Summer. “What an amazing opportunity to do some videos,” you think. With all the good weather, sun, popsicles, fireworks, and pets doing watersports, summer can be a great time to do some filming. Let’s back up a bit: sun, weather, and water. These are all elements to consider when planning your summer shoot. Here are a few tips to help you maximize the rest of your summer shoot fun and come out with a video that looks like it was shot by a pro.
Summer is a great time to film because of the sunlight, however the sun can also provide some challenges for cameramen. Shadows, glare, and brightness are all concerns when shooting in the summer. Here are a few professional tips to help manage these concerns:
- Try to schedule shoots for early mornings or late afternoons. The middle of a bright sunny day can create wonky shadows. Light is easier to manage and manipulate during the earlier and later times of the day. If you are concerned about heat, mornings can also provide some temperature relief.
- When doing research on camera filters, you inevitably run into the sunglasses analogy, and for a good reason – the analogy rings true. Your camera is essentially an extension of your eye. During the summer, a tremendous amount of light enters your eye. Your pupil can only do so much – you need sunglasses to filter out all that extra light coming from the sun. Camera filters help neutralize light for your camera, stabilizing the amount of light that enters the lens. Neutral Density filters allow you to control how much light is entering your camera, which can help you shoot throughout the day. Polarizing filters can also help keep reflections in check while keeping colors looking saturated.
- Lighting is another consideration when it comes to the sun. When possible, shoot with the sun to your side. This will prevent backlighting and keep actors from facing into the sun. Before you start shooting, do some legwork. Go to your shoot site and do some tests. Figure out which angles work best during specific times of day.
This summer has been particularly toasty… everywhere. While the heat should not keep you inside hugging your AC unit, you should take some precautions for hot shoots. Just like you would take care of yourself during the summer, take care of your equipment. All those excessive heat-warning labels are there for a reason. Protect your equipment by keeping it out of the car and insulating it from heat. One pro suggests packing gear in cooler bags, sans the ice, and wrapped in towels.
It is hard to stay away from the water during the summer. Oceans, lakes, pools, sprinklers, and open fire hydrants capture the essence of summer, and are perfect locations for commercials and short videos. Be careful not to get too much of summer’s essence near your gear. There is no planning for a sudden gust of sea-spray. Take measures to keep your equipment dry. Another professional tip? Have plastic bags on hand, using them to protect equipment between uses. The same bit of advice goes when filming on location at campsites. Condensation tends to build up in tents, leading to soggy gear. Keep it bagged and keep it safe.
We have established that it will likely be a bit hot while you are filming. Take this into consideration when planning the wardrobe for your shoot. Even putting together a short, two-minute video can take hours of filming. During those hours in the heat, your cast is going to get hot and they are going to sweat. And if you have to do a lot of editing, there are going to be some wardrobe continuity issues if you are piecing together a scene shot in the morning, when actors are fresh, with one shot towards the end of the day after everyone has gotten a bit… gross. The trick lies in making summer costumes simple. Now is not the time to do that Victorian themed video you have been dreaming of. Put your cast in simple, lightweight layers, in colors that are going to reflect the sun and the time of year.
Nothing can bring out the cranky in people like being hot, hungry, and thirsty. You do not have to arrange professional catering, but you should put some thought into keeping everyone on set hydrated and satiated. Above all, make sure you have plenty of water on hand. Jugs of water are cheap – fifty to seventy cents cheap. Figure out how much water you need and then bring a bit extra. You also do not want to send your crew into afternoon food comas. Bring foods that are light and filling. Watermelon: check. Sandwiches: check. Salads: check. Popsicles: check. Goulash: keep at home.
- When you are out in the sun, you should be wearing sunscreen. The effects of prolonged exposure to the sun also present unique concerns for video producers. Tan lines and sunburns can create the same issues as sweaty garments in the editing room. Make sure that you have sunscreen on hand and that everyone is wearing it. Further, find sunscreen that is camera-friendly. Sunscreen can be greasy, messy, and hot, all reasons why so many of us hate wearing it. The camera magnifies these qualities. Try to find a brand that is light and oil-free, or even powder-based if it is not reflective. Remember, no one likes a greasy, sweaty cast and crew.
- Lots of it. Sweat is going to be an issue. Powder is a soldier against shine. Make sure you have a sheer, colorless powder on hand to minimize moisture for those who are going on camera.
- Keep a stash of hand towels around for people to use. Just being able to have something to wipe perspiration off can be a nice relief. Fans are also a nice touch. Hand fans are cheap and effective.
Yes, there are a lot of considerations for summer shoots, but you are outside for a reason. Summer scenery is more than beautiful, it makes for powerful imagery. These locations paint a vivid picture for your audience, memories of the cool relief of a pool or colorful summer festival. Take advantage of your surroundings and give them ample screen time. Treat your surroundings like a character in your video and make sure to capture aspects that are going to resonate with your audience.
Just Embrace It
Yes, it is hot and sunny, but you can work the heat and sun in your favor. Westerns would not be the same without the gritty, dry setting. The haze of the heat meeting the ground is almost iconic. Good directors have utilized these elements to enhance their films and add context to their stories. You can also let the heat and the sun work in favor of your brand. Making a commercial for a sports drink? Perfect! You will have a sweaty cast ready to go. You will easily set the scene for needing some thirst-quenching goodness on a hot summer day. Use the elements as tools, helping to tell your story or create a need for your product.
Lastly, do not forget to take care of yourself during your shoot. Wear light clothing and sunscreen. If you are drinking coffee, make sure you have a bottle of water by your side. Remember to eat! We tend to forget our needs during the middle of projects, but neglecting yourself during summer filming can have more significant consequences than simply missing a few hours of sleep.
Now that it is the beginning of the end of summer, you have probably already shot outdoors so add your own tips for your fellow videographers! Share with us here, on [Facebook, and on our Twitter page @sproutvideo!