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Entries in vox-pops (1)

Friday
Jun172011

Making the MOS-t of shooting vox-pops

Shooting M.O.S. (Man On the Street) is something you'll often have to do as a video journalist. M.O.S., sometimes called vox-pops from the Latin 'vox populi', is also one of the more difficult tasks when working solo. You'll often be working in a crowd and will need to be ready to get people's comments very quickly - negligible set-up time.

Here is a list of ten points I put together that I think are important to remember when shooting M.O.S. in the field:

1 - Use a tripod. M.O.S. shoots look really dreadful when you're trying to hold a camera in one hand and a mic in the other while looking the interviewee in the eye. 

2 - Because you are using a tripod, try to pick a location where you do not have to move around too much. Pick an area to shoot with plenty of foot traffic. It is best if you can get people to come to you, rather than having to carry your camera and tripod to a different spot each time.

3 - Select a significantly different backdrop for each M.O.S. It will look strange if the background is the same each time, but the person on camera is different. Remember, you will probably be editing these together into a sequence. You can often achieve a different backdrop just by swinging the camera around.

4 - Be mindful of the sun in the sky. Cloudy days tend to be easier… the light remains constant so the temperature of the shot doesn't fluctuate between interviewees in your M.O.S. sequence. Otherwise, try to pick an area of shade where the background isn't too bright either.

5 - Use a wireless lav microphone that you can pin on someone quickly. If you are trying to hold a microphone in front of the interviewee, it'll be very tough to ensure they remain in frame because you will need to be in front of the camera too. If you use a wireless lav, you can clip it on them and stand where you can see the viewfinder. You can also have the subject stand further away from the camera, allowing you to make more use of the full range of the lens, achieving more depth to the shot. In addition, make sure you hide the cable connecting the mic to the transmitter unit by either framing it out of the shot, or tucking it under clothing.

6 - Try to frame each person approximately the same. It doesn't matter if some are framed slightly tighter than others. But if you have a mix of super-wide and super-tight shots, it will look very disjointed when you edit them back-to-back. If you are shooting in a high enough definition format, it's possible to adjust the framing in post-production by cropping and zooming.

7 - Mix the direction that you have the interviewees looking - some camera-left, some camera-right. When you edit your footage together, you should alternate between left-looking and right-looking shots. This will help guard against jump cuts. You can also make use of functions such as Final Cut Pro's 'flop' tool to reverse shots if necessary. However, be very careful to take note of anything framed in the shot that would be inaccurate when flipped, such as writing. 

To help illustrate this point, here is an example of M.O.S. I gathered at the recent NBA Finals in Miami for AFP Television. The vox-pops are part of a sequence of shots sent out to AFP client broadcasters. This is my own upload with my own lower-thirds. If you wish to see additional footage from the shoot, you can do so here.

8 - Make sure you color balance your camera before you start shooting. If you shoot in auto-mode you may end up with soundbites with wildly varying color balances. This, of course, varies according to which camera you are using. Save yourself time in post-production by setting your camera values ahead of time. Setting picture profiles for cloudy or bright days can save time.

9 - Get the name of your subjects on tape. Use that to set audio levels. People have dramatically different tones of voice and speaking volumes. You don't want to boost your levels for a quiet speaker, then end up with distorted sound for the rest of your shoot.

10 - Never take your eyes off your camera. You're in a busy place. Never trust anyone you don't know around your gear - not even for a second.