Unit 3 - Video



1. Participants will identify five components of good video production

2. Participants will create a raw (unedited) video file using the recording resources readily available to the participant.


This unit covers the basics of video production. We will explore everything from the content and message of your video to the equipment needed, and rules of shooting high-quality video.


Mini-course Reading

You may have noticed in Unit 1 that the planning process for creating video was more involved than for audio. It's true because video includes both auditory and visual elements it does take more work. But that shouldn't scare you away, we are going to look at ways to create high-quality videos without needing the most expensive equipment or years of experience.

What makes good video? What are the elements which make a video into a successful teaching tool?

  • Clarity: Can the audience see and understand the visuals you are providing? This is mostly a matter of technical basics, light good lighting and sharp focus.
  • Content: Do your visuals provide a meaningful part of the message? Do the images on the screen add to your message? To make a good video, each shot should relate to the story you’re telling. A pretty sunset is probably a good shot if you need to suggest the passage of time, but is probably just an irrelevant distraction in a piece about engineering.
  • Tone and Style: Does the tone of the video also support the message? For example, if the video is about the excitement of putting on a play, short shots, bright colors, and dynamic angles say ‘excitement’ much more than long shots and gray tones.
  • Keep the Viewer Oriented: Unless trying to deliberately get the viewer lost (rare in non-fiction work), your video should always keep the viewer oriented, both physically and narratively. Where are we physically? Show the exterior of the building before you show the interior. How does this fit with what I have seen so far? How does it fit within the logical flow? Make sure the audience has a bridge between subject matters.
  • Visual Interest: Are you putting things on-screen that are visually engaging? If your audience has seen it all before, they probably won’t pay attention. If you can find new ways of showing your subject and/or visually appealing views, that will help keep up viewer engagement.

To accomplish these goals, it helps to think about the mechanics of getting your on-screen product to match them. Here are some key practical elements:

  • Lighting: There are lots of good on-line resources on video lighting, but at the very most basic level you need to make sure that there’s enough light for the camera to get a good image. Look carefully at what you see through the viewfinder, and (if you can) look at the video on a monitor or computer screen to see that you’re getting usable stuff.
  • Focus: The subject should be in focus, which you can get in your viewfinder and/or monitor. A good way to get sharp focus is to zoom all the way in, focus, then zoom back. (And don’t rely too much on auto-focus systems - they often focus on the wrong thing, such as the background rather than the subject.)
  • Shot Selection: Although it’s good to ‘overshoot,’ so you have choices when it comes time to edit, always ask yourself how the shot fits within the narrative. Yes, the flower is a pretty image, but how does it relate to your piece on bridge engineering?
  • Shot Composition: Think a little bit like a painter. When picking a shot, is it visually appealing? Is the background distracting?
  • Shoot the Context: Don't forget the shots to keep orientation for the viewer. If you’re going to go inside the science lab building, don’t forget the sign on the outside as a way of orienting the viewer. Before you do the closeup on the test tube, get a shot of the scientist in the lab showing the experimental setup. If the action moves from one location to the next, get a shot which tells the viewer that you’re moving.
  • Visual Interest: Is there a new way of seeing the subject? Maybe a close-up which shows a detail the viewer hasn’t see before? Or a high angle, looking down? Slow motion?

With all this in mind, what are the minimum steps (and equipment) necessary to create a simple, classroom-quality video?

  • Camera: Used carefully, even an iPod or smartphone can produce basic video. The limitations are audio and keeping the camera steady.
  • Microphone: Take a look at the prior section on audio. At a minimum, use an external microphone (even a cheap one) plugged into the mic jack of the camera. It’s hard to get good sound unless you use an external mic.
  • Tripod or Other Camera Stabilization: A tripod is the first choice, but you can even ‘fake’ it by setting the camera on a fixed surface. You can get a good shot by using a table or chair and propping the camera up with books!
  • Light: Make sure your environment has enough light so that you can see the action on the equipment you are using. Usually, more light is better.
  • Shots: A video with only one point of view is usually visually dull (unless very short). Get shots from different angles and distances.
  • Edit: Shoot extra stuff. Then see the next section for editing into a cohesive final video.

Linked Readings

There are no linked readings for this unit. Watch the videos below to learn more about video production!


Video 1:

Click the link to watch the video.

Please click this link to watch: 'DVTV - Choosing a Video Camera' by NextWave DV

Video 2:

Click the link to watch the video.

Please click this link to watch: 'Basic Video Production Shooting Tips' by MonkeySee

Video 3:

Click the link to watch the video.

Please click this link to watch: 'Video Camera Shooting Tips' by willowcreekvideo

Learning Exercise

Similar to the last unit's audio exercise you are going to create a video recording (or two, or three) to test out the process and the equipment you have available.

Here is an exercise that will test out your video recording devices:

  1. Look around you and note the devices that can record video. (DSLRs, video cameras, computers, cell phones, etc.)
  2. Create a very short (1-2 min) scripted piece on any topic you'd like.
  3. Shoot the scripted piece on your best recording device.
  4. Shoot the same piece using another device (or two, or three).
  5. Save all of the video files to your computer and watch them.
  6. Compare the quality of the videos. Ask yourself: Is this quality sufficient for my goals? If not, look closely at where you need to improve.

Chances are you will not like the way you look or sound and that's ok. The only way to get better is to keep doing it, to make things, and to know that you will get better.

Execute Your Plan

In this unit we are going to continue implementing the plan. This is the plan for an audio or video production of your choice that you created in Unit 1, and began working on in the last unit.

Additional Resources


Use the discussion tab at the top of this page to answer the following questions:

Select the 'Discussion' tab located next to 'Page' on the top left corner of this screen.
Select 'Edit' from the tabs on the right.
Type or Copy & Paste your reflection into the space provided
  1. What was the most difficult part of creating your test videos?
  2. Look critically at your product, are you proud of it? Would you use it in a class? How could it be better?

Next Steps

Continue to Unit 4 - Editing


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