#2 Sure Sign of Amateur Video: Firehosing

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One of the hallmarks of amateur video is something we call “firehosing.”

If you’ve ever watched firefighters try to put out a fire, you know exactly what I’m talking about!

Picture a raging house fire.  Firefighters rushing into the house with their hoses blasting water.  What happens next?

They spray water at the ceiling.  They spray water at the floor.  They spray water everywhere.  Continuously.  Moving that nozzle up and down and all around until the fire is out.

We see the same principle in action with amateur video.

Let’s suppose the guy across the street from that house fire grabs his video camera to capture all the action.  Happens all the time, right?

He rushes out the front door, hits the record button and starts shooting video.  In fact, it might look something like this:

Mr. Neighbor shoots everything.  Continuously.  Moving the camera up and down and all around and zooming in and out until the action is over.

It’s enough to make you seasick!

Firehosing occurs because people don’t know what they want to shoot.  So they shoot everything.  Continuously.

They use their viewfinder instead of their eyes to see what or where they want to shoot.

Here’s how to prevent it.

Treat your video camera as a still camera (the kind you use to take photographs).


Instead, take a moment to look around the scene you want to shoot.

Decide what your first shot will be, and frame it up.

How about a nice wide shot of the burning house, showing us the entire structure?

Great.  Notice I haven’t said anything about recording yet.

Find the shot first.  Move around and position yourself so the shot is framed the way you want it.  Wait until it’s perfect. Then – and only then – should you hit the record button.

DO NOT MOVE THE CAMERA!  Hold the shot for 5 – 10 seconds and then hit the record button again to stop.

Congratulations – you’ve captured your first shot!

Now look around again and find something else you want to shoot.

Hmm.  Maybe you see flames shooting out of an upstairs window.  Ok, how about a nice close-up of that window?  Frame up your shot first.  Once it’s exactly the way you want it, hit the record button.  DO NOT MOVE THE CAMERA!  Hold the shot for 5 – 10 seconds, then hit the record button again to stop.

See how easy this is?

Now maybe a firefighter has started spraying water on the fire.

Maybe a wide shot of the firefighter holding the hose?

What you shoot is up to you. It’s your story!

Just remember the following steps:

  1. look around
  2. decide what you want to shoot
  3. move yourself and the camera until the shot is framed perfectly
  4. hit the record button
  6. hold the shot for 5 – 10 seconds
  7. hit the record button again to stop

By following these simple steps, you’re no longer waving the camera around aimlessly in an attempt to shoot anything and everything as it happens. Let’s face it – no one wants to sit through 20 minutes of house fire video – or any other “raw” video.  Capture the highlights!

Next week:  #3 Sure Sign of Amateur Video – The Shakes

Follow Cindy Burgess:

Pro Video Storyteller

Cindy Burgess is a former broadcast journalist who's been telling stories with video for more than 20 years. She's passionate about spreading video literacy to the world!

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