Guidelines for Effective Videos

Creating good video isn’t about combining a bunch of random visuals and sound bytes. It is a well thought out cohesive process beginning with research and vision.

Although your plan may change slightly depending on what happens in the field, it is important you are able to “see” or “imagine” the product before you even turn on your gear.

With this in mind here are a few general Guidelines for Effective Video used at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

  1. Thoroughly think through and plan your piece before you start. The most important phase of production is pre-production.

    Yetzabell Rojas studies her handheld camcorder during videography class in Phoenix, Friday June 3, 2011. (SJI Photo/Rachel Jimenez)

    Yetzabell Rojas studies her handheld camcorder during videography class in Phoenix, Friday June 3, 2011. (SJI Photo/Rachel Jimenez)

  2. Make sure your key subject (the talent) is not wearing white or is standing in front of a white background. The sky, windows, bright walls and lights result in gray-scale compression or white clipping. If you can’t avoid them, manually open the camera’s iris or engage the “backlight” switch.
  3. Use auxiliary mics for interviews. Position the mic as close to the subject as possible. If you don’t want the mic to be conspicuous, use a lav mic or hide the handheld mic close to the subject out of camera view. Make sure you are using a directional mic.
  4. Make sure you use 5 second pre and post roll for each take.
  5. Use a tripod or solid camera support. Exceptions include showing a subjective camera effect, communicating a fluid or unstable situation, creating a documentary style effect or in situations where you will miss the shot if you use a tripod.
  6. Rely on closeups and medium closeups for your basic visual material. Wide shots are generally used as establishing or re-establishing shots.
  7. Eliminate shots that don’t contribute to the project’s goals or story idea.
  8. Cut away from a shot as soon as the basic information is conveyed.
  9. Shoot in short sequences. Zooms and pans are generally lazy, time-consuming ways of changing shots. A cut is almost always stronger and faster. Use pans and tilts when you need to show something or follow movement.
  10. Use B-roll footage when possible.
  11. Select instrumental music as background for narration. You can’t expect an audience to follow two vocal tracks.
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