Open Educational Media

Production: Theory and Practice of Shooting Video


Framing is the placement of the subject within the composition of the shot.

Headspace: The space between the subject’s top of the head and the top of the frame is called headspace.  Too close to the top and it looks like the top of the frame is suctioning the top of the head to the frame.  Too much headroom has the viewer staring at all the space above the head.  The best spot is a couple of inches below the frame.

Medium Shot: the standard shot, where the subject is framed from the top of the head to the hips, or the belt. A Medium shot with two people is called a Two-Shot.

Paul Rudd on MLB Network’s Intentional Talk.

Medium 2-shot

Close-Up: usually a head with maybe a bit of shoulders (an Extreme Close Up would be a shot of someone’s eyes or hands).  Below are shots of a tight close-up that cuts into the forehead, while the loose close-up allows a bit of headroom and more of the shoulders.

Tight Close-up

Loose Close-up

Wide Shot: this would be your shot furthest away from the subject, incorporating the landscape behind the person.  Wide shots are often using as the first Establishing Shot, which sets the setting for the video.

Variety of shots: Wide Shot, Medium Shot, Full Medium 2-Shot, Close-up, Extreme Close-up

Rule of Thirds: guideline that follows that the most interesting compositions are formed on the lines or intersections on an invisible grid that separates the pictures in nine parts. It creates more tension and energy and it draws our eyes in different ways than centering a subject.


Depth of Field

Depth of Field: refers to the distance or the focal range between the nearest and furthest objects in a shot that are sharp and in-focus. A large depth of field is called a deep focus, while a small depth of field is called shallow focus.  The blurred background that is pleasing to the eye is called a bokeh.  A shallow depth of field can produce a better bokeh.

Shallow depth of field (background blurred)

Deep depth of field (almost everything is in focus)

Crossing the Axis

Don’t cross the axis.  This follows the 180 degree rule where two subjects facing each other are on an imaginary line that connects them.  The camera stays frame-left to the first character and frame-right on the second character.  By doing this, the viewer can better follow the action in their heads as crossing the axis – shooting from the other side, disrupts the viewers’ sense of space around the subjects.

Vary your shots to keep your audience interested. Keep in mind that audio and content should be considered over this.  How, other shots other than just people talking can make your video more dynamic.  For instance, adding the shot of the bagpiper was a nice change in shot and environment.  Sound wasn’t an issue so the shot worked and added variety to the piece.


White Balance and Colour Temperature

White Balance: White balancing your camera removes any strange color casts so as to take shots that more closely mirror that of the human eye. Lighting conditions determine the colour temperature of an area, whereas our eyes compensate for the colour change.  The white balance will try to match the colour, based on the whites, for the human eye.  Related to this is colour temperature, which is the hue and intensity of light, measured in Kelvin.

Warmer colour temperatures in the red-orange-yellow end of the spectrum are in the lower Kelvin range, from 1000K to 4000K and are referred to as Tungsten-balanced as that’s where domestic light bulbs fall.  Colder colour temperatures are in the bluer range of the spectrum and are about 5500K to 15000K, which are generally referred to as Daylight-balanced.  Using improper white balance can lead to outdoor shots having an orange hue when Tungsten-balanced and indoor shots having a blue tone if Daylight-balanced.  Make sure to properly set the white balance to the proper conditions (ie. indoor shoot under domestic lighting is Tungsten, for florescent bulbs choose Florescent), or set the Kelvin temperature manually on your camera or app.


Tripods, Grips and Mounts

Use a tripod or a makeshift tripod.  A tripod helps to stabilize your shot so there’s less jitter and shakiness.  This serves a couple of purposes:

Your shot will look better with less unintentional movement.  A steady shot makes the viewer focus on the subject, rather than being distracted or annoyed by the camera’s movement.  It can also give it a professional, classy look.

Sudden movement or “whip pans” (moving your camera side-to-side really fast) can add ugly pixelation.  The sensors in the camera can only pick up so many pixels changing at once, so while a steady shot has a limited number of pixels changing due to movement, the sudden and drastic change of every pixel changing 30 times a second in a whip pan can lead to the unappealing blurriness being captured as distorted pixelation.  In effect, the camera’s sensors can’t keep up with the excessive and sudden changes.

In lower light, a tripod is needed as the shutter may have to be open longer.  Since it’s open longer, it’s more prone to being negatively affected by any jitter of the camera and wrecking your shot.



Three-point Lighting: Three-point lighting is the basis for shooting good video as it provides a basic and standard, dramatic look for filming. The more darkness and shadows that appear, the more of a stark and dark tone there is to the look and feel of the video.  This includes:

  1. Key light – this will be your brightest and main light facing the subject, shone to one side of the face.  The Key light is usually
  2. Fill light – which fills in the opposite front side, at approximately 50% of the brightness of the Key light. The side of the face with the fill light, that is, the less bright and more shadowy side, is what usually faces the camera.
  3. Back light or Rim light – illuminates the back of the subject’s head, creating a halo or bright aura to separate them from the background

If you want a look that is less dramatic with equally illuminated sides of the face, then you get a flat look, as in no shadows are present on the face.  This all-around bright look is typical of newscasts and talk shows.

If you don’t have a lighting kit, look for adequate ambient or present lighting.

Smartphones tend to overblow images in bright sun or light.  Do not shoot into the sun or into a bright window, with the sun directly behind the subject. This will blow out your image and turn your subject into a dark silhouette.  Shoot with the sun or window to the side or front of the subject (if you have to).  A better place to shoot is in a shaded area to avoid the bright sun.

Use a well-lighted room or outdoor area but try and stay away from ugly fluorescent lights (they can give an ugly greenish hue) if possible and dim lights.  Household lamps are often smaller wattages, so they don’t give off much light, so regular room lighting is better.

Contrary to what you might think, shooting in a lightly, evenly shaded area can provide you with good lighting that is not too bright, nor too dark.

Smartphones will use a slower shutter speed in low light situations, such as at night, in shaded areas or inside where there’s dim lighting.  With low light, the shutter needs to stay open longer to allow enough light in to correctly expose the image.  Since the shutter is open longer to compose the picture, any little jitter or shake can disrupt the image as the shot is no longer instantaneous.


Using a Greenscreen 

Greenscreen shooting tips: Light your green backdrop brightly and evenly, so no shadows or dark spots.  Bring your subject several feet out from the green screen to avoid green light “spillage” onto the person’s shoulders and hair.  This allows for the composite to more easily remove the green background in your editing or compositing program.

Below is the greenscreen shot of a hand before and after the green is removed or “chroma-keyed” out in an editing program such as Adobe Premiere or Camtasia.






Panasonic Gh4 Camera Mirrorless Dslr Lumix


Exposure, ISO and Shutter Speed

Exposure: refers to the amount of light hitting the image sensor.  DSLR cameras can control all of the following functions, while smartphones, functions such as ISO and Shutter Speed are automatic (unless you have an additional App like Filmic Pro or Camera +), but Aperture can be controlled and locked in.

There are three functions on the camera that affect this:

Aperture – measures how open the iris is to light.  Opening up the to a wider aperture (so a lower f-stop) lets in more light, while a narrow aperture (higher f-stop) lets in less light.  This is what you will most likely be changing in most shoots, while ISO and Shutter Speed may be changed in more changing conditions such as a night or a room with no lights.

ISO – controls the sensitivity to light.  A lower ISO is usually better, as a higher ISO can allow for more sensitivity in dark locations, but it adds messy noise and grain to the image. 200-400 is fairly standard under normal lighting.

Shutter Speed – Determines how long the shutter will be open on the camera. 1/50 to 1/100 of a second is a fairly standard for everyday shots.  For fast motion, you may have 1/400 up to 1/4000 of a second.  Very low light might be open for 1-30 seconds.

Exposure Triangle:


Focus Peaking

Focus peaking is a camera function that can help to focus on the depth of field or the subject that you want in focus.  It often appears as a glowing or glittery red or green aura around the edges of objects.



Zebras are diagonal lines on the viewfinder that help you to determine over or underexposure.  The sweet spot is just a touch of zebras on the nose, cheeks or forehead of the subject.


Standard lenses include:

45-50mm – good portrait lens with narrow depth of field

35mm – most closely resembles what the human eye sees and a standard in the film industry

11-23mm – wide angle, used to cover large areas.