How to shoot great video quickly and efficiently

Shooting great video doesn’t have to be a time-consuming process. By streamlining your workflow and limiting the chance for mistakes, you can reduce the time needed to shoot and edit your masterpiece.


When breaking news hits, the videographer is tasked with grabbing the camera and running out of the door with little preparation and often a vague idea of what needs to be filmed. But for those video projects for which prep time is available, it is a good idea to brainstorm what the video should look like before you go out to shoot.

Take a minute to consider and jot down the various setups, interviews and shots you’d like to capture. For example, if the story is about a bake sale, consider interviews with the bakers, including shots of the baked goods, people eating them, etc. If you are so inclined, draw a storyboard but leave it open-ended as news videography is often subject to unforeseeable change. The story itself shouldn’t be planned ahead, but at least by brainstorming, you’ll have an ideas of what the shoot will entail.

For novice videographers, a good portion of the time wasted in the field is experimenting with the video camera’s various settings. Before going on a shoot, become familiar with the camera and know how to quickly access essential features like white balance and focus.

Once you and the camera have become best friends, remember to bring its buddies along: a good set of headphones, the appropriate microphone(s) for your shooting situation and extra tapes and batteries just in case. Nothing drags down video production like having to run back to grab a missing piece of equipment.

In the field

Before you begin shooting, limit the amount of unusable video by testing your audio levels beforehand. Prior to an interview, have the subject speak naturally into the microphone for as long as it takes to determine that the audio quality is perfect. Audio meters can give you an idea if sound is indeed being recorded, but use headphones to be doubly sure and, if possible, keep them on for the duration of the shoot.

Cut down on the time spent in the edit room by only shooting what you need. Before you hit the record button ask yourself “Is this necessary for the end product or am I just bored or antsy?” An itchy trigger finger will result in loads of necessary film. On the other hand, shooting B-roll, or video footage used to supplement the main idea, is necessary to give the video some flavor and break up lengthy interviews. Just be cautious not to overshoot.

For those shots you do need, capture each one in close up, medium, and wide angle so you will have options when you finally begin editing. Additionally, be sure to hold each shot for at least 10 seconds to ensure the shot is usable. There is nothing worse than having a great shot that is rendered useless because it is too short. If the video is intended exclusively for the web, concentrate on close ups as it is harder to make out important details on a relatively small computer screen.

The human brain is by nature forgetful so while you are shooting, create a log of your shots which will reduce the time spent looking for them later. Feel free to note whether a shot was good or bad and if it should be included in the final product. Once finished, label your tapes so they can be easily located.

The edit room

It’s tempting to walk away from the edit bay as your video is being imported, but depending on its length, it is good idea to keep an eye on what has been shot, even if you have kept a detailed log. This will help in quickly identifying whether a shot turned out good or bad and will serve as a reminder of the sequence of events.

Most experts agree that online video should be at the most 4 to 5 minutes in length to ensure that it is watched from beginning to end by finicky web viewers. When editing, include succinct soundbites and be sure that interviewees are not repeating the same points. Avoid time spent selecting fancy transitions and wipes by just omitting them altogether. Include only what is absolutely necessary to tell the story and makes for compelling video.

Thanks to @danielday for suggesting today’s post.

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