By, Rhonda McCurry
It’s sale time and anxious buyers are scanning the web looking for the right pig at the right age. As a breeder you’ve made the decision to video a few of each litter, and put them in an online sale. With a camera in hand you head to the barn, anxious to get some video and send it to your website sale manager.
Blair Kent, Pottsboro, Texas, spends a lot of time videoing pigs. He and his father, Carl, farrowed 43 litters this fall under their farm name Carl Kent and Sons. Just this year, they’ve shot b-roll for nine sales and 127 pigs. With this experience comes a few tricks of the trade, and Kent is willing to share these tips with breeders to help them create the best image of their litter.
Kent begins each video project when pigs are eight to ten weeks old and have been on pine shavings for several days. He says shooting video before the pigs are used to bedding means they might be spooked or waste time digging. He likes them used to the pen and nearly always shoots video in the same pen in which they are fed and housed.
Kent says a comfortable temperature is important when working pigs for video because they don’t do well when they’re too warm. In his own barn he shoots video where the inside temperature sits at a constant 50 to 60 degrees.
On the day of the shoot, Blair enlists his dad’s help. Carl will run the video camera, usually a Sony handheld camera or an iPhone, and Blair will work in the pen using various tools to walk pigs back and forth and get a front and rear shot of each animal. Kent says it’s possible to shoot video alone but it’s much easier with a team effort.
“I can do it by myself but it got to the point where it was quicker for him to stand back and say, ‘That looks good or not,’” Kent says. “Working alone I was trying to do too many things at one time and it was hard to take good video too.”
When it’s time to hit the “record” button, Kent says he uses a stick with a rag tied to one end and hanging down to get the pig’s attention. He wants the pig to walk back and forth and try to get a profile shot. He also works to get a front and rear view, which is what most people want to see.
To get the pig’s attention Kent uses an arsenal of tools, from a rag to a hat to his own shoes and he only uses a broom as a last resort. The best thing to use to get the pigs head up and get their attention, he says, is to use a rag that other pigs have chewed on. There is something about the smell of another animal on the rag that he believes best gets the pig’s attention.
Kent says to be patient when videoing baby pigs but also be aware there is a time limit. He has spent 30 minutes with one before but says there comes a time when the pig is tired and it’s best to move on to the next one.
“Most of the time if I’ll just go to the next pig then I can go back to that one and it video it last,” Kent says.
Having adequate lighting is also important for successful videos. In his own barn, Kent has two tube lights hanging over the pen and a spotlight. White pigs are a little bit easier to video under these types of lights but it’s important to have good lighting for any color of pigs and any time of day.
And Kent says the background of the video doesn’t matter as long as it’s good enough for viewers to see the pig well and without distractions. He does, however, like the background to be the same for each pig, if possible.
The best tip Kent can offer is to make the pig look natural. He is very conscious of making sure they appear on video just as they would when the buyer picks them up. In fact, he wants them to appear better in person and relishes comments from buyers when they say, “This pig looks better than the pictures.”