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Video Production Guide

Homepage Video First Frame 2.28.2020

Videos are a great way to capture daily life abroad and tell compelling stories about service. This guide is designed to help Volunteers and returned Volunteers plan and film a short video. You can also download and print a more detailed video production guide.

After reading this guide, readers should be able to:

  • Create comprehensive plans for videos and write scripts.
  • Distinguish between the different types of camera shots and techniques commonly used in video production.
  • Understand what methods are available to edit and share videos.

To simplify the planning process, we will focus on the four W’s: What, Who, Where, and When.


The first step in filmmaking is deciding how you are going translate your idea to film. This will dictate how you prepare for the video. Different types of video storytelling include interviews, demonstrations, and staged performances.

  • “Tell me” or interview video: This documentary-style video focuses on speaking with a person of interest while a camera captures the conversation. Here are some tips:
    • The interviewee sits facing the interviewer.
    • The camera is situated behind the interviewer on a tripod.
    • Prepare interview questions beforehand.
    • Ask the interviewee to rephrase each question in their answer.
    • The interviewer should not look at the camera; it is awkward.
    • Before filming, make the interviewee as comfortable as possible. Many people are afraid of speaking in front of a camera.
    • Film a variety of people using the same questions. Choose the best shots in post-production.
    • Consider interviewing several people at once.
    • Stop the interviewees from rambling. Establish a “stop” signal.
  • “Show me” or demonstration video: This video technique follows a person as they discuss a certain topic. This is the technique used in many travel shows and on reality television.
    • The camera follows the subject, filming while they speak.
    • The camera is handheld.
    • The subject must feel comfortable speaking for a long period of time. Discuss the topic beforehand to plan talking points and movement.
    • The best lines happen naturally.
    • This method requires a lot of B-roll (see definition below) for visual appeal.
    • Be aware of microphone distance. If the sole microphone is on your camera, it will have difficulty picking up sound from a subject who is facing away from the camera.
  • “Act it” or staged video: Film actors as they perform a prewritten dialogue or scene similar to a movie you see in theaters.
    • Prepare the script beforehand.
    • Make sure the actors are comfortable and know their lines.
    • Film from a variety of angles for visual appeal. Combine when editing.
    • Camera can be handheld or on a tripod.
    • Don't be afraid to do many takes.
    • Choose an interesting setting.
    • Watch for continuity. Details like clothing, positions, and lighting need to match up or change as a scene dictates.


Decide who will be involved in your project.

  • Make sure all participants consent to being on film. They will need to sign letters of consent if you publish or post the video.
  • Discuss your concept thoroughly with your participants to make them comfortable.
  • Some people are not very good on camera; have back-up options.
  • Make sure participants know where/when the shoot will take place to avoid delay.
  • You may need to provide food for participants and reimburse them for travel.


Determine the location where you will shoot the movie.

  • Pick a location or locations that align with the concept of your film.
  • Choose a setting that has interesting visual components such as beautiful scenery and good lighting.
  • Make sure you have permission to shoot at the chosen location. You may need to get permission from local authorities.
  • Curious people may show up and watch you as you film. Control the crowd.
  • Make sure bystanders do not walk into the scene accidentally.
  • Be aware of ambient noise, e.g., wind, people talking, and cars. To gauge the noise level, close your eyes and listen; this will give you a good sense of what sound the camera will pick up.
  • When composing the shot, be aware of lighting. You want the sun to be behind the camera that is facing the subject.


Video projects often take much longer than expected, so allot plenty of time.

  • Decide on a date that works for all participants.
  • Finish planning everything prior to the day of the shoot. Making decisions the day of the shoot will cause complications in post-production.
  • You may run into unexpected issues during the shoot. Be flexible.
  • You may need to push the shoot back because of bad weather.
  • Aim to stay on schedule.


A video tells a story. Before you get out the camera, you need to write a plan detailing what will happen on screen. The cinematographic formatting below will detail exactly what shots you will use throughout the movie, the movement of the characters on screen, and dialogue. It is very important to plan out your movie before you begin production. Poorly planned videos will make editing more difficult.

  • Script - A script is the written description of exactly what will be on film. It includes descriptions, transitions between clips, environment, movement of actors, and dialogue. Here’s an excerpt from a script:



Family members dressed in traditional clothing are performing their morning routines. Njabulo (25), with dark hair, dressed for work, walks out of his hut carrying a bundle of books. Njabulo notices his host brother Vusi.

Njabulo - Sawubona bhuti! (Hello brother!)

Vusi - Yebo, uyapi namuhla? (Hi, where are you going today?)

  • Shot list - A list of all the shots that will be used in the movie. Planning this out is a good way to design a schedule for the day of the shoot. Include scheduled time, type of shot, participants involved, description, location, and potential B-roll.

Glossary of video techniques

The following will provide you with some of the techniques that videographers use to compose a film. You will learn the different types of shots that are regularly used in cinematography and various types of camera movement. The final section will focus on framing. As a videographer you will need to situate the subjects and the environment you are capturing in interesting ways.

Types of shots

You can choose from a variety of shots to enhance the visual appeal of your movie.

  • Wide shot (long shot) frames the entire body of the subject and often includes background scenery of the environment. “Long shot” refers to the camera shooting the subject from a distance. It is often used as an establishing shot to set up a location and to give the viewer perspective.
Desert mountains wide shot
An example of a wide shot.

  • Medium shot frames a portion of the subject, usually from the waist up. This shot is often used for interviews as it captures the body language of the person being interviewed as well as some background.
Young girl medium shot
An example of a medium shot.

  • Close-up shot is a framing technique that focuses on detail of a subject and not the background. The camera shoots the subject in close proximity. This shot is often used to show facial expressions.
Woman's face close up shot
An example of a close-up shot.

  • Over-the-shoulder shot is a camera angle that frames the shot over a person’s shoulder or head. This is considered a third-person perspective. It is commonly used when filming a conversation between two people. This shot is also very useful during “demonstration” videos because the viewer feels like they are included in the scene as the camera follows the subject.
Young Boy over the shoulder shot
An example of the over-the-shoulder shot.

Camera Movement

  • Zoom/zoom-back - when the focal length of the lens is adjusted. Zoom brings the background to the foreground and isolates an object or person. Zoom-back pushes away from the background framing the object or person in a wider context.
  • Pan (panorama) - a movement of the camera from left to right or right to left. This can be used as an establishing shot to set up a scene or location.

Framing Techniques

Now that you have an idea of the types of shots that are available, you need to know how to orient people or objects within the viewfinder of your camera. The techniques discussed below are suggestions for how to think about composition. Interesting or unique cinematography can really improve the quality of a video.

  • Rule of thirds - The rule of thirds divides a frame into nine rectangular sections which guide composition. You should place objects you are filming within these different quadrants or along the vertical and horizontal axes. For example, you can place horizons along the bottom horizontal third. It is common to line the top horizontal third with the eyes of a subject. You can line trees or buildings with the vertical thirds. It is often more visually compelling to situate vertical subjects off to one side. This technique is important because it helps you to situate all the subjects within a frame.
Rule of Thirds
The rule of thirds divides a frame into nine sections.

  • Foreground/background - The foreground is the front of the frame. The camera is located in front of a person or object shooting in close proximity. The background is behind the main subject. This can include scenery or a building. You can focus on the foreground and background separately. The foreground can be in focus and the background out of focus or vice versa. If both the foreground and background are in focus, this is called “all focus.” You can put unfocused objects in the foreground to make the viewer feel like they are included in the scene.
Elephants in foreground
The foreground is the front of the frame.

  • Forced perspective is where objects in the distance are made to look smaller than objects in the foreground. People often use this technique to add a humorous element, making people look bigger than things in the background. This is also used to show a road going off into the distance; it seems as if the road becomes smaller as it recedes into the distance.
Young man with necklace
Forced perspective is where objects in the distance are made to look smaller than objects in the foreground.

  • Empty space is the part of the frame that you leave empty. Empty space can have a very powerful effect on the composition of your shot.
Empty space can have a powerful effect on composition.

  • Full-frame - You can also fill the frame completely. Repetition within a frame is very interesting.
You can fill the frame completely, in this case by repeating the same image.

Editing and sharing

Now that you have gathered all of the content for your film, you are ready to edit and share your video with the world.

Editing software

Most computers come with free video editing software. These programs are limited in their scope, but for the purposes of a simple video, they will provide you with all the functionality you’ll need to create a great product.

Glossary of editing techniques

  • Import - To edit your video you first need to transfer the files to your computer. This can be done by connecting your camera to a USB port and downloading the files. You then need to import the footage into an editing program. Once the files have been imported you can start editing your project.
  • Cut - During filming you will most likely capture footage that you will not want in the final product. The cut feature allows you to slice the footage into smaller bits. Once the footage has been condensed to all of the parts that you want, you can rearrange the sequence to follow the outline of your script.
  • Transitions - Once your footage has been cut into smaller parts, you will need to determine how you to connect clips. This is known as a transition. There are many different types of transitions, such as fades, wipes, slides, and dissolves. There will be a menu in the editing software that provides transition options. Try each transition to determine what works best in your video. Keep it simple. Videos with too many transitions look unprofessional.
  • B-Roll is a technique of cutting away from the main video track to show additional footage or still images. The audio track of the original clip continues as you cut to the other shots. The purpose of B-roll is to enhance visual appeal, as maintaining one camera angle for an extended period of time is not interesting to the viewer. B-roll also provides viewers with a visual representation of what’s being discussed. B-roll requires a lot of extra footage and photos. As you’re planning your video, consider what potential B-roll images would be appropriate for each particular scene.
  • Titles are introductory slides of text that appear at the beginning of the movie and the start of each chapter. The slide displays the name of the movie in the opening sequence and then informational text throughout.
  • Audio track - To make your video more dynamic, you should consider adding music on top of the footage. Music creates a mood that will enhance a scene.

The Peace Corps prohibits the use of any copyrighted material.

Using music in videos is a great way to make them compelling, but it’s important to avoid improper use of copyrighted music. You should assume all material created by others is copyrighted and that you need permission to use it. Videos, blog posts, and music are all examples of works automatically protected by copyright. They do not need to say “copyright” or have a “©” mark. Once the content is created, it is copyrighted. If you do want to use music in your videos, we would encourage you to find work labeled “public domain” or covered under a Creative Commons or another attribution license indicating the item is free to use. As an author, you are responsible for verifying that you can use the music or other materials that are subject to copyright protection in your video.

Final steps

  • Export - Once you have finished editing your video, you need to convert it to a format that can be shared. An editing program will provide different export format options. Most online streaming websites will work best with either .mp4 or .mov formats.
  • Share - Promote your video on social media channels, to friends and family. It’s a great way to raise awareness about your country and your experiences!

Find the full, printable Video Production toolkit here.