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Taking a video of your dog

Tips for Shooting Unforgettable Dog Videos

Dogs provide endless opportunities for hilarious or heartwarming videos. But a bad angle, messy background, or malfunctioning camera can ruin the moment, forever.

We talked to two video pros about what beginners can do to improve their results. Naomi Boak, president of Boak & Co., is an Emmy award-winning filmmaker, who produced the 2010 documentary on service dogs, “Through a Dog’s Eyes.” Michael Kanyon is a stage and movie director who is producing a documentary on an extraordinary Samoyed rescuer of the 1940s, “Rex of White Way.”

Here are their tips on shooting videos of man’s best friend:

Train your dog.

“A dog who is not trained will be impossible,” Kanyon says. Everyone has seen those great videos of Border Collies herding, catching Frisbees, and doing tricks like drawing and loading laundry in the dryer. Amazing tricks are fun to watch, but even if your dog has a limited repertoire, such commands as sit and stay can help you keep any dog in the frame.

Train your eye.

Professional cinematographers can “look through the lens and see what they are getting,” says Boak. But it takes years of practice, along with training and inborn talent, to achieve such skill. For a total novice, it’s important to practice a lot. That helps develop the ability to see exactly what is being recorded and to understand how such variables as lighting and backgrounds can make a difference in the final product.

Choose the right camera.

Think about what kinds of events you are hoping to record. A zoom lens will make agility trials and other sporting events easier to capture. Also, don’t forget about audio. A microphone attachment may be a good investment if you want more than background noise.

Let the moment happen.

Who can forget those beautiful images of returning soldiers being reunited with their dogs. In situations like those, it’s just best to start filming and keep the camera running. You can shorten or edit later. “Don’t try to stage everything,” Boak says. “You won’t get those magical moments.”

Have great, but realistic, expectations

“Filming a dog is perhaps the second hardest thing to do, after babies,” Kanyon says. For every movie hero dog on the big screen, there are six or seven canine doubles, and often each will have a different talent. “It takes a lot of skill and people to make it all look that good,” he says. “But that doesn’t mean you can’t still get good results.”
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