Communication Services & Information Technology
University of California
Communication Services & Information Technology

Video Production for You

Three Basic Steps

by Mike Poe, Managing Producer-Director

So you want to make a video. OK. You can do it. These pages will help you. Just keep in mind that declaring "I want to make a video." is a lot like saying, "I want to re-roof my house." You've probably got a hammer and ladder and all the supplies you need available at the neighborhood hardware store, but you should really take the time to learn how to do it before climbing onto the roof. The same is true for video production. Just because everyone's doing it doesn't mean they are creating programs with the quality and effectiveness worthy of a University of California video project.

Your learning how to make a video begins with 3 basic steps.

  1. Pre-production is planning, scripting and anything that comes before recording.
  2. Production is the actual recording.
  3. Post-production is editing and anything else that comes after recording.

Most beginners skip step 1, go straight to step 2, and have all sorts of problems with step 3. We'll try to avoid that by showing the process that will generate the fewest headaches.

Step 1 Pre-production

This is where you come up with an idea and figure out how make it happen with a video camera and editing software. You'll need to think through the process from beginning to end otherwise you could end up with perfectly fine video files that your editing software cannot use. Or such disjointed shots that the audience is just plain confused. Or no audio.


What is the story you are trying to tell and to whom are you telling it? Know you audience. Set objectives like these:
After viewing this video, the audience
--will be able to name the 3 most common problems facing farmers today.
--will know the difference between SDTV and HDTV.
--will understand the reasons pre-production is so important
and so on. Be specific when stating objectives because everything--the script, the location, the presentation style, and the editing decisions will all contribute to the way the information is presented and how well the audience can understand it.

You'll need to have a style in mind before you work on a script. Will this be hosted with someone on screen making a presentation/demonstration, leading the audience through the story? Or will your guide be an unseen narrator? Sometimes, a series of soundbites from interviews can tell the story and no on or off-screen guide is needed. To make that work, you have to ask specific questions in the interviews to ensure you get all the elements of the story told. Often the same questions are asked of several people so you will be able to decide who introduces the topic A best, who provided the best explanation of topic A and who gave the best conclusion of the topic.

Write the script. Begin with an outline. The objectives will help you organize it. The audience will need to know A before they can understand B so present the information in an order that will help them avoid confusion.
Once you (and your colleagues) are happy with the outline, then fill it out with the details. Make sure it is written to meet the objectives. The basic format should include an introduction, the main content, and a conclusion. Like my high school speech teacher used to say, "Tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, then tell them what you told them." Using that technique greatly improves audience retention.

We write differently than we speak so make sure you read your script aloud. There are word combinations that seem just fine in print but are tongue twisters when spoken. Some things can be easily misinterpreted. I had a script once that often contained the phrase, "N sufficient." Which meant the soil had enough nitrogen. But when spoken, it was simply, "insufficient" and the opposite of the intended message. Whenever that phrase came up, we had to specifiy "Nitrogen sufficient" although the use of "N" alone worked fine elsewhere in the script.

Review your script with the audience's point of view. Would this make sense to them? It is often a good idea to say in the introduction, for example, "This presentation is designed to teach commercial landscapers to correctly prune young trees for strength, health, and beauty." This statement identifies the audience and the primary objective. It's a good reminder for the scriptwriter as well.

Once you have a script, you'll need to make sure you have a location to shoot your video and record your narration. During your location scout note the lighting. If indoors, try to avoid a mix of artificial and sunlight. Can you cover the windows to avoid the sunlight interfering? What's that noise? Construction? Air conditioner? Phones ringing? If outdoors, plan to avoid shooting in sunlight between 11am and 2pm. The harsh overhead sunlight makes terrible pictures. If possible, stay in the shade and avoid direct sunlight at all if you can. Do you need electricity at your location? Is it windy? If so, is it usually at certain times of the day?

There are a lot of variables to think about before you schedule a place and time to record. Make sure you've thought about all of them before turning on the camera.

Move on to Step 2 Production

About Setting Objectives

These are measurable capabilities of learners, for example:

"After viewing this program, viewers will be able to..."

1. Identify...
2. List...
3. Demonstrate...
4. Summarize...
5. Operate...

When you conduct your post-viewing evaluation, these are the new knowledge areas you will be assessing--Is your audience now able to accomplish these objectives?

Pre-production resources

Here are a few helpful tools for you to use in your pre-production phase.

The Instructional Program Development Plan. This may be overkill for your little "straight to YouTube" production but it might remind you of a few things to keep in mind as you progress through your video's development. If nothing else, this is the form you'll use when it is time to call in the professionals.

 Basic outline for any presentation

I. Introduction
    a. Gain attention and interest
    b. Preview main points
        1. First main point
        2. Second main point
        3. Third main point

II. Body
    a. First main point
        1. First supporting point
        2. Second supporting point
    b. Second main point
        1. First supporting point
        2. Second supporting point
    c. Third main point
        1. First supporting point
        2. Second supporting point

III. Conclusion
    a. Review main points
        1. First main point
        2. Second main point
        3. Third main point
    b. Vivid ending


Technical Issues

Before you begin recording there are some basic answers to equipment questions you must know before you start recording.

  • What camera are you using?
  • How will you record the audio? Does the camera take an external mic?
  • How will you get the footage out of the camera and into the computer?
  • What program will you use for editing? Will it produce/output what you want? DVD, broadcast, HD, widescreen, website, YouTube?
  • If all digital, is your camera's file format compatible with your editing software?
  • What format are you shooting? Can your editor use that format? 4:3, 16:9, HD?
  • If you are planning to import stills into your editor, what formatting will need to be done to get them to look the way you expect?
  • Can you add audio tracks in your editor? Music too? Where are you getting the music without copyright infringement?

Don't even think of recording unless you can answer all these questions first.

Page Last Updated: July 28, 2016
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