Some marketers find themselves in a situation ripe for shooting video, but are required to do so with little or no time for preparation or pause. This is what is referred to as "run and gun" video production. To help explain this type of shooting (which is becoming more common for video marketers looking to capture real-time quality content), I interviewed three notable video production professionals about their own experiences and tips for doing run and gun video production for business purposes – along with some run and gun example videos of their own.
Reel Run and Gun Video Production Experts:
Steve Garfield – longtime online video producer from SteveGarfield.com, Host of SteveGarfield.TV and author of "Get Seen: Online Video Secrets to Building your Business." Steve's live show airs on The Pulse Network every Thursday at 2 pm Eastern Time.
Randy Barth – VP of Sales for Pixability, a video production studio offering combinations of client-generated video content with professional production and post-production work for easy, quick and affordable ways to market with video.
Israel "Izzy" Hyman – an expert videographer and video trainer, Izzy runs a valuable membership website at IzzyVideo where he provides a popular video training series all around how to best produce video for the Internet.
What is "Run and Gun" Video Production?
Randy: I define it as shooting video while you are literally moving.
Steve: When I think about run and gun, I think about Olympic sharpshooting, where you're running to the event; and then when you pause, take a breath, and then shoot your video.
Izzy: Run-and-gun means that I'm shooting without much time, and without much crew. There's usually no time to set up lights, diffusion panels, scrims, and reflectors. I don't have a lot of crew to help me move and set up for each shot. Many times I have to make use of available light. My challenge is to get the best shots amid these restraints.
When is Run and Gun Video Production Appropriate?
Randy: The most common run and gun is convention video; there are lots of activities, testimonials and panels. It's super hard to get good audio at conventions, but easy to get the [visual] since convention halls are well lit.
Steve: I agree with Randy – conventions are great place to do run and gun video. There are lots of experts around and knowledgeable people that are willing to talk to you about their expertise in their products.
Izzy: The first thing I think of is covering a trade show or conference. But really it could be any circumstance where you're trying to cover an event. It could be a news story. It could be quick interviews with actors after a theater performance. It could even be any situation where you're strained by not having enough time with the location, talent, or good weather.
What are the Advantages to the Run and Gun Approach?
Randy: Third party testimonials are worth their weight in gold.
Steve: The advantages are you don't have to spend a lot of time in production doing editing. You can grab what I like to call authentic moments. These captured moments can quickly be posted to a video blog for sharing without having to add any titles credits or music.
Izzy: The advantage to me is that because it's run and gun, people don't expect it to look highly produced. If they're not expecting a high production value, then you don't need to spend money on unnecessary gear or crew. In fact, you don't need to spend hardly anything. A camera, a tripod, an on-camera light, and an external microphone are really all you need for classic run and gun situations. You could do with even less than that, but you run the risk of having your video look (or sound) bad.
What are Some Common Challenges, Problems, and Mistakes?
Randy: Shaky camera work and poor audio will be the biggest mistakes. It is very difficult because most people can't hold the camera still nor can you control video and audio conditions. And if you can't hear the video clearly, it's worthless.
Steve: The biggest mistake some people make is recording a [whole] conference session that's already being recorded by one or more people; you don't necessarily need to record the whole session it'll probably be posted online somewhere anyway. What you could do instead is grabbed the speaker after they're done with their session and get them to give you a quick rundown of the most important points of their talk.
A lot of times I see people with a handheld pocket HD video camera trying to get a quick interview after a speech, with the speaker, and it's really noisy. You need to be aware of your surroundings and if it's really noisy, ask the person you're interviewing if you can just quickly go to a quieter location.
Izzy: Definitely the biggest problems are with bad camera work and audio.
How Can Someone Correct for These Challenges?
Randy: Use a monopod or tripod to eliminate the earthquakes. If you can bring a monopod and if you don't have a need for clean audio then you can get lots of great footage. Stand 3 feet away to get the best audio.
Steve: I agree with Randy to use some type of device to support the camera and if you don't have a monopod or tripod, lean up against a nearby wall or chair.
Izzy: For bad camera work, the problems are usually with shaky cameras, which you can solve by putting a camera on a tripod. If you have someone operating the camera other than you, then it would probably make sense to invest in a shoulder-mount system of some sort. This gives the camera more stability, but allows the camera person to run around and move the camera when they need to move it. Sometimes a tripod can be too rigid for dynamic situations, so a shoulder-mount can be a helpful tool.
Also, make sure your white balance is set correctly. I carry a little collapsible gray card from Westcott, and we pop that open to do a quick white balance between shots. In run and gun situations, the lighting can be different from shot to shot, so it makes sense to white balance each time.
And don't forget to put a light on the camera. I use a little Litepanel LED Micro-Pro light. It does a good job lighting the subject, and helps keep strange shadows off their faces.
For audio in noisy situations like trade-shows, a hand-held microphone can be a great tool. Just make sure you don't hand it to the person you're interviewing. You definitely don't want to give up the control of the interview like that.
Also, it might make sense to use a wireless system instead of a microphone cable. In a busy situation with people around, you might want to avoid the tripping hazard. Wireless gear costs more than a cable of course, but if you take care of the system, it will last for years.
What Tips Can You Offer for Run and Gun in the Following Situations:
1) Solo (self-interview, narrative)?
Randy: Find a quiet, well-lit room.
Steve: If you're the only one producing the video, and you have a pocket HD video camera, you can hold the camera in your extended arm; but be aware that some cameras won't start focusing until there something like 3 feet away, and your arm might be too short. Use a device like the X–shot to extend the length of the camera.
If you've got a monopod, see if you can attach legs to it to allow it to turn into a tripod. Or you can use a regular tripod, and a camera that has a flip out viewfinder to allow you to see if you're in the shot is something to consider.
Izzy: Definitely use a video camera with a flip-out screen that you can reverse. This lets you see yourself in the shot when you're in front of the camera (but don't look at it once you start recording). Stand in front of an interesting background that isn't too distracting or overly bright. And definitely use a microphone other than the one on the camera.
Randy: Record one person at a time. (Don't try to move the camera back and forth between interviewees).
Steve: You can look into adding a wide-angle lens to camera to get both people in the shot and then if your camera supports it, add a shotgun microphone.
Izzy: In run and gun, the most common way to do this is to have the interviewee and the interviewer stand next to each other in the shot, slightly angled toward the camera. This is okay, but if you want the additional visual interest, decide if the interviewer really needs to be in the shot. If not, then shoot over the shoulder of the interviewer, and get a nice close-up of the person being interviewed. This shows more emotion in their face.
If you don't mind a little extra editing, you can have the camera person shoot a close-up of you asking the question. Then cut. Then shoot a close-up of the interviewee answering the question.
Of course, the easiest way to shoot video of two people is to use at least two cameras: one shooting over the shoulder of each person, and ideally a third camera shooting a wide shot of both people. But hey, this is run and gun, so maybe we should assume we're only working with one camera.
3) Events, Conferences, etc...?
Randy: Take establishing shots of the event as well as close ups of activities. This can be editing into the video while you are listening to the voice over or other audio.
Steve: One thing I like to do when I am shooting a lot of interviews in one day at an event, is use my cell phone with a live video streaming application like Qik, to both broadcast live and archived my interviews. With Qik, you can give it your YouTube username and password, and have it also post the archive interviews over there. (Note: I'm an investor in Qik.)
Izzy: The best way to cover an event is with more than one camera. This allows you to get multiple angles of the same event. One person can be shooting wide, while another person shoots close-ups, for example. But if you're limited to one camera, then it's best to make sure you get plenty of B-Roll. These are basically cut-away shots. For example, if you shoot one long video clip of a speaker giving a talk, you can break it up with shots of the audience, shots of the building from the outside, or whatever. A good idea is to gather B-roll shots whenever you can. Reaction shots from the audience make good B-Roll, but you might need to shoot them before the talk, after the talk, or while someone else is giving their talk.
When you're covering a live event, you want to have your camera rolling a lot because you don't want to miss something, and in event situations you might not know what's going to happen next.
How Can You Plan in Advance for Run and Gun Video?
Randy: Ha, that is the beauty: there is no planning. You are capturing what unfolds in front of you. Take lots of footage and edit out the warts.
Steve: People need to be prepared to capture audio and video in the moment. They have to know exactly how to use their recording device, so when they have the opportunity to grab a quick interview, they can't be fumbling around trying to figure out how to get the best light, get the best sound, and frame the shot. When it comes time to recording an interview you've got to be ready with no question about how to use your camera.
This just happened to me in Las Vegas at blog world Expo, where I had just one minute to record an interview with Mark Burnett, producer of survivor. All my equipment worked, I got the interview, and posted it immediately up to YouTube be aware that the video content you're creating could be time-sensitive, and the faster you get it posted with titles to corrections and keywords the more people have the opportunity to see it.
Izzy: Carry a list. Have a list of shots you want to get and people you want to interview. Add things to the list if you need to. For example, if you're shooting a trade show, you might see a new vendor you want to interview. Add it to the list so you can get it later if you don't have time now.
My best recommendation though is to have the right gear with you. Have a camera, a tripod (or ideally a shoulder mount if you have a separate camera person), an on-camera light, and an external microphone. I think these should be the minimum items to bring. Bring extra batteries for everything, and bring a computer to off-load the footage to.
Run-and-Gun Video Examples
Crutchfield Electronics is a company I've followed that has done a lot of run and gun video production featuring their own staff, often in their own cubicles and announcing new products or answering customer questions. Below is an example of such one run and gun video, where they identify a customer question and answer it.
I asked Crutchfield Electronics' Multimedia Producer, Jon Schroeder, about how they produce their own run and gun videos they do for their website and online distribution, and deciding on a microphone for best audio quality, versus capturing people in the moment. Here's what he had to say:
"We do use a lavalier mic on most of our shoots, but for these short-form YouTube response videos we just go "run and gun." We want authentic responses from our advisors, and we've found that by interrupting their workflow as little as possible, we get the best results on camera. Using the on-camera mic lets us capture our advisors in their element, and more importantly, lets them get back to their job of helping our customers and potential customers sooner."
Of course, I would be remiss NOT to include samples of run and gun videos from some members of our expert panel!
Steve Garfield, SteveGarfield.TV
Randy Barth, Pixability
ReelSEO's run and gun videos
Yes, I've done a good amount of my own run and gun videos for ReelSEO, where I've had to think up the interview intro and questions in my head, doing it off-the-cuff. Here's how I appear when I have all of 1 minute to prepare before shooting. (Sometimes leaving in the mistakes can be fun to show!)