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Creating at Cline Library

Your complete how-to guide for enjoying the Cline Library's MakerLab and multimedia Studios.

Video Recording

In the three stages of video production, production is the process which captures the video content (moving images / videography) and involves filming the subject(s) of the video. This is perhaps the most technical phase of video production and requires the use of video cameras, microphones, set design and lighting, etc. Production ends when all the content has been collected and editing can begin.

Recording Styles

There is not a singular type of style that is used for every kind of video content captured. Instead, style changes depending on the type of video being created, and the desired tone and message of the video.

  • Tripods for a stable shots (also called a locked down shot).
  • Hand-held for a more energetic and jittery feel (often used to depict natural movement).
  • Non-leveled camera angles (adds an artistic feel to the videography).
  • Vertical motion shots using a jib or crane often in the beginning or ends of scenes.
  • Steadicam for smooth movement and tracking shots at slower speeds such as moving through rooms or following actors and action.

This page will help you:

  1. Choose the best lighting for your video.
  2. Consider ambient sound when recording.
  3. Determine your desired composition.
  4. Prepare to employ proper camera work.
  5. Get the best shots possible with video tips.


Good videography relies heavily on lighting. Great lighting can make your video look professional and high definition, while poor lighting will very quickly ruin the feel of your video. This section will provide you with some lighting elements to consider when recording your video project. Keep in mind that some lighting elements (like color correction) can be adjusted in editing but that a good lighting foundation will make the process much easier.

Natural vs. Artificial Light 

  • Natural vs. artificial light exampleNatural light - Natural sunlight is an amazing source of light that can enhance color and provide stunningly vivid shots. However, it's unfortunately impossible control when the sun will shine or how it will behave during certain times of the day. Around noon, for example, the sun can create harsh shadows which are unflattering for people's faces and may ruin your shot. On the other hand, shooting near the end of the day - known as "golden hour" - can often offer beautiful complementary lighting, but is difficult to time appropriately. 
  • Artificial light - Artificial light includes sources like fluorescent overheads and tungsten light bulbs, which are not nearly as powerful as the sun but can be more easily controlled. Artificial lighting can be moved, adjusted, and even turned off completely to dial in the exact amount of light that you want. This does, however, require a lot more time and forethought to get the ideal light scape for your shots. You should also keep in mind that fluorescent lighting often reads gives a greenish hue to a shot that can be unflattering to your actors.


Light Quality

The quality of your lighting - whether natural or artificial - is often thought of as the shape of the light. This can either be direct or diffused.

  • Direct vs. diffused lighting exampleDirect light - Direct light is when your light source is unfiltered. This often results in very harsh shadows or reflective shines on object surfaces and actors' faces. This effect may be desirable in some cases - in order to add drama to a harsh scene, for example - but in most cases direct light is avoided since it is not particularly flattering. 
  • Diffused light - Diffused light is when your light source is filtered in some way, often using fabric or diffusion umbrellas over artificial lighting (be careful to make sure these are not flammable!). Diffused light creates soft shadows and spreads the light out across a surface, thereby reducing "hot spots" that might cause reflective shines. Even the sun can be diffused on a cloudy day. For this reason, don't totally rule out natural light as a possibility for creating flattering light. 

A great compromise between direct and diffused light can be to use natural lighting while indoors by setting up your shot near a window. If you do choose to shoot indoors and there's no natural light available, try to find as flattering light as possible. Alternatively, if you do choose to shoot outside, make sure you're shooting somewhere with comfortable lighting for everyone.


In the same way there are pros and cons to indoor (artificial) vs. outdoor (natural) lighting, there are similar considerations for sound. Ultimately it all comes down to sound control - indoor sound is easier to control, but may appear less natural while outdoor sound takes a lot of additional precautions to manage properly. While no sound is perfect, below are some things to consider, as well as some suggestions, on how to get the best sound possible. 

Sound Considerations

  • No matter where you plan to film, always take a couple of seconds to listen to your environment. If you're indoors, you might hear the hum of the air conditioner or the whir of a computer. If you're outdoors, you might hear the sound of traffic or a bird chirping. The sounds that exist in an environment can be thought of as the location sound. Be aware of these sounds and make attempts to lessen their impact before recording. This may include moving locations, turning off nearby equipment, or changing types of microphones. 
  • When editing audio, it can be very helpful to have a clean sample of your location sound. So either before or after you begin your shoot, record about 30 seconds of location sound in which no one is talking. This will make it easier to remove the "din" on the environment when editing. This sample can also be used to replace unwanted audio such as loud noises or incorrect dialogue.
  • Remember, silence is never actually silent. Cutting out the sound completely can be very jarring. Often students will try to cover these gaps in the audio with music, but adding the location sound will make these transitions even more effective. 

Things to Look For

When recording indoors:

  • Ideally you will want to record in a space that is relatively isolated or that has sound dampening.
  • If you have no sound dampening available, find a space where you can easily control the sound.
  • Use shotgun mics that are connected to boom poles to get direct sound from the source/speaker.
  • Shotgun mics with sound dampening will also help reduce the ambient sound that you pick up.

When recording outdoors:

  • Try to record somewhere quiet and removed from high-traffic areas (whether people or cars). 
  • Find a location that is relatively isolated from the wind, like behind a building or amongst trees.
  • Use lapel - or lavalier - mics that are attached to the source/speaker to help reduce ambient noise.

Things to Avoid

When recording indoors:

  • Be sure to find a spot with as little foot-traffic as possible. This will help avoid interruptions. 
  • Place your scene as far away from running electronics as possible - turn things off if necessary.
  • Avoid recording near AC vents that may randomly start circulating air onto your mics.
  • Never place your camera on other electric equipment that may cause a buzzing noise.
  • Always remember to silence your phones! Be aware that phone vibrations can also be picked-up.

When recording outdoors:

  • If possible, avoid high-traffic locations such as streets, side-walks, or crowded areas. 
  • Never record near industrial equipment or construction sites unless absolutely necessary.


Types of Camera Shots

There are a lot of different ways to set up your camera to frame your shot. Different methods can add different artistic elements to your video or even play with the emotions of your audience. Most videographers choose to stick to one or two methods throughout every shot in order to create consistency. Below are a few examples for common types of shots.

Diagram of different types of camera shots

Types of Composition

  • Horizontal vs. Vertical - Something to be aware of in the era of camera phones, is that recording images vertically will often result in smaller videos on YouTube. This is because YouTube's frame is horizontal. If you are mixing in additional footage from a cell phone, just know that vertical video files might result in heavy black bars on the sides known as letter boxes.
  • Rule-of-Thirds - Most cameras have an option to add a "grid display." This feature will create an overlay that partitions the image into nine sections. This grid is used to guide the composition of an image. Ideally you will want to focus key elements of your shot along the lines of this grid, or (even better) at the points where the lines intersect. This helps to create a pleasing and well-balanced shot.
    Example of rule-of-thirds in photography
  • Headroom - The rule-of-thirds is particularly helpful for figuring out how to fit someone comfortably in the frame of your shot. Headroom, on the other hand, refers to the amount of space above a person's head within the frame. ​One trick for finding the headroom is to align the upper horizontal line of the grid to the person's eyes, and this will often produce a well-balanced headroom.
    Example of headroom in videography

Camera Work

Camera Settings

  • When recording (especially with a new or unfamiliar camera) the first thing you should do is make sure that all of your camera settings are set to their defaults. Starting with custom settings (particularly if they are someone else's) can take a lot of your recording time.
  • Frame rate - The camera's frame rate is the number of images it captures per second, written as fps (frames-per-second). The industry standard is 24fps because it is considered to provide the viewers with the most cinematic experience. Other fps are available, however, and higher-resolution recording (such as 4K) can lend itself well to higher fps (usually 60fps).
  • Shutter speed - The shutter speed in a camera is the amount of time the camera let light travel to the sensor for each photo or frame of a film. The shutter speed can be written as 1/25, 1/100, or 1/5000 for times less than one second or 1″, 5″, or 30″ for times higher than one second. The general rule of thumb is, that the shutter speed should be double the frame rate. For example, if you’re using a frame rate of 24 frames per second (fps), the shutter speed should double that i.e. 1/48. If your video camera uses shutter angle instead of shutter speed, the shutter angle should be set to 180 degrees. This corresponds to a shutter speed which is double the frame rate.
Diagram of camera shutter speed levels
  • ISO - In digital cameras, ISO is used to digitally enhance the brightness of your footage after the light has passed through the lens and hit the sensor but before it is converted from analog to digital signal. The higher the ISO value, the more brightness is introduced. However, higher ISO values also equal more digital noise (blurry or pixelated looking images).
Diagram of camera ISO settings
  • White Balance - The purpose of white balance is to display any white objects in a scene as white. Setting the right white balance is crucial if you want to display the correct colors as close to how we perceive them with our eyes. While this sounds straightforward, different types of lighting have different color temperature which changes how "white" will look. The white balance setting in your camera is there to help you overcome the challenges of colors appearing differently under varying lighting conditions. The best way to set the right white balance is to adjust it manually. You can often do this by filling the screen with a white card under (the desired lighting conditions) and then go into your cameras menu setting and choose set custom white balance. 
Diagram for camera white balance settings
  • Aperture - In a camera lens, the aperture is the opening in the diaphragm through which light passes. The role of the diaphragm is to control the amount of light passes through the aperture at its center. When you open up the lens diaphragm the gap in the center gets bigger and lets in more light. When you close the diaphragm less light is passed through. The aperture on lenses meant for videography is written in F-stops (such as f/1.4, f/2.0, f/2.8, f/4.0, f/5.6, f/8.0, f/11, f/16, and f/22). The smaller the f-stop number, the more light is let through the aperture. F-stops help control the depth of field that your video records. At f/1.4 you’ll see a clear separation between the foreground and the background, i.e. either the foreground or the background is in focus. This is known as a shallow depth-of-field. At f/22 you’ll see no clear separation between the foreground and the background, i.e., both the foreground and the background are in focus. This is known as a deep depth-of-field.
Diagram of camera aperture levels

Camera Handling

  • Smaller hand-held cameras (like camcorders and your mobile phone) are much lighter and therefore much easier to move. This makes these camera great for carrying around to your shooting location but terrible for getting a stable and smooth shot.
  • Tripods are an ideal way to reduce shaky footage, especially when placed on a table or a solid surface.
  • If you are planning to record video while moving, gimbals can help use gyroscopes to stabilize the shot.
  • If you are filming yourself, be sure to flip the camera screen towards yourself while filming (or review your footage afterwards) to make sure that you’ve captured the image you want.

Recording Tips

Nothing makes a video look more amateurish than poor videography. Follow these tips to record the best video possible:

1) Plan your Video in Advance

Many students think that the quickest way to create a media project is to pick up a camera and start shooting, but a lack of planning can leave your viewers underwhelmed and result in a poor grade. This is why it is extremely important to take the time to plan your video thoroughly before you start production. When making a video, you should always start by defining your project and thinking about what ideas you want to communicate and how. Be sure to brainstorm unique ways of presenting your topic; make sure to think outside the box. Once you’ve defined your project, write a brief script and perhaps create a simple storyboard. 

2) Use Plenty of Light

Poorly lit videos strain the eyes of your viewers and reflect poorly on your project, so it is important to consider lighting when you are filming (whether that be indoors or outdoors). Before you set up your light sources, consider the effect you want to create in your finished video. Do you want your subject’s face entirely lit up (“soft” or “flat” light), or do you want some shadows (“hard” light)? Softer light is also more flattering. If you’re filming indoors, avoid overhead lighting where possible and instead look for natural light from windows. You can also use lamps to get the exact type of light you want.

3) Choose your Background Wisely

When planning a shot for your video you want to make sure that the audience focuses on your subject and not the background behind them. There are many things to consider when choosing a background but the key is to minimize elements that will make the scene look cluttered and draw attention away from your subject. Make an effort to use simple backgrounds when possible (a wall, a solid color backdrop, etc.) or to carefully reduce the clutter behind your subject. It's also important to avoid too much action in the background that can become distracting (traffic, students walking by, interfering bystanders, etc.). Finally, make sure to place your subject a few feet away from whatever background you choose in order to add depth to the shot and avoid casting a harsh shadow.

4) Avoid Shaky Footage

Unless you are planning a moving shot, you'll almost always want your camera on a tripod. Shaky footage can disorient your viewers and make your videos look amateurish. Once your camera and tripod are set up, try not to move them. If you do need to pan, zoom, or tilt the camera, do so carefully and with smooth hand movements - like you're holding a full cup of hot coffee.

If your footage still turns out shaky despite your best efforts, video stabilization software can help to fix it in post-production (available in programs like Adobe Premiere Pro). Some cameras also have built-in stabilization that you can use while you’re filming. Slowing down the speed your footage in post-production can also help to make shakiness less obvious. 

5) Shoot to Edit

Most importantly of all, when recording a scene, be sure to always record more footage than you'll actually need. Shoot multiple takes to get different sound or lighting conditions and shoot the same take from a number of different angels. The idea here is to collect as much video as possible in order to give yourself plenty of options while editing. While this may seem like a waste of time, it will actually save you time in post-production, especially if you find a clip that has poor lighting or audio quality.