How to Shoot Video That Doesn't Suck: Advice to Make Any Amateur Look Like a Pro Info

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Newly updated and revised, How to Shoot Video That
Doesn’t Suck
is a quick and easy guide that will make your video
better instantly—whether you read it cover to cover or just skim a few
chapters. It’s about the language of video and how to think like a
director, regardless of equipment (amateurs think about the camera, pros
think about communication). It’s about the rules developed over a
century of movie-making—which work just as well when shooting a
two-year-old’s birthday party on your phone. Written by Steve Stockman,
the director of the award-winning feature Two Weeks, plus TV
shows, music videos, and hundreds of commercials, How to Shoot Video
That Doesn’t Suck
explains in 74 short, pithy, insightful chapters
how to tell a story and entertain your audience. In other words, how to
shoot video people will want to watch.

Here’s how
to think in shots—how to move-point-shoot-stop-repeat, instead of
planting yourself in one spot and pressing “Record” for five minutes.
Why never to shoot until you see the whites of your subject’s eyes. Why
to “zoom” with your feet and not the lens. How to create intrigue on
camera. The book covers the basics of video production: framing,
lighting, sound (use an external mic), editing, special effects (turn
them off!), and gives advice on shooting a variety of specific
situations: sporting events, parties and family gatherings, graduations
and performances. Plus, how to make instructional and promotional
videos, how to make a music video, how to capture stunts, and much more.
At the end of every chapter is a suggestion of how to immediately put
what you’ve learned into practice, so the next time you’re shooting
you’ll have begun to master the skill. Steve’s website
(stevestockman.com) provides video examples to illustrate different
production ideas, techniques, and situations, and his latest thoughts on
all things video.
 

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Reviews for How to Shoot Video That Doesn't Suck: Advice to Make Any Amateur Look Like a Pro:

5

May 25, 2012

Great title, good insights, so-so structure
With no prior training, I was immediately drawn to this book to improve the quality my home videos.

Here are my take-aways to Plan-Move-Point-Shoot-Stop-Edit:

I.Plan:
- Make sure that every video, scene, and shot has a clear intent of how you want the audience to react and be explicit
- Select a point-of-view (the "side"/opinion of a specific individual)
- Either script or build a checklist of an anticipated key shots
II. Move:
- Keep the light behind you; make sure the lighting matches the story
- Match location, background, and foreground to the story
- Make moves in large increments
III. Point:
- Focus on people's eyes to capture emotion
- Do not move the camera or use digital zoom before or during the shot
- Keep the focus of your image out of the middle square of a 3x3 grid
- Use an external mic (lavaliere or boom)
IV. Shoot:
- Make every shot an action with a clear hero and a beginning, middle, and end.
- Make each scene answer questions from the prior scene and raise new ones
- If using two cameras, manually synch their AWB (automatic white balance)
V. Stop:
- Keep shots under 10 seconds (if traveling, shoot two 10-sec shots per hour)
VI. Edit:
- Keep videos as short as possible; if doing a how-to, consider breaking into a series
- Edit out everything that does not need to be there
- Limit the use of graphics/text/titles; if used, make text/titles simple (ex: Helvetica) and effect-free
- Consider using a call-back to link the final shot to the initial shot
- Music & Sound: Test music that is on-story, counter-story; and unrelated and see what works; Add natural sound effects
- Rely almost completely on cuts with a rare wipe (to convey movement) and even rarer dissolve (to shift to a somber mood)
- Seek feedback and address all common concerns and think about unique ideas/concerns

[UPDATE: I updated this review from 2 stars to 5 stars on Jan 14, 2013. Though the book has a high degree of redundancy, it has truly transformed the way that I approach video.]
5

January 21, 2017

Not an endorsed view - This is an excellent book!
I think Amazon needs to implements some rules about reviews where the product was given away for free. Here should be a mandatory ratio of at least 1:1, endorsed vs. genuine. Many books on film and video production have ratios of 15:1, endorsed vs. actual real-world readers.

My review for this book is 5 stars. But be careful when looking for other good books. Make sure there are more genuine reviews than endorsed views. The easiest way to do is is by sticking to books that have over 100 reviews.

The new "not yet rated" has been replaced with 15-20 reviews averaging around a 4.5.

This book is great for all he reasons everyone else says it is. I just wanted to share some advice as well.
5

August 28, 2013

Because no one ever received the Academy Award for Most Megapixels or Longest Unedited Shot.
No book I have ever read or course I have taken has ever educated so thoroughly, concisely, and simply as this one. As applicable to the corporate manager as it is to aspiring artist, it not only tells you how to shoot video that doesn't suck but how to communicate your thoughts and ideas in a way which will be effective and entertaining.

Even though I grew up in theater and television, and am a decent and well-educated writer, even within the first few chapters I was able to shoot and edit professional level video as I could not before. The only limitations are my equipment, but with this book any equipment is adequate--even your smart phone--to turn those videos that even your mother wouldn't enjoy into ones that people who don't even know you will want to share.

Most of all, I liked how it related storytelling visually to the techniques I already know in writing. And the results are obvious.

Only a few weeks before reading this book I shot a video of my friends and their kids, edited it down to just a couple of minutes, and set it to music as a gift. Of course they liked it, but they didn't love it because it my video sucked. After reading just the beginning of this book and doing the first few projects, I shot a video of my wife going to a salon to get a haircut, focusing the story on the heroine who was our friend the hairstylist, and not only was she extremely happy with it, but so was the business owner who runs an art gallery and is involved in the artist community here in New York City. They even wrote a long thank you with a description of what they loved about my video--the variety of angles, the action, and how it told a story they didn't realize was there before. And that was just a haircut.

Now people actually ask me to please bring my camera when they know I'm going to an event, because even though they all have cameras, they know mine will be great.

This book can't give you talent, but it can enable you to express the talent and ideas you already have, and using equipment and resources you already own. But more than that, this book cuts through the hard mantle of jargon and lingo, and the intimidating descriptions of 'must have' equipment which other instructors will insist upon, to the essentials of expressing your ideas effectively in most any venue or genre.
5

January 20, 2018

Great principles to make better video!
I never liked the title, but the book is more than awesome. I don’t think it’s for someone who wants to become a pro and is studying film at the university. This book is for somebody like me: a guy that works doing whatever else, but wants to make reasonably good film to tell a story: a trip, vacations, how is work, how is life, etc. It will also be useful to somebody wanting to make their own homemade movie. The book is like a collection of good advice, each advice being a short chapter that explains it. There are some assignments. There’s a listing of good movies to watch to see good direction. Makes a lot of sense, reads very easily and is very interesting. I am very happy to have purchased this book! :-D
5

April 20, 2014

As a newbie in the field, it was hilarious to read about the mortal sins that are committed on a regular basis, (and recognize some of my own! The information was well packaged, practical, and entertaining. It was nice to get good info that was inspiring and a good read. Well done! Now excuse me...Full Review
5

August 3, 2017

Everything It's Cracked Up to Be
The book is everything it's cracked up to be - very solid information well-presented.

Among other nuggets, the book emphasizes the importance of caring about the audience, respecting audience members, guarding their time, refusing to bore them. I recently spent good money for a memoir by a prominent football coach. I can't get over how that guy and his ghostwriter put together that book so casually and lazily. Major disrespect for the audience.

Stockman's appendix includes film suggestions. Nice to see "Lawrence of Arabia" and "The Godfather" there.

There's very little about technical stuff here, i.e., not much at all about compression rates etc. Plenty of books supply that stuff. "The Filmmaker's Handbook" covers this turf very well.

Stockman's book is not only well-written, it's well-designed and produced - short chapters, plenty of white space, excellent typefaces.
5

July 25, 2015

As a newbie in the field, it was hilarious to read about the mortal sins that are committed on a regular basis, (and recognize some of my own! The information was well packaged, practical, and entertaining. It was nice to get good info that was inspiring and a good read. Well done! Now excuse me sir, I have a QUALITY VIDEO to produce.
5

August 26, 2017

Perfect name for a perfect book!
Great book! I mainly shoot weddings and dance recitals, but this has changed the way I've thought about everything. I was able to test the new info on a local Vacation Bible School over 3 days. Instead of recording hours and hours of video from each night, i recorded in clips - getting the important parts and using in camera editing. It works GREAT!

Instead of it taking days to edit the 3 days down into a 7 minute highlight video, it took a total of 10 hours to sort, plan and complete the entire video.

It didn't even seem like it was a 7 minute video and I received a lot of compliments on it.

I can't wait to use what I've learned in the next few weddings I have in the Fall!
2

March 12, 2017

A book about making a video? No video about how to make a book?
I can summarize this book for you and save you time and money. Watch anything on TV or at the movies, and count now many seconds pass before there is an edit/cut to a different angle/camera. It's almost always under 10 seconds for the entire length of whatever you're watching (commercials are even more aggressively edited). Our eyes are constantly moving, so to have the camera in a fixed position for too long is boring to the viewer. Pay attention to what you see on TV and movies. Monkey see, monkey do. Now you don't need to read this book.
2

September 2, 2015

Look for another book
Good tips here and there but very repetitive, you can sum up the book with:
-If you are going to shoot do it with good quality.
-Shoot small 5 seconds or less shots.
-Make them quality shots.
-Make them 5 seconds or less

Definitely for the newbie, or maybe my dad who hasn't picked up a camera in his life. Except for a few good tips like the ones above.

If you are seriously thinking about buying a book with tips and tricks on video shooting, move along and keep looking.
5

January 21, 2016

Engaging, informative, and to the point
Just like his editing advice, the book is devoid of fluff. Every short chapter is interesting, relevant, and entertaining. His sense of humor is easy and like-able, not contrived. For new to beginning-intermediate film makers, there is a wealth of information. It is purposely lacking in technical information, which I think is perfectly on-point. There are many other books that cover the technical aspects of filmmaking. This book is about creating great content, and after all - content is king, right? My only wish would be that the frequent links in the book to related content on his blog would actually link to the specific content. Many times it just links to the main page of the blog/site and you have to search for the example you came for. Fortunately, the site is also interesting and helpful, so you will probably find something else of value there as well.
2

August 30, 2015

Blah Blah Blah
Redundant information. He should apply his editing suggestions to his writing. Could have been written with half as many pages. I skipped over a lot of the content because it had already been said.
5

Jan 08, 2018

Funny, smart and useful. This one belongs in all video and filmmaker’s libraries.
2

August 31, 2015

Two Stars
I am not 9 years old!
5

Aug 02, 2013

I picked this book on a whim from the local library. My initial thought was I will read a chapter here and there. It didn't work that way. I read it cover to cover. There are good tips and insights in every chapter. If videography doesn't happen to be your "thing" you will still learn a lot from this book. You can translate much of what is in here to other artforms whether they be of a visual nature or a story telling nature. They are probably applicable to musical forms of expression too, but I picked this book on a whim from the local library. My initial thought was I will read a chapter here and there. It didn't work that way. I read it cover to cover. There are good tips and insights in every chapter. If videography doesn't happen to be your "thing" you will still learn a lot from this book. You can translate much of what is in here to other artforms whether they be of a visual nature or a story telling nature. They are probably applicable to musical forms of expression too, but you would need to ask a musician to be sure.

Recommended, even if you have no intention of videoing anything at any time. ...more
5

July 13, 2017

Buy This Book: I Loved It!!!
The author cuts through all of the BS and gives helpful tip after tip. I didn't expect to learn so much. If you are a newbie and need one book to help you get started making good videos, this is the book. No tech jargon, no out-of-reach expensive equipment to buy, just real techniques that anybody can use to shoot video that doesn't suck as much as their last one probably did. I know this will hold true for me anyway.
2

July 28, 2015

like Grandma and Grandpa who just got a camera
This book is for serious newbies, like Grandma and Grandpa who just got a camera. If you have an ounce of ability, you'll have nothing to learn here.
3

April 14, 2017

Helpful to a beginner
I read this book in high school, when I was preparing to apply for film school. Because I was such a beginner, I found this book pretty helpful. It definitely helped me avoid a few mistakes. That said, it doesn't compare to instruction. If you want to go further with your cinematography, consider a different method of learning.
1

July 1, 2013

Stupid Name of Book
The name of the book contains a foul word, "S**ks". This word has just as foul a meaning as the "F" word. Why support a person who would make a book with such a disgusting title??
2

October 28, 2015

Two Stars
Basic information for home video. An 'idiot's guide'.
3

May 8, 2015

For beginners only!
This book really is for complete beginners so if you are one then this is the book you want.
3

April 30, 2015

Limited Appeal
A bit unorganized in structure, but holds quantifiable value. Doesn't adequately serve the consumer or professional as a target audience, so has limited appeal as a result. For more a complete guide to film and video, see The Film maker's Handbook. Much more technical info and value for the money.
5

Jul 24, 2015

I like the simple exercises given in the book that I can practice, reinforcing specific instructions you just learned. You'll never shoot a boring thirty minute video from one stationary spot ever again. Great value for the amount of information you get, possibly even better than a college class. I'll be referring back to certain chapters. The only thing missing in this book is how to operate your personal camera. Super advice on how to take better videos.
5

Dec 27, 2016

Great place to start if you haven't worked much with video or film. This covers all the basics of how to make interesting videos, and it delivers it in a fun, easily digestible format. If you already have experience in the business, though, you'll find this is basically just review.
5

Mar 23, 2014

I enjoyed this book. I gained insight and enjoyed his humor and writing style.

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