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Video Production: Shooting Ratio

How much video do you have to shoot in order to make a five-minute video?

Some people would answer, “five minutes.”   Others would say, “fifty hours.”

They’d both be right.

How can such disparity be true?

The methods of making video vary greatly depending on what kind of video you want to make.  The person who answers “five minutes” would be someone who wants to quickly communicate using a talking head video shot on a web cam and uploaded to You Tube.  (Although honestly, even that would take at least 10 minutes start to finish.  Only an exaggerated claim in a sales letter would want you to believe that a five minute video really takes only five minutes.)

The fifty-hour person would be a fastidious film maker creating an in-depth documentary on a complex subject.   In that situation, if you want a truly kick-ass final product, you need lots of extra video.  You only want the most incredible and concisely informative clips to make it into your final product.  Here’s a fact: Real Life is not as exciting and concisely informative as high quality video. You have to have surplus video in order to edit together just those “un-real” moments that really pack a punch.  Even when it’s all staged.  You think some actors don’t need zillions of takes?

Newcomers to video production often do not comprehend this one basic truth about video production:  The higher the quality of the final product, the more expensive, slick and technically sophisticated, the more locations and people on-camera, the longer the production phases.  High quality video like this is an intensely time-consuming process.  I’ve known of 30 second finished products lasting only 30 seconds taking weeks of real work to plan, video tape and edit.

If you are new to video production, you need to ask yourself how much effort you want to put into a project as your very first question.  If you want quick down and dirty, you need to plan the look of your final product around this reality.  Please don’t set yourself up for disappointment by thinking you can reproduce Star Wars in an afternoon.


To make a quick video, I suggest a simple talking head video shot with a web cam.  Speak directly into it.   The audio and video is instantly imported into some video editing software or to an upload-to-the-web app.

Use natural light by sitting close to a window or lamp.  Such a video is the single easiest format.

Cell phone video and flip video cameras also are some of the simplest cameras to use after the web cam.    A web cam stays connected to your computer whereas a flip cam or cell phone camera must be connected each time.  Flip cams eliminate the need for a cable.

Screen capture is also fairly simple format but not as easy as using a web cam.   You need screen capture software such as Camtasia and that has a fairly high learning curve.  Once you get beyond that, this is an easy way to make simple online video.

Another simplifying trick is to use still pictures over a simple voice track or music track.  Still pictures are a much easier video source than moving video from a video camera.  Doing this would require a video software editing program like Windows Movie Maker, iMovie or anything on this list of free video editing software programs.

Talk off the top of your head using an outline instead of writing out a full script.  Most people would need to practice first in order to pull this off well . It also helps to edit out some of the flubs later but obviously, then you are getting into more time and effort!

The more comfortable you are on camera, the better you will be able to do an off-the-cuff performance.  Appearing on camera takes self confidence and feeling comfortable with attention drawn to you.   Bluntly speaking, camera hogs and people with natural “gift of gab” talents do best as impromptu video hosts if you can keep them from rambling.

Thanks for reading Video Production Tips

Lorraine Grula

Internet Video Gal

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Lorraine Grula

Lorraine Grula enjoyed a fast-paced, multifaceted career in the television and video business, producing, shooting, writing, and editing documentary-style videos in both news and corporate settings. Later, she got to teach media and video production in two high schools, which then morphed into instructional design and corporate training. Lorraine is now dedicated to sharing her vast knowledge with others who wish to learn the art of video making, with an emphasis on storytelling and creating professional-quality videos for the internet as simply, yet creatively as possible.

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  1. This is a great article. We always fight this battle. How good is good enough? How much editing is necessary. How many retakes do you have to do to get it “Just Right”?

    Some gurus feel that you should go for 70%. Never go for perfect in web video. If you go for perfect, you won’t get it done. Content is more important than the professional look.

    Carrie Wilkerson is a person who uses a flip camera and just talks into her camera. I don’t think she edits anything.

    She does have the gift of gab and crops in tightly to just get her head in the video. She makes sure that highlights are showing in her eyes.

    She believes that the close up effect gains her intimacy. People believe what she has to say because they can see her eyes.

    Personally, I don’t have the ability to talk without pauses and flubs…to just expound eloquently without several retakes is a dream.

    One thing I have learned, trying to emulate what Carrie does, is that if you have a close up shot, it make editing very easy. Your head doesn’t move around very much when you are talking, so to edit, the jump caused by an edit is hardly a problem.

    If you, the subject, are walking around, editing becomes a real problem unless you use some kind of a transition blur or burn, or flair up to mask the edit.

    I think we should go for 70%–just get it done.

  2. Hi Richard.

    Nothing is perfect in all of life, much less in video! PERFECT is unrealistic. I believe in high standards.

    High standards are really defined by what kind of video you are doing and the purpose of the video. Not everything needs to be (or should be) the ultimate in whiz-bang snazzy video effects. Simple is good. Simple is appropriate for many things.

    For a marketing video, the single most important thing is to connect with your customer. Connect to them in a personal, emotional, feel-good kind of way. The absolutely best way to do that also happens to be the simplest of all forms of video. Speak directly into the camera on a close-up. That is by far the most intimate of all shots, the close-up. Present yourself, up close and personal, to your customer and become their trusted friend and advisor.

    This is exactly what you describe Carrie Wilkerson doing. So ironically, she is doing the single most effective thing and it just so happens to also be the single simplest thing from a video production standpoint! One shot, no editing. Simple, natural lighting. Low resolution video. Low technical quality camera, but adequate.

    Not too many things in life are THAT COOL! Easy = Best for online marketing videos.

    A web cam is the easiest. Cell phone cams and flip cams the next simplest. Other point and shoot cameras are easy too.

    One thing that makes a web cam easy is that your video is automatically put into your computer for either upload, editing, or plain storage. You do not have to go through a capture process, where you connect your camera to your computer and feed the computer your footage. Capture can take a long time and be a pain. Web cams not having to do capture really simplifies the process.

    If you are going to be on-camera, the most important thing is to not ramble. Practice what you want to say before the camera rolls. The more comfortable you feel, the better the final video. Minimize or eliminate editing by planning. Outline your major points but do not sweat precise working unless you have a teleprompter. (which can just be your laptop) Keep focused. Keep it short. Smile and be friendly.

    There, now isn’t that easy!

    Thanks for reading video production tips!
    Lorraine Grula

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