Videography Tips And Getting Started

To shoot good video and then create from it an interesting, exciting or informative movie is something anyone with a little basic knowledge can achieve.

Starting from a rough script or shooting plan, the first step is to shoot your raw video. Even at that stage, you should be looking ahead to the editing phase by making sure you will have a good set of shots to work from.

Editing a movie involves juggling all your fragments of footage into some kind of harmonious whole. It means deciding on the particular techniques, transitions and effects that will best express your intent.

An important part of editing is the creation of a soundtrack. The right sound - dialog, music, commentary or effect - can work with the visuals to create a whole greater than the sum of its parts.

Pinnacle Studio has the tools you need to create professional-quality home video. The rest is up to you - the videographer.

Creating a shooting plan

It is not always necessary to have a shooting plan, but it can be very helpful for large video projects. The plan can be as simple or as complex as you like. A simple list of planned scenes might be enough, or you might also want to include some notes regarding detailed camera directions or prepared dialog. The really ambitious can go all the way to a full-fledged script in which every single camera angle is described in detail along with notes about duration, lighting and props.

Title: “Jack on the kart track”

No. Camera angle Text / Audio Duration Date
1 Jack's face with helmet, camera zooms out “Jack is driving his first race...”.
Noise of engines in the background.
11 sec Tue.06/22
2 On the starting line, driver's perspective; low camera position. Music is played in the hall, noise of engines. 8 sec Tue.
3 Man with a starting flag is accompanied into the scene to the start position. Camera stays, man goes out of the scene after start. “Let's go...”.
Carry out the start, add starting signal.
12 sec Tue.
4 Jack on the start position from the front, camera follows, shows Jack up to the bend, now from behind. Music from the hall no longer audible, fade up same music from CD over noise of engines. 9 sec Tue.
5 ...      

Draft of a simple shooting plan


Using varying perspectives

An important event should always be shot from varying perspectives and camera positions. Later, during editing, you can use the best camera angles alone or in combination. Make a conscious effort to tape events from more than one camera angle (first the clown in the circus ring, but then also the laughing spectator from the clown's point of view). Interesting events can also take place behind the protagonists or the protagonists may be seen in a reverse angle. This can be helpful later when trying to establish a sense of balance in the movie.


Don't be stingy with close-ups of important things or persons. Close-ups usually look better and more interesting than long shots do on a television screen, and they work well in post-production effects.

Long shots / Semi-long shots

Long shots provide the viewer with an overview and establish the scene of the action. However, these shots can also be used to tighten longer scenes. When you cut from a close-up to a long shot, the viewer no longer sees the details, and it is thus easier to make a chronological jump. Showing a spectator in a semi-long shot can also provide visual relief from the main action, and the opportunity of a transition away from the action if desired.

Complete actions

Always shoot complete actions with a beginning and an end. This makes editing easier.


Cinematic timing requires some practice. It is not always possible to film long events in their entirety, and in movies they often have to be represented in severely abbreviated form. Nonetheless, the plot should remain logical and cuts should almost never call attention to themselves.

This is where the transition from one scene to the next is important. Even if the action in neighboring scenes is separated in time or space, your editorial choices can make the juxtaposition so smooth that the viewer bridges the gap without conscious attention.

The secret to a successful transition is establishing an easily-felt connection between the two scenes. In a plot-related transition, the connection is that of successive events in an unfolding story. For example, a shot of a new car might be used to introduce a documentary about its design and production.

A neutral transition doesn't in itself imply a story development or a change of time or place, but can be used to smoothly connect different excerpts from a scene. For example, cutting away to an interested audience member during a podium discussion lets you then cut back unobtrusively to a later point in the same discussion, omitting the part between.

External transitions show something apart from the action. For example, during a shot inside the marriage registry, you might cut to the exterior of the marriage registry, where a surprise is already being set up.

Transitions should underscore the message of the film and must always fit the respective situation, in order to avoid confusing viewers or distracting from the actual storyline.

Logical sequence of action

The shots strung together during editing must interact appropriately in relation to the action. Viewers will be unable to follow the events unless the storyline is logical. Capture viewer interest from the very beginning with a fast-paced or spectacular start and maintain that interest until the very end. Viewers can lose interest or become disoriented if scenes are strung together in a manner that is illogical or chronologically false or if scenes are too hectic or short (under three seconds). There should be some continuity of motif from one scene to the next.

Bridging the gaps

Make an effort to bridge the gaps from one filming location to another. You can use close-ups, for example, to bridge chronological jumps, zooming in on the face, then back out after a few seconds onto a different scene.

Maintain continuity

Continuity - consistency of detail from one scene to the next - is vital in providing a satisfying viewing experience. Sunny weather does not fit with spectators who opened their umbrellas.

Tempo of cuts

The tempo at which a film cuts from one scene to the next often influences the message and mood of the film. The absence of an expected shot and the duration of a shot are both ways of manipulating the message of the film.

Avoid visual disjunctions

Stringing together similar shots in succession may result in visual disjunctions. A person may be in the left half of the frame one moment and in the right half of the frame the next, or may appear first with and then without eyeglasses.

Do not string together pan shots

Pan shots should not be strung together unless they have the same direction and tempo.

Rules of thumb for video editing

Here are some guidelines that may be helpful when you come to edit your movie. Of course, there are no hard and fast rules, especially if your work is humorous or experimental.

  • Do not string together scenes in which the camera is moving. Pans, zooms, and other moving shots should always be separated by static shots.
  • Shots that follow one another should be from different camera positions. The camera angle should vary by at least 45 degrees.
  • Sequences of faces should always be shot alternately from varying angles of view.
  • Change perspectives when shooting buildings. When you have similar shots of the same type and size, the picture diagonal should alternate between front left to rear right and vice versa.
  • Make cuts when persons are in motion. The viewer will be distracted by the ongoing motion and the cut will go almost without notice. In particular, you can cut to a long shot from the middle of the motion.
  • Make harmonious cuts; avoid visual disjunction.
  • The less motion there is in a shot, the shorter it should be. Shots with fast movements can be longer.
  • Long shots have more content, so they should also be shown longer.

Ordering your video sequences in a deliberate manner not only permits you to produce certain effects, but even enables you to convey messages that cannot or should not be shown in pictures. There are basically six methods of conveying messages through cuts. Let's look at each in turn.

Associative cuts

Shots are strung together in a certain order to trigger associations in the mind of the viewer, but the actual message is not shown. Example: A man bets on a horse race and, in very next scene, we see him shopping for an expensive new car at a car dealership.

Parallel cuts

Two actions are shown in parallel. The film jumps back and forth between the two actions; making the shots shorter and shorter until the end. This is a way of building suspense until it peaks. Example: Two different cars drive from different directions at high speed toward the same intersection.

Contrast cuts

The film purposely cuts unexpectedly from one shot to another, very different shot, in order to point up the contrast to the viewer. Example: A tourist lying on the beach; the next shot shows starving children.

Substitutionary cut

Events that cannot or should not be shown are replaced by other events (a child is born, but instead of childbirth, the blossoming of a flower bud is shown).

Cause and effect cuts

Shots are related by virtue of cause and effect: without the first shot, the second would be incomprehensible. Example: A man fights with his wife and, in the very next shot, winds up sleeping under a bridge.

Formal cuts

Shots that vary in content can be strung together if they have something in common - the same shapes, colors, or motions, for example. Examples: A crystal ball and the earth; a yellow raincoat and yellow flowers; a falling skydiver and a falling feather.

Soundtrack production

Soundtrack production is an art, but it is an art one can learn. Of course, it is no easy task to create a superb narration, but short, informative comments are often very helpful for the viewer. Whatever narration there is should sound natural, expressive and spontaneous, not wooden or stiff.

Keep comments brief

A general rule applicable to all commentary is that less is more. Pictures should speak for themselves, and things that are evident to viewers from the pictures require no comment.

Preserve original sounds

Spoken commentary should be mixed with both the original sounds and the music in such a way that the original sounds can still be heard. Natural sound is part of your video footage and should not be cut away altogether if at all possible, because video without natural sound can easily seem sterile and lacking in authenticity. Frequently, however, the recording equipment captures noises from aircraft and cars that do not appear in the scene later. Sounds such as these, or loud wind noises, which can be distracting or annoying, should be masked, filtered or replaced with appropriate narration or music.

Select appropriate music

Appropriate music adds a professional finishing touch to your movie and can do a lot to reinforce the message of a video. The music selected, however, should always be appropriate to the message of the film. This is sometimes a time-consuming matter and a challenge, but greatly appreciated by the viewer.


The title should be informative, describe the contents of the movie, and arouse interest. With the Title Editor there are no limits to how creative you can be. As a rule, you can let your fancy run free when designing a title for your video.

Use a short, clear title

Titles should be short and in a large, legible font.

Title colors

The following combinations of background and text are easy to read: white with red, yellow with black, and white with green. Exercise caution with very white titles on a very black background. Some video systems are unable to handle contrast ratios in excess of 1:40 and are unable to reproduce such titles in detail.

Time on screen

As a rule of thumb, a title should be displayed long enough to be read twice. Allow about three seconds for a title with ten letters. Allow an additional second of on-screen time for every five additional letters.

"Found" titles

Besides postproduction titles, natural titles like directional signs, street signs or title pages of local newspapers also create interesting possibilities.