I took my daughter to a very special woman. Until she was 37 years old she never touched a horse. As she said, they were smelly and she was a lady. But one experience changed her attitude dramatically and over the next few years, she became something like a horse whisperer. This lady gave my daughter lifetime experience she would never forget.
This blog post is about capturing this powerful story and transforming it to a viral video. What are the challenges and issues when shooting this kind of video? I provide filming tips and tricks how to include an interview to make the video compelling. I break down the difference of filming with a small action camera like GoPro and a big DSLR – which one is better?
Let’s see this video first.
Intention and Storytelling
Every time you shoot any video, the intention should be the first thing to keep in mind.
What do you want to tell your audience with your video?
Really think about this for a moment.
In these days, I can see that a lot of people are worrying about their filming equipment (I need a better camera!). Technically perfect shots at epic locations are entertaining at first. But the audience will get bored quickly if you do not engage them with a story. That’s why you should pay the most attention to it.
I was going to capture my daughter during her pony rides. Is this a compelling story? Well, maybe it is cute, but not a powerful story which would keep my audience watching the video. I needed something more coming from the hearts of the heroes and touching the hearts of my audience. I wanted to send them a message, let them think and inspire them to act.
When I was talking to the horse lady during and after my daughter’s pony rides, I realized she would be a perfect hero and it could be her story. I asked her questions and carefully listened. How she started working with the horses, the challenges during that process and finally how she was able to give the “horse magic” to other people and help them. Awesome story!
But how do I implement it to the video? I had to persuade her if she could tell me these things again on camera.
How to Shoot Interview
Why didn’t I have that already? My camera wasn’t running non-stop and the story told by horse lady wasn’t a continuous talk. I captured a sentence here and there, with all those disturbing noises around and I simply didn’t have a chance to catch it all at first. I told the lady if we can make a short interview on camera. Her first reaction?
She was intimidated and it was a challenge to convince her. Here are a few tips which worked in my case.
First thing is to choose an appropriate environment. Pay attention to details like a nice non-disturbing background, good light and quiet place (be aware of the wind and other noises).
Interviewed person must feel comfortable and confident. I told the horse lady couple times during the day that it would be great to do an interview. I mentioned what I want to ask her and she had enough time to think about it.
When she agreed we went to the place I chose before. I saw she started to feel a little bit intimidated again by a big camera with that giant microphone pointing right into her face. During the time I was preparing the equipment, I talked to her, pulled some jokes and we laughed together.
I also ensured her that nothing huge is coming. We will just talk like the whole day, there is no difference. I explained that I will carefully choose the best parts of the interview and cut any potential bad looking parts away. I also promised to show her the footage afterward. I won’t publish anything if she doesn’t agree 100%. Voila, she was relaxed and we casually started the interview.
Your job is to prepare good questions ahead. Lead the person to talk about the story you want to shoot. Never ask questions which might be answered only “yes” or “no”! Open questions are great and encourage the person to tell you the most. For example, I asked: How did you start with the horses? What was the challenge? etc.
There is one more thing regarding interview which is extremely important – the sound quality. I have already talked about choosing the quietest place. You should also pick the right equipment and clean the sound later during a post-processing. I will get into this in a moment.
GoPro vs. DSLR
Let’s talk about equipment.
What camera would be the best to shoot this video?
Should I take a small action camera or a DSLR?
Normally, I enjoy easy-to-use GoPro camera. Previously, when I filmed similar horse riding event, I captured this nice story with my GoPro.
At that time, GoPro was perfectly suitable for that kind of action.
Little girls washed the horse and I could get wet when shooting them.
I made some action shots when the camera was strapped to me or to the hero’s body. Especially, the hero’s point of view is really engaging shot.
The most significant advantage is the small size of the camera. My baby girl was only two years old at the time of this shoot. I needed free hands to carry her or hold her on the pony during the ride. At the same time, I was shooting.
If you will be involved in an activity and filming you might prefer a small action camera like GoPro too. Even such a small camera produces a high-quality video (4k).
Disclosure: some of the links here are affiliate links. I personally use all these tools and recommend only those which serve to my best satisfaction.
However, for my last video, I chose a big DSLR camera over GoPro. Why I did that?
Let me explain the reasons one by one.
GoPro camera produces the best shots when you capture a hero from a close distance. In my previous horse video, I often faced a situation when a moving object went too far. I needed a close shot of kid’s face to capture her emotions. But it was difficult to get close enough and GoPro doesn’t have a zoom.
When shooting my last video with DSLR camera, I made many great close-up shots. For example, when my daughter was extremely happy, lying on a horse. I filmed close shot of her face expression which helped to make the story more emotional and compelling.
Filming tip: note, how I made these close-ups in slow motion. This adds a cinematic look and even more emotional feeling. Don’t forget to set your camera to 60 fps (frames per second) or higher to achieve smooth slow mo.
With zooming comes a problem – the video is more shaky. I highly recommend to attach the camera to a tripod. If you don’t have a tripod put the camera on some object or just handheld it and stay rock solid.
Blurred Background (Bokeh)
DSLR camera offers a greater flexibility which might be good and bad. When the action is really fast and you want to quickly set the camera, you might do it wrong and figure out too late. Compared to GoPro which is one-button push and shoot, DSLR is much more complex.
But you have more options and more control. For example, I set a lower aperture to get that dreamy blurry background (bokeh) and lead the audience to the object which is in focus. This helps especially when the background is disturbing and the object in focus really pops up.
If you don’t have a lens with low aperture use a greater zoom. This will also produce more blur in the background. You can see an example at the same shot mentioned right above where I zoomed to my daughter’s face. See how the background is getting more blurry as I am zooming closer.
GoPro has everything in focus at all times, you cannot control this feature.
However, manual focusing with DSLR camera is a challenge. Did you notice how the horse lady wasn’t in focus during the interview? Sometimes it is difficult to recognize on a small display of the DSLR camera if the object is in perfect focus. It requires practicing to master the manual focusing.
Another reason why you might want to choose DSLR over small action camera is a stable image. Even though newest GoPro has a pretty good internal stabilization system. The problem is that small camera has lower weight and thus it is harder to handheld it without shaking. Heavier DSLR camera stays more stable in your hands. This is even more significant when you have to move during the shot.
Both cameras, GoPro and DSLR, have an internal microphone but for a serious interview, I recommend to attach an external microphone. I like to use a Rode shotgun mic but it cannot be connected to a GoPro. I attached it to my DSLR camera and also added a dead cat wind muff on the microphone to block the wind noise.
Although I recorded the interview in higher quality, the wind noise was audible too. I had to fix this issue in post-processing in Adobe Premiere Pro. I recommend to try a predefined preset first – choose a sound type dialogue and then Clean Up Noisy Dialogue. In my case, it didn’t fix it all so I also moved back and forth with individual sliders at the group Adaptive Noise Reduction and switched off all other predefined sound effects.
Don’t Overuse the Drone!
A lot of people fell in love with drones lately, including me. With that comes overusing of aerial shots. I have seen many videos, consisting only of drone shots. Initially epic aerials become boring quickly and audience eventually runs away if there is nothing else.
I recommend to use a drone only if there is a reason for it. For example, I introduce the hero at the beginning (aerial shot of a woman walking on the meadow) but didn’t want to reveal her face right away. I wanted to make audience curious who is this woman.
Another example shows wild running horses. My intention was showing the bigger picture of this epic action.
If you don’t have a drone, don’t worry about it. This will not make your story better. Focus on the message you want to tell your audience and creatively use different filming angles.
Once you have all your shots, it is time to create the story in a timeline of your post-processing software. I use Adobe Premiere Pro, but you can use any other software. The most important thing is that you cut out the bad parts and leave only those shots which serve to the intention of your video.
Be picky – choose only the best shots and keep them short. I often fight with myself to leave all those cute shots of my kids. But this is the right time to ask myself – does this shot help to support the story or is it just cute?
Share & Make It Viral
When I uploaded the video on YouTube I was blown away. In the first 24 hours, it received thousands of views and very nice comments. I am glad that it wasn’t just the family video for friends and relatives only but others liked my story too 🙂 My original intention, to inspire people to get out with their kids, was fulfilled.
And what about you, what do you think? Any thoughts, including critique, are welcomed. Please let me know in comments below.
Thanks for watching and reading, I appreciate you!