Summary: Remembering just a few simple rules will give you the best chance of creating good video.
Learning how to shoot video is, for the most part, on-the-job training. If you’ve taken at least one still photograph in your life, you know you get the person or other subject in the frame and press the button. That’s basically how shooting video works. You frame your subject and press record. However, framing your subject, choosing your background, recording quality audio, using good quality lighting, and a myriad of other things, will determine the quality of your video project. So here are a few tips:
Properly light the scene – This doesn’t mean you need to go out and purchase a professional light kit. Understand that your camcorder adjusts for light, or lack of it, automatically. If you are shooting a subject that is standing in front of the sun, chances are that the subject will be a black shadow. Avoid bright backgrounds, and at the other extreme, avoid poorly lit areas.
Avoid using the zoom buttons – This doesn’t mean don’t use the zoom feature of your camera, but try zooming before you hit record. Shoot some video, pause, zoom in or out, and then record some more. Excessive zooming while you’re recording can make people feel a bit ill. Also, using the extreme zoom setting magnifies the unsteadiness of a handheld camcorder. If at all possible, use a tripod when you’re zoomed all the way in.
Use a tripod! – Holding the camera steady is important to good video. Also, with a good video tripod, one with a so called “fluid” head, you can follow your subject with a smooth panning motion. However, avoid panning back and forth in a scene, or following a person back and forth. Again, you may make your audience sick.
Use the Rule of Thirds – When framing your subject, mentally divide the image you see in the viewfinder into thirds, both horizontally and vertically. Put your subject under one of the lines of intersection. Give your subject some room to move, or some space to look toward, when you frame them in the viewfinder. You can also break this rule when you want to go for some interesting symmetry.
Don’t forget about audio – Remember, unless you’re making a silent movie, you are not just recording video. Be aware of noises in the background. Our brains do a good job of blocking out background noise, camcorders usually don’t. Also, use headphones to monitor the audio. Use a recording device that can show you audio levels (an audio meter). Note in the picture at the top of the page that the videographer is using headphones. You may need to use an external microphone, either a lapel mic or a boom mic, that picks up the subject’s voice better. If you’re shooting from a distance, a “shotgun” mic is often used.
More good information is available at the Media College website.