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5 Tips for Shooting Video Reference Without Injuring Yourself

by | Feb 15, 2017

You may remember alumnus, animator, and expert video-reference-director Erin Natal from her previous post How to Make an Awesome Video Reference. Well she’s back with some equally important advice on shooting video reference—without injuring yourself. Trust us. It is a thing that happens.

Read on for Erin’s expert tips on staying safe while you shoot awesome video references for animation.

-The Animation Mentor Crew

So you’ve got to animate a scene that requires lots of jumping and pratfalls, eh? That sounds fun! Injuring yourself while shooting reference, on the other hand, is not fun. I’m speaking from experience here.

Not so long ago, I managed to injure my hip while shooting this vigorous video reference for far too many hours in a row, paying no heed to the consequences. The consequences were, in fact, terrible, and put me out of commission for a while. It still smarts, like an old football injury.

Erin Natal’s Video Reference and 2015 Student Showcase Clip

Don’t be like me! Consider these points before you jump in (figuratively or literally).

Note: I am not a medical professional, and this not medical advice so much as it is a list of things I wish I had done instead of injuring myself. Here we go!

Know your limitations!

If you spend most of your time sitting down in front of that computer, you may not be suited to hours of doing pratfalls in front of a camera. That sounds like an exaggeration, but I did this, and it was a bad idea! If you are a more stationary person (no judgement here), know that physically exerting yourself in ways you’re not accustomed to can be harmful if you do too much at once. It’s just like starting slow at the gym. Your body is a machine, so don’t overexert yourself if it’s not well-oiled.

Take breaks.

If you’re running around in your reference and you’re not so used to that, take breaks! Give your body a chance to recover after 2 or 3 takes of hopping, spinning, dancing, etc, if it’s not something you do often—or even if it is! Everyone needs breaks.

Listen to your body!

Do not push your body past what it can handle. If you’re starting to feel drained, just stop shooting. Don’t wait until pain is screaming at you—pay attention to the early signs that you’re wearing yourself out. And if you do ache all over the next day or you’re feeling stiff, do not continue shooting that same reference. (I did this and injured myself. It was a bad idea!)

Enlist an athletic friend.

If you know someone who’s physically active on a regular basis, awesome! Maybe you’ve seen them make a perfect landing after a 6-foot jump. Cool! Don’t assume you can do this! Ask them if they’d like to be your reference actor. They can save you from loads of pain, and they may be able to pull off some moves you hadn’t even considered.

Don’t ignore an injury!

Maybe you were a little too eager to get started and are feeling a little worse for wear even after following tips one through four. If so, don’t hold off on seeing a doctor. Putting off a visit can make your injury worse, and at the very least you want to make sure that you’re OK. Trust me on this one.

Remember, you can’t animate if you’re incapacitated. Again, speaking from experience. Stay safe!

Erin Natal, Animator

Erin Natal and the Advice Wall!

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