So you want to shoot a video.

In an ideal world we’d like everyone to hire Tweedee Productions for all their video production needs.  That may have been more realistic a decade or two ago when video gear was more complex and expensive.  However, as video production gear continues to get cheaper and easier to use,  many companies are buying and operating their own video gear.  Even one-person shops are looking to save a few bucks by producing their own web video or video blog. 

Realistically, we realize that not everyone with a video production need is going to beat a path to our door.  So in our never-ending quest against BAD VIDEO (echo here), and against our better judgement, we’re willing to give you a few tips on how to produce professional looking video. 

Shooting: 

Video 

Location – Choose a location that is suitable to the subject mater of the video.  Don’t shoot at a train station if the subject matter is a doctor’s office.  Avoid extremely noisy or distracting locations. 

Background – If you’re shooting an interview, choose a background that is not distracting.  Avoid bright colors, bright windows, clutter, blank walls, distracting action.  If possible keep the background out of focus. 

Support – Use a tripod for establishing (wide) shots, sit-down interviews, close-ups, long (telephoto) shots, camera moves (zooms and pans). 

Handhold – Handhold a camera for spontaneous events, up close action, or unpredictable subjects like pets or small children. 

Other Support – Use available objects or body positions while handholding a camera for stability.  Rest your elbow on a tabletop for support.  Rest the camera on the floor or find a tree or post to lean against. 

Shooting – Avoid long pans or zooms that don’t say anything.  Shoot scenes in wide, medium and tight shots.  Break actions down into a series of shots that will later be edited together to tell a visual story. 

Lighting – Use light to your advantage when shooting an interview.  A window is a great source of bright, diffused light – just don’t shoot into the window!  Avoid using a camera mounted light – probably the most unflattering light available.  Overhead lighting from direct incandescent or fluorescent is equally as ugly.  The best way to control light quality and make your subject look better is by setting up your own lights. 

Audio 

Microphones – Avoid using a built-in camera mic for sit-down interviews.  Use an external lavalier or handheld-type mic.  Keep the mic as close to the audio source as possible – usually 12-18 inches. 

Location – If you’re doing a sit-down interview, choose a relatively quiet location.  If you need to shoot in a noisy location, keep the mic close to the subject’s mouth and move away from the noise if possible. 

Natural Sound – Natural sound can greatly enhance a video.  Audio of birds chirping, water flowing, kids laughing can make a video come to life.  A camera mic will do a good job of capturing this type of audio. 

 Editing:  

Tell A Story – Piece together audio and video elements to tell a  story.  Be ruthless in cutting out elements that do not help advance the story!  Cut out dead spots, keep your message concise, and keep the video moving.  

Copyrighted Material – Simply put, YOU CANNOT USE COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL UNLESS YOU HAVE PERMISSION FROM THE COPYRIGHT OWNER.  This means copyrighted photographs, music, video, etc.  While copyright law is very complex, and I’m not a lawyer, a simple way to look at it is to answer this question:  What was the artist’s or creator’s original intent for producing the work?  Did Bruce Springsteen write Born to Run so that you could put it into your video blog?  A lot of people use the “I’m not selling my video” reasoning is a way around this law.  Sorry, it isn’t.  To be safe consider that all works are copyrighted and unless you have permission from the owner you can’t use it. 

Audio – Adjust or “mix” the audio so that your important audio elements are audible.  Mix on-camera audio, music, or natural sound so that neither element over-powers critical audio elements.  

Video – Keep it simple.  Again, tell a story – edit in sequences.  Avoid a lot of video effects that don’t help tell the story.  

Titles – Titles are a good way of supplying information that is not evident in the video alone, like adding a subject’s name or a location title.  Keep them simple and avoid gimmicks. 

And that’s it!  Follow these simple guidelines and you too could be producing great videos!  Or, you could just hire a pro. 

Gregg Schieve as a video professional.

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