Production: 5 Tips for Directing Animals

Directing animals to pose or perform certain actions can be tricky. Their ability to be unpredictable makes them a challenge to use in movies. Care must always be taken when videotaping animals. Here are a few tips and tricks to make the task easier.

  1. Make the scene look natural. Shoot the scenes in an environment where the animal naturally resides or is comfortable in. When an animal is relaxed, it will be able to act more naturally or perform tricks, allowing you to get better videos.
  2. Distract the animals being videotaped. At times, animals will approach the camera and start licking it thinking that there is food inside. Let another person or the trainer feed, play, brush the animal's fur or do anything fun with the animal to distract it from seeing the camera. Once the animal is distracted then you can start shooting. Trainers often use games or treats to make animals perform a certain action, reducing the risk of stressing the animals. It is important to note that this is only effective with tamed or domesticated animals and should not be attempted when filming in the wild.
  3. Choose tame animals over wild ones. This includes domesticated or wild animals that have already been tamed and trained. Wild animals may provide more action but tamed types are more predictable and easier to control. With the help of an animal tamer, you can create the illusion of videotaping a wild animal. A tamed animal will allow you to control other aspects and settings such as lighting and a variety of shots. Only do close-ups when shooting tame animals. High budget movies often seek the services of a renowned animal trainer or animal rental companies. For a cheaper alternative, petting zoos and some private owners can offer the same services.
  4. Construct a blind when shooting scenes with wild animals. A blind is a small enclosed area which contains the equipment you will need to videotape the animal. This will naturally conceal the video camera from the animal's view. The blind should be constructed in an area where you know where animals frequently come. Shooting using this method requires a lot of careful and detailed planning. You may be required to stay in a particular area for several weeks or months before it is completed. This is the method used when videotaping animals in the wild to document their activities in their natural habitat.
  5. Use several cameras. At least two video cameras should be used when videotaping animals. Much like kids, animals tend to be spontaneous. This is true whether the animal is wild or tamed.  In any case, it is important to use multiple cameras at one time in order to get it right with the first or second take as the specific action or pose may not be repeated. Getting numerous shots or views will also save time while on the set and provide the post production crew additional options when it comes to editing the video.

Making a video which involves animals requires a lot of planning and preparation. Do all the necessary research and preparation so you do not waste shots and keep the crew safe.

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