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Tips on How to Make a Video

Below you will find helpful tips and guidelines to help you in the creation of your video. For a printable version of this information, click here. To brush up on your video vocabulary, click here for a list of keyword terms and definitions.

Setting     |     Composition     |     Lighting     |     Audio     |     Editing


  • When shooting a video the first important factor to be aware of is where you are shooting. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself about the setting:
    • Is it appropriate for the subject matter?
    • Are you able to control the sound?
    • Are you able to control the lighting?
    • Are you going to be able to set up for the shots you want?
  • If shooting outside, make sure you plan ahead. Do some location scouting and figure out if it will be a good area to shoot with minimal noise and pedestrian interference.
  • If shooting inside make sure the lighting is at a good level for quality video and that you will be allowed to shoot there at the scheduled time.


  • Try to use manual focus at all times
  • Use the zoom to compose your shot. Avoid zooming while the tape is rolling.
  • Keep the shot as steady as possible, moving the camcorder only when necessary. When using handheld, hold the LCD screen in your left hand or between the thumb and index finger to keep the shot steady.
  • Obey the 180 degree rule. Failing to do so will cause a disjointed viewing experience.
  • Use the rule of thirds to create more tension or interest in the subject.
    • Imagine the shot divided into three horizontal and vertical sections. Placing a subject or object on these lines will provide a more visceral experience for the viewer than just centering it in the middle of the shot.
  • Use tilts (pointing the camera up and down), pans (turning the camera left and right), and dollies (moving the camera left and right while facing forward).


  • Set the white balance at every location.
  • Make sure there is more light falling on the subject than on the background.
  • When shooting outdoors keep the sun behind you.
  • When shooting indoors, do not shoot your subject with a window behind them as this will cause them to appear in silhouette.
    • If there are windows present make sure that they are in front of the subject on the opposite wall or to either side.
    • Make sure the outside light is soft and natural and not too bright or blue in tone.
  • If you have access to lighting equipment, use the three point lighting technique. This involves using:
    • a key light (main light at a 45 degree angle),
    • fill light (dimmer and broader than the key at the opposite 45 degree angle),
    • and back light (aimed at your subject’s head and shoulders from above and behind, used to create separation from the subject and background)


  • Use an external microphone if available.
  • Make sure the microphone is close to the subject
  • Keep the camera as steady as possible to avoid noise interference.
  • Make sure the setting is free of external noise that will distract an audience from the subject.
  • Monitor your sound with headphones if available.
  • Gather room tone for each setting you shoot in.
    • Every shooting location has a unique ambient characteristic, i.e. wind, air conditioner, appliance hum, etc. Make sure to record at least 30 seconds of room tone before or after your shoot. This is basically making sure there is quiet on the set and recording any surrounding noise in the area.
  • Leave yourself some silence before and after takes to make the editing process easier.

Editing Techniques

  • There are many types of non-linear digital editing programs available. They include Avid Express, Final Cut Express, IMovie, and Windows Movie Maker.
  • A detailed shot list can help greatly in the editing process.
  • You can keep track of timecodes and make certain shots easier to find while editing.
  • Learn keyboard shortcuts in your editing program. This will help save time and effort during the editing process.
  • Log and capture your footage into your editing program and then name them in bin files to begin.
  • When you find a certain part of your video that you like place an in point at the start. Place an out point at the end of that clip and drag it onto your timeline.
    • Double click on the clip at any time to view in the preview window and or re-edit it.
    • You can easily rearrange audio clips in the timeline by clicking and dragging.
    • Always remember to frequently save your project in order to make sure you don’t lose it if anything unforeseen happens.

Please contact Steeltown Entertainment Project if you have any questions or call 412-622-1325.

You are welcome to get technical help from other people, but please make sure that the ideas and the content of the film is your own.

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