Tips for shooting and producing high quality videos

Tips for shooting and producing high quality videosSeveral people have emailed me asking to how to produce video blog posts. Since replying to each inquiry hasn’t been high enough on my priority list, so I’m responding to all of you publicly here.

(Of course, a simple Google search will probably reveal everything I’m about to share and more, so don’t forget to look there. Plus, check out the archives of past blog posts here that talk about using video in ministry and blogs.)

Programs I use for editing

I primarily use iMovie ’09 for all my video editing. It comes free on my Mac and is just so amazingly user-friendly. I also have Final Cut Express, but I’ve only used it a couple times to do some work that was a bit more advanced. Probably 98% of my editing is done in iMovie.

Sometimes I use LiveType, a Mac program that’s included with Final Cut Express, to create text animations like this one, too.

In the past couple weeks I started playing with the trial version of Adobe After Effects and created this cool little intro, but After Effects is too expensive for me to purchase so I doubt I’ll keep it around for much longer. It’s also pretty advanced. It’s definitely not a novice, user-friendly program.

If you’re on a PC, the Microsoft’s free Windows Movie Maker may be sufficient for your needs as you begin to experiment with video editing.

Where to get a cool intro

You can find a lot of good stock (royalty free) video footage and animations at and If you want something quick and easy that you can just throw some text over, check there first.

If you think you want to try your hand at editing an animated After Effects template, also has a lot of good AE templates you can customize with your own text, images and video clips. Unfortunately, it’s not quite as simple as dragging and dropping your content in the blank spaces, but if you committed to spending a couple hours on it and if you’re willing to watch some video tutorials on YouTube, it’s definitely doable with the trial version of After Effects.

Determining what video content to publish on a blog

For my blog here, I basically take a topic that’s related to my blog’s audience and draft a couple thoughts on paper. I then tape that sheet of paper on the tripod beneath the video camera while I shoot to make sure I stay on track and remember everything I want to say. The trick is to maintain eye contact with the camera lens and only use the sheet if I have to.

Use a clock to keep videos moving

No one likes to watch a video where someone rambles on and on in circles about something, so I use the timer on my iPod Touch to make sure I keep moving through my notes. I try not to spend more than a minute or two on each point.

Also, since YouTube limits videos to 10 minutes, a timer helps me know when I’m approaching 9 minutes and need to wrap it up. If you ever do a video interview with someone, explain ahead of time that you two have a maximum of 8 minutes to talk, show them the timer and do your best to stick to 8 minutes because it will always go over and end around 9+ minutes anyway.

Another note about interviews: when you’re shooting a conversation with someone, time feels like it moves naturally to you, but when people watch it on a video, it moves a lot slower, so keep the pace quick and don’t get stuck on something for too long.

Camera I use

I use a Canon HF100 video camera because it’s small (size of a soda can), shoots in amazing HD quality, 12x optical zoom (great for framing shots from a variety of distances), and has some limited advanced features for when I need them. However, if you’re looking to purchase a camera, the Canon HF200 is out now and seems to be a slightly better camera.

Of course, there’s the Flip HD cameras, too, if you want something that does a good job as a cheaper point-and-shoot camera.

Microphones I use

The thing many people overlook when it comes to shooting the video is that the audio quality. It’s is just as important as the video quality. Video camera’s on-board microphones aren’t entirely bad, but an external mic will make a huge difference in the overall quality of your video.

I mostly use the Sony ECM-MS908C mic for general shooting. It does an outstanding job, especially since it will cut out miscellaneous sounds that come from other angles around the camera. This mic’s audio is far superior to any video camera’s on-board microphone. Definitely worth the investment.

For interviews or for subjects that are a further away from the camera or if there’s a lot of background noise, I use the wireless Azden WMS-PRO wireless microphone set, but honestly, I’m a bit disappointed in the sound quality of these mics. They record a very low hum in the background, probably noticeable to no one else but me. It’s absolutely better than the alternative of using a standard mic under the aforementioned conditions, but you also get what you pay for when it comes to wireless mics. If I could do it over again, I’d probably save a bit longer and purchase a higher end UHF wireless mic system.

Notes about lighting

One of the biggest mistakes I made when I first started shooting video is that I ignored lighting conditions. Most cameras let you set the “white balance” to a preset of sunlight, shade, cloudy, florescent, tungsten, etc. Make sure you use that! Otherwise the people in your footage will turn out looking sunburned, pale, or worse.

Also, when I started I thought that the more light there was, the better, but that’s not necessarily true. There are two things that are important when it comes to lighting:

1. It’s best if the light is all the same “temperature” (roughly, the same kind of light). For example, try not to mix daylight from a window with florescent light from the ceiling. If it’s unavoidable, set the white balance on your video camera manually by zooming in on a white piece of paper and use the settings to automatically determine and adjust the camera’s white balance.

2. Be aware of the angles from where the light is coming. Search Google for “three point lighting” and try to use that basic light setup when it’s just you and the camera. For example, here’s two YouTube videos about three point lighting that will explain the basic concept: here and here. You don’t need to purchase expensive lights or anything — just use normal light bulbs that are all the same brand and position them accordingly.

Do you need all this equipment?

Probably not. When I first started doing my video blog posts, it was just me and my Macbook Pro, that’s it. I used Mac’s built-in iSight webcam and mic to record directly into iMovie. I slowly upgraded as I saw that the video blog posts were being received well, that I enjoyed doing them and was willing to put the time into shooting and editing each video. I’d recommend you start small and upgrade your equipment slowly over time as you learn what you’re doing and figure out what equipment you need most.

What tips do you have for shooting and producing video? We would love to hear them in the comments below!

Posted on September 30, 2009

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