Sage Film & Video's DIY and Help Yourself Articles

10 Tips to a Better Video

Slow down

This is going to represent you and or your company, take your time in putting it together. Spend a couple hours with invested people. This could be a client, employee, focus group, etc. Start with the end - what are the thoughts and feelings you want to convey to the viewer? What is your call to action? How long are you expecting them to sit and attend to your video? Is this a web video? Presentation? Infomercial? Documentary? Know what you expect from your viewer up front and build the piece around that. What are your main points? Are you going to use the standard “say what you want to say, say it, then say what you said” formula? How many points are you going to address? Remember KISS? Keep It Simple Stupid? People...viewers are easily distracted - too much information will cause their little brains to fry. KISS

Plan it out

Make a checklist, keep notes and keep your head together. Even a 3-minute piece can can take many (many...many...many) hours to look and sound great. Create a timeline and work backwards from the end? “This needs to be done tomorrow!” That’s probably not going to happen unless you want your video to look like cousin Jimmy’s video of the monster-truck rally. Video is an art...I think? The more you put in up front, the better your outcome will be - Garbage In = Garbage Out.

Write a script

Not like every word (maybe if you’re really scripting something big - if so you should call Sage Film & Video, 970-946-8979, we want to be involved) but an overview. For most stuff I take a regular sheet of paper - 8 1/2” x 11” portrait for those way concrete people reading this - and divide it into two columns. The left column is for ‘Video’ the right is...wait for it...‘Audio’. Each shot (within each scene) gets a description of what the viewer is seeing and what they are hearing. Remember video might be ‘black’, ‘text’, ‘video’, ‘still’, or ‘CG’ (computer graphics). Similarly, audio might be ‘silent’, ‘narration’, ‘soundtrack’, ‘music’, etc.

Plan your shots

Plan each shot from your script: Location?, Time of day?, Lighting?, Talent?, Do I need to provide food?, Water?, a porta-potty? These are all important to consider (with maybe the exception of the porta-potty). When you direct a shoot you need to have all those ‘little things’ taken care of in advance so you can focus on collecting the best data (audio & video) possible.

Bigger is Better

Use the best equipment available. The bigger your camera lens the more light, more light...well...for lack of a better term, looks better. Seriously, so you really think the little tiny iPhone lens can compete with a full-sized HD studio cam? No way. That’s ok, just beg, borrow or steal the best, biggest camera (NOT VHS - LOL) you can get your hands on. DCAT will rent cameras to members as long as it’s not a commercial venture. You can call them at 970-259-2802, ask for Preston (tell him we sent you).

Learn your ‘manual’ settings

Even the most basic ‘flipcam’ should have access to manual controls. Get out the manual (not controls, the paper thing that came with the camera) and learn what your camera can do if you ask it nicely. If you don’t have a manual for your camera (maybe you actually stole it as suggested above), go to that interweb thing and fins it online. Did you know that you can find almost anything online these days? Now that you know all the little special things your camera can do, go out and experiment with it. Test some of your shots from step #4. I would definitely suggest that you NEVER shoot something important with a camera you don’t know how to run. I’ve done this and it is no fun - who’d of thunk that a camera’s settings could actually make somebody look blue? Now that I think about it, before the next time I lend out a camera I am going change all the settings to make the video have an apocalyptic, end-of-the-world feel and see if the would be borrower can figure it out....just a thought.

Slow & steady

Remember ‘Bigger is Better’? Well this is along those lines. Slow, smooth, non-jarring footage usually works best. Again, people are easily distracted! Now this is not to say that if you want it to look like filming from the TV show The Office that it can’t be that way. Just remember, a little goes a long way. There’s tons of garbage on YouTube that feels like the person filming is having a seizure or in the middle of an earthquake or something. Bottom line - if you’re filming during an earthquake it should look like your filming during an earthquake, otherwise...not.

Shadows, noise & things growing out of heads

Things to think about while setting your scene. Shadows are typically frowned upon unless you are trying to convey a specific feeling like the Saw series or The Blair Witch Project. Noise from cars, trucks, planes, helicopters, trains, screaming all have their place but probably not in a piece trying to market your spa or salon. Again, if it fits do it, otherwise it’s just more distraction for the viewer. Oh, and lastly, things growing out of heads - don’t do this either. The person you’re filming should not be set so that a bookcase, flagpole, tree, tree limb, branch, ski lift tower etc. are shown coming out of their head. Don’t really know why on this just looks bad.

9) Take a breather, you’re almost there (review your media)

Time for a break. You’re about half way done with your total project time or should be. You will need the second half for post-production (editing). Upload you media to your computer and take a look AND listen to what you have captured. This is definitely time to be honest and say “I need to reshoot that” if your audio or video sucks. Get back on that horse bucko and make it look and sound the best possible. Once you have all you need it’s time to start scrubbing (like the bathroom floor but easier to stomach). Scrubbing is simply going through each and every clip and taking notes - the good, the bad and the ugly. Your job is to find and mark the best clips the fit your story and deliver the outcomes from ‘1) Slow Down’. Now, take some time, depending on your timeline, and let all this brew and stew for a while inside of you. When you’re ready, get to that workstation and edit like a banshee.
10) Short, sweet & to the point

Finally, KISS, GIGO, short, non-repetitive and non-cliche (unlike this article) are your guides. If you’ve said it once that’s probably enough. People are like sheep in that they are easily distracted and lead to the cliff. They are (mostly) unlike sheep in that they are not dumb. The general viewing audience has tools to see through your silly little tricks like putting one frame of a picture of popcorn every 100 frames during a movie - you never really notice the picture but you sure make a beeline to the concession stand halfway through the flick. Every image and sound should speak to a main point. All of us have the ability to yak and yak about this tangent and that tangent until our listener has left the room, written a letter on why they left the room, and turned out the lights on the way out while you were still yakking (sp.?). Don’t yak. Tell your story! The Grinch Who Stole Christmas is only 30 minutes long and what a beautiful story it is.

Final Thoughts

It is a commonly accepted fact that it takes about 10,000 hours to master anything. This means that if you want to be the best golfer, it takes 10,000 of practice. The same goes for being an attorney or a brain surgeon (maybe a few more hours for the brain surgeon). Sage Film & Video has been producing media since 2001 and we’re getting pretty good (I think). The bottom line is this: if the media you want to produce is really REALLY important to you and/or your business you might want to get a free Media Assessment from us. Or, you could have new person you just hired, whose latest YouTube video featured large amounts of beer consumption and miscellaneous acts of indecency, do it for “free”? (BTW - there is nothing that is “free”)

We’re here to help. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us at:
970-946-8979, or

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Scot Davis, MS
Sage Film & Video
wisdom in motion®
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