Awaken The Video Production Ninja Within, Part 1: Ready, Set, Film.

by Dan Dashnaw in Main

Video Production SceneThis is the first in a series of posts that I’m putting together to help aspiring DIY video-makers film and produce better video for the web. Although the tips below may seem a bit obvious to a number of you, I run into questions about this stuff almost daily when talking to clients.  As such, I’m starting off with the very basics here. If you’ve already got them covered, please bear with me until the next few posts are written.  Remember, not everyone is a ninja like you…yet.

1. Gear Up. The first and most obvious step is to get your equipment on lock-down. These days, a totally adequate video camera is easy to come by on the cheap. For example, the Flip Video line of cameras will totally do the trick on a tight budget. Their top of the line HD version only costs about $229, and this will more then do the trick. If you’d like something a bit more fully featured, just shop around a bit and read all the reviews that you can before buying to get the most bang for your buck. The internet - as usual - will be your friend in this regard. Cnet’s camcorder review section is a great place to start.

Next on the ‘must-have’ list is a tripod. This is probably more essential than you might think, and it’s a definite requirement for shooting shake-free video footage. You can grab a totally decent tripod for around $50 or so, and it’ll be some of the best money you’ve ever spent. I promise. Nothing wreaks of amateur more then a shaky camera, and your tripod will keep your pans and tilts as smooth as silk.

2. Script Your Dialog. Before going into any sort of project that you are serious about, take some time to map out what you’re going to say. You don’t necessarily have to write things out word for word, but a solid outline is highly suggested. The more confident you are about what you’ll be saying, the more smoothly the recording process will go.  Spend some time rehearsing your topic to help ease the nerves and to loosen up your mind a bit.

Once you’re feeling pretty good about your delivery, you can proceed towards the lights, camera, and action phase. Of course, you’re still probably going to be at least a little nervous (or clumsy) and have to grab a number of ‘takes’, but, well…just get used to it. Almost everyone looses at least a little bit of their cool once the red light goes on.

3. Set The Scene. Before actually hitting the record button you’ll need to quickly setup and frame your scene. Set your camera up on your trusty tripod and point it at the area in which you’ll be filming. Although there are no hard-set rules about what should be on camera, your taste and judgment will certainly come into play here. Look into your camera’s viewfinder and move things around until you’re happy with what you see. Also be sure to remove any ugly, distracting or incriminating objects from view.

Another pretty important factor that is often overlooked is lighting. Make sure that the area you’re filming within has adequate lighting (yes, turn the lights on). If this isn’t enough or you wish to raise the bar a bit, you can always bring in a lighting from another room (or even a lighting rig) to supplement. Experiment with the placement until you’re happy. Keep checking your camera’s viewfinder and adjust to taste.

4. Hit Record. It’s finally time to get down to business. Get in position and fire away. If you loose your footing during your delivery (and you probably will), just back up to a recent ‘checkpoint’ in your dialog and give it another try. You can easily edit out the errors and mishaps in post production as long as you have a good take of each ’section’ to work with. This is what applications like iMovie, Final Cut Pro, and Adobe Premier are great for, and I suggest that you make friends with at least one of them for this very reason. I will have much more for you on that topic in my next post.

5. Grab Some B-Roll. B-Roll is extra video footage that you can use to cut away to within your video. It can be helpful in making things more interesting for your viewers and also in covering up visual flaws in your delivery. For example, if you’re talking about a new book you’ve written, a cool shot of the book itself could be used as b-roll. If you’re talking about your company’s local presence, various shots of the area can be used as b-roll. You get the picture. In short, b-roll can a great way to enhance the visual appeal of your video and can seriously help to break up your longer speaking segments. Grab some footage when you’re filming and experiment with layering clips on top of your dialog to see what I mean.

In my next post, I’ll be getting into some video editing and production tips that will help you spice things up considerably.  It’s no secret that serious magic happens in the editing room, and as everyone knows - Ninjas are all about magic.  See you then, oniwaban.

Of course, feel free to post specific questions in the comments below.  It’s what I’m here for.


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2 Responses to “Awaken The Video Production Ninja Within, Part 1: Ready, Set, Film.”

  1. chas

    09. Feb, 2009

    very cool info for a non-techie like myself. and as i am looking at doing some yoga video’s in the near future this could all come in very handy.

    i especially like the idea of the b-roll as a way to gloss over some video blips…i’ve been vid-casting some of my blogs posts and right now it is super raw…which i like. and yet…just a bit of technique could add a lot of interest i think.

    thanks for sharing your knowledge and experience!

  2. Dan Dashnaw

    10. Feb, 2009

    That’s great to hear, Chas…

    I’ll be getting more specifically into the editing side of things in my next post, so you’ll probably find it to be even more applicable in regards to spicing up your recorded video content.

    Care to share a link to a video that you have posted? If so, I’d be glad to take a look and make suggestions!

    All the best,


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