Video 101

With the rise of the Web, video has increasingly become a central way that we communicate with others.

The medium of video combines images, motion, and sound, making it the most complex and, perhaps, the most evocative medium. The use of video in the classroom, not only in the humanities, but increasingly in STEM courses, is rising to meet its increasing use in popular culture as a central means of communication. A wide range of applications, from how-to instruction, to advertising, to interviewing, to storytelling, makes video an ideal choice for creating and studying complex multimodal communication.

Why Video?

The medium of video is a strong choice for communication because it is:

  • Popular—Increasingly, more people watch videos than listen to podcasts or view still images.
  • Emotional—The combination of images, voices, and/or music can evoke feelings, conjure up memories, and invoke commonly shared cultural tropes.
  • Compelling—A screen with moving images grabs viewer attention, making it easier for the content to captivate them.
  • Multi-sensory—Video content is richer content, engaging the senses of vision and hearing. Video can also convey nonverbal cues, like, body language.

Video production usually follows three phases:


Pre-production—Prepare, Plan, Gather

Pre-production is the work done before recording begins. It includes activities like organizing the project, clarifying the message, preparing locations, scheduling, finding people, and gathering equipment. Investing time at this stage makes future steps easier.

Decide what equipment you want to use and practice with it. You have several options:

  • Smartphone or Mobile Device—Contemporary smart phones and other mobile devices can make quite good quality video recordings, in a pinch.
  • Point-and-shoot Camera—If you’re a photo enthusiast with a separate camera, it likely has a video mode that will give you more options and control than your phone or mobile device.
  • Video Camera—Using a video camera requires some preparation and training, but it puts all of the controls into your hands and probably gives you the best video.
Shot List

Imagine that you have pressed the record button on a video camera; a shot is what gets saved when you press stop at the end. A shot list is a way to plan the shots you need for a video. It contains the location, the type of shot, a description of the content, and when you plan to shoot. The shot list can become the agenda for an efficient day of shooting.

Noise, Lighting, and Shake

Three enemies of good video are noise, poor lighting and shake. With proper planning, you can reduce or eliminate all of them.

Noise is any sound you don’t want to record. Be aware of the surroundings at the locations where you plan to shoot. When you need to capture a subject’s voice at a noisy location, consider using a lavalier mic that you can pin to clothing, close to their mouth. There are times when you want to capture the sounds of your location - in a restaurant, perhaps. Note that after shooting it’s easy to add background sound and hard to remove unwanted noise.

Lighting is a key element in videos. In general, you want to shoot with the light behind you. As you plan outdoor shots, remember that the sun’s light comes from different directions at different times of day. Indoors there can be strong overhead lighting, resulting in subjects with shadows on their faces. Closing shades or moving lamps may help, but it may be helpful to bring along a reflector or portable lighting.

Usually, we like to see steady video, but it can be hard to keep a camera from wobbling. There are several techniques for holding a camera steady with your hands. Another option is to borrow a tripod from the OIT in 115 DeBartolo.

The Crew

Line up people who can help. If you’re doing a class assignment, find out if it’s okay to recruit “talent” with a smooth speaking voice. You may want someone to hold a microphone boom or monitor the volume on a camera.


Production—Set up, Capture, Pack up

This is when the raw video files are produced. After arriving at the location the tripod is set up, the camera is checked, talent is miked, and shots are recorded. In major projects, production is considered “the point of no return.”

Tips for the Best Original Videos
  • Move the camera slowly.
  • Vary the types of shots you include.
  • Use the right microphone. The shotgun mic on the JVC camera, for example, will work when you are close enough to the subject. Otherwise, consider using a wireless lavalier mic, like the one in the illustration below.
  • Keep the light source behind you and facing the subject.
  • Shoot multiple takes and record through any errors.
  • Wear headphones while recording in order to catch problems.
  • Record lead time of 2-3 seconds before action starts and after it ends.
Shot Types

There are at least three ways to think of different types of video shots:

  1. Distance—A wide shot is one that might show an entire house. A medium shot can show a person from head to toe. A close-up shows the head and shoulders.
  2. Movement—A static shot doesn’t move; other kinds of shots follow a subject. A pan moves from side to side. Tilting is moving up or down, while zooming is getting closer or farther away.
  3. Angle—at eye level the camera is pointed straight at the subject. High or low means the camera is pointing down or up to the subject. A bird’s eye view is looking down on the subject from above and worm’s eye is looking up from the ground.
  4. Content—an establishing shot sets up a location or mood. “Point of view” mimics what a specific character is seeing. A two shot shows a pair of subjects together. A reaction shot shows a subject’s emotional response to what came right before. A cutaway goes from the subject to something outside of the scene and then usually cuts back to the first shot.
B-roll, Location Sound, and Voice-over

Besides the material you shoot to directly tell your story (A-roll), you will also want to gather B-roll footage that can add interest, show related action, clarify a location, etc. When your main content is an interview, B-roll will give viewers a break from “talking head” shots.

After capturing an important shot for your project, record a minute or two of ambient sound at the location with a video camera or an audio recorder. This can be very useful later on in fixing the video or if you are going to have a narration.

Your video can have a narrator who does not appear on the screen. This is called voice-over and it can be recorded ahead of time or after video shooting is done. You can. For the best quality, record in a sound studio or the Library's Sound Booth.


There’s no copyright issue with simply recording your own video and posting it online. It gets interesting after you add third-party music, visuals, or sound effects.

There are very specific conditions under which you can apply “fair use” principles to a school project. For the sake of simplicity use only media that has a Creative Commons (CC) license. “Royalty free” refers to media that you purchase up front and don’t pay a royalty fee later.

Mixable Media
  • Video clips—generic clips can serve as B-roll to show a person working at a keyboard, a mountain stream, city traffic, etc. Sources include Pexels, Videezy, and Videvo.
  • Still Images—a still image can add interest to a video. Video editing software lets you add motion by panning or zooming in. Popular sources include Pexels, Unsplash, and Pixabay.
  • Music Soundtrack—always use instrumental music. The lyrics of a song can distract and confuse listeners. YouTube Audio Library has a large collection of tracks with CC licenses.
  • Sound Effects—well-selected sound effects can help get a message across. Be careful; too many can distract and poorly recorded effects take away from an otherwise high-quality piece. Sources for CC sound effects include and YouTube Audio Library.

Post-production—Edit, Revise, Publish

At this stage, raw media are selected, sequenced, corrected, and edited. Credits, effects, and music are also added. First a rough cut is produced, then a final cut. Finally the product is posted online or distributed in another way.

Adobe Premiere Pro and similar software use time-based editing, where all of the elements are laid out on a timeline. Premiere also uses nondestructive editing, where raw media are not actually copied into the project file. Instead, the software saves markers and references to the original files. It’s critical to gather all of the necessary files in one place and keep them there.

Fix and Mix

After all of your media is assembled there are several things you can do with editing software.

  • Fix
    • Trim
    • Cut out mistakes
    • Move sections around
    • Adjust brightness or color
    • Adjust the sound
    • Separate audio from video
    • Transition between scenes
  • Mix
    • Clips from different takes
    • B-roll
    • Still images
    • Titles and shapes
    • Voice-over
    • Music soundtrack
    • Chromakeying (green screen)
Export and Post

Adobe Premiere creates a .pproj file while editing, but the standard format for sharing online is an MP4. With your Premiere Pro project time line selected, go to the File menu and choose Export Media. Pick the H.264 format and one of the YouTube presets.

YouTube is owned by Google, so you can log in with your ND account. Another popular site for sharing videos is Vimeo.

Get Inspired

Watch inspiring video projects.

Video Libraries

Download video and stock footage.

Video-editing Applications

Produce / edit video with these apps.

Get Help

Notre Dame has many helpful resources, including our Media Corps coaching staff, located in the Hesburgh Library.

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