A step-by-step guide to capturing your summer on video

As we endlessly scroll through TikTok or lose track of how many shows we’ve binge-watched on Netflix, all the days can quickly blur into one.

But when you look back on this unusual time in 10 or 20 years, what is it that you really want to remember?

It could be the time you’ve spent with family, learning a new skill or finally reading that classic that you’ve been meaning to get around to for ages.

Whatever it is, there are loads of different ways of capturing your thoughts, feelings and experiences. Videos, photos and podcasts offer you the chance to get your story across in a creative way that feels comfortable for you.

Taking the first steps can feel daunting, so we spoke to two videographers to get their expert tips on how you can tell your story on camera.

Step 1: Looking for inspiration

If you’re struggling for an idea of what you want to capture, don’t worry. It happens to everyone, including videographer Karl Chapman.

Karl offers reassurance: “Inspiration can come from the weirdest places and at the oddest times so try not to worry too much if you're struggling for an idea. Just go for a walk, skateboard or whatever it is you like to do.”

Callum O’Toole, another experienced videographer, has a similar process.

He says that “whenever I see something out of the ordinary or that interests me I’m always thinking whether it could be made into a short film or a feature.

“Just getting into that mindset of ‘Would I find it interesting to learn more about this subject?’, can help you find inspiration in loads of different places.”

With social distancing restrictions still in place, think about how things have changed in your surrounding area.

Does anything look, sound or smell different?

You could also look out for those things that have stayed the same, despite all the upheaval.

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Use your outdoor exercise time as an opportunity to observe people, places and things.

Step 2: Getting started

When trying something for the first time, the hardest part is often just getting started.

To begin with, you need a story.

For Callum, this is always his top priority when creating a video.

He says: “It’s obviously important it looks good but if the story isn’t compelling and well told, then it’ll fall flat regardless of how well shot it is.”

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An example of a highly detailed video storyboard.

Once you have your story idea, it’s time to plan.

Karl suggests that your plan “could be a full script of actions and dialogue, or it could be a storyboard of drawings, or something as simple as bullet pointed ideas.”

When you’re creating a plan, it’s important to think about what technology you have access to. Whether or not you are able to record sound will have a big impact on how you choose to convey information.

Karl adds: “If all you have to make a video is a webcam, then use it creatively to tell your story.”

Some video conferencing platforms will allow you to record conversations, making it easier for you to interview someone whilst following social distancing rules. You could then cut those questions and answers into a longer video, or leave it as it is.

If you watch the news, you’ll see some great examples of how reporters are using online interviews as part of a wider video package to help tell a story.

Step 3: Choosing who to interview

When it comes to picking someone to interview, your options at the moment might be slightly limited outside of video conferencing technology.

For Karl, “the best people to interview are people that have interesting stories.

“The idea is to try to find someone with a unique story that may not be shared by too many other people.”

He believes that it is often the elderly who are great interviewees, as they’ve probably had more experiences.

With many elderly people continuing to shield at home, now is the ideal time to sit down (virtually) and have a chat about what they’ve seen and done in their lives. You never know what surprising things you might learn.

Whoever you choose to feature, make sure you have their permission before you start filming. Not everybody is comfortable appearing on camera.

As you’re jotting down some questions that you might ask your interviewee, think about what it is that you’d like to get out of the interview.

Callum highlights that “you should always be looking for each answer to give you something new, rather than reiterating the same points.”

Remember, it’s OK to skip one of your planned questions if you think they’ve already covered it in a previous answer.

Step 4: Picking your shots

With video, you have the opportunity to think really creatively about how you present a story visually.

Callum argues that “you don’t need to be too literal with what pictures you use.”

If someone is talking, you don’t have to use an image which makes the exact same point.

When Callum is making a video about a footballer, they might mention how much they love scoring goals. The obvious choice of image would be to show them scoring different goals.

But instead, Callum likes to add something extra for the viewer. In this situation, he says that might get the footballer “looking at an empty net to suggest that even now they’re longing to score goals.”

Think carefully about what part of your story works better as an image, and what should come through the audio.

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Editing software is used to stitch together different video and audio clips, and apply effects.

For an added touch…

  • Think about lighting when setting up a shot. Is the subject clear to see or half hidden by shadows?
  • Consider using both music and natural sound to set the mood. Is this a happy piece or sad piece?
  • Explore any free editing software on your phone or computer and see what effects you can add.
  • Remember to press record. It’s an easy mistake to make…

Everyone is going to have their own unique lockdown experience. That means everyone has their own story to tell.

So, whether you choose to interview a family member, get close up with the local wildlife, or record what you see whilst out exercising, we hope these tips will help you capture a sense of how you’ve felt over the past few weeks.

Taylor: freelance filmmaker
How to make a socially-distanced podcast
How to let your photographs tell stories this summer