Stringr Interviews: John Joeb on Natural Lighting

by Kaitlyn Mitchell

Stringr John Joeb shoots real estate marketing videos by day for his production company ClearlyFine, but enjoys the extra cash he can get by being an active Stringr in his free time. Joeb quit the hospitality industry in 2013 in order to pursue his dream of being a full-time filmmaker. He answered an ad for a real estate videographer, and got the job thanks to his associates’ degree in filmmaking. Nowadays, Joeb’s day job involves using drones and glide cams to capture professional footage of beautiful properties in Florida, skills that easily translate to being a great Stringr. Here are his tips for using natural lighting.

Last week, Target announced that it would close 13 stores nationwide, including Joeb’s local store in Florida. Joeb shot fantastic b-roll footage of the store exterior and interior for Stringr.

John Joeb stands in as an interview subject in his Target footage for Stringr.

John Joeb stands in as an interview subject in his Target footage for Stringr.

Stringr: Walk us through the process of the shots you captured at Target.

Joeb: I approached a couple of people and they weren’t willing to talk on camera. So I thought, I need an interview, and I myself shop at this Target, so I’ll just do it. I knew that I wanted to do a rack focus, and that’s where the subject is really crisp, and the background is blurry. I knew the Target logo would be recognizable. I put something on the ground, to mark where I was going to stand, and I recorded for a few moments. Then I went back and looked at the shot, to make sure that I had the focus and the lighting right. I knew the lighting was better near the store, but I liked the dramatic lighting of the logo versus the natural lighting that I had above me. I just used the lighting from the parking lot, and I made sure the shot looked good.

A still of a mailman wading through floodwaters to do his job, from footage Joeb captured for Stringr when Tampa had severe flooding in August.

A diligent mailman wading through floodwaters to do his job: a still from footage Joeb captured for Stringr when Tampa had severe flooding in August 2015. 

Stringr: What are your lighting recommendations for outdoor shoots?

Joeb: Even for the photography that I do, I love natural lighting. The flash, you can tell and it just doesn’t look right.

Stringr: What types of external lighting devices do you use, if ever?

Joeb: In a controlled lighting situation, I use five or six lights, to make sure that everything is lit evenly. I prefer LED versus anything else, because of the heat. I don’t want my talent to sweat during real estate shoots.

Stringr: What are your tips for shooting at night?

You’ve got to know your surroundings. Number one, make sure you have no noise by adjusting the ISO and aperture. I don’t always follow the general rules that we learned in film school, but I just make sure that the shot looks good to me. I say, follow the light. If you know your camera and you know your craft, you can make it work.

Still of a shot of Jeob's Target footage.

Still of a shot of Jeob’s Target footage.

Stringr: How do you plan a shoot?

Joeb: While I was driving to the Target store, I was thinking about the layout of the parking lot, what light sources were around, my kit, how busy it would be. I just wanted to make sure that everything was lit evenly. When I arrive, I look at the scene, get my camera out, and look for something that works.

A still from drone footage captured by Joeb for his production company, ClearlyFine.

A still from drone footage captured by Joeb for his production company, ClearlyFine.

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

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 other b-roll shots that can accompany or enhance the other shots.  These shots let editors fill in any blank spots or jumps they may want to do during the story.

Gathering these shots may seem tedious, but its what customers want to see and allows them to take advantage of every shot possible.

Having a variety of different shots is important, but don’t forget to keep your shots steady.

So before pressing record, think about your shots and the best way to capture them!

Stringr Interviews: Stephen Valdivia

by Kaitlyn Mitchell

This week, Stringr sat down to chat with Stephen Valdivia, associate producer at Fortune Magazine, where he has conducted on-camera interviews with the rapper-turned entrepreneur Curtis Jackson (AKA 50 Cent), Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, first female African-American astronaut Mae Carol Jemison, and FUBU founder/ABC’s Shark Tank host Daymond John. Valdivia was born and raised in Miami, Florida, where he studied telecommunications at University of Florida. While still an undergraduate, he worked in breaking news at an ABC affiliate station, WCJV. Valdivia then became the associate producer for a year at the Miami Fox affiliate station, WSVN. Valdivia moved to New York in 2013 to get his masters of science in journalism from Columbia University, and at the same time interned at the magazine tv show Inside Edition.

Stephen Francisco

Stringr
: What do you do in your role as associate producer at Fortune Magazine?

Valdivia
: Basically, it’s two-minute documentaries. They’re not like news packages — they’re narrated by whoever our subject is. It’s a profile of a company, and the person who runs the company itself tells us what’s happening. I also do packages, and in-studio stuff, so it’s a variety of video things. Most of the people we interview at Fortune are high-profile people, the people who run the Fortune 500 companies. A lot of these things are one-man bands, you just go and do everything yourself. When these people come, I try and get a team with me, so at least two or three people, including a production assistant to help set up.
Stringr: How often do you experience equipment failures, and what do you do when it happens?
ValdiviaStuff goes wrong all the time. That is the worst part of the job. Once we were at a location, and none of the mics worked. I had two wireless lavalier microphones with me, which I had used before, and they had always worked. So I had my two lavs, which were tested, and good to go. And I had one shotgun mic, that goes on top of the camera. It was supposed to be a two-person interview, I had no mic, so I just changed the way I was shooting the thing. In this case, it’s like one-man banding, I’m not only shooting, I’m producing. I had to try to figure out a different way to tell the story. The interview subject was the CEO of a credit card company, so he created this new kind of credit card technology. With the shotgun mic, I rigged it so it could pick up his audio, and he could show a demo of what was happening. Afterwards, during post-production, I had a reporter add my voice in.
Stringr: That worked out!
Valdivia: It always has to work out, no matter what. It’s my job.
Stringr: What other types of equipment failures have you had, and how have you dealt with them?
ValdiviaLights don’t work, especially when you rent gear. I remember once, we got a battery for an LED light that wasn’t charged, and it turned off, mid-interview. For that, I just ended up using whatever light I had.
Stringr: Have you ever resorted to using your cell phone’s flashlight?
ValdiviaNot while other people are around to see me doing it. That’s happened, but it’s not an equipment failure, it’s mental failure. Like, I’ll run out to shoot some b-roll really quick, and forget to bring a light.
Stringr: What are your lighting recommendations?
ValdiviaIt varies by what you’re shooting. I like LEDs, because though they’re not the best, they’re the most convenient: light, easy to pack, and they work in a fast environment. The old school lights, like the industry standards HMIs and Arri lights, those always make everything look great. They’re just so heavy and hot, it takes so much time.
Stringr: What advice do you have for videographers just getting started in breaking news?
ValdiviaTake your time. In breaking news, everything goes crazy and everybody is crazy. You’re also in the heat of the moment, so you’re looking at everything that’s happening. Say, for example, a fire. So you’re out trying to get shots of everything that’s happening: the building, the firefighters, the victims, everything. But you’re shooting so fast that you might not get a shot that’s strong enough. I still count in my head. And I know a lot of videographers with thirty-plus years of experience that still count their shots, like “one, two, three…”, because that’s how you make sure it’s right.
Also, if there’s movement, causing you to shake the camera while counting, you’ve got to start over. Count, get your shots right, slow down, because you might get a shot, but it’s not the shot. Slow down — if there’s stuff happening, it’s still gonna keep happening. If I bump the camera and I’m in the middle of an explosion, well I’m not going to start the explosion over. But if I’m getting a visual, like a car accident, and I know the car’s gonna be there for another five minutes, I’m just gonna re-do my shot.
Stringr: What other advice do you have for videographers shooting breaking news?
Valdivia: In breaking news situations, police officers are concerned for your safety, and you should be too, but because they’re trying to deal with a difficult situations they’ll sometimes ask – or maybe even demand – that you not shoot, even when you’re on public property. Know your laws. And have mutual respect. When you work breaking news a lot in the same town, cops become your friends and your sources.
Stringr: Any parting wisdom for our Stringrs?
ValdiviaIt’s not about the equipment. It’s how you use what you have. It’s the person running the camera and the the knowledge they have.

Tips for Shooting Presidential Campaign Events

by Kaitlyn Mitchell

We’re only halfway through 2015, yet the Presidential campaigns are already revving up for November 2016, a full 16 months before the 2016 Presidential Election. The GOP certainly craves the public’s attention, with 14 candidates officially running for the nomination, compared with the Democrat’s meager four. Four Republican candidates announced their entry into the 2016 Presidential race in June — Welcome to the club.

Hill's ubiquitous pantsuit.

Hill’s ubiquitous pantsuit.

Below is a list of the current candidates and a sampling of the campaign slogans you’ll encounter incessantly over the next year:

Jeb Bush rocked a casual button-down at his campaign announcement event.

Jeb Bush rocked a casual button-down at his campaign announcement event.

Clinton’s campaign is headquartered in Brooklyn (near Clinton Street, nonetheless), so New York-based Stringrs can expect to see her making copious appearances in and around New York in the near future. But keep in mind where political campaign events take place — whether the venue is public or private will critically impact your ability to shoot. Just last week, Clinton spoke at a fundraiser featuring performances by Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett at The Plaza Hotel — while it was a flashy affair, this is a good example of an event that required a special ticket and wouldn’t have been worth covering. Political events that happen at public places like libraries or the local BBQ joint are excellent opportunities to capture up-close-and-personal footage of a candidate in a more casual setting.

Today, Ted Cruz will begin his ” A Time for Truth” book tour in Houston, Texas. In May, Rand Paul campaigned in Chicago, Hillary was in Dallas in early June for a fundraiser, and Bernie Sanders recently made a stop in Denver — you’ll see campaign events often in every Stringr market over the raucous next 17 months.

If you’re not certain how to ascertain whether a certain event is explicitly private based on location analysis, you can always contact Stringr seven days per week, between 9:00 a.m. and 11:00 p.m., via our curation desk phone number at (347) 862-9241.

DT

Today in D.C., the Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility will respond to the anti-Latino statements made by Donald Trump.

Keep in mind that candidates will be called upon to make statements about current events and breaking news during campaign season. For example, the Charleston shooting prompted candidate Rick Perry to make a statement calling for the removal of the confederate flag that is still flown in South Carolina, while Hillary Clinton made a statement that the confederate flag “shouldn’t fly anywhere.” The unrelenting news cycle can often it give candidates more incentive to make public statements.

As usual, make sure to arrive at any Presidential campaign event about a half hour early to give yourself time to survey the venue, and what your best vantage point for shooting will be. Try to avoid standing in a location where the tops of people’s heads are visible at the bottom of your shot — if you can elevate yourself somehow, that’s always preferred. We look forward to viewing your footage throughout this lengthy campaign season — there will certainly be plenty of opportunities for it!

Technical How-To: How Long Do Clips Need to Be?

by Kaitlyn Mitchell

This week at Stringr, we’re tackling a question that Stringrs frequently ask: How long does a submitted video need to be? And what does it mean to submit only “raw” footage?

At Stringr, the quicker you upload your video, the more newsworthy it is. This makes it more likely for your video to be promoted to our customer.

The only way you can get your video to us as quickly as humanly possible is by NOT editing your video footage, as tempting as it is for you perfectionists out there. We see you there. We NEVER promote video submissions that have been edited to include subtitles over the footage and music over the natural sound. Our customers employ their own professional video editors who will edit your video to their liking — so there’s no need for you to.

anchorman-funny-quote-quotes-will-ferrell-Favim.com-51191

You will regret over-editing. Leave the hard work to us!

By unedited footage, we don’t mean a 20-minute video that shows your subject AND the inside of your coat pocket while you’re not actively shooting.

At the curation desk, we prefer to see your clips separately uploaded. If that means you submit 10 or more different video clips, no problem! You can actually group a set of clips — See our video on the Stringr home page on how to do this.

Many of you have asked — What is the proper video length of each footage request?

We here at Stringr ask that individual clips are no less than 10 seconds each, and ideally we are looking for about two minutes of footage. Unless you’re shooting action-packed breaking news, five-second clips are too brief to interest our customers.

But if you’re shooting plain old b-roll, it’s best to make each clip you submit at least 15 seconds to one minute in length and that you should provide a variety of shots at different angles and vantage points. The rule of thumb with b-roll is: the more you have to work with, the better.

While there is no time limit for your videos, note that the longer your video is, the longer it will take to upload from your smartphone using the Stringr app. So it is best to cap really great footage at one minute or so and submit another clip if you want to show more of the action. A fantastic feature of the Stringr app is its ability to upload your video in the background while you continue to shoot more clips on the app. It will then upload those clips separately.

Let us be clear: we do not frown upon editing your video clips together in a separate app before uploading to Stringr if it is done well and shows a variety of shots; however, if that prevents you from getting us your footage as fast as possible, it may not be worth the extra effort.

Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 1.22.11 AM

Stringr footage from Chicago flooding in mid-June.

Happy Father’s Day, Stringrs! Stay dry — best to avoid taking your car for a swim like these unfortunate folks from Chi-Town.