for Fun or Profit
By Jackie Smith
Morgans and Poetry in Motion Video
to Detail Will Yield Good Video Results
This article was written
to help you have good video at your fingertips when you need to
make that stallion promotional video, sell a horse or just to have
tape to review your training progress or capture your dressage tests.
There are many cameras and many formats out there now, so a lot
of the information will be quite general.
Camera: Set on
the highest quality speed (SP in VHS cameras) no extended
play to save money. It will not reproduce well, and if you need
to make copies you may have the color dropping in and out, or rainbow
bars across the image.
Tape: Again, no
saving money here. No grabbing the tape of The Young and the Restless
as you run out the door for a shoot. If possible, it should be a
fresh tape cassette of the very best quality you can find. This
is to be your video history library, a very important thing. And
more and more important, as the years go by and you realize that
this is the documentation of your breeding program, or your show
career, or your training abilities.
Tripod: This is
a drag, I know. Just yesterday I went out back and shot some footage
of our newest foals romping in the pasture. I got some really good
footage for a change, and took it in to watch it. All I could think
about as I watched is how much better it would be if I could have
held the camera still (and I had thought I was). I have found, through
much testing on the job, that the best tripod to have is a monopod
that converts to a small tripod. I still need to have a big bulky
one too for my show shoots the camera needs to be set up
all day and be stable. But for all around limited use, the monopod
is great! Lightweight and very portable.
In the event you have to shoot footage in a dark place, such as
a stall or arena, I prefer to illuminate the subject with lights
separate from the camera, if possible. The lights that come on the
camera are hot, stark and cannot run for a long time. When I tape
the birth of a foal, for instance, I have halogen lights that sit
on shelves outside the stall, and ordinary mechanics trouble
lights that hang on the screen of the stall front. Most video
cameras have excellent low-light efficiency, so you really don't
need a lot of extra light.
Help: I try to
have as much help as possible on shoot day. I find one
of the BEST times to videotape is if we have visitors come to the
farm. I try to arrange it that my duties are to videotape and stand
with the visitors. On those days we really go all out baths
(we have a water shortage), clippers, sparkle spray
etc. So what a GREAT time to tape. If I stand with the visitors
I get a front row display, plus the camera records all the favorable
comments from the spectators.
should be scouted out ahead of time. If you are taping at the farm,
consider what will be in the background of the finished video. You
could spare the ten minutes it would take to put that manure spreader
out of sight, and it will make SUCH a difference. If you are going
to tape a horse in a ring or indoor arena, do NOT stand in the middle
and tape the horse going around you. It will make you dizzy when
watching the tape, and you have no reference points to judge the
speed, etc. A point near the end of the long sides, or in the middle
of a long side is fine. If you are taping at a show, go to the arena
ahead of time. Note where the people are sitting, what direction
the horses are facing in the line up, where the awards are given,
and if there are any obstacles involved with the location you choose.
I do not set up at the ends of the arena if possible, it gives one
such a limited view of the horse from the side. If you are taping
a dressage test, in general I try to stand directly across from
the reader. If the rider would rather see lateral work, serpentine
loops, extensions from the front etc., of course I would stand to
one side of A or C.
The Dreaded Manual
Focus Button: If your videos are to improve to near-professional
quality, you are going to have to learn to use manual focus
for almost all your videotaping. It is scarey, I know but
once you tackle and understand it, you will seldom return to automatic
focus. If you stay in auto focus for all your taping, things that
come into the cameras line of vision between you and your
subject (i.e. arena posts, other horses, people walking in front
of the camera) will cause the focus to blur as the camera tries
to focus on the nearer object.
Heres a tip that
will always have you in focus, and is easy, easy, easy! Stand where
you plan to be set up during the shoot. Press the manual focus button.
Look through the viewfinder, and zoom all the way (as close as the
camera will zoom) on the farthest point that you will be taping.
For instance, if I were standing at one end of an arena I would
zoom on the opposite end, and use the focus ring on the camera to
bring that field of vision into clear good focus. Now, everything
that happens in that arena between you and that point will be in
focus no more adjusting needed! And if someone walks by or
a horse passes, your camera will not care! Now, if you are going
to zoom in for an extreme close-up, you will have to adjust the
focus again after you zoom, but this is simple with some practice,
and still doesnt look as bad as when the camera blurs out
due to auto focus interference.
horse will look the best in a video if you take the same care with
the preparation as if you were going to a show. Fly spray is a MUST
if the bugs are bad.
More tips: If
you are going to talk while the camera is running, remember to wait
a minute first. The microphone doesnt start up right away,
and the first part of your sentence will be cut off if you speak
right as you press the record button.
Try NOT to walk with
the camera; its very distracting, and perhaps will make the
viewer dizzy. The handler should bring the horse to the camera.
Try not to fuss with the horse too much on foot placement; it takes
time, and makes the horse have an unpleasant expression sometimes.
Keep the horse walking forward, and stop and pause and look occasionally.
The horse will look interested and pleasant much more appealing.
If the horse is at liberty,
do not chase him with whips; this also gives unpleasant feel to
footage. At our farm, a handler (usually my husband) puts a blanket
over his head and upper body, and walks slowly towards the horse,
flapping a little if necessary. This usually makes the horse lift
up, look alert and perhaps even blow a little, tail over back, and
almost always they trot. Our horses know this game now, and its
one of their favorites. It does not work with our junior
stallion. Invariably he trots over and looks under the blanket,
no matter how hard my husband flaps. But that makes a good video
in itself, and tells the viewer volumes about his disposition.
Close ups give the viewer
an insight to the horses personality, and should be used liberally.
A Morgan wears a lot of his soul on his face, and this is a great
way to let the client see who she is looking at.
Take video of everything
and everyone! That filly you arent ever going to sell now
might be the star of your sales list by fall, and she will be all
woolly and yak-like then. It would have been a great idea if you
had taped her when you were showing customers or friends examples
of your breeding program, and she was all slick and gorgeous, looking
like a keeper!
There is so much information
to give you about videotaping, but I think I have covered the highlights.
If anyone has any questions they can write or email me and I will
answer what I can. If you follow these guidelines, you should have
a good sampling of your horses abilities and conformation
to make a sales or farm promotional you can be proud of!
The author is a professional videographer and video
editor who volunteered her time and talents for the Morgan Dressage
Association's special AMHA Convention videotape. This article first
appeared in the Spring 2000 Morgan Dressage Association News, MDA's
quarterly newsletter. You can reach Jackie by calling (937) 885-4905
or by e-mailing: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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