CAREN L. HUNTER & SYLVAN, INC.
Tip 1: Lighting
Your eyes and brain can quickly adapt to mixed lighting situations, but your
camera has a much more difficult time. Obviously we are dealing with horses so we will mostly be dealing with outdoor lighting. Daylight can color your scene blue if you're in the shade, so stand in the same lighting as the horse and make sure that you have the sun to your back. Try to avoid mid-day sun and shoot your film in the morning or late afternoon.
If your camera has a white balance, make the adjustment while standing in the
position of the most dominate light source and from where you will do your
filming. To do this best, have someone hold up something that is white, between your shooting position and the horse, point the camera at the white object (paper, t-shirt, etc.), focus on the white object and push the white balance button.
Covered arenas are a more challenging lighting scenario and not recommended for amateurs, it's referred to as a backlit scene, due to outside light streaming in from all sides. It will not show off the movement or confirmation of your horse, and should be avoided. If you are indoors with lots of light streaming in the windows and bright fluorescents overhead, then either turn off the fluorescents and balance for the daylight, or pull down the window shades and adjust for the overhead lighting. Indoor lighting if not adequate can cause a grainy quality to your film which also takes away from the beauty of the animal.
Once you start thinking about mixed lighting sources, you can take steps to
avoid those situations. When you can't, try to limit the different types of
illumination and adjust your white balance accordingly.
Outside is always your best choice!
Tip 2: Shade Your Camera Lens
Nothing will deteriorate image quality faster than sunlight shining directly on to the front of your lens. To give you a comparable example, you know how it feels when you walk out of a darkened room, into direct sunlight? Everything looks sort of washed out and you have difficulty focusing, that same thing can happen to your camera, if you don't take steps to protect its "eye."
The best bet for preventing lens flare is a custom lens hood designed by your
camera manufacturer. If your camera doesn't accept a lens hood, then you can use your hand to block the harmful rays of the sun. But that can be awkward if you're taping without a tripod.
Tip 3: Use a tripod or a monopod
When you think about shooting horse video, you're thinking about recording
motion -- capturing a large animal in motion. So, if recording motion is the
essence of video, why do so many home movies make viewers queasy?
The problem is that many Film/Video enthusiasts don't understand how to "hold
the shot." Remember it's the subject, the horse, that is supposed to be moving, not the camera. Obviously you have to move the camera, or you'll never record any of the horse's movement. But it's how you move the camera that's important.
Most professionals mount their camera on a tripod. There is no better way to
steady a camera than to secure it to a tripod with a fluid head. But that
probably won't be practical for much of the shooting you do. In the real world, having to carry a bulky tripod could be the straw that breaks the horses back. If using a tripod, position the tripod legs out of your way, and if you can't get them out of the way; practice stepping over them. Learn to feel where they are and prepare a little dance movement to make it smooth.
The best alternative answer is a simple, compact, and effective accessory called a monopod. Essentially, it's a one-legged tripod. Even though they are extremely compact and easy to transport, monopods are an excellent tool to help you properly hold your shots. Your footage will improve immediately.
And when you're finished shooting, you have a stylish one-legged walking stick to accompany you on your trek back to the barn.
Tip4: Following the shot
The most unique tip about filming horses, has to do with the sheer size and pace at which the animal moves. Fortunately, for most scenarios the environment is controlled and the course or test is easier to follow, as opposed to horses in the wild with "fight or flight" ever present!
To follow the shot requires a bit of anticipation and actually you are learning to lead the shot of the horse from one point to the next, otherwise you will find that your films are missing much of the hind quarter engagement of the horse.
So do not lead the horse to fast, just right, and the same goes with following too slowly and missing the forward motion. As a horse person this should be easier to understand.
Tip 5: Shooting tips helpful for easier editing
Make sure that, once you start to record you roll tape for 10-15 seconds at the beginning before start to follow the horse and do the same when you are about to finish. This will help you when you are editing your video and could be the difference between capturing the way in which the horse begins his canter or begins to slow into his walk.
You might have a tendency to look up from the viewfinder to follow the horse; but once you become accustomed to the pace and flow, you will find the in-camera view is the most valuable. After all, what is in the viewfinder will end up on the tape. If you look away you've missed it. A little discipline and self-control in this matter goes a long way. Focus, concentrate, flow!
One very important aspect in editing horses on video is to never cross the 190 degree marker. This is extremely confusing to the viewer, creating the illusion of flip flopping and is an improper viewing aspect.
Tip 6: Limit Your Use of the Built-in Mic
Whenever possible, use an external microphone, either wireless or with a cord, to capture the audio during taping. Resist the urge to go the easy route and use your camera's mic. Not only is it of less quality than a good external microphone, it will also pick up internal noise from the camera.
Sometimes you have to use the built-in mic on your camcorder - but when you can, use an external wireless or a handheld microphone.
If a wireless or handheld mic is impractical for a given situation, put a
microphone in the camera's accessory shoe to record sound. The sound might not be as good as a lapel mic for an interview or an external mic on a boom for dialogue, but the audio will be superior to the sound recorded by the on-camera mic that is picking up the grind of the camera.
Tip 7: Camera positions
It takes a steady hand and concentration to film close to the horse. Try your
best to get both close up and mid-range shots. The best place to shoot is on
ground, the view from higher positions is much less expressive of the horses
height, conformation and movement. You can view a full course unobstructed from above (for hunters, jumpers, etc.), but too many of the horse's attributes are lost.
When you have to compromise between unobstructed versus intimate views you must plan ahead. First, circle the field, keep the sun behind you and mentally ride the course. Try several positions, the best positions are there; you can find them.
Your videos will be more interesting if you use several different filming
positions and/or shooting locations. Instead of just shooting from the outside of the ring, get inside and let the horse and rider perform around you. Obtain shots from the paddock, some in the barn, some on level ground without tack and a few shots from a show can be combined to make a very interesting video.
Tip 8: Planning
Good planning is essential to a successful sales or training video. Keep in mind that a good sales and marketing video is no more than 3-5 minutes and if you must, never longer than 7. So, don't go overboard showing too much of the facility and surrounding areas, remember what you are selling. The mechanics of filming as listed above are important but you must also decide "what" to show on the video and this depends on which sport the horse is being trained and marketed in. You already know the objectives of your sport and have a good idea what desirable traits a buyer will be looking to find.
Each equestrian sport presents its own variables in the physical development of the animal for the demands of each unique sport, but the basics of all of them follow the physical laws of horses in motion. The bottom line requirement for a good sales video in any horse sport is to show these basics: the horse's hooves, legs, hindquarters, forequarters, neck and head. Show all of these basics at a stand, walk, trot and canter.
If possible show the horse under tack and without tack moving across the field away from the camera, towards the camera and at angles toward and away from the camera. If you are able to obtain actual show footage, this is a home run addition, especially if they showed well.
Don't hide the horse's faults and problems. There is no such thing as a perfect horse and if there is, it's most likely not for sale or no one can afford the hose. Always remember your reputation is at stake, someone who is honest will have business for a lifetime!
Tip 9: Professionalism
The better you get at creating professional quality videos that showcase your
talents as a trainer or horse salesperson, the more people will begin to look
forward to seeing your next training tip or what horses you have for sale. Stay on top of your sales business and make sure that if a horse has been sold, remove it from the inventory on line. If people find your horses have all been sold then you will sacrifice your reputation, show that you are on top of your business game.
Tip 10: Watch Televised events and other peoples videos
The cheapest pro filmmaking course you can take is to park yourself in front of the television and observe how the big guys shoot a televised equestrian event. Once you start to analyze the work of others, you'll see that good filming is often quite fundamental -- strong lighting, clear audio, and simple cuts between scenes.
Take notice of how long scenes last, where the camera or cameras)are
positioned, the types of transitions used (if any), and how the director has
composed the shot. Have a pad and pen handy while you watch so you can make
notes on techniques from the best in the business.
Like so many things in life, the daunting task of recording a training video or capturing the beauty and confirmation of a well-trained horse becomes much
easier once you know the secrets. There are still lots more tricks to learn, but these ten tips will put your videos on the road to success and you on the path to inspiring the envy of family, friends, and peers.
Caren Hunter has an extensive background in television with horses.
CAREN L. HUNTER & SYLVAN, INC. TELEVISION PRODUCTIONS
West Palm Beach, FL 33409 Phone: 561-758-6888