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Production: Planning and Recording

Before shooting a video, you need to do some planning. Develop a script or storyboard, gather equipment, and set up the shots.

Production Equipment

The equipment most often used for local production is a digital video camera with a built-in microphone. However, a still camera with a video setting or even a smartphone works fine. Additional equipment might include a tripod for supporting the camera, a wired microphone, and an auxiliary lighting kit. The addition of a camera tripod is the easiest way to improve the quality of any video production. By stabilizing the image, your video becomes more crisp and sharp.

You can spend lots of money on cameras. However, for short video production start with what you have. A smartphone works well for many productions. Be sure to turn the iPhone or other smartphone so it's wider than it is high. Another option is a still camera with a large memory card such as 32GB or 64GB.

If you've got money to purchase a video camera look at the review from CNET. Consider a well-known brand such as Sony or Canon. If you're doing a lot of outdoor projects with involve movement, consider a GoPro.

With hardware and software changing so rapidly, this course won't suggest specific models of hardware.

Videomaker magazine uses the following criteria for evaluating video hardware and software.
1. Empowerment: How effective the product is at helping videographers be more effective storytellers.
2. Ease of Operation: How user-friendly it is.
3. Affordability: The product must provide a good value for the price.
4. Quality: It must be put together well, durable and show excellence in its category.
5. Innovation: It should have some inventive or original features.
6. Dependability: It needs to be able to endure the rigors of active video production.
7. Performance: It must work consistently and effectively.

Collamer, Willow Jon (November 2015). Big budget impact with low budget gear. Videomaker, 34-38. Available through IUPUI.

Production Terminology

Media production has its own language and terminology. Some of the terms are shared or adopted from the field of photography. In order to speak alike, you need to understand the general meaning of these basic video production terms.

Scenes and Shots

A number of terms are associated with the visual sequencing involved in video programs. Scene refers to the location of the subject. Shot means the action being recorded. Shots are further denoted as being either a long, medium, or close-up shot; all referring to the relative distance of the scene from the viewers’ or camera’s perspective. When the video subject is a person, the shots can be further defined as being either a head shot, a head and shoulders shot, a waist shot (from the waist up), or a full shot. A sequence is a series of related shots that depict one idea.

For example, let's say you're doing a golf video for a high school golf class. The first shot shows a golf grip where the hand forms a "V". The camera pulls out to a medium shot showing that the "V" of the hand grip should point toward the golfer's shoulder. The final long shot shows the golfer's overall stance.


A transition is the term used for a number of video techniques that are used to connect, or join (hence the use of the word transition) separate shots or separate video sequences. The more commonly used transition techniques or types are cut, fade, mix/dissolve, and wipe. A cut is a direct, dynamic splice to another shot and scene. A fade involves fading out (from the scene to black) and then fading in (from black to the scene) on the next shot. Many cameras have a fade button you can use. When one scene is blended into the next it's called a mix or dissolve. Finally, wipes are any of a number of decorative type transitions and are closely related to mix/dissolves. Some cameras and editing systems have sophisticated wipes that look like rain falling, an iris opening, a curtain closing, doors opening, or even toasters flying! When a particular shot ends one sequence and leads to another it's called a transition scene.

Other terms define the physical movement of a camera during the recording of a scene. Pan means to swivel / turn the camera to the right or left (horizontally) from the camera-person’s position. Tilt means to vertically tilt the camera either up or down. Dolly means to move the camera physically in closer to the subject or to back out away from the subject. Truck is to move parallel along-side the subject within the scene. Closely related to these camera movement terms is the zoom, which is afforded by lens technology that allows the camera to effect apparent movement by zooming into or away from the subject.

When using any of these techniques, consider the purpose. Why is it necessary to zoom or pan? If you can't think of a good reason, don't do it! These techniques can easily be overused. Panning can make viewers dizzy. Zooming isn't a natural movement, so it can be distracting. It's like running toward someone at high speed.

Movie producers can use these techniques to produce particular effects. For example, trucking makes it look like you're "following" someone and zooming is a way of "listening in" on a conversation.

Lighting Considerations

hawkWhen recording outside, make sure that the sun is behind you and the camera. Do not shoot directly into the light. For indoor shooting, remember that the brighter the subject, the more vivid the resulting video picture will be. Aim the camera away from windows and other bright lights. Direct the light onto the subject and onto the background, but not directly at the camera. In some instances, additional video lighting is needed to supplement inadequate indoor lighting. Uneven lighting can cause as many problems as low lighting when today’s auto exposure cameras try to ‘average’ the highlighted and shadowed areas within the same scene. In general, pick shooting locations that are as brightly and evenly lit as possible.

Read at least two of the following articles:
Johnson, Marc (August 2016). 5 tips for one-light setups. Videomaker, 52-53. Available through IUPUI.
O’Rourke, Terry (February 2016). Oh crud! I forgot my lights! Videomaker, 62-63. Available through IUPUI.
O’Rourke, Terry (February 2015). The four attributes of light. Videomaker, 56-58. Available through IUPUI.
Walsh, Michael J. (March 2016). A study of Rembrandt style lighting from the three point perspective. Videomaker, 32-35. Available through IUPUI.

Chroma Keying and Green Screens

Chroma key compositing is a special effects technique that allows editors to combine two layers of video. This technique is used to remove or add a background. It's often used in newscasting and videogame development.

Referred to as color keying, the actors perform in front of a green or blue screen. In the editing process, the green or blue is replaced with an image or background video.

Read Bourne, Weland (October 2015). A guide to green screen lighting. Videomaker, 60-63. Available through IUPUI.
Vincent, Tony (April 11, 2016). My Green Screen Setup. Learning in Hand.

Camcorder / Video Recording Techniques

The effectiveness of your video production will depend on carefully setting up your camera for each shot. Read the materials that come with your camera and get to know it's features.

Supporting the Camera

Even with the high-tech "steadying" features available on many new video cameras, it's a good idea to use a tripod to ensure stable pictures. If a tripod is not available, the camera operator must adopt a stance that avoids excess shaking or movement. Some tips to improve handheld camera work include holding the camera securely against your head and eye so that it moves together with your body movement. Be sure that the camera is held in a level position. Keep your arms in close to your body with one hand on the camera body side for support and the other positioned near the start/stop button. The camera should be equipped with either a hand or neck strap; use one or both. Once a camera is dropped, extensive damage and its accompanying costly repair prices are almost a given. Both feet should be firmly planted.

When video shooting conditions are favorable, adopt a stance that provides additional camera-steadying support. For instance, whenever possible lean against a wall or structural column for support. If the subject is on a counter or table surface, sit with your elbows on the flat surface. Sometimes a structural post, a railing, or even a stack of books can be used to firmly brace the camera. When shooting subjects low-to-the-ground, crouch down, balancing the camera on your knee. If your video subject is a small child, rather than shooting down from the “on-high” adult position, it is better to get the camera position down to a level even with your subject. For even lower shots, lie on the ground, propping yourself and the camera up with your elbows. Remember that the eyepiece on most cameras can be turned up or down for easier viewing angles, and that the eyecup can sometimes be turned aside. Avoid walking while operating the camera if at all possible; however if you must walk while shooting, be sure to keep both eyes open and pay attention to the surrounding terrain.

Focusing the Camera

Use the autofocus feature on your camera for most shots. Some cameras even have an auto tracking focus setting for moving subjects; the focus is automatically adjusted even if the subject moves from the center of the viewfinder screen. However, there are some subject situations which are difficult to shoot appropriately using the autofocus camera setting. In these cases, you will probably have to use the manual focus to shoot the subject properly:

Another related focus problem or error often occurs when a camera’s zoom feature is used with a manual focus, and the camera is first focused on a subject while in the wide angle setting. Then as the camera is zoomed from the wide angle to the telephoto position, the subject’s image becomes unfocused. To prevent this error, first make focus adjustments at the telephoto position, then return to the wide angle position for beginning the recording.

Depth of field refers to the range of distance within a camera shot in which all objects appear focused. You will find that when focusing, the depth of field will be small or shallow in the telephoto position and larger or deeper when the lens is at the wide angle position. Also recognize that in brighter lighting conditions, your camera’s depth of field will be larger, while in darker lighting it will be less or shallow.

Manual focusing can sometimes be effectively used for scene transitions or scene endings. If carefully planned and rehearsed, a scene or sequence can be started by using manual focusing. Begin recording with the subject correctly framed, but out-of-focus as far as possible, and then bring the subject gradually into focus. Reversing this procedure can be used to end a scene, by gradually moving from a focused picture to a unfocused scene.

Image Exposure

problemNotice the problem with lighting in the still shot of the blacksmith on the right. Most of today’s cameras and camcorders have built-in auto exposure systems. As with the autofocus feature, the auto-exposure system is best for most shooting conditions; however, for a subject that is darker or brighter than its background, manual exposure adjustment will be needed. A bright background can override your camera’s auto exposure system, making the subject appear too dark in the picture. In such a case, zoom in the camera lens so that the subject fills the screen as much as possible and adjust the camera lens iris for a wider opening.

Some cameras have a backlight compensation feature that can be switched on, automatically opening the iris to lighten the subject’s image. These conditions suggest the use of a trial shot, that can then be viewed carefully to evaluate its exposure quality. When the subject is too bright, such as when it is spotlighted with a dark background, zoom in so that the subject fills the screen and adjust the lens iris for a smaller opening.

Read Cassidy, Kyle (August 2015). Know your exposure triangle. Videomaker, 48-53. Available through IUPUI.

Using the Zoom Lens

applesA video camera with a zoom lens allows for coming close or moving away from the subject without changing the camera position. As mentioned previously, new or naive camera operators often overuse the zoom lens feature causing their audience discomfort as they repeatedly zoom in and out from one shot to another. Do not overuse the zoom feature; in fact, limit your use to shooting situations where the zoom is absolutely required.

The still shot on the left shows apples drying on a rack. You'll want a wide shot showing the rack, then zoom into an individual apple.

In cases where use of the zoom feature is required, use power zooming for a smooth effect. Zoom in or out slowly and use a tripod whenever possible. Be sure to test the zoom before the actual shooting, to ensure the desired framing and effect. In other words, zoom in close and get the closeup image framed as you desire, then zoom out until you reach the desired starting point. Now record the segment zooming in slowing. This technique will reduce the need to pan or tilt the camera while you zoom.

Panning the Camera

Panning the camera means moving the camera horizontally from one side to another. As with the camera’s zoom feature, use of the panning technique should be avoided and used only in scenes where it is absolutely required. When required, panning should be completed using a tripod to firmly support the camera.

Panning can be used to record a setting, a landscape, or to follow a moving subject. First, decide the area that you want to cover with the panning technique. Rehearse the shot by placing yourself at the end of the panning angle, then turning the camera on the tripod (Hand held camera: turning at the waist without shifting the feet) to the beginning position. Then, when recording the panned shot, allow at least 3 or 4 seconds “hold” time at the beginning and also at the end of the sequence, in order to establish the start and finish and to ensure more smooth results. In executing the pan, move slowly allowing ample time for the viewer to take in each new image.

Using the Tilt Technique

This type of shot is sometimes useful in recording buildings, trees, or other tall subjects. The tilt down can sometimes be used as an effective introductory shot, while the tilt up is used to accentuate the viewer’s sense of height.

Applying the Fade Technique

Some video cameras and camcorders have an auto fade feature. Executing the auto fade feature usually is done by pressing a specific button switch. Pushing it before the shot starts will cause the image to automatically fade in from a dark image. Executing the auto fade while recording a scene will cause the image to automatically fade out to a dark image. This fade in and fade out technique can be used as a transition to start and stop scenes.

Audio Recording Techniques

The audio portion of video production is often neglected, but this important program component must be given its fair share of attention in order to have clear and effective sound tracks. First, when using a camera with a built-in microphone, approach your subject as close as possible for the clearest possible audio recording.

External microphones are called for (1) when the subject is far from the camera, or (2) when the location is surrounded by unwanted noise. Let's define the microphone types:

Read Welton, David, G. (February 2016). Microphone buyer’s guide. Videomaker, 22-29. Available through IUPUI.

Sit the microphone on a soft cloth or surface where it won’t roll. Eliminate background and unnecessary noise such as table drumming, paper shuffling, and prop knocking. Before final recording, do trial runs to eliminate distortion, provide consistent sound levels from the varied sources, and insure that performers use good microphone skills. In strong wind conditions, good sound recording is difficult or impossible. At such times, try covering the microphone with a cloth or foam cover (a rubber-banded handkerchief) and shield the microphone from the wind as much as possible.

A useful sound accessory is an audio mixer that allows the combining of live sounds with pre-recorded audio. In the absence of a mixer, pre-recorded music can be played live as the scene is recorded. Some cameras allow for voice-over narration, music, and other audio effects to be added after the initial video recording is completed using an audio-dub feature. However, do not count on being able to complete such post-production work without first checking the equipment available for your use.

There are a number of other audio considerations to keep in mind while producing video programs. First, develop a script. It does not have to be a word-for-word script to be memorized, but should outline all message content that is to be delivered by the on-camera performer(s) and off-camera narrator(s). Pace the message concepts, and control their rate of delivery by performers. Make sure that the listening audience can identify all sounds, and that they also identify the speakers. Have performers project their voices and enunciate clearly. Try to match the sound levels so that a strong audio track is recorded. Avoid moving or yelling into the microphone.

Read the following articles:
Ivanov, Blag (September 2016). DIY sound treatment. Videomaker, 54-57. Available through IUPUI.
Robertson, Hal (December 2013). Recording sound at a live event. Videomaker, 59-51. Available through IUPUI.
Zunitch, Peter (October 2015). The basics of wireless mics. Videomaker, 47-51. Available through IUPUI.

annetteAnnette's Reflections
I do lots of audio recording for my classes. Although my laptop works fine, I think an external microphone is more effective.
My personal preference is the Blue from Yeti.
This microphone is great for video, interviews, music, and other applications.
It contains a number of modes including cardioid, stereo, omnidirectional, and bidirectional.

Composing Video Scenes

holeVideo scenes are defined by the type of camera shot that is used. The relative length of a shot; whether it is a long, medium, or close-up shot, is dependent on how much of the screen is filled with the subject, how close the subject is, and how general or specific a view is given. Make sure that each scene is captured in sharpness and clarity. This is done by ensuring that the camera is focused on the subject and that the scene is bright and evenly lit. Make sure that the camera is held steady. You definitely need that tripod.

Who do you think lives in the burrow on the left?

Long Shot

The long shot gives a full view of the scene’s subject at a distance. Remember, long shot is a relative term. For one video, a long shot might be a whole body shot of the on-screen performer; in another, it might be a wide sweeping vista that takes in a broad view of the action or setting. Long shots are used to establish a setting, reveal the location, develop a mood, set the environment, or follow action. It can be used to show subjects interact and to connect scenes.

The long shot provides lots of visual information, but does not focus on the detail. In fact, overly long shots can sometimes leave the audience wondering where the subject is hiding. The long shot should be used where needed, but as sparingly as possible.

Medium Shot

The medium shot assumes that the viewer already has an understanding of the setting and that they recognize the subject’s location. The medium shot, like the long shot, can be used to connect scenes and to show interactions. It is often used to re-establish the setting after a series of close-ups. The medium shot gives a complete view of the subject.

Close-up Shot

Close-up shots are tight shots of the subject that focus the viewer’s attention. They can show detail. Keep in mind that if you get too close, sometimes the viewer gets confused and cannot identify the subject. Technically, the close-up shot demands for tighter control of the camera and demands optimum lighting. Overuse of close-up shots can sometimes cause the viewer to lose their sense of the spatial relationships within the setting. The close-up shot is an excellent way of showing emotions and reactions. It is also the best way of illustrating motor skill procedures, like how to knot a tie.

chickenA long shot is used to show the chicken coming in at feeding time. A close-up demonstrates how the chicken eats. The close-up would not be meaningful to the audience without the earlier shots of the chicken coming in for lunch.

Other terms are applied to specific types of camera shots: a top shot that is from overhead, a high shot that is steeply inclined downward (sometimes used to reduce impact or importance), an eye-level or chest-level shot, a low shot that is inclined upward (a depressed shot used to dramatize situations), or a low-level shot along a floor or surface. When people are the subjects, the shot is often defined as a group shot. The shot can be identified by person (the first person, 3rd person, and so on), or as a subgroup such as a 2-shot or 3-shot, making sure that production team-members know which two or three people are designated.

Read at least two of the following articles:
Cassidy, Kyle (April 2013). Shooting tips for beginners. Videomaker, 48-41. Available through IUPUI.
Lindblom, Odin (March 2015). Controlling audience perspective. Videomaker, 52-55. Available through IUPUI.
Maison, Jordan (February 2015). Dialogue with greater impact. Videomaker, 48-51. Available through IUPUI.
Maison, Jordan (June 2014). Planning vs. spontaneity. Videomaker, 48-52. Available through IUPUI.
Peters, Chuck (April 2016). The psychology of eyelines. Videomaker, 62-63. Available through IUPUI.

Setting Up Scenes and Shots

Producing good video scenes is more than just pointing the camera toward the subject and pressing a button switch. First, use as many close-up and medium shots as possible, filling the screen with the subject. You need to know the focus limit of your lens. In other words, how close can you be to the object and still be able to sharply focus the lens on the subject? If you get too close with your camera, you’ll lose sharpness. Don’t forget to check this, using your zoom lens in the telephoto as well as the wide angle setting. Limit the number of objects in the frame, thereby focusing your viewers’ attention on what is important. Get up as close to the action as possible without cutting anything out. Remember to apply the rules for composition such as symmetry and balance. Select the best point of view for each shot and adjust the framing so that the subject is well placed. Make each shot as visually interesting as possible.

Producing visually interesting video requires that subjects be placed or composed optimally in each shot. For instance, flat subjects are usually shot straight-on in order to avoid distortion. Shots of an isolated object still need to have border space around them. Solid objects are shot from an angle to show their dimensional quality. Scenes that are to be shown in depth are also shot at an angle, with objects within the scene placed and grouped for interest and unity.

Television is often referred to as a “flat” medium referring to its characteristic loss of depth or lack of three-dimensional effects. Therefore, placement of grouped persons or objects within a scene takes careful consideration. Groups need to be placed closer together than they naturally would be. Avoid large central gaps within your scenes and empty space between people. This often means lining people or objects up at a slight angle, not perfectly parallel with the camera. For instance, if the scene calls for two persons talking to each other, they might be positioned in a V-formation, close-together with the open wedge to the camera. When the performers speak their dialog, they are actually angled frontward toward the camera. However, on-screen they appear to be facing each other. If a series of shots calls for the camera moving from one person to another, don’t line them up causing them to be different distances from the camera. Rather, try lining them up in a arc that is equidistant from the lens as it pans to each performer. Care should be taken to avoid people or objects blocking other performers. Rehearse performers as they move to and from the camera rather than across the scene, and have them avoid making entrances from the side.

There are several other specific considerations for making camera shots of people. Many have to do with what is called “headroom.” Certainly avoid shots that visually cut-off part or all of a performers head; don’t decapitate people. Likewise, don’t use bodiless shots. Be sure that some space is shown above the performers head, but avoid excess headroom. Note that if you are unfamiliar with a camera, you should make a test recording and compare what is seen in the viewfinder monitor with what is actually recorded and shown on-screen. Provide enough headroom so that the shot isn’t crammed to the top of the screen. In close-ups, frame performers eyes at about 1/3 space from the top of the screen.

Center a person on-screen unless there are other persons or objects that balance that scene. Take care that performers do not seemingly lean or rest on the side of the frame. Also avoid close-up shots that combine persons sitting and standing; such scenes distort the height differences. Look carefully at the sets and settings of your video programs. Avoid over-prominent set dressings that clutter and confuse the background and distract from the subject. Look for and eliminate any background lines that merge into your performer’s bodies, causing distracting, confusing, and sometimes humorous visuals.

Sequencing is the term for linking scenes together, forming the body of your video program. The standard form is to begin with an establishing shot (either a long or medium shot). Follow with a medium shot with dialog. Then, move into a close-up (maybe to show a reaction). Follow with another medium shot (more dialog) and so forth. It is important that continuity be maintained as the program proceeds in some logical fashion that is discernible to the viewing audience. Sequences are tied to other video sequence strings by using a transition. In this fashion, the entire video program is connected together.

Read Siegel, Joshua A. (April 2015). How to hide an ugly background. Videomaker, 46-49. Available through IUPUI.

Types of Video Production

There are various types and levels of video production. Today, a digital video camera and iMovie software allows anyone to make high quality video projects. Most smartphones can even be used to produce videos.

Video productions at the professional level can be categorized as studio or field production programs. The first type is recorded in specially-equipped studio rooms featuring multi-camera support that are usually integrated together with lighting and sound systems feeding into mixing and control board panels. If the studio production is being recorded for future playback, post-production techniques can be used to add specific program elements such as voice-over narration and graphic elements, titling, and credits. Your favorite television shows and commercials are probably recorded in a studio.

On the other hand, field production programming involves the “raw” video footage first being gathered on-location by single camera recording. This video footage is then brought into editing software that can add together music and audio voice-over effects, bring in varied video clips, and add graphics, titling, and effects. This editing is done in much the same way as post-production activities for studio productions. Many of the television news programs use this approach in their productions.

The type of video production that is most commonly available for the library is single-camera production without the support of post-production facilities. Sometimes called "guerrilla" video production, such programming can still contain high-quality content and incorporate professional technical levels. Even though production is limited to a single video camera, programs can still be made that contain high quality visual and audio content. In addition, these productions have the added benefit of having been developed to meet specific local instructional needs, a strength that often carries the production above any lowered technical quality that the program contains.

lady weavingGuerrilla video productions require the producers to carefully plan, prepare, and produce their programs keeping the technical limitations of video production in mind. Although the final product won't have the glitz of a Hollywood production, single-camera productions can be both interesting and contain good instructional content quality.

On the right is a still shot from a guerrilla video created by some students on a field trip to a "Settler's Day" festival. Students took video of living history exhibits and interviewed people about their crafts and trades.

Uses of Locally Produced Video

Guerrilla video programs are completed in libraries for varied purposes. The programs are usually produced by students, teachers, or community teams. Sometimes groups, such as parent groups or local historical societies, initiate or become involved in creating a video program. Most productions are the result of combined efforts. Some are thoughtful productions, while others are nothing more than spontaneous video shoots. Student productions are sometimes made for a classroom assignment, as part of a portfolio entry, to record an event, or as a segment of a video yearbook. Teacher productions are often created to deliver instruction, to record a class for an absent or homebound student, to facilitate individual or small-group instruction, to provide a video “field-trip”, to eliminate unnecessary repetition in demonstrating a procedure or completing an experiment, or just to record an event. The most common instructional videos are step-by-step instruction, instances of presenting procedures, and teaching a process.

try itTry It!
Create a list of the types of videos you'd like to produce. What special events or other activities could be recorded? What's the value of videos?

Explore the possibilities in your library. Do you have video cameras available? Could a a still camera's video option be used? What about a smartphone? Do you have a large storage card, USB drive, or hard drive to save and edit video?

Planning the Production

Whether you're doing sports interviews or nature videos, planning is essential. A good plan will save you time when shooting the video as well as in the editing stage.

In the case of a ball game, emergency, or special activity, you may not be in control of the events. Even in this situation, you can brainstorm the kinds of shots you'd like.

First, decide on a topic or theme idea. The topic doesn’t have to be anything dramatic or even special, just something that will be useful in your library. Choose something with informational, instructional, or historical value. The video program should ideally provide content elements or messages that are not more easily or better provided by other means. If you are going to invest all the time and effort needed to make a good video, the finished program should add something of value to your library.


Creating an audio or video production is about telling a story.

Read at least one of the following articles:
Siegel, Joshua A. (November 2015). Language as cinematic structure. Videomaker, 54-57. Available through IUPUI.
Winchell, Quinn (September 2015). Finding your story’s spine. Videomaker, 54-58. Available through IUPUI.
Strickland, J.R. (February, 2015). Make a bad story better. Videomaker, 52-54. Available through IUPUI.

Outline and Storyboard

The next planning step for completing a video production is to make an outline. Begin with just the rough ideas, then go back and fill in details. Decide on scenes, their order, and how you will record each scene. Consider creative and interesting possibilities for your scenes. Think about the coherence of your video program; make sure that your audience is not left anywhere in that “what’s going on here?” state.
At this point, you are ready to move your ideas from your outline to a more visual plan, a storyboard.

A storyboard has a picture area for sketching in each scene. Think about the camera work needed for each scene. Consider what shots will be most effective and what camera techniques will be used.
On your storyboard, write in the technical directions that should accompany each scene. Also outline the script or narration for the audio portion of each scene. Consider balance in the audio and video portions of your planned shots. Decide how best to use audio with video to provide interest and information to your student viewers. Remember that this storyboard is a dynamic and changing planning document that will not exactly match the finished production. Your storyboard will probably be modified numerous times during the actual production process. This storyboard can be cut apart and rearranged to change the sequence of scenes or to make room for additional scenes to be inserted. Some people use 3" X 5" index cards for their storyboard outline to facilitate such changes. You could also create the storyboard on the computer.

woodMake sure that your video is more than just “talking heads.” An advantage of video is that the picture can make things “bigger-than-life”, the viewer can have a “front-row-seat” to see the action. Video is for action, something should be happening on screen. Video can also be “better-than-life.” By that we mean that video can always work, it can be safe, it can be made to not forget or leave out an important detail. Video can model the correct way. Video programs can be designed to demonstrate, to inform, to instruct and yet still be interesting.

A good "how-to" videos shows lots of close-ups of how the work is done.

Skim the following resources:
Storyboard: A Tool for a Successful Video
Gorscak, Katie (April 25, 2014). Storyboarding is Key to Successful Storytelling. DigitalGov.


One way of adding interest to a video is to incorporate graphics. Start out your program with an eye-catching title. You may have a camera with a built-in digital titler. Consider the color and size of digital titles. Decide if the title will be placed on a color background or overlay a scene being shot, and consider the contrast. Make sure that the title will be easy to see. Even if your camera does have the capability of making and recording titles, you may choose to make a professional-looking title by more traditional means, such as a graphic sign, a computer display, or some other creative form. Whenever possible, match the title and its look to your program’s content. Consider creating a desktop presentation in PowerPoint. Then, record the output or shoot it off the screen. If you're planning to edit your video, it's easy to add graphics and titles later.

Incorporate other graphics into the program content, building them into the storyboard outline. Would the inclusion of a list, the steps of a procedure, a review outline, new terminology, a diagram or drawing, or some other graphic add interest and information to your video? In some instances, graphics can be used as transitions to move the video from one sequence to another, to chunk content into manageable segments, and to organize the information for the viewer.

If you are making your own graphic materials, here are some production guidelines to remember for video graphics:

In addition, consider using short segments of existing video footage. If commercial footage or footage from any source other than locally produced video is to be used, then appropriate copyright considerations and procedures should be followed; i.e. meeting fair use guidelines, securing permission, citing the source, etc. Remember that electronic motion video clip art, stock video clips, and graphic clip art can all be incorporated. Images from digital cameras, document cameras, and images shot off computer displays can also be used.


Make your program interesting by incorporating realia, props, and examples. If you're teaching about rocks, have a variety of rocks on hand. If you're talking about a particular country, show exports from the country. Consider adding excitement with the introduction of novel objects and actions such as songs, dance, color, and costume.

woolExamples are an essential element in learning a new concept. Students need to see both examples and non-examples, good and bad, as well as appropriate and inappropriate. The women in the video on the left showed the correct and incorrect way to card wool.

Don’t forget about the setting. Is the program being shot indoors or outdoors, or both? What about the weather? Visit the setting, think about the visual composition, the visual background, background noise, and other interference. Look at the lighting; is the scene well lit, evenly lit? Will auxiliary lighting be needed; is such equipment available? Will the production need scenery or backdrops to be developed, collected, or assembled?

Another way to add visual interest is to change or add movement to the video. Performers movement or physical movement of the camera or lens will change the view. Use psychological movement through the sequencing or editing of your video. Be sure that your program moves. In other words, performers should change from sitting to standing, from standing to walking, making sure something is happening on-screen. Change the viewpoint by varying the size of shots from medium shots to close-ups. Use a minimum number of long shots, only where the setting needs to be established for the viewer.


If your actors will be doing a lot of reading, they'll need a telepromoter. This is a video screen that displays their dialog.

If it makes sense for a laptop, tablet, or smartphone to be part of the scene, it's possible to just use a word processor to display the text. Apps such as Video Teleprompter Lite (iOS, free) are specifically designed for this type of work.

If you're in a room with a large screen, use a laptop and project with PowerPoint or a Word processor.

Of course, you can also go "low-tech" with cue cards on posterboard.


Another consideration is the angle of shots. In most cases, scenes are shot with the camera placed slightly above or about level with the subject for an objective point of view. Consider what a more subjective view of the subject does to the visual content. What about an extreme angle from the camera lens? Does a head and shoulders shot of a subject taken from a knee level angle flatter their image or make them more imposing, even sinister looking? However, variety in the angle of shots can be incorporated without changing the viewpoint from objective to subjective. Vary the angle of shots by moving to different positions around the subject. Would an over-the-shoulder shot be appropriate?

Some people write out a detailed, almost word-for-word script; while others incorporate enough script outline into the storyboard. Regardless of the detail that is contained in your planned script information, the following considerations for message design are needed:

The audio portion of your program can also be developed to add interest. Appropriate music can be selected to match the content messages or set a mood. Sound effects recordings can be incorporated to bring in sounds of nature, industry, technology, etc. Sounds can be recorded at a remote location and brought into the video. The video can incorporate character voices, multiple narrators, and live sound effects.


Think about credits. At the very least, a credit graphic should list “Produced By” followed by the names of all persons involved in the production. A professional touch is to have a fifteen to twenty second leader at the beginning of the video with a one-page “slate” graphic that contains information such as the title, production credits, production date, and the program length. This is very useful if, years later you want the basic information about the video. It can always be edited out in your professional production.

The completed storyboard outline provides a step-by-step plan for completing the video production. It provides a rough visualization of the finished video product. It contains the technical instructions needed by the production team. At some point though, the planning process must be completed and the
production team members must move on to the production process, the making of their video program. Remember that last minute changes can still be made while the video is being shot or even later, if the program is being edited or any post-production processes are completed.

Preparation Before the Shoot

After planning for the video program is finished, several activities should be completed before beginning the actual video production. These activities are (1) equipment preparation, (2) materials preparation, and (3) performance rehearsal and preparation. These areas of readiness can have almost as much impact on reducing the time spent on actual production and improving the program’s final quality as complete planning and a storyboard.

First, make sure that the equipment is ready for production. Practice hooking up and running the equipment. In most cases, you will rely on powering the camera unit from a nearby electrical outlet. Make sure that needed extension cords are arranged. If the shoot is to be made on a location without access to electrical current, make sure to check for batteries and recharge them if required. Don’t forget that some microphones are battery-powered.

Materials preparation usually means making sure that all the graphics, props, scenery, etc. are ready to go. If music effects are needed for the production, ready any recordings. All materials needed to complete the production, such as titles and signage, should be prepared and ready for the shoot. Secure a new storage card. Cards are relatively cheap and you don’t want to risk marring your production by using an old card. Be sure the production schedule allows reasonable amounts of time for this preparation segment.

Finally, rehearse the entire production, first without recording. Stage and walk through each shot, finalizing the performers’ positions, the actions, camera positions, and lighting. Insure that on-camera performers maintain eye contact with the camera position, that they project their voices, that their narrative follows a logical pattern, that ideas are completed, and that the performers speak with enthusiasm and avoid the huhs, okays, and umms. Performers should work toward the delivery of natural speech and avoid reading their notes and scripts. Be careful that nothing hides the action, that bodies and hands do not block the view from the camera. Work toward the performers appearing comfortable in the setting. Check the program's continuity; that it contains an introduction, a main body, and a conclusion.

Read Bourne, W.H. (May 2015). Rehearsing with actors. Videomaker, 52-56. Available through IUPUI.

The last preparation needed is to create a test video, a rough recording of the entire program. Then the entire production team should critically view the entire test video and examine the audio and video content. Look for ways that the quality of your video program could be improved. In audio content, check that the volume is high enough to be clearly understood, but not so high as to be distorted. Check that the performers speech rate is not too slow or too fast to be understood and that the message is delivered in a lively, enthusiastic fashion. Look for speech distractions or needed improvements in pronunciation and enunciation. Can the volume be varied to add emphasis and interest? In the same fashion, examine the visual quality of the test video. Are the shots tightly framed and positioned to give optimum and interesting views? Are the visuals focused clearly? Examine the lighting of each scene and decide if changes or additions are needed. Overall, does this rough video program maintain continuity and interest throughout, or does it drag in some sections? Brainstorm possible ways for improvement and decide who will be responsible for each remedy.

When all the equipment is available and prepared, conditions are ready at the setting, all materials are produced or secured, and the performers rehearsed, then you are set to complete the actual video shooting.

Shooting the Video Program

Today with remote controls available for cameras, it is possible to plan, prepare, and produce a guerrilla video solo; however, such attempts at creating quality instructional video programming are not recommended. When attempted alone, these programs are usually not optimum. The types of camera shots are usually limited, tightness of framing of scenes is lost, and critical attention to diverse aspects such as lighting, audio levels, and movement is generally lacking. Small-group productions work best with two to four production team members. With three team members, you can have one person operating the camera, one and sometimes two people performing on camera, and the third person serving as the director/setting manager. Larger production teams usually have about three team members doing most of the work, learning the equipment and processes, and the other persons not getting totally involved in the project and its inherent learning.

Plan to shoot more than one take of your video program. Then you can choose the best shots to incorporate into your final video production.

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