Video Basics – Intro to Videography

Video Basics

This is a summary of pre-production (before shooting), production (shooting video) and  post-production (editing video) for my COMM 240 Multimedia class at St. Cloud State University.  This list includes many  items you should know before heading out on your first video shoot.   Videographers, to your cameras!

See also: Panasonic AC90 camera guide

Panasonic AC90 view indicator

Jannet Walsh


  • Before shooting video – Choose a story or event that works for video.  (My students will  have a specific  video assignment.)
  • Identify people in your videos – Always look for diverse perspectives for your story.  If you have someone in your video and do an interview, get their first and last name, job title if it applies to the story for title slide and writing about about your video.
  • The question – Write interview questions, or even better, just notes, before heading out on your video shoot.  Be ready to ask more questions on the spot.
  • The interview – A good simple questions that can really help is this:  “Tell me what’s going on today at this event or topic (be specific).”  The person you are interviewing will then start to tell you in their own words, making for the audio to sound like it is a conversation.  In most cases this will work, but not always.  Be ready with more questions and ready to think on your feet.  Most important – When the person you are interviewing is talking, just listen and keep your mouth closed!
  • The reporter or narrator – How does the person asking the question fit in the video?  Will there be a person in front of the camera asking questions or invisible to the viewers?  It’s not always necessary to have a reporter or narrator in a story.  You can always shoot the reporter or narrator, but don’t have to include in the final video.  There are always options you can decide in post production.
  • Video as the story teller – Show me, don’t tell me – Use the video to tell the story.  It can be more interesting to watch an event, than have someone tell you everything there is to know about an event or topic.
  • Shoot and shoot more – When you think you have all the video you need, shoot more!  Why?  It’s much easier to shoot more when you are out with all your gear, than having to go back out, and might not have another opportunity.

Production – Shooting video

    • Basics for Video literacy 
Video is all about planning what shots or elements are needed to tell a story.
    • Audio drives everything you see in a video story.  It’s video, but the audio, like a radio story, will make or break your story.  Viewers can watch bad video, but listening to bad audio can be unbearable.  The spoken word, the oldest form of storytelling, still drives high tech storytelling in video.
    • Basic Four Camera Shots – still and video
      1.  Wide shots – The scene setter showing an over all view.
      2.  Medium Shots –  most shots are medium
      3.  Close-ups shots – details shots help advance the story
      4. Long Shot  – uses a long lens or long focal length, giving the appearance of compression.
    • 10 second rule – Shoot at last 10 second each time you shoot video.  Most clips only go about 5 seconds, but the extra space allows you more opportunities for use.
    • Keep it steadyUse tripod always! Use tripod always! Use tripod always! You want steady video. The exception would be for shooting handheld shot for effect or tracking your subject. (Use camera stabilization if shooting handheld.)
    • Zooms  – You can shoot  zooms, in and out for shots, varying distance. It needs to be smooth or don’t bother with a jerky video clip.   Shoot varieties of shots.  Better yet – The zoom effect can be added in post-production, called the Ken Burns effect.
    • The Rule of Thirds   
Basic composition  – The rule of thirds helps create a dynamic balance in your camera frame, still and video.  Divide the frame into three rows and three columns. (Don’t actually mark your camera with a grid!)
      Look for the intersection of the lines, and place your main subject at the  intersection of the lines.  Studies have showed it’s the most pleasing locations for viewer to look at the main subject in the view finder.

  Helps to give viewers a place to rest their eyes.  It’s not an exact science.
    • Horizon lines – Use the horizontal lines to place the horizon lines of scenic locations.

Camera Shots

Visit this website for examples of video shots.

  • Extreme wide shots – Shows the entire scene of a location, giving viewer an idea of the location.
  • Very wide shots – Shows less background and the subject is almost not visible.
  • Wide Shots – You can see the subject and there is less emphasis on the background.
  • Medium shots –  Shows the subject closer, with less background.
  • Medium close-up shots – Shows the subject even closer and can see features and expressions.
  • Close-up shots – Shows the subject’s head and shoulders.
  • Extreme close-up shots – Shows the subject in the frame, eyes and nose.
  • Cut-in shots – Shows some other parts of the main subject, not the face and shoulders.
  • Cutaway shots – B-roll, or background, that is used to transition  between shots or shows show other shots of the environment.
  • Point-of-view shots – Shows a scene from the subject’s perspective.  The camera view feels like the subject shooting the scene.
  • Weather shots –  The subject is the weather and can be used for background, transition, or graphics.
  • Handheld and follow –  You are holding the camera, or mounted to your shoulders, and you follow the subject while walking.
  • Eye level angle – The most common view, being the real-world view from the view of the subject.
  • Low angle – Shows the subject from below, appearing to be more powerful. Camera is on the ground looking up.
  • High angle – Shows the subject from above, camera view from above head of subject.  Angle makes the subject appear less powerful or significant.
  • Bird’s eye view – The scene is shown from directly above the subject, somewhat unnatural point of view, use for dramatic effect.

Camera movement techniques

  • Zoom in and out – Camera  is moving closer to or further away from the subject.
  • Pan – The camera view moves left and right, no vertical movement.
  • Whip Pan – Is a pan movement that moves sideways very quickly  into indistinct streaks.
  • Tilts, high and low – The camera moves up an down, not horizontal movement.
  • Dutch Tilt (Also called canted) – The camera angle is slanted to one side
  • Tracking – Camera is mounted on a camera dolly, or rails the the picture is being taken.
  • Learn how to do tracking with a tripod.

Time lapse – You can shoot time lapse in two different methods:  Shoot video and speed up the video in post production or simply use the time lapse setting in your camera, an easier and better method.  The camera is always on the tripod. Make sure the camera and tripod are completely locked down and there is no movement.  If it’s windy, weigh down the tripod with bags, weights or rocks.

The time lapse settings in camera will help you calculate how much video to shoot depending out the length of the clip you need for your video. Shoot a least 15 second in the time lapse mode or more to make sure you have clip that’s long enough for use.  Shoot more than one clip to be safe so you don’t have to re-shoot.
Composition concerns
Headroom – The amount of looking room or leading room a person has in a frame.

Post Production

  • Editing programsAdobe Premiere Pro CC (Creative Cloud ) will be used in COMM 240.
    Visit this tutorial about Adobe Premiere.
  • Planning the Edit – Plan out your video story before you begin to editing.  You want to have a plan before you start to edit. Think about how the story starts, what do you need to include and what can be removed.  The ending must also needs to make sense and natural.  Make notes on your audio  that answer who, what, where, when, why and what really is important.
  • Audio First  – What parts of your interview will be used?  What music for intro and ending of video will you use?  Think of what parts make the sense, like a radio story.
  • B-roll, background video, video shots that can be use to help tell the story. As soon as you think you have enough B-roll, shoot more.  It’s better to have too much video than not enough.
  • Matched action – shoot the same action from different angles or views.  Makes it look like you had more than one camera.  Change the viewpoint at least 30 or more degrees.    This simulates having two more more camera at one location.
  • Jump Cuts  – Don’t shoot from the same angle or it will appear as a jumped, close than far away.  It can be hard for the viewer.
  • Post production camera effects – Photo and video with Ken Burns Effect – Scale and movement can be added to a photo or video clip.  This is a preferred method to doing a zoom while shooting.

Additional production tips

  • Stay focused, also the camera lens, on your story topic.  Your video will be 2 to 3 minutes in length only. (COMM 240 class video)
  • Get the best clips you can to tell the story. When you thin yo have enough, shoot more.
  • Mix up your shots with multiple camera shots.
  • Transitions – You do not have to use transitions on all your clips.  Most news stories don’t have transition.  You will  be using on specific transitions to keep your video looking professional.  Fades, dissolves, and additive effects.
  • You can move your video pieces around in Adobe Premiere CC (Creative Cloud).  If you have  a clip you want near the start of a video, you can move it to the start.

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