When you hit a rut in your content creation, as you most likely will do, there’s only one thing you can do: quit. You’re done. Tapped out. Creatively bankrupt. Give it up, because you’re throwing in the towel.
We‘re kidding, of course! The best thing to do is to try something new and get out of your routine. Switching up your editing style, your gear, or even your workspace can be great for hitting the reset button and getting you moving in a new, exciting direction. Here are some tips for getting out of your filmmaking comfort zone.
Right out of the gate, one of the best things you can do is to force yourself to work within parameters that you’re not used to having. This means if you’re used to open-ended videos, give yourself a 3 or 5-minute time limit. Bring along just a single memory/storage card on your shoot. Allow yourself to only shoot with natural lighting. Set an earlier publishing deadline than you’re used to. Only use b-roll shots that are 5 seconds or longer.
And you don’t actually have to see them as restrictions. You can just see them as another puzzle in which you need to fit all of your pieces. Whatever the restriction/limitation is, use it to your advantage during your project. You may end up feeling inspired and empowered as opposed to inconvenienced and embattled.
“I love you…I know,” “I’m walking here,” and “You’re gonna need a bigger boat,” were all famously improvised. Even the iconic match cut from Lawrence of Arabia was called an accident by the editor, Anne V. Coates. Now, you may not be making “The Empire Strikes Back,” but the lesson is just that for all the planning you can do, some things can just happen that you can’t plan for.
This means that you can allow your actors time to improvise takes. You can write bullet points for your voiceover instead of reading a script to make it feel more loose. The camera can be attached to a gimbal to give a more fluid look to the footage; the same goes for going completely handheld.
In post-production, improvisation can be as simple as experimenting with jump cuts, match cuts, or other atypical transitions instead of standard cuts. Music can also be added or removed to see which makes a better impact. You may never know what will work until you try it, so be open-minded to going with the flow.
If you’re already making videos without much planning, then it could work to really hash out as many details as you can before you start. Writing a script, storyboarding, scheduling, creating a shot list, using motion graphics templates, and picking out the music and sound effects tracks can all be done before a single frame of footage gets shot.
Much in the way that adding restrictions can spark some new creative fire, planning for certain compositions, shooting locations, and VFX can help you to set up some really creative shots. Techniques like deep focus, match/invisible cuts, and forced perspective can all turn out better if they’re thought out ahead of time. The same goes for location scouting–with a basic walkthrough of your shooting location you can pick out unique places to mount your camera, see which angles look best, and even look for objects or openings through which you can shoot.
Experiment With Different Gear
We are not advocating for buying a new camera, because the best camera is usually the one you have with you. Also, you may end up spending way too much time trying to learn a new interface or menu that could instead be spent shooting or editing. That said, renting is always a cheaper option than buying, and there are sites like kitsplit, sharegrid, and lensprotogo that make it pretty painless to get everything from cameras and lenses to stabilizers and accessories.
What we mean really is to try something you haven’t used before. If you’re always on a gimbal, try staying locked down on a tripod. If you typically shoot with telephoto lenses, try a prime lens and move closer and/or further away from your subject. You may actually prefer the sound of a lavalier microphone over a shotgun or on-camera mic. Instead of shooting and editing in high speed (50/60 FPS or above, typically) for every shot, try mixing up the frame rates to get different clips that complement each other.
Switching up your gear can help you produce shots or videos you never could before, and it can even literally change the look of your footage, which is a great way to break your habits and routines.
Change Your Scene
Altering the location of your shoot is a sure-fire way to make something new. Taking your camera outside and going on a hike or to a park can add some color and scenery to your videos. If you’re always outside, try setting up a very basic studio setup with an on-camera light or 3-point lighting kit inside a garage or empty room.
When it comes to post-production, you’re pretty much limited to where your editing machine is, but you can always try doing some aspects of the edit at a new location. If you’re a shreditor, coffee shops are the obvious choice here, but public libraries can be surprisingly great, not to mention quiet spaces to get some work done. And who knows, a new editing space could free up your brain from all the distractions you may have at your usual editing space.
Change What You Can Control
Some of the earlier points may work for you, but if you’re creating videos where it makes sense to have the same tone, look, and style throughout, (like, say, a tutorial series) then you may not be able to change much.
In these cases, you can try your best to experiment with your subjects. If you make nature videos primarily, try exploring an urban setting. If you make cooking tutorials, try another subject that utilizes relatively small spaces and hands, like sewing, weaving, blacksmithing, or building. Nothing about your workflow or video style has to change, yet you can open up whole new topics to cover and keep your videos fresh.
Get a Fresh Set Of Eyes On Your Video
If all else fails, you can get some outside perspective from a friend or coworker, or just take a 30-minute break and come back to your project. The outsider could catch a plot hole or they could pick up on any habits that seem repetitive. Taking a short break from your edit can actually work wonders to reset your thought process and see your footage in a new way.
Change can be scary, and doing something new or different can be intimidating. However, shaking things up can not only get you out of a creative rut, it can challenge you to find new ways to tell stories and even establish your storytelling and brand as versatile as you are as a filmmaker.