Basic Steps to Producing a Great Video
Movies and TV shows might make it look easy, but creating a good video can be quite involved. While you don’t need to be the next Steven Spielberg, a few foundational steps will go a long way in bringing up the level of your production. These seven pointers are just a few to get you started. Since every video shoot is different, bear in mind that these are more like guidelines than hard and fast rules.
Select a good location for filming.
Convenience of a particular place may be the final factor, but still be mindful of what’s behind your subject. Ideally, look for something visually interesting or beautiful, but not distracting. Try to showcase some depth that your room or exterior might have, instead of just pinning a person against a flat wall. Things to look out for are clutter, unnecessary movement, wild colors, or anything that may take away from the attention your subject requires. Windows in the background can sometimes present a problem.
This will steady your shot while still providing the freedom to pan left and right and tilt up and down. Once the tripod is set up, look for a small bubble level near the top of the tripod. Adjust the tripod legs (or the head on a more professional-grade tripod) to line the bubble up in the center of the lines. If it’s inconsequential to your background, try to put the camera lens at the same height as the eyes of your subject. Occasionally you may need to physically have the camera move, or your content might motivate a handheld camera. In these instances, hold the camera close to your body to stabilize it as best as possible. Many camcorders also have a handheld setting which should be used.
Consider the lighting.
You often want the strongest point of light to be aimed towards your subject’s face. This may be a window, the sun when shooting outside, or a floor lamp. Turn and face your subject towards that light. If your light source is blinding the person (usually, we can blame the sun in this scenario), turn your subject a bit to the side so they’re not staring directly into the light. Avoid harsh lights directly over the subject’s head, as this creates unsightly shadows. Ultimately, shadows on the face should be minimized. There are lighting kits available through Academic ITS that will mount to the camera to give you a helpful boost of light.
Most commonly, the principle applied here is the Rule of Thirds. As you look through the viewfinder or LCD monitor, the subject’s eyes should be about 1/3rd of the way down the frame. In the picture of the bird, notice how its eye is right around the top horizontal line. To learn more about the Rule of Thirds, see this great explanation. In addition to the Rule of Thirds, pan the camera to favor the side your subject is facing, called lead room. For the astute observers, you’re right – the bird in this picture does not have lead room. Instead, the photographer chose to favor the full body of the bird. Remember, these are not rules, but guidelines.
Get the best audio possible.
For taping a single person, use a microphone: either a wired or wireless lavalier mic, a handheld microphone, or a shotgun microphone (in order of preference). For recording a group session, a boom mic, a handheld microphone to pass around, or a camera-mounted shotgun would be ideal. Use the ‘auto’ volume setting on the camera if you don’t want to worry about levels during recording. Set the volume to ‘manual’ if you’d like to control the sound for more consistent levels. Bring a set of headphones/earbuds so that you can actually hear what’s getting recorded.
Communicate with your talent.
Make sure you know what your subjects are planning on doing. For all you know, they might have a surprise walk across the room up their sleeve for midway through the video. You have expectations as well. Be sure to discuss all of these things for a smooth production.
Lastly, be prepared.
It never hurts to bring a spare battery, an extra memory card, and anything else you think you may need.