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Learn Video and Filming Basics

How can this guide help?

When filming a video, there are a few key elements and techniques that are helpful to keep in mind during the process. Use the pages in this guide to learn more about key filming tips and information that you can consider for your next video project.

Using the camera


  • Keep the camera steady on a tripod and move the camera vertically (down or up) or horizontally.
  • This lets your audience see more of your location/setting.
  • You can play with the speed to get different options. Remember that moving the camera too quickly will not give the audience enough time to absorb the setting.


  • The camera lens is increasing or decreasing its distance from something in your shot.
  • Zooming out lets viewers see more of the setting and zooming in provides more details.
  • When you edit, it is recommended to begin from the point after the zooming has started and to stop the clip before the zooming is done.
  • You can play with the speed to get different options.

Tracking shots

  • The camera moves with the action or subject.
  • There should be extra space in front of the subject in the direction that they are moving (also known as “lead room”).

What types of microphones should I consider?

The camera’s built-in microphone

  • You will hear a lot of noise from the environment when you are using the camera’s microphone, so depending on the quality of audio you are hoping to capture, you may wish to use an additional microphone. Below are some options to choose from.

Shotgun microphone

  • This will capture the sound from a single direction.
  • To pick-up the highest quality sound, try to be as close as you can to the subject.
  • This will still capture some sound from the environment.

Lavalier microphone (often referred to as a “lav-mic”)

  • Attach this to a subject’s shirt, as close to their mouth as you can.
  • It’s best to hide the attached cord inside the subject’s clothes so you don’t see it in the shot.
  • Clip the microphone upside down to avoid excessive breath noises being captured.
  • This microphone captures minimal sound from the environment while focusing more on your subject’s voice.
General note
  • Try to keep the microphone as close as you can to the sound in order to get the best recording. A general distance to keep in mind is about 6-inches from your subject. If video recording as well, be sure the microphone is not visible in the shots unless you want it to appear in your video.

What are some helpful lighting techniques?

Filming inside

  • If there is a light above your subject in an indoor room, your subject should be facing the light and should be positioned behind where the light is located.
  • In a studio, use the 3-point lighting technique. This includes the following:
  • ​Key light: this should be the strongest light and it should face your subject on one side at a 45 degree angle.
  • Fill light: this provides light to your subject from the other side opposite the key light on a 45 degree angle. It is lower in brightness (around half of the key light’s brightness) and can even out some of the harsh contrast of the key light.
  • Backlight or hair light: this should be positioned behind and above the individual. This light provides a subtle halo of light above the hair and the shoulders.

Filming outside

  • Your subject should be standing in front of the sun - this can be called “backlighting”.
  • Ideally, this should be done at sunset or sunrise.
  • This overall technique distinguishes the subject from their setting.
  • Tip: check that the sun isn’t facing the camera lens head-on to avoid the individual becoming underexposed.
  • Do not place your subject in a position where the sun is facing them from the side.
  • This might generate shadows on your subject.
  • Do not place your subject in a position where the sun is facing them from the front (and your camera is in between the sun and your subject).
  • If this occurs, it will be hard on your subject since they will be facing the sun. 
  • Shadows might also form under your subject’s eyes depending on the sun’s placement around the middle of the day.
  • The shadows will be less harsh if you can set-up your video in the shade.

What is the 180 degree rule?

  • Pretend that there is a line that runs along where your subjects are standing.
  • The camera should never move past that line, as this will disorient viewers.
  • If you are choosing a new camera position for your next shot (after you have filmed in a previous position), it is recommended that the camera move at least 45 degrees in relation to this line (but still does not cross it).
  • If you do want to cross the line, you can do so by showing this movement in a camera shot, so that the change is clear to viewers.

What are some typical camera shots?

Wide shot (WS) or establishing shot

  • Establishing shots: shows the setting that is being filmed
  • Wide shots: includes the subjects’ full bodies

Medium shot (MS)

  • The top of the shot is typically just above the subject’s head and the bottom of the shot is around the subject’s waist.

Close-up (CU)

  • Typically this shot includes the subject’s head and is cut off at their shoulders.

Extreme close-up (ECU)

  • This shot is more specific compared to the close-up (CU). For example, you might frame just the subject’s eyes.

Adapted from…

Lehigh University. (2019). Video basics tutorial (menu) - Library & technology services.

Retrieved from Video Basics Tutorial Lehigh University

Resources to help with video basics

Link to Guide: Create a scriptLink to Guide: Create a StoryboardLink to Guide: Edit Video WeVideo

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