When Do You Need Pro Video?

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So you need a video movie…

It’s everywhere.  You’ve got cats creating their own youtube channels and grandmas killing the mannequin challenge on facebook. So the question is: when you’re in need of video, when do you need to step it up and get professional help?

‘Round these parts, we think it’s when you really need to be seen and heard. Yes, we know Sheila in accounting has a new iPhone and some editing software on her mac, and filmmakers have done amazing things with cell phone video (Park Chan-wook shot THIS film on an iphone 4!).  But a lot of what they’re doing to make that video amazing goes beyond the camera.  We think the two main components are lighting and audio.  A good lighting setup can lead to beautiful images on all sorts of cameras.  We’re not knocking the expensive cameras we have, but a skilled lighting tech, or gaffer, can make a world of difference in the quality of the image (shout out to encyclomedia’s favorite light wizard, Charles Bickelman!).  But the real biggie is the audio.  Having good mics and knowing how to use them will keep your coworkers from sounding like the teacher from the Peanuts or like they’ve taken up residence in one of those new indoor skydiving tunnels.  The audio is often the telltale sign of low- to no-budget video.  All manner of visual sins can be covered with editing tricks or filters, but there’s really very little that can be done to fix poor audio.  And chances are if you’ve got someone speaking in your video, it’s pretty important that you hear them.

We do also know that sometimes cell phone video sans mics and lighting is totally appropriate and useful.  Here are a few tips we can offer to help you step up your cell phone video game:

– Have someone shoot the video for you. It is very difficult to frame a video you shoot of yourself.

– If shooting in a room with windows, do not have the windows behind you. It is best to use the windows for light on your face.

– If shooting outdoors, it’s best to shoot in the morning or evening when the sun is not directly overhead.

– Start rolling the video 2-3 seconds before you start talking. You can cut it later, but some cameras take a minute to start rolling and you don’t want to miss any speaking.

– Try not to be too close to the wall behind you. A minimum of 3-4 feet from the background is good, more is even better. Your background does not need to be plain.

– Do not wear plaid or anything with thin stripes. Avoid bright whites as well.


– It may seem obvious, but shoot in a quiet place. If shooting indoors, turn off the air conditioning.

– Speak loudly. Do not shout, but use your “speaking” voice.


– The top of your head should be very close to, but not off of the top of the screen. Your eyes should be above the center of the screen.

– Have the camera very close to you. Exact distance will depend on the camera, but in general 1-2 ft (.3-.6m) will be best. Some cameras may require that you be a little further back.

– If using a smart phone, hold the camera horizontally or wide (unless you have a specific reason why you need vertical video).

Hope this helps.  Feel free to get in touch with questions or if we can do anything for you.