You'd think that getting your shiny new Nokia N93 would be
all you need for shooting great video clips, wouldn't you? But you'd be wrong.
Now, forgive me if you're an experienced camcorder buff and the tips below are
old hat to you - but for everyone else then hopefully you can take some of
these points and use them to improve your own output.
- Stay still!
The number one giveaway for
amateur video is jerky, wobbly camerawork. Now, you're not going to be able to
mount your N93 on a tripod (as far as I know), but holding it in two hands
while bracing your feet is usually good enough. One-handed shooting usually
results in too much wobble, and certainly don't try shooting while walking or
running, unless you're after that particular "Blair Witch Project" special
- Light, light, light
Again, unless you're
after a special effect (and you know what you're doing), be aware that light is
everything. The more photons hitting the CMOS array inside the N93's camera,
the more detail and the more vivid the colours. The lower the light levels, the
more 'noise' you'll have on the picture, the dimmer and more boring the colours
and the harder the MP4 compression routines will have to work, resulting in
more 'artefacts' in your footage.
- Know where the light source IS
photographic wisdom used to be that you had to have the sun behind you. This
isn't strictly true, as full-on sun can lead to washed out colours and
overexposed faces etc. On the other hand, it's not a good idea to shoot into
bright light, unless you're after a specific silhouette effect. The main thing
is to be aware of where the light's coming from at all times. As you move
around a scene and shoot clips your subconscious will then watch for shadows
and subject contrast and you'll automatically start shooting better lit video
- Don't pan
Maybe this is a little too strong -
perhaps 'Try not to over-do panning' would be more apt. It's so tempting just
to pan around a scene, but the end result can be tiring to watch for the viewer
and you're likely to have jerky artefacts in any DVD footage you create,
resulting from the transposition down from the N93's 30 frames per second to
PAL's 25. In addition, the N93's capture software, good though it is, isn't
perfect, and to full encode every frame of a fast pan at the full frame rate
often isn't possible, again resulting in jerky videos. So - be restrained and
use panning sparingly.
- Don't zoom
Again, not a hard and fast rule,
but think about TV programmes - how often do you see the camera viewpoint
zooming in or out? Only for specific special effects shots, which is the same
balance you should strike. On the N93 there's the additional factor that the
noise of the zoom mechanism can be captured on the video soundtrack if your
overall ambient sound level is quite low anyway. Only zoom if you absolutely
have to - if you need a close up of a subject, it's often best to pause
capture, zoom in and frame, and then resume, if this is practical.
- Avoid loud music
Capturing loud music is a
perennial problem with digital amateur video recording equipment, as the high
sound levels cause the audio waveforms to saturate and distort (old analog
video equipment is usually far better). This is a shame, as the N93 would
otherwise be perfect for taking to gigs and open air concerts. If you're
determined to use it to film a music event, make sure you record the soundtrack
separately on Minidisc or similar, so that you can splice the higher quality
audio with your N93 video when back at your PC.
- The faster the better
Your N93 is going to be
saving video to expansion the card at a sustained 30MB per minute. Make
sure your card is up to this, if you want to avoid dropped frames and
jerkiness. Don't get a cheap copy of a brand card from eBay (see my separate
article on card fraud), buy from a good local vendor
and stick to just the very top brands.
- Up is up!
Only use 'up'/normal orientation,
don't get arty and try to do portrait mode shots or candid 'phone upside down
by your side' shots, however tempting - this footage is a right pain to process
later in software. Stick to traditional 4:3 pictures, right way up.
- Take stills as well
This might seem
superfluous, but still photos from the same events as your video are useful for
menus, title screens or just for use in different media (web, print, etc.)
- Just the camera
It's worth stopping any
background programs on your N93 that might slow the camera down (third party
screensavers, web browsers, games, [unnecessary] security software) - any of
these may have serious impact on capturing and encoding video in real time, one
of the most demanding tasks you can ask of your smartphone.
- Edit as you go
Edit your movie clips on the
fly if you can. By this I mean pause/stop filming if you're aware that your
moment is about to end, don't leave it to the last minute and then have to
worry about chopping out unwanted subjects. And if you know you've just filmed
a dud, delete it as you go along, it'll save time and confusion later, as well
as freeing up memory card space.
- Up to date
Keep your N93's firmware bang up
to date, as Nokia will be improving its performance with each
- Take along a paper and pen
Yes, yes, I know
the N93's a smartphone, with a keypad, but it's a good idea to take notes of
what you filmed and when, with people's names, places - all stuff that's hard
to do using predictive text, especially when your N93 is in 'camera' mode.
- Leave comments til later
Don't try and
comment as you go, you'll be too close to the N93's mike and your voice will
drown out ambient noise. Better, if it's practical, to film naturally and add a
voice track later, with much more control, along with other subtleties like
See also my in depth article on
what do to with your video files once you've successfully captured
All text (C) Steve Litchfield, 2006