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Digital Video Production: Tips and Tricks on How to Shoot Great Videos

written by: Shane Burley•edited by: Amy Carson•updated: 5/26/2011

Here are a few tips on how to make great digital videos for those new to production.

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    Digital Video Production

    Now that HD format digital video cameras are now available to consumers rather than just professionals there are a lot of people trying to learn how to shoot great videos. This is not the kind of thing that you can just discuss and you must actually learn how to do this while filming, but there are a few items that you can consider when you are first out with your new HD camera. Here are a few tips on how to shoot great videos even if you are new to video production.

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    Stability

    The key for how to shoot great videos is in how clearly the audience is able to connect with the image that is on the screen. One of the best ways to do this is through stability, where the image is still enough to be clear and plain to see. This does not mean that you have to avoid motion of the camera altogether, but it does mean that you should have the camera mounted on a stability device like a tripod rather than being hand held.

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    Focus

    In general, if you are looking at how to shoot great videos you need to be looking at how to keep all of your images in focus. What this really indicates is making sure that the subject of your image remains the primary focus while certain items, like elements of the foreground and background stay out of focus. If the primary subjects of the image, or even the majority of the image, are out of focus then it will violate its purpose and be unusable.

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    Three Point Lighting

    Three point lighting is really one of the foundational forms of lighting for film and digital video. What this does is position a key light from one side of the object to apply a sharper light on them. A fill light, which is much softer, is applied to the opposing area of the face. The edge light comes from behind the subject and hits them in the back, cutting them out from the background. This does not always mean that you will need a set of studio lights or a portable lighting kit, but trying to replicate this in some form is a good base guideline for lighting your subject.

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    Shutter Speed

    The shutter speed refers to how fast the shutter will stay open to capture the image, and this will determine both the character and exposure of the image. The slower the shutter speed the lighter the image will be, but the more motion blur will be in it. Inversely, the faster the shutter speed the less motion blur there will be and the darker the image will be. If you are wondering how to shoot great videos you may not want to bring the shutter speed below 1/60, and alter the ISO and aperture to affect the exposure.

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    Lens Cleaning

    Part of learning how to shoot great videos is learning how to prepare your digital video camera to actually produce those images. That means keeping the camera's lens clean so that debris does not end up on the final image. This can mean using lens cleaner and a microfiber brush so that your lens remains completely clear without being damaged in the process.

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    ISO

    The ISO is a feature that simply tells the sensor how it should take the available light, and part of deciding how to to shoot great videos is choosing to lower the ISO whenever possible. The lower the ISO setting the higher the image quality will be, yet the darker the image will be. You should only increase the ISO above 400 when you absolutely have to and cannot open up the aperture because of depth of field or lower the shutter speed because of motion blur.

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    Blown Out Areas

    You want to take a clear look at all the areas of the image, not just the primary subject. If you find that there is a light source or reflection that is incredibly bright it may blow out, which means that it will be an unneccesary and distorting area that dominates the image. You want to make sure that you do not have any blown out areas of the frame, which may be a difficult negotiation when it comes to exposure. If you are concerned about this in your image then make sure to set the zebra stripes on your camera to indicate the areas that may be blown out so you can address them in your physical space rather than your camera settings.

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    Light in the Eyes

    When you are using a key light in three point lighting on a subject you are going to shoot a great video if you position the reflection of the eye in their pupil. This will help to ensure the position of the light against their face and give a sparkle in their eyes that will add more energy to the video of the subject. The upper right hand corner of the eye is a great location, as long as it brightens up the black pupil.

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    Loose Tripod Head

    When the camera is on the camera you will want to make sure that the camera head is loose enough so that the Director of Photography is able to move along with the active subjects in the frame. This does not mean that you are going to initiate dramatic camera moves, but simply those that will allow you to stay responsive to movement of what is in front of the frame. A smooth, hydraulic tripod head is also going to ensure the stability and smoothness of these camera movements.

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    Camera Movement

    If you want to add energy to a shot, especially something that needs the drama of the scene or dialogue highlighted, then you should add a consistent horizontal or vertical motion to the image. This should be relatively minimal and can be done very smoothly on a planned dolly move or with use of a jib arm, but if it is not minor then it is going to be too obvious and take the audience out of the scene.

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    References

    Source: Author's own experience.