Resources Compiled by John Albright, ACSD14 Video Production
Good Video Tips
by Vincent Soo
Published on June 22, 2001
One of the most common shooting mistakes people make is “creating” motion.
Since we are using a video camera, it is easy to shoot with the thought that you have to
move the camcorder in order to capture "everything". On the contrary, the general rule in
videotaping is to "record motion", don’t "create it."
Creating motion can be described as camera movement that is not germane to the subject.
This includes excessive panning and zooming. An example of this would be walking
while videotaping. This technique should be reserved for the pros as it is next to
impossible for an amateur to make it smooth and keep the subject in proper composition.
Pros usually use thousands of dollars of additional equipment to make this possible.
Panning from one person to another without any reason other than to include everyone in
the video? is also a very bad idea. Before you pan have a starting and an ending point in
mind. Record at your starting point for three seconds, start your pan, come to your ending
point & hold for three seconds before you stop the recording. While you are panning,
think of panning slow, then actually pan slower than what you thought would be correct.
It is perfectly acceptable pan the camcorder to follow action such as a runner in a soccer
or football game. This is an example of ”recording motion” and not “creating” it.
Zooming in and out while shooting the same subject is also a MAJOR sin in videotaping.
Not only does it place the video on the low end of the quality scale, but it gives everyone
viewing the tape a headache. One of the few times when zooming in and out on the same
shot is acceptable is when taping a wedding, speech or a play where continuous audio is
necessary. If you must zoom both in and out in that instance, do it very infrequently.
Use a tripod whenever possible. If you are shooting a situation such as a sporting event,
concert, graduation or anything from a single position for longer than 5 minutes at a time,
you should be using a tripod. Unless you are trying to achieve a certain effect, shots taken
from a tripod are MUCH better than handheld shots.
Change angles frequently to give the viewer different viewpoints. When shooting small
children or pets try to shoot at a child’s eye level. At a gathering or party, get up on a
porch, loft or balcony to get a high viewpoint.
Limit telephoto shots. In other words, make sure you’ve shot in wide angle before or after
you telephoto shots to give the viewer an idea of what they are looking at. Telephoto
shots of the far side of the grand canyons wall does nothing to display the magnificence
of the surroundings. A super wide angle shot will show this much more effectively.
1) walk with the camcorder
2) pan too much or too fast.
3) overuse the zoom.
1) use a tripod when shooting (whenever practical).
2) shoot from different angles.
3) include lots of wide angle shots.
Ten Tips to Better Video
by Robin Liss
Published on June 22, 2001
So, you want to make your videos better, but you don't want to read every article on the
camcorderinfo.com website. Well, improving your videos really isn't that hard, and if you
follow just some of the advice in this article, you'll be well on your way to making them
better. Here are ten tips for making your videos better:
1. Get a good Tripod, and Use It - The first step in improving your videos is stabilizing
them. Your camcorder may have built-in image stabilization, but it can only compensate
for so much motion. One of the best ways to improve the appearance of your videos is to
get a quality tripod. While some camcorders come with tripods, very cheap or give-away
tripods tend not to provide a very good shooting base. $100-200 is the starting range for
tripods that will be sturdy and offer smooth movements. Be sure to get a tripod with a
head specifically designed for video.
2. Learn When to Pan, Zoom and Use Other Moves - One of the most common video
mistakes is making constant movements and adjustments. Be deliberate when making
adjustments, don't make changes without a reason. Take a shot of something and leave it
there for 10-20 seconds, stop the recording and take another shot. Don't quickly pan the
camera from one subject to another. When panning and zooming, use slow, smooth, and
deliberate motions. This will make your videos much more watchable.
3. Do a Little Shot Composition - The purpose of taping something is so you will be able
to remember and enjoy it later. Before you hit the red button, look at your shot and see if
you have everything in it that you want and that it is framed nicely. Do this as you would
if you were taking a still picture; prior to pressing "record," not after. Good shot
composition uses the "Rule of Thirds." This is where you treat the screen as being
divided into a tic-tac-toe pattern. When framing a person, you want their eyes on the top
line and the center of their head on the left or the right line (i.e., facing inward). Although
this may cut off the top of the subject's head, it will provide the proper balance and really
make your shot look professional.
4. Learn Your Camcorder Like the Back of Your Hand - The best videographers know
every function of their camcorder and could operate it with their eyes shut. Having good
knowledge of your camcorder's features and functions is a necessary element of making
better videos. The most obvious need for this knowledge is to allow you to always have
your eye in the viewfinder or on the LCD screen, not looking away at the controls to
zoom, focus, or make other corrections. More than just knowing where each control is,
you should learn how all the image settings like white balance, exposure, and backlight
affect the image.
5. Tell a Story - If you don't have the time to formally edit your videos, use in camera
editing (i.e., the fancy name for pressing record and pause at just the right times) to neatly
follow some chronological path and tell a story. People will more likely feel compelled to
watch your videos if they tell a story. It matters less what the story is about than how well
it's told. You don't have to narrate your videos to tell a story; the pictures can do that.
Take a wedding for example. First, we get a shot of the outside of the church. Then, we
get some good interior shots of the church to show what it looks like. During the
ceremony, get shots of the bride and groom as well as family members' reactions. You've
now told a story about the wedding that will be interesting to watch.
6. Put a Tiny Amount of Money into a Lavaliere Microphone - The best audio purchase
that you can make if you're mostly doing home videos is a lavaliere (lav) microphone. It's
designed to clip onto the clothing of the subject (e.g., lapel, tie, or collar), near their
mouth, and plug into the camcorder to pick up the best possible speech audio. Lavs are
also small enough that you can hide one somewhere in a scene to pick up better sound
than a camera mounted mic. If you really don't think you would put a lav to any use, then
consider some other external mic, such as a shotgun or handheld. The reason for doing
this is simple; your on-camera microphone cannot be placed any closer to the audio
source than where the camera is. Even the best on-camera microphones will not do an
adequate job of picking up soft sounds at a distance. Additionally, the unwanted sounds
between you and your subject will be picked up, and with many on-camera mics, this can
include sounds to the side and behind the camera as well. External mics start at around
$30. It's great to have one in your bag if a situation that calls for a mic comes up.
7. Look Into Lighting - A lot of image quality problems can be solved by employing
some simple lighting techniques. You may not want to invest in or have the desire to
carry an entire lighting kit with you where ever you go, but you can make the best of the
natural or available lighting situations that you face. Whenever possible, shoot in a well-
lit area. Make sure there is not bright light like the sun behind a subject. If your subject is
standing in a bad lighting situation, have them move into better light if possible and the
video will look much better.
8. Interviews - A great way to improve your videos is to interview subjects. Interviews
can provide good insights through the actual words of the people involved. No matter
what the event is, a baseball game, picnic, wedding, or party, interviews can add a nice
touch. When doing an interview, frame the shot with the head and upper chest showing
and with the subject off-center to one side or the other. As the interviewer, you do not
need to be in the shot, but rather stand next to the camera. Stand on the side of the camera
that will be the open side of the shot, and have the interviewee face you. Tell the
interviewee NOT to look at the camera, but just carry on a normal conversation with you
and keep eye contact. This may seem awkward but it works really well and it is how
almost all professional interviews are done. Remember to leave plenty of space in the
shot to allow for the interviewee to move naturally and nod. This way they won't slip out
of the shot.
9. Pack Well - Every videographer has their favorite video goodies that they keep in their
bag, but there are some basic things that every camcorder owner should carry with them.
One thing is a special lens cleaning cloth that does not scratch the lens, commonly used
for glasses these cloths are great for wiping down the camera lens or LCD screen.
Another is an extra battery (put the money into buying an extra long life battery so you
"never" run out). A pen, pad of paper, and extra labels are also essentials. Bring as much
extra videotape as you can comfortably carry. It's also good to carry a set of RCA cables
(video cables) because you never know when you'll need them. A roll of tape to secure
cords and other things is a good bring-along, as well as anything else that you think will
make shooting videos easier.
10. Have Fun! - They key to making good videos is enjoying yourself. Always find new
and interesting things to do and to shoot to make your camera experiences fun and
exciting. Experiment with your camera and see what you enjoy and what works well for
you. Remember that if you're having fun, so will your viewers!
Shooting Good Video
by Prof. Jim Lengel, Boston University College of Communication
With the arrival of broadband connections in homes and schools, the growing availability
of digital video (DV) camcorders, and the improvement of video editing software, we see
more and more students and teachers using video as part of their computer and Web
projects. I've seen third-graders explain the metamorphosis of a caterpillar with a narrated
video. I've seen high-schoolers shoot and edit complex dramatic history stories with
dozens of scenes. I've visited schools where digital video production courses are a
growing part of the formal curriculum. They're using iMovie, Windows Movie Maker,
Pinnacle DV, and Final Cut video editing software, with the computer as the
development platform, and output to videotape, DVD, CD-ROM, and the Web.
Suddenly the generation that has grown up with six hours a day of television is enabled
by new technologies to produce and distribute their own media. And many teachers are
capitalizing on all this to use video production to strengthen learning.
While the kids tend to be facile with the computer and the editing software, they often
ignore the quality of the video they are editing. We've all seen examples of good content,
excellent cutting and titling and transitions, but with video that's tough to see, hard to
hear, and not professional-looking. This article provides some practical advice on getting
good video into your editing program. It won't teach you to be a videographer, but it
should serve to improve those educational video projects.
No matter what kind of camera you use, or which video editor on your computer,
following these guidelines for lighting, composition, audio, and retakes will get you
started in the right direction.
You should make a list of the shots you need for your video project, along with the
purpose and setting for each one. You don't need a detailed script, but you should prepare
an outline of the images and sounds and voices that you need. Share this outline with the
people you are shooting in advance of the session.
Make sure the subject is well-lit, preferably from behind the camera. Light from the side
that creates interesting shadows on the subject, will provide video that shows off facial
expressions, color and texture better than light from directly above or straight on.
Indoors, you may want to use an extra light - any light will do - that shines from the side
onto your subject. Classroom fluorescent lights in the ceiling can provide some light, but
their color and location is not the best for video. Supplement these with an incandescent
lamp at the side and you'll get better video.
Use a tripod if possible for all of your shooting. A tripod makes a bigger difference than
you might think. Steady video is easier to watch, and compresses better for the Web.
Carefully frame your shot in the viewfinder from the tripod before you start recording.
Zoom in for as tight a shot as you can get. Don't be afraid to let the subject fill the
viewfinder - if it's an interview, experiment with a shot that only shows the face. Keep
the clips short and active. Avoid rapid pans and zooms. Unless you are trying to create a
mood of activity and confusion, keep the background simple.
If you are recording an interview, use an external microphone placed near the speaker's
mouth. Pin the mike to the subject's shirt, or have an assistant hold the mike for you just
off-camera. You can get a small microphone from your local video or electronic store - a
standard inexpensive microphone with a one-eighth inch phone plug will suffice. Connect
the microphone to the microphone jack of the camcorder. If it's impossible to use a
microphone, shoot from less than three feet away and tell the subject to speak loudly
toward the built-in microphone in the camcorder. You can assure the quality of your
audio by monitoring it, using standard headphones connected to the camcorder's
After you've shot the clip, and while the subjects are still available, rewind the tape to
watch (also listen to) what you've just recorded. If it's not 100% what you need, shoot it
again. It's OK to shoot the same scene several times and pick the best clip later. In fact,
you might try shooting from a different angle, with different lighting, or with a new form
of composition, so you have some choices when it comes time to edit the video. It's a lot
easier to shoot the additional takes now than to try and recreate the shot another day.
Always start the camera recording at least five seconds before you start the action, and let
it run for five seconds after you're done.
Now, you are ready to shoot the video clips for your project. You don't need long and
involved clips for most educational projects. As you begin your movie-making career, it's
best to make a short video rather than an hour-long documentary. A movie of two to three
minutes is long enough to tell your story and to practice all of the capabilities of the
editing software. This means planning and shooting brief, well-defined clips. And make
sure you have a fresh DV cartridge, cued to a blank place on the tape, before you press
the record button. If your camera is not wired to the electricity, make sure the battery is
charged. Then follow these steps:
Look carefully at your storyboard or shot list to see exactly the clips you will
need. Note how long the clips should be.
Mount the camcorder on a tripod and connect the microphone.
Set up the scene and instruct any actors on what will be happening.
Set the camera to the Camera setting and remove the lens cover.
Press the record button to start the recording.
Wait five seconds and begin the action.
While recording, keep quiet and don't touch the camera or tripod.
Press the record button to stop the recording.
Switch the camera to the VTR setting, and rewind the tape.
Press the play button and review what you shot.
If you are happy with the results, stop the tape at the end of the clip and set up
your next scene.
If you are not 100% satisfied, set up the scene and shoot it again.