Making a Sale Video of Your Horse

Courtesy of America’s Horse Daily

If you are trying to sell your horse, chances are you will probably need a good-quality video to send to prospective buyers.

There is a fine line between a video that shows your horse off well and a video that annoys the viewer and doesn’t sell your horse at all.

With that in mind, the Journal called Dick and Barb Waltenberry of Waltenberry Inc. for advice on making sale videos of horses. They told us the top mistakes that amateurs make in shooting videos and how to avoid them.

Good lighting is the key to any good video.

“During the summer when the sun is high and straight overhead, just like with photography, it’s not going to look as good as earlier or later in the day when the sun’s at a lower angle, and you get more light from the side,” Dick says.

The main thing is to make sure the light is coming from behind the camera. Try not to shoot into bright light.

“Shooting indoors is always a problem, unless you have a well-lit arena during the day,” he adds. “It’s impractical to try to work with artificial light to have anything look good unless you have studio lights or a show arena that has good lights. Most people’s home arenas do not.

“Outside always looks better.

On an encouraging note, video can get away with poorer lighting than still photography. “Video actually brightens up what you’re seeing, and it can intensify the color depending on how you set your camera,” Barb points out. So, if you’re in a time pinch, filming outside on a slightly overcast day might not make as bad a video as you’d think.

White Balance
“Always check your white balance,” Dick says. Adjusting your white balance on the camera is like zeroing or calibrating the camera’s color function.

When the camera is white balanced, you are giving it a reference to true white. White light is a combination of all the other colors in the visible light spectrum. If the camera is calibrated to know what true white looks like, it will then record all the other colors correctly.

Most amateur camcorders have an automatic white balance feature, and the camera performs this automatically. However, sometimes it’s not reliable, and you need to do it manually. It’s a simple process, involving nothing more than having a white piece of paper and knowing the settings on your camera. Check the manual for your camera to see how to set your camera’s white balance manually.

You should check your camera’s white balance at the beginning of every shoot and when your lighting changes, like when you’re going from inside to outside or as the daylight changes from mid-afternoon to early evening.

“Learn how to use the zoom, so you can do it with finesse,” Dick advises. “You don’t want to do a quick jerk in and out. Learn how to do it as slowly as possible. Most cameras have a variable speed zoom, and they can go fairly slow.

“Don’t worry about trying to stay in tight on the horse,” Dick adds. “Have them big when they’re close to you, but it’s OK if they get smaller when they’re farther away. For one thing, it looks more natural.

“You could try to follow them. But if you can’t do a good, smooth zoom as they move around the arena, just let them get smaller on the far side.”

Most cameras also have an auto focus function; however, if you’re having difficulty following the horse, it can cause the camera to lose focus on the horse. The Waltenberrys typically turn off the auto focus on their camera.

“We pre-focus the camera on a spot that is almost, but not quite, the farthest spot away from us in the arena by zooming all the way out to that point and then focusing,” Barb explains. “Then, when you go back to a frame that will include the whole horse, it will be in focus everywhere in the arena.

“If you then want to do a close-up of the horse’s head, you will probably have to re-focus.”

Camera Shake
“The camera operator should be invisible,” Barb says. “When you see a lot of motion from the camera, or when the camera’s not steady or the zooming is jerky, it distracts the viewer’s attention from the horse. If it’s smooth and natural, you’ll be watching the horse.”

One of the best tools to have to help steady the camera is a tripod. “Video tripods have what they call a ‘fluid head,’” Dick explains. “It has a slight resistance to its movement, so that as you turn the camera it has a smoother motion. It’s harder to have the jerkiness.”

You can buy a tripod fairly inexpensively, or you could even rent one. Be sure to specify that you need a video tripod, not one for still photography.

“Another thing you can do to help steady your camera is to literally lean against a vehicle or a fence post, or something really solid, and film that way,” Dick says. “You immobilize your body, so you don’t get body motion. And then you practice how to follow smoothly with your hand.”

“It’s easier to follow faster motions smoothly than slow motion,” Barb points out. “It’s when they’re walking that every little flaw in the camera work shows.”

“When your horse is running around in the pen, look at what you see in the background,” Barb says. “You don’t want something ratty in your background, even if it’s the neighbor’s fence. When you send the video out, people will think that fence is yours!”

“If you’re filming, don’t say a word!” Barb says. “Ambient sound is fine – sounds like the horse’s footfalls or birds singing. But you really have to think about what the audio will sound like on the tape.”

“There should be an external microphone jack on your camera,” Dick explains. “And you could put an adapter plug in there. You’re not plugging in a microphone, but it thinks you are, so you end up with no audio at all.”

Many people like to add popular songs or music to play over the video. “The problem with that,” Barb points out, “is that it’s not legal.

“People who perform and write music have the rights to it, and you can’t just take it and put it on your tape. You have to write a company, ask permission, and you pay according to how popular and current it is.

“It’s possible to get legal music inexpensively,” she adds. “Legal production music is available from video supply companies. You buy a disk, and then you listen to it to figure out what songs would sound good with your video.”

Many people make their videos too long. How long a video should be depends on what you’re going to use if for.

“If you’re making a video of a horse that’s going to be sent out to people where they’ll want to sit down in their living room and really look at a horse,” Dick says, “then your video can be as much as 20 minutes long – if you have that much material.” But don’t go longer than that.

And make sure it’s all necessary material. According to Barb, “Your video has to be interesting all the time. Your material can’t be just the horse trottingaround for 20 minutes.” You could show a horse performing (from reining patterns or jumping to railwork) and running loose. Buyers often like to see a horse’s natural carriage and how they perform under saddle.

“If you’re presenting a performance horse and you put together a bunch of short clips of it performing, people might wonder what you’re cutting out,” Barb adds. “You want to show long passes that have some continuity, whether the horse is running free or being ridden. And you definitely want to show transitions, so the viewer can see how the horse works.

“It can be hard to show a whole lap because then you’re turning in a circle, and you could end up shooting into your light,” she continues. “Or if you’re not running on batteries, you could get wound up in your cord. Just follow the horse three-quarters of the way around the pen and stop.”