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

Video Production for You, Step 2

Step 2, Production

This is when you record everything—establishing shots, medium shots, close-ups, stand-ups, narration, interviews, and anything else.

Where to start? Hollywood movies are almost never shot in sequence. They'll shoot everything for a particular location before moving to the next. So Johnny as a boy in his childhood home will be shot in the same week as Johnny 30 years later visiting the same home even though the scenes will be far apart in the script. Your story won't be so elaborate but you have the option to do the same thing. For example, you can record the host in the same location for both the introduction and conclusion. Perhaps, that way, the host won't need to appear at any other location and simply record the narration (voice-over or VO) later.

This is where the fun happens

Have you noticed how long the end credits are on a Hollywood film? There can be between 300 to 800 names on them. That's how many people had something to do with the production. You and who else will be working on yours? Will you be able to produce something as slick as the professionals? Probably not. But you can produce something that works for your audience and represents the University well.

Assuming you haven't made the fatal mistake of skipping Step 1, you now have a script that makes sense, accomplished your location scout(s), selected the best time and place to shoot, and you are confident that what you record with the camera you have will work with your editing software.

Equipment List

  • Camera: Tape is fading away and internal hard drives or removable media cards are fast becoming the norm. Being able to transfer a file is much faster than real-time digitization of linear videotape.
  • Tripod: Pros use them. Amateurs don't, but should.
  • Wireless lavalier microphone: Without it, you're stuck with amateur sound quality.
  • Spare batteries for the camera and microphone: Use rechargeables for the microphone and make sure you change them often. You don't want to risk having a mic die in the middle of your best take.
  • Headphones: Again, pros use them. Amateurs don't, but should. How else can you check the quality of your recording? That tiny speaker on your camera is not good enough to let you hear distortion or background noises.

Example of Camera Shots

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A-Roll vs. B-Roll
These terms differentiate the type of scenes you are shooting. If someone is talking on camera, that's A-Roll. If you are just showing a close-up of an insect or piece of equipment and the audio will be narrated later, that's B-Roll. Just about every production has B-Roll, but not all productions have A-Roll. 

Establishing Shot (aka wide or long shot or LS)
It's usually a good idea to start with a wide shot to let your audience know where the story takes place. If it takes place in a kitchen, it should show the kitchen with all the usual stuff in it. If there's a host, they too, should be visible or there should be room for them walk into the shot. It doesn't take more than a few seconds to say where we are and who is there.

Medium Shot (MS)

This is a view that is somewhere between the estabilishing shot and a close-up. For a person, it is usually a waist-up shot if they are standing and mid-chest-up shot if they are seated. When shooting most productions, this can be your most frequently used shot when recording people.

Close-up (CU)

Television is really a close-up medium. Close-ups convey more information and detail and provide the real reason to use TV as an instructional medium in the first place. It gives the viewer a front row seat to whatever you are demonstrating.


There are two aspects of this. First, is the fun one especially when you are watching a big budget film and you see someone has a hat on in one shot, then it is off in the next, and then back on in the following one. That is an example of a continuity failure. It's important to keep track of this type of continuity to avoid distractions for the audience. 
The second type of continuity is the focus here. You want to shoot your story in a way that makes sense. Our brains have been trained by decades of TV and movie viewing to perceive shot sequences in a certain way. If you, the amatuer messes that up, your audience will be either lost, distracted or annoyed.

When shooting your story, and specifically a single object--for example, the host, use this progression:

In other words, you don't plan to cut from a MS of your host to another MS of your host. Look at that progression again. Notice there's no two shots side- by-side that are the same. It is not: LS, LS, MS, MS, MS, MS, CU, CU, CU. The only way you can cut from one CU to another (or LS to LS or MS to MS) is if the angles are significantly different, say, 90 degrees, or they are of two different objects.

You can be more avant garde about shooting and editing, but you run the risk of confusing or distracting your audience. That is not usually a good thing when you are teaching on television.

Typically, in one-camera production (this includes most Hollywood films), you will shoot the entire scene as a long shot. Then again, as a medium shot. Finally, you may shoot it as a close-up. But typically, CU shots are selective so rather than shooting everything in CU, you'll shoot just what you need to illustrate your points and then insert them when a CU is needed during the edit. So plan to shoot your scene twice in LS and MS, then selectively for CU shots. Being able to select from LS, MS, and CU shots will make editing easier just in case something went wrong in one shot, perhaps another shot will cover or eliminate the problem.

One of the things that separates pros from amateurs is the attention to lighting. To a professional with a career of experience, it is an art and a science. To an amateur, light is light. To a camera, light is what it is at the moment and it will respond as it has been programmed to do so by its engineer--someone who is not in the room with you--a room with some flourescents, a window of sunlight, and some incondescent accent lights. Frankly, there's not much you can do about it without making an investment in time, skill acquisition, and equipment purchases. You won't buy the lighting gear needed--the lights, reflectors, flags, scrims, etc. So what can you do? Simplify. Choose one light source type and try to eliminate the rest. That will make a huge difference in the quality of your video.

Studies have shown that viewers will tolerate lousy video if the audio is good, but they won't put up with good video if the audio is bad.

Move on to Step 3, Post-production

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