The 15 Second Rule

Published on July 9, 2010

Waiting Monk

Patience is hard for video shooters. I guess it’s because we’re human, and humans generally struggle with it.

Still, if you have a little patience when you’re shooting video, you’ll be happier with your results. For example, there’s the 15 second rule. It’s simple, but it will make your life a lot easier.

Here’s how it works:

When you’re getting a specific static shot — make sure you record for at least 15 seconds.

That’s it? Yes, it’s as easy as that.

Why this amount?

Fifteen seconds of a single static shot is more than you’ll likely need. This will give you choices later when you’re editing. Because editors want to hold the attention of their audience, most shots in the final edit will last 4 seconds or less. If they were to use the entire 15 seconds that you captured, it would feel like an eternity to the audience.

By the way, when I refer to a static shot, I mean a shot that has little or no movement. This might be an establishing shot, a video portrait, or a number of other scenarios. When there’s almost no movement, it’s (usually) hard to watch a long clip (such as 15 seconds).

If you’re capturing 15 seconds when you shoot, you have a lot of 4 second options inside of the 15 second clip. For example, you could use seconds 1 to 5, seconds 2 to 6, seconds 3 to 7, and so on. You get the idea.

If you’re like some shooters and you only record for 4 seconds because that’s how much you’ll need in post, then you’ve limited your options. Whether you’re doing your own editing or having someone else do it, remember that editors love options. It gives them room to move. And the 15 second rule helps get that done.

During the 15 seconds, resist the urge to zoom the camera.

Resist the urge to adjust.

But most of all, resist the urge to stop rolling.

Capture at least 15 seconds, and then you can set up for your next shot.

* If you were thinking that the 15 second rule referred to how long food can be on the ground before it’s no longer safe to eat…well, that’s a different rule. This one is for shooters. :-)

* Photo by h.koppdelaney


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