts and pans to your shot – if executed well, your footage will instantly look professional.

THE STRINGR BLOG

Adding movement to your shots can be a nice touch, but it can also completely ruin them. Using pans and tilts in your shots gives your footage a higher level of quality and shows your skill as a camera operator. While static shots are great, throwing in some smooth movement can make your footage exciting and stand out from the rest.

Using a pan is perfect for adding lateral movement to your shots. Pans can be used to show how wide a scene or setting is. Pans are great for tracking or following a subject that is moving. To capture a nice pan start with a static shot and then slowly turn your camera either left or right. Once you reach the end of the scene, hold the shot steady again.

Tilting the camera either up or down can help show the height of the setting. Tilts are also great…

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How-to: Convert Video Files

Ever have trouble converting your video files while you’re uploading to Stringr? We have the answers to your questions here.

THE STRINGR BLOG

At Stringr, we often get asked which video formats are accepted for uploading. We accept all major video file formats, including AVI, AAC, FLV, MP4, 3MG and MOV. However, if you find yourself with a format that we do not accept, there are many ways to convert your files into one that we do.

If you are shooting with a smartphone, there are several apps available for download that can convert your files within your phone. iConvt/MConverter/The Video Converter all offer a variety of different file conversion options. Simply open the app, import the footage, tap the file and convert. Select advance and choose the settings you want to use. The file will convert and you are done.

If you download your footage to your computer, there are endless ways to convert your files, whether it be online or a software on your computer. Online, we recommend using the website…

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Stringr Glossary: Terms You Need to Know

by Kaitlyn Mitchell

All Stringrs need to know the basics of videography. This week, we expanded upon our Video Lingo to Know page: we’ve listed and defined shooting terms as a quick reference for Stringrs to look up technical vocabulary that professional videographers use everyday.

Ambient: the environmental conditions, for example: surrounding light and sound.

Audio: sound. Specifically, the range of frequencies which are perceptible by the human ear.

Aspect Ratiothe proportion between the width and the height of a picture. It is often expressed in the W:H format, where W is the width and H the height. For example, a 16:9 aspect ratio means that for a width of 16 units, the height must be 9 units.

Beta: A pre-release version of computer software. It is often distributed widely without charge in order to obtain feedback, identify bugs, and attract customers.

B-Roll: supplementary material used in broadcast. It can include different shots of a building (exterior and interior), street view, etc.

Compressionvideo is typically filmed with 24 or 30 frames per second. That means that every second, 24 or 30 still images are displayed to give the illusion of movement. Because the images are so closely linked, not everything in the image moves from frame to frame. Compression stores the changes in the frames as opposed to storing entire frames.

Converting: changing the format of a video file. For example, to transfer a movie or a clip to a different file type for viewing on a mobile device, uploading to the Internet, or compressing to save hard drive space.

Depth of Field: the zone between the nearest and furthest points at which the camera can obtain a sharp focus.

Exposure : the amount of light which is passed through the iris, and which the CCD or film is exposed to.

EvergreenFootage that is not “newsy” can be used over and over again. Examples include  exterior footage of government agencies, people enjoying a beach on a hot summer day, and weather occurrences like heavy winds and rain.

Framing: look for horizontal and vertical lines in the frame (e.g. the horizon, poles, etc). Make sure the horizontals are level, and the verticals are straight up and down.

Lens: an optical lens or assembly of lenses used in conjunction with a camera body and mechanism to make images of objects either on photographic film or on other media capable of storing an image chemically or electronically. Lens types: 

  • Telephoto: a specific type of a long-focus lens in which the physical length of the lens is shorter than the focal length.DCM118.shoot_core.step1_
  • Wide: a lens whose focal length is substantially smaller than the focal length of a normal lens for a given film plane.Canon-Ultra-Wide-Angle-Lenses
  • Zoom: a mechanical assembly of lens elements for which the focal length (and thus angle of view) can be varied. A true zoom lens, also called a parfocal lens, is one that maintains focus when its focal length changes.cine-zoom-lens
  • Prime: either a photographic lens whose focal length is fixed, or the primary lens in a combination lens system.Using_prime_lenses.Sigma30_b

Metadata: data that describes other data. Meta is a prefix that in most information technology usages means “an underlying definition or description.” Metadata summarizes basic information about data, which can make finding and working with particular instances of data easier.

Mic Types:

  • Lav Mic: a lavalier mic (also known as a lapel mic, clip mic, collar mic, neck mic or personal mic) is a small dynamic microphone used to allow for hands-free operation.lav mic
  • Shotgun Mic: a directional microphone with a narrow-angle range of sensitivity.shotgun

Pan: the framing moves left & right, with no vertical movement.

Raw Footage: the original unedited footage that is captured while shooting. It can also be called source video.

Tilt: The framing moves up & down, with no horizontal movement.

Tripoda portable three-legged frame, used as a platform for supporting the weight and maintaining the stability of some other object.

TRIPOD

Sequence: a series of shots on the same subject that are edited together to tell a story. A well-edited video sequence adds visual variety to video storytelling.

Shot Types:

  • Extreme Wide Shot- In the EWS, the view is so far from the subject that it isn’t even visible. The point of this shot is to show the subject’s surroundings. The EWS is often used as anestablishing shot — the first shot of a new scene, designed to show where the action is taking place.pt-wideangle-3
  • Wide Shot- In the WS, the subject takes up the full frame.wide-angle-lens-12-1
  • Medium Shot-The MS shows some part of the subject in more detail, whilst still showing enough for the audience to feel as if they were looking at the whole subject.katniss
  • Cutaway-A cutaway is a shot that’s usually of something other than the current action. It is essential for the editing process. It adds interest or information.godfather-cutaway-visualization

Shutter: a device that opens and closes to expose the film in a camera.

SOT: also known as Sound on Tape, it refers to room tone.

VO: Voice-Over is a TV news story during which a news anchor or reporter reads a script live as video is played up to a place when a news maker video/audio sound bite is played. At the end of the SOT, the reporter or anchor resumes reading with or without additional video.

Zoom: in & out, appearing as if the camera is moving closer to or further away from the subject. When a shot zooms in closer to the subject, it is said to be getting a “tighter shot”. As the shot zooms out, it does the opposite.

Stringr Interviews: Stringr Pro Anthony Peltier

by Kaitlyn Mitchell

This week, Stringr chatted with Stringr Pro Anthony Peltier, who has 10 years of professional freelance broadcast news filming experience, including with CBS shows from CBS Evening News to CBS This Morning. Based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Peltier has also done freelance videography work for NBC. The majority of his work has been weather* stories, but he has also worked on political events and on movies and television shows, like E.R.Joan of Arcadia, Spanglish, and Judging Amy.

Anthony Peltier

Stringr: How did you hear about Stringr?

Peltier: I was connected to Stringr by CBS’ midwest bureau. At first, I was shocked that Stringr took iPhone footage, I saw it as a step down from professionally shot footage. But then I realized that you can’t always be somewhere where you can take your $10,000 camera with you.

Stringr: What methods have you employed to successfully sell your footage with Stringr?

Peltier: The weather channel sent me a notification on my iPhone – a big storm was headed for Minneapolis. It was just raining lightly, but was a really cool shot: people with umbrellas walking in the road, with the light rail in the background. Stringr wasn’t even asking for Midwest rain footage, I just whipped out my phone and started shooting, cut a little sequence together, uploaded it, and about 10-15 minutes later, somebody downloaded it. 

Stringr: 

Peltier: I worked with a camera crew here in Minneapolis. One of the guys was a dateline cameraman. He was based here in Minneapolis, and I got to tail along with him for a little bit. I didn’t realize at the time that I could be that kind of professional here in the Midwest. I thought that I had to move out.

Stringr:  Do you have tips for Stringrs who have never shot footage for broadcast news?

Peltier: During my formal journalism broadcast training at Brown College, they taught us what it means to white balance a camera, how to check your back-focus, set your levels on your audio. Audio is super important. Even if you can’t get the shot, keep rolling. You might get audio, you never know. The microphone picks up everything. Put the camera down by your side, and keep rolling, and you might get a golden sound bite. News organizations won’t take footage if there is no sound to it.

The best advice I’ve ever been given is: Think like an editor when you’re getting your shots. Hold your shot for 10-20 seconds, then cut to another shot. To create a successful sequence, vary your shot. Wide-close-wide-close, extreme close. Make sure they match. Try to make the shots match, so it doesn’t look like the perspectives are all over the place. Get your wide and go close, maybe cut to another shot. Don’t let your audience get claustrophobic.

Footage

Still from Peltier’s coverage of Hillary Clinton’s visit to Minnesota in September 2015. 

Stringr: What type of gear do you prefer to use when shooting for Stringr?

Peltier: I use my Panasonic HPX-170 often when shooting for Stringr. It shoots 1080p, if I need to.

Stringr: Last week, you successfully captured footage of Cecil the Lion’s killer, Dr. Walter Palmer returning to work. Walk us through your day.

Peltier: I got to the Dentist’s office just after 5am, and left just after lunch, when people were starting to wrap. I got a close-up of Dr. Walter Palmer, walking in in a white shirt. When he came back to work, there was no doubt in my mind that he was going to walk right up to the front door. He’s that kind of man, who shoots a lion and claims “I didn’t know what I was doing, I didn’t do anything wrong, I’m going to walk in the front door.”

There were protesters, all the networks had their tents set up, cops had blocked off the street. People were there at five’o clock in the morning. Dr. Palmer had three of his secretaries or hygienists walk up to the office as well. Everyone was trying to ask questions, and they said, “No, we don’t want to talk about it.” Dr. Palmer had his own private security – one guy that looked like a secret service agent. The cops were there to keep everyone off of the private property – they shooed everyone back to the side walk. We had a chance to get a close-up three times: when Dr. Palmer arrived, when he left for lunch, when he came back from lunch, and when he left to go home.

I put up the raw footage – it’s like a 12-minute sequence, it took me a long time to upload. I uploaded from my computer in my car driving back from the dental office. I used my laptop and iPhone personal hotspot.

A Still from Peltier's footage of Dr. Walter Palmer returning to work in Minnesota after a media storm over his killing of Cecil the Lion in Africa.

A Still from Peltier’s footage of Dr. Walter Palmer returning to work in Minnesota after a media storm over his killing of Cecil the Lion in Africa.

Stringr: How do you edit your video footage for Stringr?

Peltier: I was self-taught on Final Cut Pro. In 2005, I bought a $300 version of Final Cut – I bought it, loaded the program onto my computer, and I swore I was gonna learn it.

I’m not an editor, so I never got into Adobe Premier. I use it sometimes to edit footage if I’m working with a camera that final cut doesn’t recognize. Final Cut works for cutting little sequences together, and Panasonic cameras really do well with it. I keep the footage native on the timeline, cut my sequence together, compress it down, send it off.

Stringr: What’s the most extreme situation you’ve had while shooting weather footage?

Peltier: Two years ago, in March 2013, there was a big snowstorm all through Minneapolis. The Weather Channel hired me the entire day to do live shots in downtown Minneapolis, working with a sound guy. We had one of the weather channel anchors, every hour, every 20 minutes, we’d be doing updates for the local stations all over the country. That’s a challenge, because you’re outside, you’ve got an umbrella holding over your camera, you’ve also got a tent set up, and even if you’ve got gloves on, you’ve got to take them off to work the camera controls. You can’t exactly work a Zoom with your heavy gloves on. And not only that, you’ve got snowplows running alongside you, you’ve got a talent you’re looking out for, who’s also standing out there freezing – if you feel safe and comfortable, they’re gonna feel safe and comfortable. The biggest challenge is just making sure I had composure for that. It was six hours, and the storm was heavy, snow was just pouring down. There was just three of us – the talent, and the sound guy, and me.

Screen Shot 2015-09-15 at 12.41.20 AM

Stringr: As a freelance videographer, how do you network?

Peltier: I was in New York just last year, and the FX show The Americans was shooting a couple of scenes on the street. I stood on the side of the street and was watching them shoot the entire scene for about four hours. I stayed out there, and got a chance to talk to the Director of Photography.

*Pro Weather Tip: If you go cover a hurricane, your camera’s going to get wet, unless you’ve got really good insurance. Make sure the camera’s covered with a Cotta waterproof bag, or if you can’t afford cotta gear, just put your rain slicker over it.

How-To: Shoot Hand Held

Check out our tips for shooting handheld, in those situations where you don’t have your tripod handy. Enjoy your Labor Day, Stringrs!

THE STRINGR BLOG

At Stringr, we encourage you to shoot with a tripod, however on some shoots you may not have a tripod or cannot set up your shot, leaving you to shoot hand held. When you find yourself in this situation, there are a few tips and techniques that can help you capture steady shots.

One of the quickest ways to stabilize hand held shots is by positioning your body correctly. Start by standing with your legs shoulder width apart and slightly bending them. This gives your body a sturdy base and will absorb movements.

Another way to get smoother shots is by increasing contact points. Place one hand on the side and the other underneath your camera or lens if you are using a DSLR. If you have a strap on your camera, put it around your neck and pull it tight.  This grip limits horizontal and vertical shifts.

For smartphone…

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How-To: Compress Files

At Stringr, we love high quality video that makes the deadline. The earlier your submission, the better chance of a download, which leads to money.

However, recording longer video, leads to large raw files which slows down your upload time. To increase upload speed, you will need to compress the video files.

Compressing your video allows you to control variables which can reduce file sizes, while maintaining the original level of quality.

There are many different programs that can compress video files including QuickTime Player and editing programs like Adobe Premiere or Final Cut.

If you have Mov files, the easiest way to compress a video is with QuickTime:

-Simply open the video file and select the output quality you want. Select the same quality as your camera shoots.

-Name the file and choose the new save destination and you are done.

– Compare the original file size to the newly compressed. You should see the difference.

If you are an Adobe Cloud account holder, use the Media Encoder which offers more file options and allows you to compress multiple clips at the same time.

-To begin add your file to the queue by clicking the + sing in the upper left hand corner. From there you can choose a preset to start with or change the setting manually. For presets, either Vimeo 1080p or Youtube will work the best for uploading to Stringr. Simply click “apply preset” in the upper right hand corner.

-To change setting in your file manually, click on the info below the file.

If not done already select H.264 format for all HD footage.

-Make sure that “match source” is selected, to ensure you are not stretching the frame rate or frame size.

-Next set the maximum bit rate between 16 and 20 mbps and the target between 14 and 16 mbps, to keep a data flow.

– Under audio, select AAC and stereo channels to get the best sound. Set this bitrate to 320 kbps.

-Finally check “use maximum render quality” and click “ok”

-Click “output file” to change the name and set the render destination.

– Next click the play button in the upper right hand corner to render the file or files.  You will see the files compressing.

Once these are done, check to make sure they have compressed properly.

Now that you have smaller high quality files, upload them to Stringr and Make sure to add the proper metadata.