“Shrediting,” or being a “shreditor,” is very common. Most people just may not call it that, because, well, it’s kind of a silly word. That said, it’s actually perfect for what it refers to: a shooter, producer, and editor combo. This is also known as a one-man/woman band or preditor (producer/editor), and is often done in a run-and-gun style.
News organizations, corporations, and video-production companies are growing more reliant on individuals with skills across the board, so it’s becoming more and more important to be versed in every aspect of video production you can. But honing your shrediting skills takes time and a lot of focus on details, so that everything goes well on your project during pre-production, production, and in post.
Realize What You’re Doing Is a Huge Challenge
A big first step in becoming a shreditor is thinking about the scope of what you’re trying to accomplish. You’re starting a project (although the concept doesn’t necessarily have to be yours), figuring out how to shoot it, shooting it, and taking it all into editing and making the final piece. Reminding yourself before you get started that it’s going to be tough can help set your expectations and prepare you for the road ahead. (However, some naiveté is good, because you may not know what you’re getting yourself into.) Either way, the benefit is that you’re doing it all yourself, meaning you can mostly do whatever you want. The downside, of course, is also that you’re doing it all yourself and can mostly do whatever you want.
For The ‘Producing’ Part
More Pre-Production Is Always Good
The more time I dedicate to a shoot in pre-production, the better it usually turns out in the end. Not only can you lay out everything you need to do while shooting, but you can also find out any potential speed bumps and plan accordingly. I’m not just talking about planning for things like bringing a portable hard drive along for a mid-shoot card dump — I’m also talking about bringing an umbrella if it rains, or even bringing snacks if you’re out all day and need some nourishment.
Preparing Storyboards for a Film by Cameraman_Kiev
Budget in everything you think you’ll need to buy, plus the food, lodging, and transportation costs, so you can have an idea of your spending when you’re working. Take an inventory of what equipment you’ve got to keep a perspective of your capabilities on your shoot, and work within those confines. If you’ve got a good camera shop nearby, you can usually rent many items instead of having to buy them.
There are always going to be last-minute assignments/projects, so the best thing to do in those situations is really just do your best. As long as you’re organized (more on that next), motivated, and know your gear through and through, you should be able to be ready to go in any given situation with any amount of notice.
Organization Is Your Friend
Pre-Production and organization go hand-in-hand. There are simple organizinational things you can do, like making a shot list for yourself so you know what shots to get, or setting up your interviews at precise times (if you can), writing down your questions beforehand, and packing up everything the night before so that you won’t be scrambling the next day.
Another extremely important, but sometimes overlooked, thing to keep organized is your gear and gear bags. It’s a huge benefit to pack and unpack your gear a few times so that you have everything precisely where you want it. Spending any extra time when you’re shrediting fumbling around or looking through every pocket of your bag in order to find your extra batteries is time wasted. Put everything in your ideal spot so you can access it so easily that it becomes muscle memory.
If you watch videos from vloggers/shreditors like Phillip Bloom, Vincent Laforet, Casey Neistat, or Sara Dietschy, you’ll notice that when they’re traveling or getting ready for a shoot, they have every piece of gear packed exactly where they want it, and they know exactly what they’re bringing and using for each project. Efficiency is paramount when you’re on your own, and hunting for the right piece of gear should be the last thing you’re worrying about.
Know Your Gear
Knowing the location of your gear is one thing, but knowing how it works is another. We talked about this in our post on How To Shoot High-Quality Video, but being a master of everything you’re using on your shoot is very important. You don’t want to waste time balancing your Steadicam or gimbal — get it figured out and dialed in at a separate time. This goes for everything: if it’s a new piece of tech you’re going to be using in your shoot, getting it down before the shoot day will help immensely.
For the ‘Shooting’ Part
Keep It Minimal
In the many years I’ve been shooting in this style, I’ve learned that less is usually more when it comes to your gear. After carrying every possible lens, filter, microphone, and battery I owned on every shoot, I quickly realized I was making it tougher to be an efficient shooter. Bring everything you can manage, for sure, but bring an extra, smaller bag to keep only essentials and leave the rest in a safe place. I’ve used this sling bag and really enjoyed it. I could keep my camera out and have all my essential gear in there, but it was still light and kept me mobile.
Photographer Working on Computer by jamecl
*Tip: You may not need three lenses if one has a longer focal range. Instead of having 24, 50, and 85mm lenses, you can cover most of that with a 24-70 lens or even more with a 24-105 or 28-135.
You will most likely be thinking about many things when you’re out on your shoot, so you need to train yourself to stay focused amid the chaos. Having your shot list handy will help you stay in line with your vision, but narrowing down your attention to one or two things at a time can really help you keep your cool when you’ve got to so much to do and think about. Whether it’s setting up the microphones, positioning the camera or subject, getting the camera rolling, or managing your memory cards, there’s a lot to remember, so pick what’s manageable and move to the next thing. Start with audio gear setup, then move to lighting, then tripods/gimbals, then camera, and repeat that order to get a good routine that works for you.
If you’re running the camera, monitoring the audio, and asking the questions during an interview, wait until the subject is done with his or her answer before you change or adjust anything. Keep eye contact with your subjects throughout their answers, because it not only prevents them from getting distracted, but also keeps you focused on getting the best interview you can by keeping your subjects engaged.
Jonathan Ross Gives Interview to Michael Lavrenov by Paha_L
*Tip: while you’re shooting, you can mark your best clips to make it easier on yourself in editing. Many peripheral recorders (and cameras) allow you to mark a clip as you go with the touch of a button, but if you don’t have this built in, you can simply hold up a sheet of paper or a hand signal indicating the next or previous clip are keepers.
Shoot to Edit
When you’re doing it all yourself, you can really get bogged down in editing if you have loads of footage to sift through. Practice shooting fewer, better shots to make it easier on yourself — don’t just shoot and think about it later. Set up your shot and hit record, instead of the other way around. Limit your establishing shots and other b-roll to 10-15 seconds. If a subject rambles on, ask (nicely) for the 30-second version of the answer (this can work surprisingly well).
For the ‘Editing’ Part
Manage Your Media and Projects Wisely
At this point, you should be pretty honed in on the story you want to tell. As long as you’ve been mentally present during the pre-production and shooting phases, your editing should be relatively straightforward. The more you visualize the result as you’re shooting, the easier it will be to get it edited.
You can use these time-saving Premiere Pro tips as a starting point, but the bottom line is that an organized project is an efficient project.
Get a Fresh Set Of Eyes On It
You’ve been working on this project from start to finish, and have been so deeply immersed in it that you may not be seeing the video from an outsider’s perspective. It’s invaluable having someone you trust take a look at it to give you some constructive feedback. You may love a certain shot because it was really tough to get, but that doesn’t mean it makes sense to someone else. Which leads me to my next point…
Never be too proud or too afraid to scrap a clip, section, or storyline if it’s not working. If your friend doesn’t understand that aforementioned favorite clip you labored so hard to get, then take it out and see if it flows better. Be open to change and don’t force things into your piece because you like them — only put them in if they work best for your story.
Utilize the World of Stock Media
You most likely have a limited budget, and since you already have so many things to think about, you probably don’t have much time to dedicate to shooting establishing shots, creating VFX, or composing original music. That’s where stock media can help. Do you think the television show Psych was actually shot in Santa Barbara? Or Brooklyn Nine-Nine in Brooklyn? Nope, they use stock footage to create that illusion. You don’t have to travel or be a musician — you can just find the file you’re looking for, pop it in, and move on to the next thing.
Learn From Your Mistakes
You can only be better if you work at it. “Failure” can be a scary word, but you may not ever improve if you never fail. Take the lessons you learn with each project and keep improving your skills to become a one-person video-production powerhouse. Shred on!