I must say Birmingham is possibly the best city in the UK to report on faith. Since I have started to know the communities around churches and mosques, the charities such as St Basils, the social activists here, it gave me that feeling of real community cohesion.
When you find that in a city of over 1.1 million people, it is quite something, don’t you think?
Since I have started my MA in Online Journalism with Paul Bradshaw at Birmingham City University, I discovered multimedia as a form which can be used to its full potential on the web. All I have done so far (including this blog, which is due a renovation soon) seems just child play compared to what I could do.
With a BA in Theology and Literature, I decided to cover Faith for the local news website quite soon into my MA studies. It took a while though to figure out how to make a presentation for the new section.
Using a few sterile words, some links and photos did not seem enough.
Doing a documentary-style presentation which would involve local representatives of different faiths seemed too much. Overstretching my skills did not sound like the best idea and it could have taken a lot longer.
So I decided to go for this.
Filming myself: mistakes
For starters, let us consider this video.
I have never filmed myself before, and through trial and error, I have managed to record a piece which works for its intended purpose.
What do I mean by trial and error exactly?
First, I wrote down a text. I did not feel confident enough to speak freely in a video which represents Birmingham Eastside and the Faith section I see as future investment not only for myself, but for other young journalists as well.
Writing a script was good, trying to use it as a prompter version, like in broadcasting, guaranteed my nervousness, rigidity and a lifeless speech. My partner helped me with the first trial session and he gave me a good lecture over it. He has worked as a cameraman in a local TV station.
Another mistake I did was trying to film it in the evening. All I can say is DO NOT film with artificial light unless you have professional lamps available or any other lighting system which will allow for the following:
- Get rid of the shadows behind you (you do not want to appear as a character from a Hitchcock movie or the Twilight zone).
- Get rid of the shadows on your face (if you do not have the tinniest prettiest nose in the world, as I don’t, having it cast a shadow on half your face might not be really flattering).
And the third major mistake I did was to sit down while I delivered the speech. It just did not work, for a few reasons:
- When you speak sitting down, you are either in a group of people, in your private space or with one other person.Talking to the camera and sitting down might not feel natural at all, hence you might look tensed and deliver a robotic speech.
- It restricts your movement. If you are not an actor who can be expressive enough in front of the camera with just small changes of their face, it will not work. In this video, I rely on my hands to help me do the talking, while my face stays reserved as to fit the subject.
A better approach to self-filming
Everything went smooth as soon as I changed the previously mentioned mistakes. So this experience has taught me that you need to:
- Use your previous experience. You might have never filmed a video of yourself before, but have you on any previous occasions talked in front of a group? What made it work ? For me, it was teaching. Standing up, gesturing, not too much, but enough as to deliver a convinced and convincing speech.
- If you make a mistake, do not change your face too much. Keep the same face you had, and start again where you made the mistake. This might make editing easier.
- Do not stress with sticking to a script. Remember, you are not doing broadcasting. Repeating the pars I have written enough times helped me memories them, but not down to the last word. I felt more relaxed then.
- Leave space and breath between different parts of your speech. This will be useful in editing, as well as with adding photos or other videos later on (a short footage of an event you talk about, for example).
Final conclusions on self video recording
I’m hardly an expert after just one video of myself, but I am pleased with my work so far. Making this video first stressed me out, made me think I am no good in front of the camera like this, then made me really think.
It might not be for everybody. But trying and learning cannot hurt. Not that much, after all.
My next plan is to start vlogging, which will happen by end of March – beginning of April.