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Top 10 Essential Video Filming Techniques

Cinematography is about weaving together art and technique to visually tell your story in a way that moves or changes the audience. Our top video filming techniques will show you that it takes much more than equipment and a script to bring your story to life. Here are some top techniques to manage what the viewer sees and how they are viewing. These filming techniques will drive what the viewer sees and his interpretation of your visual story.

There are hundreds of experienced cinematography techniques to get just the right tone, image, and scene. Here are the essentials you’ll need to master to up your videography game and create a compelling and persuasive video and bring your story to life.

Planning – One of the most critical video filming techniques

A successful video starts with meticulous planning. Put together a storyboard and a shooting script to help you figure out what shots you’ll need before you even begin. This will inform you location, the equipment you’ll need, and much more. Time spent planning will save you time later on doing reshoots. This is also an excellent time to think of what B-roll footage you may need.

The rule of thirds

The “Rule of Thirds” can be used whenever you’re filming anything. Just imagine your shot is divided into nine sections by two horizontal and two vertical lines. Compose your shot, so the subject is positioned where two of the four anchor points meet. This draws the eye to the main point of interest in the shot. This rule can even be used in landscapes.

Some essential shots – filming techniques to add creativity

To make a great video, you must learn to play with various shots. Put yourself in the middle of the action to get great images. Many beginners shoot everything from a corner of the room or away from the action. Here are some top shots to experiment with to add variety and interest to your video.

  • The long shot

The long, full, or wide shot is a closer shot of an area where the viewer can see what’s going on but are not yet emotionally involved in a scene. The subjects are closer to the camera but far enough away that their entire bodies are in view. They may be walking or crossing a street, for example. You can move in a little closer to a medium-long shot where the subject is seen from the knees up.

  • The medium shot

The medium shot takes the viewer close, so it is more informative but still not emotionally involving the viewer. This might be a group scene with dialogue. Moving in closer shows a little more of the expressions and emotions of the actor.

  • The close-up shot

With this shot, only the head or neck up are shown. We engage the viewer and create more impact by focusing on the actor’s expressions and not the background.

  • Over the shoulder shot

This essential shot is used to add depth to a shot and to make conversational scenes seem natural. It shows an out-of-focus shoulder and head in the foreground while another person or object in the background is in focus.

  • Tilt Shot

The tilt shot is simple to execute but can be very useful. Try to coordinate the careful upward or downward camera movement with the scene’s action to establish a wide-angle view of or slowly reveal something.

  • Panning shot

The panning shot is the same as the tilt shot, but horizontal. It is used to show the surroundings and can be great when done smoothly and stably. It has to be perfectly executed to look natural and not distract the viewer.

  • Zoom Shot

A zoom shot can be elegant when done slowly and smoothly. It increases the focus on a scene or object. Please don’t overdo it!


Hold it steady! Filming Techniques 101

The first mark of an amateur is a video that is shaky or has excess movement.

It’s easy for a beginner to become dependent upon a tripod, which means lugging extra gear, and frankly, sometimes just doesn’t work. Practice positioning yourself, so your breathing is not moving the camera. Take advantage of your surroundings to brace the camera – a wall, the ground, or other objects. This will also help you discover new visual perspectives and gives you the freedom to move around the scene or the subject.

Lighting – one of the often overlooked filming techniques

Shooting outside is often desirable or even required. Outdoor shooting brings the challenge of lighting that changes very quickly. Shoot with the sun behind you, which unfortunately puts your actors looking directly into the sun, but it is preferable to having them silhouetted against the sun.

An overcast day is often better for shooting as the lighting is more consistent. Plan your shoot with ample time to wait for just the right conditions and, if possible, scout your potential location before the shoot at the same time to look for distractions and monitor the lighting.

Indoor video shooting requires special preparation. They often require additional lighting to avoid making your videos too dark. When you are shooting people, you’ll want as much light in their faces as possible. Overhead lights can be deceiving and leave faces shadowy.

Lighting is about more than merely adding more light. Positioning the lighting is critical to getting a natural effect. The standard 3-light setup (one on the subject, a backlight, and a fill light) allows you to experiment to get more dramatic results.


Avoid “spotlighting” your subject

Try to avoid putting your subject in bright pools of direct light. It can ruin our contrast and cause reflections on the subject. If using a light ring, don’t just point it at your subject. Light the shot evenly and use a diffuser to reduce shadows

The importance of audio

Good audio is essential to a food video. It adds depth, complexity, and brings the story alive by complimenting the video. Less experienced videographers often overlook two vital points. Don’t forget to caption the audio. For example, if you are filming an event or a party, you likely won’t want a silent video. Beware of unwanted sounds around you, such as planes overhead, traffic, or fans. It is easy to overlook this, so be sure to monitor the sound around you to avoid getting unusable video.

Multiple takes

Be sure to do multiple takes of the action, particularly if doing an interview or scripted shot. This gives you back up, just in case, and allows for more flexibility in editing. Even if it seems flawless, do another take!

Go easy on the transitions and effects – the most often overused video filming techniques.

Beginners often overdo the zoom into their subject or panning across the horizon. Don’t make your viewer dizzy! Focus instead on the motion that is happening and let it take over the scene. Random zooms and pans will distract from the action. Zooms and pans are sometimes appropriate, but they should be used judiciously and be dictated by the action itself.

Our essential video filming techniques will be helpful to you, even if you’re working with a full-service video agency like C&I Studios. An informed client can better participate in the planning process, which means you’ll get the results you want.

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