Shoot Live Video Like a Media Pro

Top Tips for Getting It Right the First (And Only) Time for Live TV

A picture of a video camera during a live shot
Are you ready? Your camera is live in 3, 2, 1. Photo © PhotoTalk / Getty Images

Shooting live video requires a special set of skills, just like reporting on live TV. Know how to capture great video during your televised live shot the first time, because live TV doesn't give you a second chance.

The Director Calls the Shots

Unlike the usual techniques of shooting creative video, you are likely not in charge of getting the shots when you're in a live coverage situation in the field.

The decisions come from a TV director, who may be with you on location or many miles away inside the TV station's control room.

The director will tell you if he needs a wide shot or closeup, whether your lighting is adequate and whether he wants movement in your shot. In a multi-camera live TV shoot, your camera may be the one that's reserved for a wide shot, say of a baseball game, while other cameras are being used for tight shots of the players and the crowd.

That's why you must follow the director's commands. If all of the cameras are getting closeups of the fans, no one is in position to capture a player hitting a home run. An individual photographer standing behind a camera can't see that problem -- that's why it takes the director to look at all the shots coming in from the field.

No Chances to Fix Mistakes

When you record video, if a shot doesn't work out because it's out of focus, crooked or not framed up properly, you shoot it again.

Shooting live video doesn't provide that second chance.

That's why you need to review the 6 tips for shooting steady video. You must get it right the first time, because any mistakes will be going out live to your audience.

Check your focus before going live. You can also practice any unusual shots you want to get.

Communicate with your director to see if he approves of the creative direction you want to take.

Getting Movement in Your Video

With all that can go wrong with shooting live TV video, you may be tempted to lock down your camera in a fixed position for the entire broadcast. But you can still add movement to your shots.

While you want to avoid unnecessary zooms and pans, when performed properly they can make your live video more interesting. The key is to execute them smoothly.

That means practicing before going live. Determine the point where your zoom or pan will start and where it will stop. When your camera is live, you'll want to make your movement slow and steady. Think of the camera movements you see in a live network broadcast, whether it's a sports event or political coverage. Only in the most chaotic breaking news situation will you possibly see jerky, erratic camera movements. Think of how out-of-place that would look in a televised golf tournament.

Shooting live video is a critical skill to master for anyone working in TV. Even though it's a live broadcast, you can still plan your shots and your camera position so that when the red light comes on, you provide professional results.

You don't need to be nervous, but you do need to practice, communicate and listen.

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