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.

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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.
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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.

Stringr Interviews: NY1 News Researcher Chiara Norbitz

by Kaitlyn Mitchell

This week, Stringr chatted with Chiara Norbitz, a news researcher at NY1 News. Norbitz was born and raised in New York, and earned her undergraduate degree in political science at Mount Holyoke College. She received her masters degree in Documentary Filmmaking from New York University in 2015, where she conceived of an filmed an original documentary, “Hire Me,” which is about highly skilled and foreign-educated immigrants who are struggling to survive as new Americans; including scientists, doctors, and engineers with years of experience who are more likely to drive a cab or nanny than work in their professional careers. The inspiration for her documentary came from Norbitz’s four years of work in the non-profit sector at Upwardly Global, doing philanthropy and fund-raising.

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Stringr: Describe your duties at NY1.

 Norbitz: I was first hired as a freelance news assistant for NY1, and the job responsibilities for that role are either working independently, or going out and shooting things for vosots (a video with a sound bite), which are small packages that the editors will put together, and the anchor will read a script over. So you’re gathering the video and sound elements that will be used for smaller packages. A news assistant would go out and shoot independent video and sound elements for news pieces, and would also work with reporters, gathering elements for their packages, and helping them shoot their stand-ups, live hits, and stuff like that. As a researcher, I work with what news we are going to be covering that day — working with the news directors to decide what needs coverage, and then organizing crews, including the reporters, the news assistants, and the satellite trucks, and managing them in the field.

Stringr: What’s a typical trip into the field like for you as a videographer?

Norbitz: For example, say there was a gang-related shooting, and the assignment desk really doesn’t know too much about what happened. It’s our job to go out into the field and try and gather both information and elements. So what we would do is we would do is we would drive out there as fast as we can. The issue is sensitive both in terms of people who may be involved in the shooting, and the people who are not related to it are obviously nervous about there being a shooting in their neighborhood. We would and approach people, very sympathetically, but I would have my camera tucked away, because you don’t want to scare people off. We’d try to get people to talk to us, and relate on a personal level. For example, I’d say, “I’m sorry that this has happened, do you know something about this?”, and try to get as much information as possible. In the field, we’re really the eyes on the ground, and sometimes we will be able to find out much more information by talking to people, versus the people who are at the assignment desk and are basically calling the police and trying to get more information that way.

Stringr: What technical details do you need to keep in mind while shooting on location?

Norbitz: Your responsibility as a cameraperson while the reporter is handling the one-on-one with the subject is to be both sensitive to the fact that you don’t want to shove a camera in someone’s face, but you also want to make sure that all your settings are okay, and when it is that moment and you need to quickly get your camera up, you don’t have to do any adjustments. As soon as we arrive on scene and park the car, I’m fixing my settings as we’re moving. So I’m finding something in the field, on the ground or whatever, to white balance off of. That’s the most important thing. So then I’m managing the settings, making sure that my exposure is not overexposed, underexposed, making sure that I do have an attached microphone, and that those sound levels are good, and making sure that all of my settings are on manual so that I can easily adjust them, like the focus, when I am in the field. It’s really important to do that as you’re running and gunning it, so let’s say that the reporter finds someone that immediately can speak: you don’t wanna be there for five minutes, adjusting your camera, and that person gets bored, or becomes uninterested and walks away. The most important thing about being a camera person is to act like you’re not there. You don’t want people to be spooked by you, but you also want to manage your camera settings, so that when it’s ready for you to come into action and start filming, you’re ready to go.

CNQ

Stringr: What about when you’re shooting b-roll for a situation that isn’t necessarily breaking news?

Norbitz: Let’s say I’m by myself, and I’m shooting something for what’s going to become a vosot: a minute to a minute and a half-long script that someone will write, and they just basically need images that both will cover the script, but also illustrate what’s happening, and then preferably sound with either MOS (man-on-street interview) or natural sound. When you’re shooting something like that, it’s really important to get a variety of shots so that the editors have the opportunity to mix and match what they can use visually. Always make sure to get tight, medium, and wide shots at different angles. When working for a news organization, I’m not going to get super fancy with my shots, but it is important to get a few shots that are called beauty shots, which are those pretty shots that you see where there’s a rack focus, where whatever’s in the foreground all of a sudden comes into focus and it looks really nice. Or having something blurry in the foreground, and in-focus in the background – you can get a few of those, but don’t go crazy. Think about how the person is going to write the script, and get the images that will correspond.

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Stringr: Do you have an example from the field?

Norbitz: We didn’t end up covering this, but it was the 70th anniversary of the atomic bomb being dropped in Japan, so there were a ton of different commemorative things happening around the city for that. So let’s say it was your job to go out and cover that for a vosot. Think about what types of things the producers are going to want to say in that. They’re gonna want to talk a little bit about the history of Japan, the atomic bomb dropping, and the actual event itself: who was there, who spoke, and why it’s important. With all of those things in mind, think about which image would go best with that information.

Stringr: In what situations do you and don’t you use a tripod while on the job?

Norbitz: MOS (Man on the Street interview) – that can be handheld, because really it’s kind of cumbersome to deal with having the tripod. When you are using handheld, try to be as steady as possible and try to frame your shot with the three-quarters rule, with your subject in three-quarters of the shot.

When you’re shooting and you have a little bit more time, let’s say there’s a bunch of people speaking, in that instance, I would always, as a rule of thumb, put my camera on a tripod, because it looks so much better when shots are completely steady, and you’re not distracted by it moving slightly. When you have a little bit more time in the field, always put your camera on a tripod.

CNQ2

Stringr: Describe an equipment snafu and how you handled it.

Norbitz: One time I was sent out to cover a presser (a news industry term for press conference) at a very small community organization’s office, and I left without thinking about what the lighting situation was going to be. When I got there, it was a very very dimly lit office. I tried to the best of my ability with the settings built into the camera to increase the exposure as much as possible to get a usable shot; but what I really should have done was just bring an extra light kit — that would have illuminated the shot, and would have prevented it from looking kind of grainy, which is what happens when you overexpose the shot with the camera settings. That was a good lesson to me, that no matter where you’re going, even if it’s in the middle of the day, always have a light kit. You never know what kind of situation you’re going to be in and whether there’s going to be enough light there.

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Stringr: What advice do you have for amateur videographers?

Norbitz: Always ask questions. There are no stupid questions. If you try and figure it out yourself, it will take you longer and you could learn bad habits that way. The great thing about the videographer world is that there’s so many people with so much information, and they’re willing to share it because it’s their area of expertise. If you’re independent and don’t have a connection with a group of videographers, I would definitely say mine the internet for answers to your questions. It’s so much better to learn from mistakes from other people’s experiences, rather than try to go it alone, make your own mistakes, and potentially not learn as quickly. That being said, making mistakes also helps you learn, like with my lighting kit circumstance, but you want to minimize the amount of mistakes you’re making.

Stringr: What’s the best experience you’ve had while shooting breaking news footage?

Norbitz: I liked shooting the Greek Day Parade by myself in the spring of 2015. For a lot of more experienced shooters, shooting parades is just a very hectic and time-consuming day. For me, it was really fun because I was active, I was running around, I was getting certain elements as they were happening. Everything was happening in real time, I had to be really present, and it was fun to talk to people who were celebrating and commemorating their heritage.

CNQ3

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.

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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.

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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.