• Tips for Shooting Video
• Camera Controls
• Lighting Tips
• Audio Recording Tips
• Directing Tips
• Talent Release
• Camera Menu Items
• Location Checklist
• Packing Checklist
Videography Essentials:
Key Tips for Successful Video Production
Videography Essentials: Key Tips for Successful Video Production
page one
Tips for Shooting Video
Shooting Basics
• To get the sharpest focus, zoom into subject’s eyes,
focus, and zoom out to compose the shot.
• Record at least 30 seconds at the beginning of a new
tape before shooting your footage.
• Shoot pre-roll and post-roll with an extra 5 seconds
before and after each shot.
• Keep the camcorder handy with blank tape and
batteries charged.
• Set white balance at every location.
• Keep the shot steady (do not overuse zoom or pan.)
• Use a tripod or other camcorder stabilization.
• For handheld stability, imagine that your camcorder is
a very full cup of hot coffee.
• Check the audio with headphones to make sure it’s
being recorded properly to the camcorder.
• Use manual focus if your camcorder has it.
• Keep your average shot length between 5 and 10 seconds.
• When shooting handheld, wide shots will appear less
shaky than zoomed in shots.
• Try to keep a log of what is on each tape. Not so much
that it is a burden, but more than you can fit on a label.
For more information on Shooting Basics,
visit this article, Home Video Hints: Common
Shooting Mistakes.
• Avoid telephone poles and other objects that can
appear to stick out from the back of the subject’s head.
• When shooting outdoors, keep the sun behind you.
• Give the subject proper head and looking room.
• Use Zoom in to compose your shot, but avoid zooming
while the tape is rolling.
• Move the camcorder only when necessary.
• Use the rule of thirds when composing shots, unless you have a good reason not to.
• Be conscious of tilted shots. Level your camcorder using obvious horizontal planes (horizon lines, desks or buildings.)
• Be careful of shooting a subject in front of a window or other bright sources.
Shooting on the fly
• While shooting, be as inconspicuous as possible to best capture the true behavior of your subject.
• Be aware of soft spoken subjects.
For more information on Compostion, visit these articles
Composition 101: Part 1.
Composition 102: Part 2.
Setting up a scripted scene
• Consult the storyboard and/or script.
• Time the number of spoken words at about 3 per second.
• Check battery power.
• White balance.
• Sound check.
• Light check.
• Tape check.
• Tripod lock-down.
• Time/date stamp on/off.
• Image stabilization on/off.
• Zoom in/Focus/Zoom out.
• Compose image.
• Rehearse.
• Reference Take 1, 2, etc (held right in front of the lens.)
• Shoot!
• Log takes.
For more information on Scripted Scenes, visit this
article Shooting for the Final Edit.
Videography Essentials: Key Tips for Successful Video Production
page two
Camera Controls
• Auto focus: Use for uncontrolled action
(i.e. soccer game, parade).
• Manual focus: Use for controlled situations,
(i.e. interviews, narrative scriptive shooting).
• Auto push focus: This button will override to auto focus
when pushed. On release it will resume manual focus.
• Exposure: The exposure encompasses the tools that
control light levels. (i.e. shutter speed, f-stop, gain).
• White balance: Sets the proper color balance. Place a
white object at the shot site and “set“ the white
balance button.
• ND filter: Cuts down the intensity of light, but doesn’t
affect the color.
• Zebra stripes: A tool that displays diagonal lines to
show areas of the image that are too bright. Stripes do
not show up on tape. Can be set to different IRE levels
(i.e. 70, 80, 100).
• Shutter speed: Higher speeds limit light, (i.e. 1/8000)
but make fast action shots more clear. Slow speeds
increase light, but will blur action shots.
• F-stop: Low number opens the iris (allows for
more light, higher number closes the iris (less light.)
• Gain: To brighten image use gain only after maxing
F-stop and shutter speed. Gaining makes a grainier
image, especially past 6 dB.
For more information on Camera Controls, visit this
article, Buttons and Menus and Dials, Oh My!
Lighting Tips
• Remember video doesn’t handle extremes in contrast well. Limit the brightest and darkest areas of your composition.
• Monitor your lighting setup with a professional monitor or good TV.
• Bouncing light using white cards or
reflectors (foldable flex discs) can fill in shadows and reduce contrast.
• Bring extra lamps (bulbs.)
• Soft light will help hide
• Hard light can give dramatic results.
• Lights get hot. Make sure to bring some gloves to handle your lights.
• Gold side reflectors cast a warm light that is complimentary to
flesh tones.
• Silver side reflectors give a higher contrast.
• White side reflectors are lower in contrast.
• Diffusion material creates softer shadows.
• Double diffusion material to increase
its effect.
• Diffusion material can be clipped to barn doors using C-47s (a.k.a., wooden clothespins.)
• ND filters will cut down the intensity of light without changing color.
• Don’t place bright lights such as a window or the sun behind your subject, unless you want the subject silhouetted.
• A light’s electrical measurement is
usually measured by wattage (W).
• You can roughly estimate the load
(in amps) on a household circuit by
dividing the total lamp wattage by 100.
For more information on Lighting
Tips visit this article, Illuminations:
Applying 3-Point Lighting.
Videography Essentials: Key Tips for Successful Video Production
page three
Audio Recording Tips
• Use an external microphone if you have one.
• Get the mic close to the talent.
• Listen through headphones while you shoot.
• Handheld mics are commonly used in news,
especially in situations where there’s little time to set up mics.
• Lavalier mics are unobtrusive and stay close to your talent, which make them
great for interviews.
• Shotgun mics are great for focusing sound in a narrow area and work well at
long distances.
• What you need to know about balanced audio is that it shields and phases out
unwanted noise and interference.
• Line Level is generally 40-60 dB higher than mic level.
• Unbalanced line levels work well over moderate distances.
• Unbalanced mic levels tend to degrade past 25 feet.
• Don’t move mic cables while recording.
• Avoid long cable runs to minimize interference.
• Have extra batteries handy.
• Don’t let your talent leave with your mic.
• Attenuators cut down a line level signal to make it acceptable for mic levels.
• Use an attenuator if your camcorder’s mic input is mic level only.
For more information on Audio Recording Tips, visit this
article, Sound Advice: The Right Tool for the Job
Directing Tips
• Prep Interviewees.
• Rehearse, but roll tape.
• Divide scenes into shorter sections.
• Use cue cards or prompters. If using cue cards, hold
them as close to the lens as possible.
• Shoot more than one angle of the same scene. Keep it
simple. Don’t tell actors more than they need
to know.
• Communicate succinctly and give your actors some specific suggestions.
• Clearly indicate where your
subject(s) should be looking
(into the camera or at an
• Reassure your actors. Explain
that this is not live television
and that you will simply shoot
until you get takes that work for
everybody. Nobody will ever
see the takes that don’t work.
• Don’t let all the preparatory
details of video production
overwhelm your subject(s). Try to
have lighting and prop arrangements
completed before they arrive on the set.
Keep the environment non-intimidating
and friendly.
• Put the actors at ease. Keep the set warm and a little
loose and you’ll probably get stronger performances.
For more information on Directing Tips, visit this article,
Director’s Chair: Who’s in Charge Here?
Videography Essentials: Key Tips for Successful Video Production
page four
Camera Menu Items
Talent Release
Talent Release (to be read aloud on camera):
I, ______, give ______ the right to use my name, likeness, image, voice,
appearance, and performance in a videotape program. This grant includes
without limitation the right to edit, mix or duplicate and to use or re-use this
videotape program in whole or part. I acknowledge that I have no interest
or ownership in the videotape program or its copyright. I also grant the right
to broadcast, exhibit, market, sell, and otherwise distribute this videotape
program, either in whole or in parts, and either alone or with other products. In
consideration of all of the above, I hereby acknowledge receipt of reasonable
and fair consideration.
Spell out name as you wish it to appear in credits
Name_______________________________________________________ Contact information____________________________________________
Phone_ _____________________________________________________
• Skin detail: Detects the image for skin and reduces the detail in that area,
making a subject’s skin look softer.
• Zebra patterns: (See Camera Controls section.)
• Vertical detail: Adjusts the images overall vertical detail. Adjust this to low to
reduce jagged lines and moire from your image. Backgrounds with high
amounts of horizontal detail will likely result in a moire pattern.
• Sharpness: Adjusts the sharpness of the overall image. A lower sharpness can
also help reduce jagged lines or moire.
• Spot meter: Meters the amount of light in an specific spot rather than the
average of the entire image.
• Recording mode: Regulates tape speed. For the best quality, select SP
(short play) rather then LP (long play), unless it’s more important to double your
recording time.
• Audio mode: For best quality select the highest bit depth and rate. Usually
16-bit, 48kHz.
• Audio level: If manual option is available, use this first
and set levels for each scene/subject.
• Image stabilization: If an optical system (OIS) is used,
keep on full-time. If electronic (EIS), assess quality, then
possibly use only when not on tripod.
• Zoom range: Unless extended range is critical, limit
zooming to only the optical range, never digital.
For more information on Camera Menu Items, visit this
article, Basic Training: Buttons, More Buttons.
Need more video related forms?
See Videomaker’s Complete Book of Forms
Videography Essentials: Key Tips for Successful Video Production
page five
Location Checklist
Choose a location that lends itself to the story you want to produce.
Scout at the right time. Be aware that location lighting can change.
Look at light. Most interiors generally feature low amounts of
available lighting.
Check light levels by shooting a few seconds of test
footage with your camcorder.
Check for power supplies. Is there a place to plug in a
battery charger?
Keep audio in mind when scouting locations, i.e. shooting near
an airport may reduce quality sound use.
Weather. Examine the elements, (sun, rain, wind, snow, heat, cold)
and check the forecast.
Decide where to set up. Make sure that there’s adequate space for you to set up all of your gear.
Get permission. Secure permits and other legal permissions to shoot at certain locations.
Evaluate the area. Is there cell phone reception in the area you’ve chosen to shoot? If you’re driving a long way, have you planned for
a breakdown?
Take notes, still photos or shoot a little video with a running audio commentary.
Note the time of day, the quality of the light, the sounds in the air,
and the things you felt. One day you might return.
Packing Checklist
• Camcorder
• Charged batteries
• AC power supply
• Battery charger
• Tape stock
• Lens cap
• Cables
• Lens cleaning cloth
• White-balance card
• Field monitor
• Script
• Tripod
• Tripod camera plate
• Lens filters
• Rain cover
• Gaffer’s tape
• Black wrap
• Aluminum foil
• Headphones
• Microphones
• Microphone batteries
• Cables
• Adapters
• Wireless transmitter
• Wireless receiver
Videography Essentials: Key Tips for Successful Video Production
• Light kit
• Extension cords
• 3-prong power adapters
• Gels
• Diffusion
• Extra lamps
• Power strip
• Stands
• Sand bags
• Reflector
• Heat resistant gloves
• Clothes pins/C-47s
page six
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Videography Essentials: Key Tips for Successful Video Production
page seven
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