Shoot For The Edit

Four things you can do to help make post-production less of a headache.

Without a doubt editing will make you a better shooter. Building a story from the footage you capture will show you firsthand what worked well and what needs improvement.  All of your filming mistakes big and small are revealed in the edit. You’ll find that perhaps you needed a few more shots to cover a scene or you didn’t hold a shot long enough to maximize its use. That shot you thought would be steady enough hand-held definitely would have been better on sticks. Maybe you forgot to check your white balance, aperture or focus and now everything looks too blue, overexposed or soft. There are filters and tools to help correct those errors, but fixing it in post does have its limitations. A completely out of focus shot is never going to look sharp. Stabilization can only take a shaky shot so far. Save yourself some headaches and frustration in the edit by keeping these tips in mind when you head out into the field.

1. Make a Shot List  

Having an idea of what specific shots you need to tell a story is helpful before you start shooting and will help you maximize the time you do have while you’re filming. Think through what shots you need for the beginning, middle and end of your story. For example, if you’re shooting a day of backcountry skiing, the beginning could be shots of your subjects gearing up and hiking (and perhaps the quintessential sunrise shot). The middle is full of action and cutaways of the location. The ending is high fives and smiles at the end of the run.

2. Shoot Enough Coverage

Not having enough shots to work with in the edit can be extremely frustrating. It can limit your pacing and storytelling capabilities. Make sure you have adequate coverage and a variety of options (editors rarely complain about having too much footage to work with). A good place to start is to shoot a wide, medium and close-up of a particular scene. Try out a few different angles and cutaways too. If you’re incorporating interview bites, think about what shots will help you cover what your interviewee talked about.

3. Go Through a Checklist

Are you in focus? How’s your exposure? Is your framing how you want it? Did you set your white balance? Think through the technical aspects of your shot before rolling and calling action. If you realize something’s amiss, resist the urge to make an adjustment mid-shot. You may be able to fix something in post if it’s not too egregious of an error, but you’ll make a shot unusable if you’re adjusting your frame or exposure at the precise moment in a shot that you’ll want to use in the edit.

4. Incorporate Motion

Shots with some movement to them can make your edit more dynamic. Whether it’s a pan or tilt, a push in or pull back or a rack focus, you may find yourself seeking out shots with motion versus static set ups as you edit. Motion shots also help with storytelling. A revealing shot welcomes the viewer into the scene and a pan or tilt off a subject says we’re leaving and moving on to something else. 


Want to learn more? Sign up for classes with the AIM U Adventure Film School.

Read other Warren Miller articles about filming tips and production ticks here