Life of a Videographer

Getting closer to Oliver Astrologo filming tips and techniques.

I’m a Digital Director and Photographer with over 14 years of pure passion for travel themed videos.

Working everyday with several brand and institutions, I pursue my passions with excitement by joining two partly-owned creative/tech agencies based in London & Rome.

I have always thought that any piece of work I do must trigger an emotion in the viewer, regardless if it is a still or a video.

I do think that the combination of social and digital media has enabled me to reach to wide audiences and to get people’s feedback in real-time. This provides me with fresh new creative input to produce new emotional material. In the last two years I achieved 4 Vimeo Staff Picks and over 2M total views.

Want to know more!? Don’t miss the Part II of this guide!

What I am doing.

I gathered that most of travel or touristic videos did follow the same scheme and were lacking a bit of warmth. I love traveling and I thought that I should start to apply my new perspective to world destinations.

It is essential that the final output triggers new emotions and let the viewers to find out places they were not really aware of.

Venezia on Vimeo (https://vimeo.com/181612110)

For example my latest production uncovers the hidden life of the venetian artisans that have been carry on the traditions for centuries.

R O M A on Vimeo (https://vimeo.com/137925379)

I love Roma for its eternally wonderful side, no other cities in the
world have same soul of the place where i born… This city has been documented in different ways and for different purposes but few videos make you appreciate this city through local’s eyes.

Watch more on my Vimeo Channel: https://vimeo.com/oliverastrologo

About my creative approach.

I usually have a story that I want to tell or have a main subject that is recurring in the video. In the ROMA video, you will find the the same guys driving a Vespa in few scenes and in the Vietnam video you can see me myself making a few cameo appearances.

In an unknown place, I’d rather observe the environment and people around in order to visualize the scene, and then get the shots I want to achieve. This method allows me to get better footage rather than shooting thousands of random people and locations.

Are you alone or did you have a crew with you?

I usually have a small crew that support me but sometime I also film on my own. The most difficult bit is to make sure that locations are not filled with people and the solutions is to film very early in the morning when majority of people is still asleep.

About my gear.

I had a light equipment setup that included a GoPro Hero4 Black and a Sony A7r2, combined with a Zeiss fixed 35mm.

In terms of composition, the 35mm lens is the closest to the focal composition of the human eye. That is why it is used so often in my videos because it gives a much more realistic vantage point for the viewer.

In terms of photography, using a fixed 35mm lens requires you to get creative in terms of how you move your body around to get the right composition. You can’t be lazy but when you catch a shot with a 35mm lens it has a more artistic look to it than any other lens that I have tried.

Sometimes when I need a wider shoot or can’t get enough close to the subject I use either a Zeiss fixed 55mm and a Sony 24–70mm GM 2.8.

With the 24–70 I’m experimenting the dolly zoom technique is an unsettling in-camera effect that appears to undermine normal visual perception. In its classic form, the camera is pulled away from a subject while the lens zooms in, or vice versa.

Dolly Zoom technique.

The A7r2 has two programmable modes on the dial, I have set them by setting up the camera to switch faster between video and photo mode.

One of the nicest aspects of using a camera with a 42mp sensor is the ability to crop into your images and still maintain a ton of image detail and resolution. If you are using a telephoto lens and want a little extra reach, you can force the A7r2 to S35 crop mode, allowing you to take advantage of the 1.5x crop of such a sensor.

The S35 crop mode has a couple of advantages

  • Sharper video;
  • Reduced moire;
  • Higher ISO settings are usable without too much grain;
  • Full-pixel readout;

The disadvantage of using the S35 mode

  • Rolling shutter is more visible;

I advise to use the S35 mode in general. Except situations with a lot of movement in your frame (sports, fast moving objects, car chases etc.) or when you really need the wide image of the full frame.

Stabilization.

Ikan DS1 in action.

I usually use an electronic Gimbal: for small projects an Ikan DS1 and a Ronin-M for bigger ones, but most shoots where done handheld.

When things don’t go as planned!

Getting the advantages of Sony IBIS stabilization I manage to get the camera quite steady by levering the camera strap and making sure that the main object is always centered when I move.

Sony IBIS stabilization.

I then stabilize the images in post-production using After Effects. For best results, I suggest shooting at 4k and set your shutter speed between 1/125 
and 1/250 to avoid any “Jello” during the stabilization process.
I’m aware that this approach break the “180-degree shutter angle” rule.
But shutter angles (or speeds in Digital motion capture) can be speed-up to create a kind of staccato motion effect.

GoPro camera.

I manage to get those shots by using a GoPro. It gives me the freedom of movement and the ability to transition wide-angle shots to close-ups. The water shots of the boy jumping into the sea were shot in slow-mo at 120fps.

GoPro Hero 4 Black @ 120fps.

When using a GoPro, I do recommend reducing the exposure by 1 stop and having the ProTune setting always on. This enables me to have a higher dynamic range avoiding an overexposed sky.

About Drones.

I collaborated with several Drone Operators to get that provided the excellent drone footage you see in my videos. Piloted aerial drone videos can provide breath-taking footage for any video production. Most used drone in my videos is DJI Mavic Pro.

Sound.

Zoom H4.

Sound effects and background music have a major impact on the final product. Never underestimate those two elements. I usually have a soundtrack in mind before I start editing the video which sometimes is originally produced by professional composers. I am building a bank of original background noises and sounds by recording those with my smartphone or a Zoom H4 Recorder.

Editing.

For editing, I use Adobe Premiere CC and Adobe After Effects. Audition is the tool I use to work on audio files. First, I select clips that have a the best composition. (This process eliminates 80% of the footage I have collected.) Once I have selected the best clips, I label them according to category: i.e. Transition, Establishment, Slide and People.

Labeling assets make easier to search them.

When laying down all the clips on a timeline, I usually alternate the category and use a transition clip following an establishment one. Once I have done my first draft, I start cutting and swapping clips in order to get a consistent chromatic flow. The overall process takes days. With this some videos, I must have edited them 10 times before I was fully satisfied.

Hyperlapses.

Hyperlapse is an increasingly popular technique in which standard timelapse imagery is brought to life with camera movement. Rather than move the camera with a slider or with a crane, hyperlapse shots move the camera across very long distances.

Venzia #hyperlapse

Find a reference point in the center of your composition and keep it in the center for each shot you take. As you move your camera along to get each shot, re-frame each image using the same reference point. This will help ensure that you get a steady and consistent look in your finished product.

I use After Effects to output the movie. To create your Hyperlapse all you need to do is click and drag the folder containing your pictures and import in. After Effects will then interpret and combine the information into a single file from which you can click and drag into a new composition.

Final thoughts.

Always get very close to the local people. Talk to them and absorb their stories. Once they trust you they will open up to you and entertain you with amazing stories. Clearly, storytelling in video is important. But, as they say, nothing worthwhile comes easily.

Last but not least, the launch plan!

Simple. Get as many people to see the film as quickly as possible to build up momentum. This meant doing a few awesome things suggested by Jason Sondhi (ex. Vimeo Staff Pick crew member) (via Vimeo Blog):

1. Use Vimeo. Unlike YouTube’s massive audience, Vimeo’s is a more small, niche community of film enthusiasts. Its modest size creates an intimate and fully engaged community. It’s a network of people who are genuinely interested in film quality, too, so you know your work is being seen by people who will appreciate it.

2. Post early. Upload the film early Monday morning (12AM EST) to give the film a full 24 hours to rack up views and stay relevant all week.

3. Harness the crew. Make sure everyone associated with the film knows the plan, and shares it with their social networks. With even 8–10 people sharing on Twitter and Facebook it’s not hard to get over 1000 impressions which can be enough to reach a critical mass.

4. Target key influencers. Email a few major blogs and news sites that share an interest in the film’s topic or technique.

A key consideration is crafting a good email. As curators of a site with a submit button, we know what it takes to catch a curator’s attention. Have a well-designed email with a tight description, a clear statement about why the film is worth watching, a blurb about the filmmaker, and a high quality image. Make it easy for media to turn around and publish without any further follow-up with you.

5. Keep at it. All day, all week if needed — continue reaching out to new people.

Thank you for watching!

Continue reading on the the Part II of this guide!

Please, feel free to leave any comment or feedback on this piece. I’m also working on few interesting projects that could see the light of day pretty soon. At the same time I keep reading and looking at new territories.

My videos and photographs can be found on my social media channels: Instagram, Facebook and Vimeo.

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