Lights, Camera, Action???

The online module due date is looming in the near future, and I have begun shooting some of my lectures to post in my course.  I feel comfortable using Canvas as a learning management system and have no problem with content, but I am stepping into realms unknown with video production.  Due to my video inadequacies, I sought the advice of John Potter, the Senior Vice President of Professional Development for the Radio Advertising Bureau.  Potter has been working with the RAB for more than a decade and has in large part been responsible for their training videos and materials.  I asked him to provide a set of basic tips for the beginner videographer.  Here they are…

  • Use a tripod. Stabilization for the camera is key.  Never try to handhold the camera.
  • Record audio using an off camera microphone. Most cameras have an auxiliary audio input; use it.  Audio quality is more important than video quality.
  • Use visual cues or hand signals for scene cuts and retakes, so you can scrub to the appropriate edit and then make your edit.
  • Always record in the highest quality the camera has to offer (preferably 1080P). You can always reduce quality when you render for reduction in file size, and you will have the opportunity to zoom in without losing resolution.
  • Be sure to fully light your shot. On the cheap, you can use shop lights.  Position two lights, one on either side of the talents with one a bit closer to create very light shadows.
  • Manually focus the camera; otherwise, it may hunt for the focus causing it to go in and out of focus. In addition, set the aperture manually to reduce lighting fluctuation in a shot.
  • The Hollywood standard is to have change in the scene every 3 seconds. Although this may not be feasible for an online course, it is important to include changes or motion as regularly as possible to keep attention.  This may be as minor as a camera pan or a new bullet point appearing onscreen.
  • Recommended video editing software for people on a tight budget would include Sony Movie Maker or Adobe Premier Elements. Free software recommendations would be Windows Movie Maker or Apple iMovie for Mac Users.  Another mid-level Mac program for editing would be Final Cut. (Audacity would be Potter’s recommendation for free audio editing software)

With these eight tips, it should be possible to create a video that appears to be high quality for the budget conscious student, and I can remove that question mark after action.

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7 Responses to Lights, Camera, Action???

  1. Jason Dunbar says:

    Hi Ben,
    Thanks for the tips. I think one area I need to focus on in video production is the lighting. The native lights within the cameras are not always adequate enough for dark rooms. Likewise, overexposure will create shadows (as you pointed out) which can make the video look even worse.
    With regards to video editing software, I’ve personally used Apple iMovie. It pretty straight forward and doesn’t take a lot of technical knowledge to use. I also have an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription and will try to use Adobe Premier Elements for future projects.


  2. Hi Ben,

    All of your points reflect very good advice. I especially like what you said about audio being more important than video.

    The only mention that I would caution people on is the idea of cutting every 3 seconds. Reading that I would worry that someone might arbitrarily make cuts. After years of editing I would have to say that the way a video is cut can create a rhythm or feeling. Being sensitive to the content is an important aspect of creating a nicely cut video. In some cases more rapid cuts suits the information and in others you may choose to hold off on the 3 second rule. I’ve even heard some critics find the 3 second Hollywood cut technique to be rather dizzying, this coming from friends of mine who are high level Hollywood/NYC editors. I appreciate the expertise of your SME however I do respect the conversation that occurs among professional directors and editors.


  3. mdame2 says:

    I loved all the hints. They are a good reminder not only for the online modules we’ve turned in but also for the webinar due. I know I myself am rather apprehensive about creating this and I feel like these tips will help. I have used Apple’s iMovie which is very easy to use. Final Cut Pro is another great choice for people just getting started who want more professional quality. I appreciate the fact that you went to an expert. Too many times we are given the tools and info to create out product but not the best tips and tricks to create a great product. Thanks so much for sharing.


  4. pmdelgreco says:

    Hi Ben

    I, too am a novice of video production and will be shooting next week. Thanks for the tips. I am a bit nervous. I did, however do my first screen cast a couple of weeks ago. I used Adobe Captivate, it’s web authoring software and apparently it has video editing features also. This is my first semester and I am amazed at all the tech tools I am using! Hopefully by the end of the program I will be a pro.


  5. rmsalas72 says:

    I found very useful all the recommendations, suggestions, and reflections you posted in your blog. An idea that resonated for me was about audio quality is more important than video quality. That is so true! even though I am a visual learner, I agree with the importance of good audio in a video. I tried Audacity for recording video narrations, and I am always unsatisfied with the audio quality of my videos and online presentation. I found this article when I was searching for good advice about improving audio quality when recording at home. I will try it to improve some projects I want to include in my ePorfolio.
    I am so glad for this tips. I truly appreciate them as a beginner videographer. If you ever think of making a series or video tips for beginners, I am sure it will be appreciated to have some audiovisual demonstrations of these tips! Thanks for sharing : )


  6. Curt Pavia says:

    This is a great set of tips for video production. I have some experience but none of it to a professional level, although I have done some professional photography and learned a ton about the importance of lighting. Cropping and setting up a scene is very important too and having a variety of different camera angles helps create interest in the videos. I like the tip on audio; ever since I started doing web conferences, screencasts, podcasts, etc., I use an external USB mic rather than the built in mics on the computer or cameras. Even with a fairly inexpensive ($40-50) microphone, you can get considerably better audio quality.


  7. Liz says:

    Nice list. I think that many of these apply in my desktop publishing/video productions classes. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of a steady camera (tripod!) and good audio equipment. Both will make/break a video/audio project. Nice work, thanks for posting!


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