The second webinar of the TSDigs event series focused on video production. The webinar, Capturing Your Story on Camera, featured David J. Neff, co-founder and CEO of Lights. Camera. Help.

Capture Video the Way the Pros Do

Neff began by advising organizations to approach capturing video much as a professional director would. The same principles that make a good movie also make a good nonprofit video. As such, the staff behind the video will have to approach video work in a different manner than they do their day-to-day work.

Video direction and production will involve tasks such as asking difficult questions, like asking your subject to change their outfit because the color does not look good on camera, and so on.

Tips to Produce Like a Pro

To develop a well-produced video for your organization, Neff shared the following key tips used by the pros.

  1. Think in frames. While it may be tempting to place a subject directly in the center of a shot, visually it is boring. Subjects should be framed using the “rule of thirds” as a guide. The “rule of thirds” breaks up the visual plane into nine quadrants, three sections across and three down. Aligning subjects along these lines or intersections creates a more interesting composition.
  2. Headroom, Max Headroom. Filling your frame with the subject results in less editing and a more professional-looking video. Using the “rule of thirds” as your guide, make sure your subject’s eyes should be one-third of the way down the frame.
  3. Worry about sound. People are more inclined to watch bad video with good sound as opposed to a good video with bad sound. Consider background sounds like the hum of fluorescent lights if you’re recording indoors, which can be very distracting. Editing sound is difficult so it’s best to make sure there are no distracting background noises and a microphone is used to capture the action. A microphone is a great tool and it’s helpful to either use a camera with a built-in microphone or purchase an external one that can be plugged into the camera you do have.
  4. Buy (or hire) a good camera. Recording a video for your organization is a great way to get people inside and outside of your organization involved. Organization’s can maximize the power of video by engaging people who have filming expertise and experience. Perhaps a volunteer with camera skills can lend a hand or audiovisual students at a local high school or college looking for experience would be willing to help.
  5. Don’t go into the light. Like sound, light is very important to your video. Neff advises would-be filmmakers to consider not only how the light looks to their eyes but also how it looks through their cameras. When filming outdoors and relying on natural light it is best to film late in the afternoon before sundown or early in the morning when the light is at its softest. Often lighting conditions aren’t ideal and must be created in which case it is best to use the “three-point lighting” method used by professionals. The key light and fill light strike the subject directly but from different angles and are complemented by the back light which is also positioned at an angle to minimize shadows created the key and fill lights.

The tips above provide a solid foundation for creating effective and professional-looking videos, however, Neff does advise getting some practice. In the meantime, organizations looking for more expert advice should visit the TechSoup Digital Storytelling Challenge site for information on upcoming educational events, recaps from past events, and links to more resources. 

Susan Chavez
Online Community & Social Media Team, TechSoup Global