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How to Capture High-Quality Video

By: Scott Swanson, Electronic Media Specialist, North Dakota State University Agriculture Communication
ACE Grant Project 2016

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Bruce Sundeen demonstrating that you need to be aware of the angle of the sun to provide for the best light in outdoor video situations.


In contrast to the 1st picture, here Bruce is showing that by having the sun behind you can provide sun flares and harsh shadows on your camera and subject.


Scott Swanson pointing out the fact that by using headphones you will know if you are getting the best possible audio.  If you don¹t have them, other noises could be dominating the scene like the traffic in the background of this location.

Why we wanted to do this project

Video is more and more becoming the popular way to reach people and get your organizations message to them. The easiest way to reach them is to put your information where they are: on social media! And today’s social media is powered by video. From YouTube to Facebook, video is everywhere, and your social media presence isn’t complete without video as a key component.

Knowing that, North Dakota State University Agriculture Communication wants all of our NDSU Extension Service staff to feel comfortable doing video work. Whether that be recording short videos of field work or lab testing that can be quickly uploaded to social media, or larger projects that require some editing, or sending it to us Ag Comm “video guys” for editing into a larger video project, we want them to know what to do when a video opportunity arises.

About 7 years ago we created a “How to Capture Quality Video” video for our staff that offered some basic tips and things to think about when recording video. The video was designed for people with limited video experience and demonstrated basic shooting techniques that could significantly improve the quality of their products. This video was put together in one day, and we had good intentions to work on it more and change a few things, update some areas, and add some other tips. But with other work getting in the way we never got around to that, so when the ACE Professional Development Fund application time came around, we thought this would be a great opportunity to make a better video and to allow our fellow ACE members to utilize this for themselves and their staff. Plus, with newer equipment than we used 7 years ago, we could record this video in high definition to improve the message. One other bonus of doing the video at this time was that with smartphones having cameras as good, if not better, than some of the camcorders we used during our previous video, we were able to incorporate some tips related to smartphones as well.

What we did

To get this project started, we first watched our old video and outlined the topic areas we discussed in that video and decided where we could improve upon it.  We then researched basic video techniques from other video professionals who have taught similar topics to see if there were some other things we may have missed.  After finalizing our new outline we put together a basic script to work off of so we wouldn’t miss any important topics or tips.  We then chose locations for each topic we would discuss and tried to get a timeline together for recording.

What we learned

One of the biggest lessons learned, which is weird because we stress this to our staff, is to plan, plan, and plan some more. Even though we had a good idea of what we needed to do, we struggled with getting days and times to record and should have done a better job of planning that out. Doing a project like this also forces us to think about how a novice video person may think and understand information. We can’t use too much video jargon or get too complicated with some techniques.

A note to ACE members 

We hope ACE members have many opportunities to use our video. Writers, editors, and others in non-video positions may find themselves in situations where they need to capture an event with video. If they have watched our video hopefully they would feel comfortable grabbing a camera or smartphone and recording it. We hope ACE video folks, and even ACE members who are proficient with cameras, will use our video to teach others these basic techniques by either providing the link for them to watch or offering hands-on training related to what is covered in the video.

Final thoughts

I really enjoyed this process with the ACE Professional Development Fund grant and appreciate the opportunity to provide a valuable learning tool for my co-workers with the NDSU Extension Service as well as all of ACE.


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