by Philo Hagen
When Hooping.org began in 2003, we didn’t have a Video of the Day feature. In fact, we didn’t have hooping videos at all. It wasn’t that we were against them or anything, there just weren’t any. Something called YouTube wouldn’t even get off the ground for another two years, much less become truly useful or popular for even longer. Still, we would occasionally put together very short visual pieces shot on now obsolete digital cameras with little frills (like this one) and we waited anxiously for a few hours while it uploaded via dial-up modem to our server hoping it would get there intact. Ahh good times, good times. These days, however, if you want to be a part of the great big global hooping community movement, it truly helps if you have a video out there to share every once in awhile. Knowing a name is one thing, but being able to watch someone hoop is another story altogether. So why isn’t everyone making a hooping video then? A good friend of mine who has hooped for years explained to me just the other day that their reason was simply that they “didn’t know how.” So in the spirit of better clarity and understanding, coupled with the sheer joy that comes from caring and sharing, I present these ten easy tips to help you make a better hooping video. Are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin.
1. The Kick Off: The World Wide Web is pretty much short attention span theater. Unless we already know your deliciousness and know what you might be capable of inside the circle, chances are we’re only going to give you about twenty seconds of our time before we move on to something else. The online eye has a tendency to wander. What? Are they really giftwrapping cats? And we’re gone. If you’re still trying to find your focus, if the camera is still shakey, if you’re not even on screen yet, rest assured that most won’t wait to see your video. Ideally you should have your camera positioned, framed, focused and you should be ready to roll before you hit record. The sooner you captivate your video audience, the sooner you are going to have our undivided attention.
2. Framing: When you set your camera down on something, take a look first to see where your boundaries for the shoot will be. If you have a friend with you, or a stranger nearby, have them go in front of the camera and walk around so you can see clearly for yourself what it will look like, how far to the left and right you can go, how close you can come before your head cuts off, or how far back you can be before you lose viewer interest. Framing is incredibly important when it comes to shooting video in that we, your audience, really want to see you! We love you. We want to celebrate you. When you wander off screen or go so far into the background that we can’t you as well, or come so close that your head disappears, consciously or unconsciously, the eye wanders. It that really the Mona Lisa made out of dominos? And we’re gone. Another big mistake in framing has to do with the hooper believing the hoop is more important in the shot than the hooper. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Your already adoring public wants to connect with you, with your eyes – the window to the soul, with your facial expressions. Otherwise the hoop will increasingly over time become merely an inanimate object.
3. Location: Want your video to be even more interesting to your viewing audience? Then why not go someplace interesting to shoot it. There are probably all kinds of places near you that are scenic, particularly to those of us who don’t live there and don’t see them every day. While I’m of the opinion that living rooms and bedrooms can be great because they can feel very intimate, providing they’re reasonably clean and presentable, if it’s your twentieth video in that room with the exact same camera angle, they really do all start to look the same after awhile. Shake things up by taking your camera into the great outdoors. Go on a mission and shoot at an indoor location you’re not necessarily supposed to be filming at – just don’t blame us if you get into any trouble. Beware of large open vacant spaces like empty gymnasiums. Creating visual energy in your video in an environment that has little to no energy in it to begin with can be a challenge.
4. Lighting: As the star of your production, you are the most important part of your hooping video, so we really want to be able to see you. Consequently it’s important to make sure that you’re reasonably well lit. It’s just that simple. Keep in mind that if you are shooting indoors in daylight with a window behind you, chances are you’re going to appear in silhouette because the lighting is brighter behind you than in front of you. And while silhouette videos are pretty cool every once in awhile, generally the same rule typically applies to them that applies to most LED and fire hooping videos shot entirely in the dark. If it’s you or your friend hooping, the video rocks! If it isn’t, it’s really hard for a viewer to connect with a silhouette, or a blur of light trails or flames in the blackness. The eye wanders. Is that place really called Butt Drugs? And we’re gone. Find the light beneath the streetlamp, try taking off the lampshade, give yourself the spotlight you deserve.
5. Wardrobe: What are you going to wear? It’s kind of nice if you give it a little thought – not because we’re going to be watching and judging what you’re wearing, but because you probably are. The best line of defense against your own self criticism can be saved with a little self preparation. You want to wear something that you know you can hoop well in prior to shooting your video, and a little extra costume or fashion or flash or color can take a little shoot from the ordinary to the extraordinary. Unless it’s a specific costume for your video like you’re playing ninjas, try to wear something that you know you feel great in, something you love, something that feels like an authentic representation of your inner hooper. Why? It’s a fact that when you feel like you look good, in whatever way that might look for your personally and your specifically beautiful personality, you’re going to feel a whole lot more comfortable in front of the camera. And when you’re comfortable, we are too.
6. Soundtrack: Hoopers can hoop to practically anything musically these days. I think we’ve truly seen and heard it all, but a little forethought regarding what you’re going to hoop to will pay off handsomely. Take a little time to investigate your soundtrack selection prior to filming your video. Trust me, nobody likes it when the audio is stripped from your video because the rights to that song are owned by the Warner Music empire, so take a look on YouTube first and see if the song you want to hoop to is already on YouTube, preferably posted more than once and has lasted for several months or more without deletion. If it is, you’re most likely going to get to keep your song. If it’s not (and the song isn’t incredibly obscure), chances are it’s you’re going to lose your soundtrack. Choose something else. YouTube has music you can add to your video too, but the problem with it is that it’s never the music you were actually hooping to – which brings us to:
7. Musicality: Most hoopers watching hoop videos are already rooting for you before you even begin. They want to see you connect with your hoop and throw it down or flow it out. A big piece of this ever really happening for your viewers has to do with your musicality – your state of being musical, your connection to your soundtrack, your ability to hoop to the music being played with the goal of relating your hooping to the music’s rhythm, melody, and/or mood. If your soundtrack selection is really fast, for example, and you’re hooping is really fast and matches the beat, the audience generally becomes very excited. We’re experiencing it with you! But if you’re hooping very slowly to a fast song, or you’re off beat or rather disconnected from your surroundings (and in a video your music is a big piece of your environment) it can begin to translate to a disconnection for your viewing audience as well. Hoopers that connect to their soundtrack are infinitely more enjoyable to watch – so choose music you love, choose a song you emotionally connect to that makes you feel happy, or sad, or angry or makes you want to get fun and funky.
8. Connect: This sounds really obvious, but it isn’t. Don’t forget that the camera is your audience. While there are those situations where a voyeuristic experience might be a little beneficial – like a particularly moody and intimate song selection, or perhaps you have a storyline where the lens is best utilized as a casual observer, but generally speaking the audience is watching you and when you notice that we are there we feel included, we feel invited, we feel like you want us to watch, we feel part of your video experience. It sounds simple, right? And yet there are so many videos where hoopers spend the majority of their time with their back to the audience or ignore the camera entirely, and thus ignore the people they want to engage. We don’t need constant acknowledgement, but even a visual hello at the beginning and the end that says you knew we were there will help you in engaging viewers tremendously.
9. Video Effects: After you’ve finished shooting your video, when you’re putting it together there are all kinds of video effects in a can these days that come in certain software programs, but my advice is to be careful when it comes to using them. While they can be utilized as extra special treats to the eye or to add an element of interest at a time when your video might need that little something extra, an overuse of effects can hurt your video. My rule of thumb is that if you get lost in the translation for too long, again, if we can’t see you, we can’t connect with you.
10. Final Presentation: When you share your video, resist the urge to say anything negative about it or apologize for anything. Refrain from adding visual notes throughout your video like “this is where I drop the hoop like an idiot” as we can already see you drop the hoop. We all drop our hoops. We’ve all had our own share of hooping challenges and we generally tend to give people the benefit of the doubt quicker than we give it to ourselves. Try to let your video speak for itself, no excuses, no apologies. And titles like “Watch Me Fail at Chest Hooping” aren’t going to get you much sympathy – or an audience. Choose a title that highlights the good points about the video, or location, or maybe the soundtrack if you can’t think of anything else. In the information area share some facts if you want to like what inspired your video or where you filmed it and what music we’re listening to and – BAM! You’re ready to roll and we’re ready to watch.
The only other question is where are you going to upload it. One of our favorite places is Vimeo simply because the quality has a tendency to be higher and the troll factor is generally rather minimal to none. They also appear to care a little less about your audio choices, not that they won’t strip the sound of anything owned by Warner as well. Regardless of where you upload your video though, once your video is online, why not post it in our Hooping Videos forum. We’d all love to see it and all you’ll need to do that is the url and our system takes care of the rest.
In closing, I hope these ten tips aimed at improving your video future will aid you in engaging your viewers and giving you greater self confidence in front of and behind the camera. Happy hooping and happy filming!