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Creating Multimedia Content from Anywhere

Basic Video Shooting with a Smart Device

Avoid shooting video while holding your phone or mobile device vertically. Once imported into an editing program it will have black bars down the sides and cannot be fixed through cropping.
No webcam? Use your phone camera for video chats instead - CNET
  • Hold camera steady. Tucking your elbows into your body and using a "defensive stance" will turn your body into a natural tripod
  • If you can, use a tripod or monopod for stabilization.
  • If you don't have a tripod, check out the video below to gather ideas of creating a DIY tripod.

  • Avoid zooming in and out with your camera. There are several reasons:
    • Your cell phone camera likely only has digital zoom. This means it isn't actually zooming, but is simply magnifying the pixels, which results in poor image quality later
    • Zooming in and out during a shot can make the viewer uncomfortable
  • Walking/moving shots
    • Avoid these as much as possible, as they create shaky, unusable footage
  • Back lighting and Background - As mentioned before, make sure your subject isn't directly in front of a bright light and that the background isn't overly busy or distracting

Five Ways to Look and Sound Better on Zoom

A screen with Zoom video communications on it with people milling around it.

  • Always begin a new Zoom meeting ahead of time to make sure you’re happy with how you look and sound. Try not to make people wait too long for the meeting to start.
  • If you aren’t the host of the meeting, you can still create a separate Zoom session in advance for a test run of the audio settings and to go through the checklist of all the tips offered in this article.

.Hands screwing in a hanging light bulb, with other hanging bulbs.

  • Natural, diffused lighting is the most flattering light. If possible, set up facing a big window, or even sit outside if it’s not too noisy. If natural light isn’t an option, place a lamp with a white lightbulb behind your computer screen to achieve a similar effect. If natural light isn’t an option, place a lamp with a white lightbulb behind your computer screen to achieve a similar effect.
  • When possible, avoid harsh lighting coming from a single direction, especially from above, that will cast unflattering shadows on your face. Also try to avoid lighting from behind you, which will leave your face dark and silhouetted.
  • Try your best not to mix different colored lights. Being consistent in using either a warm or cool light works best.

Closeup of young woman holding an empty picture frame in front of her face

  • Your face and upper chest should be centered on the screen. For the most flattering angle, place your computer or phone on an elevated surface so that the camera is at or slightly above your eye level. This might sound silly, but try it and you’ll see the difference it makes in your appearance.
  • Try to find a spot where your background isn’t too distracting. If your workspace isn’t ready for primetime or you’d like to keep your space private, the Zoom app on some smartphones and computers has the option to choose a virtual background by clicking on the up arrow next to the Start Video icon. Unfortunately, this function isn’t consistently effective on all devices, so it’s a good idea to test beforehand. You can use images or video on your computer or find something new from a royalty-free website like Pexels, Unsplash, Pixabayor Coverr. Keep the Peter Parker principle in mind and use this virtual power responsibly!
  • In the Settings menu under the Video section, you can also choose the option to Touch Up My Appearance. This function retouches the video display with a softer focus, smoothes out the skin tone on your face and presents a more polished appearance. It’s like getting a free makeover.

Photo of many people on a Zoom call with the words "Learn where the camera is and try to look into it the same way you maintain eye contact in person. This will make the audience feel like you're speaking right to them.

  • Learn where the camera is and try to look into it the same way you maintain eye contact in person. This will make the audience feel like you’re speaking right to them.
  • If you are presenting during the session and want to read from notes, create a makeshift teleprompter by positioning a Word or Google doc with your notes in a small window right below your camera.
  • Solid color shirts are best when you’re on camera; busy patterns can look blurry on video.

Two dogs appearing to watch a dog on TV

  • Phone and computer microphones pick up a lot of noise that you might not be thinking about. Pay attention to background sounds such as appliances, TVs, pets, traffic and other noises. Log in from a quiet area where you won’t be disturbed. Inform your roommates and family that you’re in a meeting so they don’t interrupt you.
  • If you aren’t getting good sound from your computer, use a headset or a microphone. The Logitech USB Headset H390 is a simple and inexpensive option. If you already have headphones but need a better sounding mic, the Samson Meteor USB microphone is a small portable choice with its own stand.
  • Be sure to mute your microphone when you’re not speaking and if you’re running a meeting, mute all the participants if ambient noise is causing a distraction.

Shooting Interviews

This LinkedIn Learning course is a must-see for anyone shooting documentaries. It includes invaluable information about how to light, stage. and film an interview. 

Link to tutorial Video Foundations: Interviews

Welcome from Video Foundations: Interviews by Anthony Q. Artis

Composition and Camera Motion

Although you will be capturing real events unfolding in real time, you can still be creative about how you compose your shots. See the links below for more information about the techniques of composition.

The most basic consideration for shooting video is how to frame your shot:

Wide shot of mountains Extreme Long Shot: Very wide shot, often for landscapes 

photo via Wikimedia Commons

Full body shot of man Long Shot: From head to toe

photo from flickr by Adam Lerner 

Medium shot of man Medium Long Shot: From the knees up

photo via Wikimedia Commons

Medium shot of woman Medium Shot: From the waist up

photo via Wikimedia Commons

Medium close up of woman Medium Close Up: Includes the head and shoulders

photo via Wikimedia Commons

Close up of man Close Up: Frames the face

photo from flickr by Ryan Li

Close up of human eye Extreme Close Up: Tight framing shows a detail in the scene

photo from flickr by Elaine 

For more detailed information, visit this website.


In documentary filmmaking, A-Roll is generally your interview footage, while B-roll is the supporting footage inserted between the interview clips. Some types of documentaries (poetic, observational) do not have this structure and consist entirely of A-Roll footage.

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