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Thread: My Ten Commandments of Videomaking

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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Blog Entries

    Default My Ten Commandments of Videomaking

    Based on an article I wrote for a magazine on "the 10 Commandments of going pro" it's been altered to give my idea of the ten commandments of amatuer videomaking.

    Firstly let me stress: There are no rules in videomaking, there are only the laws of nature, everything else is just opinion.

    1. Make a video you want to watch.
    This sounds a bit simple and obvious but is the basis of any sucessful video. It's a mistake to try and anticipate what the public "might" like. Don't underestimate your audience by dumbing-down information. Assume that every viewer is as intelligent as you are and treat them accordingly. If you succed in making a video which you would love to watch, then you've got at least one satisfied viewer! If you try and guess what others "should" want, you might end up with nobody who likes what you've made.

    2. Be diligent in your planning.
    The most important part of any production is the planning. It is also the part most commonly overlooked. Sitting in front of a blank computer screen working out requirements, times and logistics isn't fun but bad planning will wreck a production. A recce of the location will save all sorts of problems on the day of the shoot. Find out where you can park, where the exits and cable-runs are and collect mobile phone numbers of anyone you might need to contact if things go wrong.

    2. Don't use "preparation" as an excuse not to do anything.
    It's very easy to find excuses not to do something. Don't fall into the trap of procrastinating. Don't find excuses find solutions and work-around methods. If you're waiting for something or someone, get on with another task. Don't put jobs off, get them out of the way and move on.

    4. Be Prepared.
    The days before the shoot. Now you're checking through equipment. Are the batteries charged? Spares for the radio mics? Tapes and spare lamps? Filters cleaned? Assemble the kit together and check that it's all working correctly. Switch on lamps and connect up microphones, especially and wireless equipment. Re-solder any loose connections and replace broken plugs and sockets. Power-up the camcorder and go through the menu making sure that you haven't still got 18db of gain switched in from that night-shoot last week! If it's not your normal camera, go through all the switches and settings, reminding yourself how to perform basic tasks like white balance and monitoring the audio levels.

    5. Check and re-check your equipment.
    Do you have the right equipment for the job and is it up to the task? Think about problems which might arise and prepare gear in advance. Think about making gear which you want, or find out about hiring it. A fishing rod isn't as good as a custom made sound boom but it's better than nothing at all! Make sure that your gear is clean and in top condition. If anything gets broken or looks tatty, repair it as soon as the shoot is over, don't wait until the evening before your next shoot. Make sure that all your gear is labled with your name and phone number.

    6. Think about getting additional help.
    Just because you're a one-man-camera-team doesn't mean that you have to do everything yourself. Always try to have an assistant. Preferably someone who knows what they're doing. If it only means that you've got someone who can park the car and feed the parking meter, there's one thing less for you to worry about, you'll be busy enough thinking about the filming! An assistant can get things from the car, help carrying, have a spare tape and batteries, all of which makes the shoot more efficient. You can find help at all sorts of places from the local video society, amateur drama group or colledge. Having a friend or family as your assistant really is the last resort, relationships can disolve rapidly after they've been told for the third time to "just turn on the bloody light!"

    7. Sound is just as important as visuals.
    The audio tends to be overlooked and a poor soundtrack is just as disasterous as bad visuals. Never use the on-camera microphone, even "atmos" or ambient sound will sound much better if recorded on a separate microphone. Go for the best you can afford, don't dream of using a mic which costs less than 200 new. Sennheiser and Audio Technica are two common makes. Most importantly, you should have someone specifically tasked to monitor the sound recording. No matter how good you are, you can't give 100% attention to both sound and vision.

    8. You don't have to buy gear, you can rent it.
    When starting out, renting equipment is a good way to find out what you need before spending a lot of money purchasing gear which you rarely use. You'll quickly find out which lights you use all the time and which ones stay in the case. There is a strong temptation to buy gear but, for example, if a 1,000 microphone sounds much better than a 200 mic and can be rented for 10 does it make sense to buy the cheaper gear? Build up a relationship with your local rental house and you'll find that the prices in their catalogue are often negotiable and weekend deals can be very reasonable.

    9. Enjoy the shoot.
    You've recce'd the location and know where the electrical sockets, fuse box and switches are. You know how much power is available for your lights, where you can place your microphones and where the radio mic's "dead spots" are. You've worked out where the fluorescents hum and where the sun shines through the windows. That was all done right back in the planning stage. You've got help with lighting and general assisting and you've got someone recording the sound. The equipment's been checked, set up and is working properly. Everything's ready to go and you're poised to press the "record" button. Take a second to enjoy the moment, if you've done it properly then this is the best bit, it's all downhill from here.

    10. Finally, be your harshest critic..
    Don't assume that mistakes will be overlooked or forgiven. If you see a jump in continuity, the audience will see it to. If a shot is out of focus, don't assume that "nobody will notice"... Everyone will. Be ruthless in the edit. A particular shot may be absiolutely brilliant but, if it doesn't fit into the story... Out it must go! It doesn't matter how much effort was put into a shot, all that matters is how it looks on the screen and how it fits into the whole. Don't become overly attached to particular shots.
    Good should never be good enough. You may well have to become a pain-in-the-ass perfectionist but the result will show on the screen. If you're not satisfied with the result, why should the audience accept it?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Bristol uk
    Blog Entries


    My rules were really a bit of fun - these commandmants really are most excellent I think.


  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Blog Entries


    Thanks. I saw your "rules" as a bit of fun too but some people didn't so I thought I'd post a serious list as a sort-of reply. It's written very much from the perspective of a cameraman who wants to make a video, not from the producer's director's or actor's perspective. It's certainly not comprehensive and I'm sure that there are all sorts of additions and alterations which could be made...

  4. Default

    Rules i can live by if i knew where to start.
    Most of my pieces were made by myself apart from actors who were my friends.


  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2009


    Continuity is a gold mine for film geeks, some people take far too much enjoyment in spotting things that magically appear and the dissapear in a scene (I'm one of them). But I also find it one of the key things because if you notice it happen, it reminds you that your watching a video and you loose that sense of immerssion. Or maybe I don't have anything better to do than pick at other peoples work out of jealousy that it's better than mine!

    For example....
    If you have a clock in the background of a 2 minute clip and your shoot takes 3 hours to film your clock is going to be out of sync. (take the batteries out!)

    Making sure doors that we're closed stay closed.

    If your filming something period then make sure the houses don't have double glazing, sky dish and an 09 ford parked on a tarmac driveway.

  6. #6


    excellent!! - but some "rules" are just made to be broken - like :

    Lets get up REALLY early and get some atmospheric shots of the sun rising - birds flying - fields with foxes and so on.

    THEN - reality - whoa - too early - lets have coffee instead.

    Having said that: To produce something you want to watch - have a plan (or rules).

    Celestial Vision - Wedding Videos

  7. #7


    Very nice. Any young filmmaker should check those rules out.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2010


    Straight to the point.


  9. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Alberta, Canada


    Good rules to follow. I really like rule 10. It's hard to abide by sometimes but if the shot is unnecessary then it shouldn't be there. And I used to overlook small mistakes all the time thinking no one would notice but watching the finished product and seeing that small mistake is a killer.

    Also I'm only 16, so i don't have a lot of the available resources many film makers would. So I use the best I can and make it better in editing. I only have a consumer quality HD camera so for now I'm stuck with the built in mic for now.

  10. #10


    This is all stuff I've taught to my students over the years . . . and it's all good advice. I especially like #9, "Enjoy the Shoot". Oh yeah!

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