Video for Writers

Scott Sowers

I know what you’re thinking. If this is another new skill I have to learn – please shoot me now. Before you click off, listen to the pitch. Writers are now expected to be marketers, promoters, social media experts and occasionally – video producers. Enrolling in film school may be cost prohibitive and not a practical use of your time.

 Maybe you’ve thought about producing your own book trailer, recording interviews for a biographical ghost writing project or turning a non-fiction piece into a film. If you want to learn some of the basics, I’m hosting a hands-on session dedicated to Video for Writers at this year’s ASJA Conference and here’s a sneak peak at what we’ll be covering.

What Am I Legally Allowed to Video?
It’s easier to talk about what to stay away from. If you don’t have written or verbal permission, don’t point your camera at private property, minors, or in a venue that prohibits photography. Stay away from addresses, license plates and people who do not want to be photographed. If in doubt, ask permission or don’t push “record.”

What kind of camera should I use?
The best one you can afford – in terms of image quality. Many cell phones, including the iPhone come standard with high definition video cameras and start around $200. Many “still” cameras also record video.

What is High-Def and Do I Need It? 
Maybe. There are many ways to measure the quality of an image. Video uses “scan lines,” and anything with more than 480 is considered high-def. Picture quality is also measured by its dimensions, and by the number of pixels. It all gets very technical very fast and leads back to, use the best camera you can get your hands on (see above).

What’s the Best Way to Record Audio?
Excellent question. Video cameras almost always have a built in microphones but they’re not very good. “Camera mics” must be held very close to whoever is talking and are designed to capture every bit of audio happening in the room – which means lots of background noise. There are ways around this problem including using external microphones, better cameras, and separate audio recorders.

What About Editing?
Editing the footage will greatly improve the quality of the work but requires time. Many computers now include some kind of free video editing software – iMovie on Macs and Movie Maker on Windows. Final Cut Pro and Adobe Premier are also fairly affordable. You can teach yourself the basics of video editing – if you have the time and patience. The other possibility is to hire a producer or an editor to help you finish your piece.