Learning how to shoot video is, for the most part, on-the-job training. We assume you have taken at least one still photograph in your life. You get the person or other subject in the frame and press the button. Well that’s basically how shooting video works. You frame your subject and press record. How you frame your subject, what your background is, how the audio is recorded, the quality of the lighting, and a myriad of other things, will make your video either spectacular or lousy. Here are a few tips:
Use the Rule of Thirds – when framing your subject. Mentally divide the image you see in the viewfinder into thirds, both horizontally and vertically. Put your subject under one of the lines of intersection. Give the subject some room to move in the viewfinder. Be especially aware of your background too.
Properly light the scene – This doesn’t mean you need to go out and purchase a professional light kit. Understand that your camcorder adjusts for light, or lack of it, automatically. If you are shooting a subject that is standing in front of the sun, chances are that the subject will be a black shadow. Avoid bright backgrounds and also, at the other extreme, avoid poorly lit areas.
Avoid using the zoom buttons – at least while recording. This doesn’t mean don’t use the zoom feature, but try zooming before you hit record. Now shoot some video, pause, zoom in or out, and then record some more. Excessive zooming can make people feel a bit ill. Also, using the extreme zoom settings magnifies the unsteadiness of a handheld camcorder. Use a tripod if at all possible.
Use a tripod! – Holding the camera steady is important to good video. Also, with a good video tripod, one with a so called "fluid" head, you can follow your subject with a smooth panning motion. "Hand-held vs. Tripod"
Vary the shots that you take – Have a good game plan in mind of what should be in a shot and try to shoot the subject from different perspectives. Don’t use the camcorder like a firefighter using a fire hose.
Don’t forget about audio – Remember you are not just recording video. Be aware of noises in the background. Our brains do a good job of blocking out background noise, camcorders sometimes don’t. If you are shooting the history of George Washington with some actors, sounds of cars whizzing by in the background doesn’t sound realistic. Also, use headphones to make sure that the audio is audible. Note in the picture at the top of the page that the videographers are using headphones or earphones. You may need to use an external microphone, either a lapel mic or a boom mic, that picks up the subject’s voice better. If you’re shooting from a distance, a "shotgun" mic is often used.
More good information is available at the Media College website.