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How To Shoot a Short-Form Video

They are the latest diversions of the digital age – those six-second (Vine) or fifteen-second (Instagram) videos that are the perfect outlet for creative smartphone owners who feel constrained by regular photos. But shooting an interesting and engaging short-form video can be harder than it looks. Whether you want to be funny, serious, or just come up with something unique, there are a some basic rules that you need to follow. Here are a few helpful suggestions:

Map out a storyline

The biggest difference between a short video and a single frame photo is the need to tell a story. Once you have an idea for your video, plot out the main images in storyboard form. How will the video open? How will it end? What are the key progressions that will carry the viewer from start to finish? You don’t need to draw up every scene before you start shooting but you should have a clear idea of the script and how you will move from one clip to the next.

Get the lighting right

This golden rule for still photography is just as important for video. Smartphone cameras perform poorly in low light settings, so make sure your scene is well lit, particularly if you are shooting indoors. The light also needs to be consistent, as variations in light from frame to frame will distract the viewer and detract from the overall experience.

Use a tripod

If your video is going to include multiple shots of the same background, then consider using a tripod to eliminate camera shake and ensure a consistent flow from one scene to the next. Although most smartphones don’t come with tripod attachments, there are lots of effective mounts from companies like Joby and Square Jellyfish.

Frame your subject

Both Vine and Instagram present videos in a square format, so it’s important to plan for this and to frame your subject accordingly. If you are shooting in landscape mode, any action to the side of your screen will likely be lost or cropped. Similarly, get close to your subject, so it fills the frame and eliminates distractions.

Make it loopy

Short-form videos can be more impactful and entertaining if they are presented as a single seamless loop. (Vine will automatically loop your videos.) If your video is going to loop, then plan for first and last scenes that are compatible, like someone entering and leaving from the same door, or starting and finishing your video with the same empty background.

Practice makes perfect

While Instagram allows you to edit your videos and take advantage of some special effects, Vine is either a save or delete experience, which can entail a number of do-overs to get something you like. As with most things in life, practice will eventually pay off. Stick with the task and you will have short-form videos you can be proud of!

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