Filming basics

Get organised

You need to be organised when you are filming. Make sure the camera has a tape in, is turned on, is in the right mode (video camera rather than still or playback mode, and that the lens cap is off.  Refer to a shot list or storyboard so that you know which shots you are going to film.


Normally it’s better to use a tripod. If you can’t use a tripod, it’s easier to hold the camera steady if you zoom out and get in close to the subject.

If you’re using cameraphone, get in close and keep the composition simple. Otherwise, vary the framing:use a long shot or a wide shot to show the context, and use close-ups to show details and emotions.

If you’re filming with a still camera or cameraphone, remember you still need to keep the camera in ‘landscape’ mode. If you film in portrait mode your shots will be on their side, and you won’t be able to rotate them unless you have a professional editing program.

Shoot separate shots rather than reframing and waving the camera about while you’re filming.

If you do use camera movements, have the camera moving smoothly in one direction. If you’re using a camera that uses heavy compression, like a basic cameraphone, fast movement will badly affect image quality and smoothness.

Don’t zoom while you’re filming.

Check the light

Try to film where there is plenty of light, and don’t mix different light sources such as daylight and fluorescent light as this will make the colours appear strange. Don’t shoot into the light or against a very light or dark background.

Shoot enough material

Shoot at least ten seconds of each shot (count one second, two seconds etc or watch the counter in the camera viewfinder.) For drama or acted scenes, it’s best to follow a drill – eg

Director: Camera set?

Camera operator checks that the shot is framed properly and everything is ready to go.

Camera operator: Camera set

Director: Quiet please.

Check everything’s quiet then say

Director: Turn over

Camera operator starts the camera and checks that it actually is recording.

Camera operator: Camera rolling

Director waits five seconds then signals to the actors or shouts ‘Action’.

The actors do the scene.

The Director waits five seconds.

Director: Cut

The camera operator stops recording.
The production assistant makes a record of the scene.

If you’re not sure if the take is good, do it again. With a tape camera, don’t keep rewinding the camera to check your material as you will probably record over some of your good stuff.

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