VCU Libraries

Research Guides

Video Project Guide

Location, Location, Location

When recording your video project, the location is the most important thing to consider. What spaces do you have access to (classroom/apartment, inside/outside, on-campus/off-campus)? Using a location that is outside of your everyday spaces might help your project stand out but it might also be more difficult to arrange or schedule. This section is to help you pick the best location for your project. 


Light: What can you see? 


The Type of Light: Natural or artificial, or, inside or outside?

  • Natural Light: The sun is a great source of light. However, like most free things in life, it comes with a catch. You can't control the weather or how the sun will behave during certain times of the day. Around noon, the sun can make really harsh shadows which are unflattering for people's faces. Alternatively, shooting near the end of the day can have beautiful lighting known as "golden hour" but it only lasts for a little bit of time. 
  • Artificial Light: These include sources like fluorescent overheads and tungsten light bulbs, which are not nearly as powerful as the sun but can be more easily controlled. For example, you can often move them around or turn them on/off. Keep in mind that fluorescent lighting often reads a little green on a camera and can be very unflattering when coming from directly overhead. 


 The Quality of Light: If the type of light is its source, then the quality of light can be though of as its shape

  • Direct light is when the light is unfiltered. It creates very harsh shadows and often can create shiny spots on people's faces. Sometimes you might want to create this effect on purpose, but it is often not the most flattering light. 
  • Diffused light is when the light is filtered. It creates soft shadows and spreads the light out across a surface, reducing "hot spots" that might cause people's faces to be shiny. Even the sun can be diffused on a cloudy day. For this reason, don't totally rule out natural light as a possibility for creating flattering light. 


A great compromise can be to use natural lighting while indoors by setting up your shot near a window, which offers diffused light. If you do choose to shoot outside, make sure you're shooting somewhere comfortable for everyone. If you do choose to shoot indoors and there's no natural light available, try to find as flattering light as possible. 

Sound: What can you hear? 


Indoor vs. Outdoor

So in the same way there are pros and cons to indoor and outdoor lighting, there are similar considerations for sound. Ultimately it all comes down to control. You have very little control over sound outside.

 

Location Sound

  • Take a couple of seconds and listen to your environment. If you're indoors, you might hear the hum of the air conditioner or the whir of a computer. If you're outdoors, you might hear the sound of traffic or a bird chirping. The sounds that exist in an environment can be thought of as the location sound
  • When editing together audio, it can be very helpful to have a clean sample of your location sound. So either before or after you begin your shoot, take about 30 seconds of audio where no one is talking. 
  • You can use this to cover up an interviewer's um's and uh's or place it under images that you've added that did not have sound.
  • Remember, silence is never actually silent. Cutting out the sound completely can be very jarring. Often students will try to cover these gaps in the audio with music, but adding the location sound will make these transitions even more effective. 

 

Things to avoid:

  • Outdoors: Streets, areas with heavy traffic, industrial equipment, crowded areas, etc.
  • Indoors: AC units, refrigerators, fans, not putting the camera directly on other electronic equipment (it’ll pick up the buzz).

 

Ideal Scenario: What can you do? 


While no solution is perfect, there are a couple of ideal scenarios based on the location you choose to record in. 

Indoor location:

  • Somewhere that you can control the sound and the lighting in that space.
  • Access to power (in case you need to charge something)
  • Somewhere with a nearby bathroom that’s accessible.


Outdoor location:

  • Somewhere quiet and removed from high-traffic areas (whether people or cars). 
  • Choose a time of day where the light is flattering and have a backup plan if the weather is difficult. 
  • Somewhere accessible that isn't too far for people to travel to. 

Get Into Gear

Now you’ve chosen your location and identified the lighting and sound elements, it's time to record! The Workshop has a circulating collection of multimedia equipment. Equipment items are loaned to the VCU community on a first-come, first-served basis. Loans are for three days with one three-day renewal allowed by logging into My Account.

We've offered suggestions below for equipment from The Workshop that should work for most projects. For information about how to set up and use the equipment, visit Setting up Video Equipment from the guide to choosing equipment from The Workshop. Browse all available equipment on The Workshop equipment for loan page.

 

General Purpose Equipment

Our most recommended equipment consists of a camcorder and tripod. This set of equipment will work for most standard projects.

Canon Vixia HF R62 camcorder  (or R72) - High-quality camcorder for video recording. High-quality video is currently standardly recorded at 1920x1080 resolution (resolution refers to how big, or how many pixels, there are in the image) and 30 frames per second (fps). Record up to 12 hrs of video onto the 32GB internal flash drive and connect to your computer to retrieve the files. Features include a touchscreen, 32x optical zoom and an excellent image stabilizer. 

 

Another option is the Sony HDR-CX440, which is a similar camcorder, though we slightly prefer the Canon Vixia.

 

 

Tripod - Set up your camcorder on a tripod to make sure your footage is steady. Always use a tripod if possible. Handheld shooting with panning and zooming make your project look more like a home movie than a professional project

 

While the camcorders have good audio, if you want to go the extra step to get even better sound quality for your project, we recommend:

Zoom H1 audio recorder - An audio recorder that also features excellent stereo microphones, which you can connect to the camcorders via the mounting bracket (shown below). Connect the H1 to the camcorder with the included audio cable to sync video and audio as you record. Zoom H1 manual.

 

H1 mounting kit for camcorders - use this mount to attach the Zoom H1 to the camcorder.

 

Best Quality Equipment 

If you want to go the extra mile for your video project, or already feel comfortable with camcorders, the best video camera that The Workshop has available is the Sony CX900. Many people request the Canon DSLRs for video, which can record a nice image, but cannot record more than 30 minutes of video at a time.

 

Sony CX900 camcorder - Excellent video camera with a large image sensor for high-quality images. Capture 1920 x 1080px resolution video. Features include a touchscreen and 24x digital zoom. The Sony CX900 in The Workshop comes with a shotgun microphone, which should be attached to the top of the camera (the “shoe”) and switched on, for better quality audio.

 

or

 

Canon T6i DSLR camera - A digital camera with interchangeable lenses. Can only record 30 minutes of video at a time. Capture 1920 x 1080px resolution video. DSLRs have notoriously bad sound capture (the cameras are primarily made for photography, not video) so check out an external microphone

 

Canon T6i DSLR camera - A digital camera with interchangeable lenses. Can only record 30 minutes of video at a time. Capture 1920 x 1080px resolution video. DSLRs have notoriously bad sound capture (the cameras are primarily made for photography, not video) so check out an external microphone

Take a Shot!

Now you’ve got your camera what do you do with it?

Camera Settings

  • One of the first things that you might want to check is to make sure that all of your settings are set back to the defaults. If you have questions about how to do this, feel free to ask someone at the front desk to show you.
     
  • For more information visit the guide on setting up your video equipment.

Composition

  • Horizontal vs. Vertical: Something to be aware of in the era of camera phones, is that recording images vertically will often result in smaller videos on YouTube. This is because YouTube's frame is horizontal. If you are mixing in additional footage from a cell phone, just know that vertical video files might result in heavy black bars on the sides known as letter boxes.
     
  • Rule-of-Thirds: Most cameras have an option to add a "grid display," will create an overlay that partitions the image into nine sections. This grid is used to guide the composition of an image.
  • Headroom: the rule-of-thirds is particularly helpful for figuring out how to fit someone comfortably in the from. The headroom refers to the amount of space above a person's head in the frame. ​

  • One trick for finding the headroom is to align the upper horizontal line of the grid to the person's eyes, and this will often produce a well-balanced headroom. 

Types of Shots

  • There are lots of different ways to set up your frame for recording an interview or filming a scene.

  • These are just a few names for common types of shots when filming a person:

 Camera Handling

  • Smaller cameras (like camcorders and your phone) are much lighter and therefore much easier to move - which is create for carrying in your pocket but NOT great for stabilizing a shot.
     
  • Tripods are a great and simple way to ensure that your image is shaking.
     
  • You can also place the camera on a table or a solid flat surface.
     
  • If you are filming yourself, be sure to flip the camera screen towards yourself while filming or review your footage afterwards to make sure that you’ve captured the image you want.