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Video Projects

Production Basics

Before you start filming, it's important to think about how you will frame your shots, light your scenes, and capture crisp audio. Watch this video and read this page to learn more about composition, lighting, and sound.

Frame It

Frame your subject 

Think about the composition of your shots. Think about what you are trying to convey in your video project, and who your audience might be. Ask yourself:

  • What is your message?
  • At the end of your video, what do you want the audience to understand, feel, contemplate?
  • How will your video convey this?

Rule of Thirds

Observe the rule of thirds to improve the composition of your shot and provide balance. Make two imaginary horizontal and vertical intersecting lines in a grid pattern and place it over your composition. The focus of your shots should be where the two lines intersect. When shooting scenes with vertical or horizontal lines (such as a landscape), try to line up your shots with the vertical and horizontal lines as guidelines. Try not to place your subject directly in the middle of the frame. The rule of thirds (and other compositional guidelines) are not hard and fast rules, however. Use your best judgment in framing your subject to achieve your desired effect.  

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Photo Credit: Prem Anandh; Martin Gommel

Types of Shots

Try to get a variety of shot types. Wide shots are more informational in character, while shots become more intense and convey more emotion the closer in you get.

Photo Credit: StudioBinder


Use a tripod.  Even if you think you have steady hands, try to use a tripod. Otherwise, your shots may not turn out as steady as you think. If you do not have a tripod at hand, try to put the camera on something stationary, such as a table.

If using your cell phone, make sure to shoot horizontally if you'll be using a standard video editing software, such as iMovie.

Make sure you have enough memory space and the ability to charge your battery.

Light It

Choose locations with lighting in mind. Supplement your video shoot with a lighting kit when necessary. At the very least, light the face of your subject or the focus of the scene. This is especially important in low ambient lighting.

Three-point lighting system

For advanced lighting, use a three-point lighting system:

  1. For the face (key)
  2. To fill in shadows caused by the key (fill)
  3. For the hairline (back)

Photo Credit: Frameforest Filmschool

Keep sources of light just out of the frame. Make sure the greatest intensity of light is in front of the subject. When outdoors, try to keep lighting sources, including the sun, behind the camera.

Mic It

Sound is the first thing people notice when they find something irritating about a video.

Although video cameras have built-in microphones, try to use an external microphone whenever possible and connect it to the camera's mic jack.

Types of Microphones


A lavalier is a small microphone that can be clipped onto a piece of clothing about 6-8 inches below the speaker's mouth. Lavalier microphones are good if you want to keep microphones hidden. (Make sure that the speaker’s jewelry, hair, or clothing don't interfere with the audio.


A handheld microphone can work well in an on-the-street interview situation 

A shotgun microphone on a boom pole can be placed outside the video frame


While interviewing, leave a bit of ambient noise before and after questions. These quiet intervals can be helpful when editing the footage.

Avoid taping an entire session only to find out in the editing process that the audio was not recorded well. At the start of your shoot, plug some headphones into your camera and listen to make sure the audio is how you want it to be.