Filming & editing


Unfortunately, many low-budget videos suffer from bad camera work. A few easy techniques can make your video much easier to watch.


  • Single hand – one technique is to hold your camera with one hand and support that elbow with your free hand. Keep your elbow near your body, as this will allow you to hold the camera for long periods.
  • Two hands – sometimes it's more comfortable to hold a camera with both hands. Again, keep your elbows near your body for improved leverage and stability
  • Above your head – if you’re shooting crowded events, you might need to hold your camera over your head. If you have a swivel viewfinder, this is no problem, but if you’re using a camera without an adjustable viewfinder it takes a lot of practice.
  • Above your head – if you’re shooting crowded events, you might need to hold your camera over your head. If you have a swivel viewfinder, this is no problem, but if you’re using a camera without an adjustable viewfinder it takes a lot of practice.
  • Stabilising your camera – keep an eye out for architectural or natural features that can help you stabilise your shots. Walls are good for leaning against, and if you’re able to use a tripod, it’ll make your shots much more stable.
  • Video Blog-style interviewing – if you’re using a small camera, you can hold it, facing you and at arms length, and capture yourself and your interview subject. This technique is tricky and definitely requires practice.
  • Keep recording – it’s smart to record a little more than you think you need, as this will give you more to play with when you’re editing. Aim for a minimum of ten seconds per shot.
  • Zooming – avoid making your viewers motion-sick with excessive zooming and/or panning. We recommend that you turn off your camera’s digital zoom feature. Because internet video is often viewed in a small window, stay tightly framed on your subject. Some digital cameras and phones show a marked deterioration in image quality when the zoom is used.
  • Dollying – physically moving the camera while it is fixed to an object. We recommend using wheelchairs, cars, skateboards, tricycles, or improvising using anything with wheels. Have the camera person sit on the vehicle or object while someone else pushes it and them.

Common Mistakes

  • Shooting too much, and the wrong things – be clear about exactly what you want to film before starting.
  • Not paying attention to the sound – badly recorded or poorly mixed sound can ruin an otherwise excellent video. Use an external microphone if you can, and check the sound levels are even before releasing your final edited product.
  • Lacking essential equipment – check you have everything you need – the day before the shoot, if possible, so that you have time to obtain replacements if necessary. Check that your camera and microphone are working, your batteries are charged and essential cables are packed in your camera bag.

Batteries & tapes

  • If possible, carry at least one fully powered spare battery, and a charger, for each camera and microphone you are using.
  • Recharge your batteries whenever you can.
  • If travelling abroad to film, ensure you have the necessary plug adaptors for any chargers.
  • Carry as many tapes as you can. Don't run out of tapes in the middle of an important shoot.
  • Try not to use the first and last minute on a DV tape.
  • Be careful to avoid ‘time code breaks’ in your footage, and worse, taping over your material. This is easiest if you resist the temptation to play your footage back while still in the field.
  • As soon as you have filled a video tape (or other storage medium), label it clearly but briefly with what is on it, and the date. You may wish to mark the tape with the name or a code for the project it was recorded for, and a number in sequence as soon as you are using more than one tape or disc.
  • Keep your tapes safe, dry, cool, away from magnetic fields and out of direct sunlight.
  • When you have a chance, make clearly labelled backup copies of your tapes or discs, and keep them in a different location for security in case anything happens to the originals.
  • Keep all your video equipment in a strong, padded and waterproof bag. Keep recorded tapes separate in case the camera is stolen; thieves are not interested in your material, but you are, and unlike an (insured) camera, your footage is irreplaceable.
  • Avoid unnecessarily rewinding your tapes.

Audio & lighting

Sound quality is sometimes considered less important than visuals, but experienced videographers would disagree. Bad sound can spoil an otherwise great production. See the Audio section for more details about sound and how to record it (Read more).

Audio tips

  • Stay close for good audio  – always get your microphone as close as you possibly can to the sound source you want to capture. If your microphone is internal or attached to your camera, move everything up close.
  • Hand-held or external microphones – when using an external microphone, it’s good to attach headphones to your camera. If there is a problem with the microphone or connectors, you’ll hear it through the headphones before it's too late to sort it out.
  • Getting the best sound possible – decide which sounds you want to capture and focus on isolating those sounds as best you can. Consider moving your subject away from any unwanted noise.

Lighting tips

  • Shooting outdoors – generally, you will want to keep the sun behind your camera, shining towards your subject. When possible, avoid shooting in full noon-day sun, as it casts harsh shadows. At noon, you’re better off shooting in full shade and optionally bouncing extra light into the scene with white cardboard or other reflective material. Outdoor lighting can be great in the morning or evening, just remember that your lighting won’t be consistent over time, and will eventually get too dark or too light. Cloudy days are best for getting even lighting.
  • Shooting indoors – keep the strongest light, whether it’s a window with sunlight or a lamp, behind the camera and shining on the subject. If you’re only using artificial lighting, try to get as many lights on as possible – you can use distance between subject and light to get things looking more evenly lit.


Once you've shot your footage you'll need to edit it. 

Label & Log Your Footage

Documenting and getting to know all of your material is the first step towards making a good video. Collect and label all the material you will be working with, and make sure it is all in a format you can use. Make a log to help you note and find particular shots when you need them.

How to log:

Watch all of your tapes, making notes in three columns as you go:

  • The start and end time code of the shot
  • What is happening on the screen and in the audio
  • Any comment; for example, whether a shot is worth using, the sound is bad, etc.

You can structure your log in various ways, and log your material more or less thoroughly, but whatever you do, make sure it is consistent, and label each page clearly.

Plan Your Edit

Once you've got your footage together and logged it, it's time to pick out key elements and  put them together in a sequence that communicates your message. If you're making a journalistic piece, be sure you put 'who, what, where, when, and why' at the beginning. You can also plan to add music, graphics, and transitions to smooth out the story and make the viewing a more enjoyable experience. If you have a clear plan, called a 'paper edit', before you begin, you'll be better able to make decisions along the way.

Basic Editing

To begin, you only need to do basic cutting: re-arrange footage, clip the unusable beginnings and ends off of shots, and add simple titles and transitions. Basic editing systems, that often come free with a computer operating system, are usually well-suited to these tasks.

For Windows there is Windows Movie Maker, for Mac there is iMovie. Both come with comprehensive 'how-to' guides. For Linux we recommend the Open Source Kdenlive; please note that this doesn't have many features.

If you have to add a lot of titles, it may be more useful to use subtitle software to create separate digital subtitle files after the edit than to 'burn' the subtitles into the image during the edit – which will get in the way of any other language subtitling you need to do later (Read more about translating video).

Advanced Editing

Non-linear editing suites are more complex and far more expensive than the basic editing solutions available by default with Windows and Mac. If you require multi-track editing, more complex titles or special effects, you might consider non-linear editing software. Options include:

Tips to Remember

  • Keep it short – the most common problem that new editors run into is that they can't bear to leave anything out. Don't be afraid to ask for help with cutting away excess. Be especially wary of poor footage, incomprehensible speech, repetition and distracting or irrelevant sounds and images. To make your video interesting and appealing, make a very short project the first time around.
  • Tell a story – whether you are making a feature, documentary, or art piece, remember to tell a story that engages the viewer.
  • Don't overdo the effects – a good video can be ruined with too many effects. Where possible, let the images, the sounds, and the people themselves tell the story.
  • Be creative – consider the rhythm of your piece. Pauses in the speech allow the audience to reflect on a powerful point, to enjoy dramatic footage or a joke.
  • Be patient – don't get discouraged if the edit goes slowly. It can take time, but will get easier as you gain more experience.

Get Feedback

Once you have a rough cut of your video, watch it from your intended audience's point of view. Better still, arrange a test screening for a few people from your intended audience, and encourage them to discuss the video so that you can collect feedback to improve the final version.

Questions for yourself & the test audience:

  • Does everyone understand all the language?
  • Does anybody's speech need subtitling?
  • Is there too much information, or too little?
  • Do the audience understand what is happening (who, what, where, when, why)?
  • Does it keep their attention?
  • Does it make people laugh? Should they be laughing at that point?
  • Is there any important information missing?
  • Will it move people to action?
  • Will they know where to go for more information?