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Directing the Perfect Video Shoot – Ten Top Tips

1.  Plan your shoot

Careful forward planning will save everyone time and budget. Clarify beforehand with all concerned what the purpose of the video is and who the intended audience is. How will this audience view the video and what format or size will this involve? At this stage it’s also important to have an idea of the duration of the video and plan how many cameras will be used and to source any additional equipment if required. Also make sure you visit the proposed location beforehand to save time and to familiarise yourself with your surroundings.


2.  The Three S’s

Storytelling. Videos that tell an engaging story are more likely to be liked, commented on and shared. Ultimately it’s more likely to go viral and be remembered.  Telling a story is far more interesting that a sales pitch.

Script. Always use a script. This gives the whole team direction and ensures the shots flow smoothly.

Storyboard. This is always helpful to map out key points throughout; and a storyboard acts as a good visual guide for the client. This also ensures time isn’t wasted on shoot, particularly helpful when you are up against tight time constraints.


 3.  Know the Lingo

Go in as prepared as you can be with a few of our jargon busters below:

PAL: Phase Alternate by Line is the 625-line colour video system currently used in most of Western Europe, England, Australia, and South Africa.

NTSC: National Television Standards Committee is the colour video system currently used in America and Japan.

Pan: Fixed camera position, horizontal movement.

Zoom: Fixed camera, optical motion toward or away from subject (though as a general rule, it is recommended to leave the shot wide of move in closer, rather than zooming).

Cutaway: Used in the editing process to fill in footage which is different from the main action (B-Roll).

Tilt: Fixed camera position, vertical movement.

Dissolve, mix: Transition between 2 shots.

Vox pop:  the opinions of people recorded talking informally in public places or a broadcast for radio or television.

Jump cut: a cut in film editing in which two sequential shots of the same subject are taken from camera positions that vary only slightly. If using 2 cameras make sure the shots are sufficiently different.


4.  Know your Camera Shots

VWS (Very Wide Shot) – The subject is barely visible but the emphasis is placing the subject in their environment.

WS (Wide Shot) – The subject takes up the full frame, or at least as much as comfortably possible.

MS (Mid Shot) – Shows some part of the subject in more detail while still giving an impression of the whole subject.

MCU (Medium Close Up) – Half way between Mid Shot and Close Up.

CU (Close Up) – A certain feature or part of the subject takes up the whole frame.

ECU (Extreme Close Up) – This gets right in and shows extreme detail.

Cut Away or B-roll – Used in the editing process to fill in footage that is different from the main action.

2-shot – A shot of 2 people, framed similarly to a mid shot.

OSS (Over the Shoulder Shot) – Looking from behind a person at the subject.

Noddy Shot – This usually refers to a shot of an interviewer listening and reacting to the subject.

Rule of Thirds – As a guideline for shot composition, the subject should be off centre.


 5.  Shot Lists, Call Sheets and Risk Assessments

Shot lists help to ensure you get all the shots you require in the correct order.

A call sheet is issued to all talent and crew team members informing them where and when they should report. Call sheets include information such as contact details, schedule, address of the shoot etc. It is also common to find weather updates, logistics and transportation info on call sheets.

A risk assessment form is required for any activity where there is a chance of a hazard to any member of the team or crew.


 6.  Location, Location, Location

Establish an appropriate location with your client. It is easier to stick to a single location, but depending on your objectives this may not be possible. If shooting outside it is important to consider the lack of control over the environment. An inside shoot can seem more straightforward but you’ll need to consider lighting and whether the environment is suitable for filming and availability of location.


 7.  Sound

Make sure there are no distracting noises in the location and environment you’ve selected. Do you have a suitable microphone? Do you need a sound person? Make sure you keep audio in mind at all times.


 8.  Lights, Camera, Action…

Lighting is incredibly important. If there isn’t enough light your footage may look grainy and unclear. Too much light and your footage could easily look washed-out or there may be harsh shadows.

Natural lighting is best. Even if you are shooting inside during the day, you should try to get as much natural light in the shot as possible.

Is your frame set the way you intended? It sounds simple, but making sure you’ve been through the shot composition with a fine toothcomb saves time in the editing process.


 9.  Hold your shot and shoot a lot

Keep the camera steady and shoot each shot for at least 10 seconds. No pans or zooms are required at this stage. Be as inconspicuous as possible in order to get a true picture of the subject. Finally, always shoot more than you need it’s better to have too much footage than not enough.


10.  It’s a WRAP

This stands for Wind, Reel and Print and it refers to the film-making reference for what you do when filming’s over. You wind it, you reel it and then you print it. Then of course check over the finished article and make your audience aware of it in every way possible.


For more tips on directing the perfect video, or to discuss your next project with our team, contact our video and motion graphics experts at Torpedo.

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