Volunteer to Film Scripts Into Other Languages!Have an HIV/AIDS-related educational script? Go ahead and film it! Here are some tips for making your audio and video quality as good as possible for various amounts of money.
Choosing a Camera
Almost any consumer video camera will produce decent quality video when
filming a "talking head" video indoors.
- If you haven't chosen your camera already, you may want to borrow or buy one that has a "Line In" or "Microphone In" jack so that you can connect an external microphone (or lapel microphone) to the camera to ensure that the camera gets a strong signal from the speaker's voice and as little room noise as possible.
- If possible, get a tripod so that you can easily place your camera at the right height for wherever your speaker is standing or sitting. You can get cheap tripods for as little as $19.99 at consumer electronics stores, and these are typically good enough for supporting a video camera. If you're going to be using something heavier like a video prompter attached to the camera, you'll need a sturdier tripod.
- If you don't have a tripod, you can improvise with tables and
stacks of books.
Getting Good Quality Audio
- You can use the video camera's built-in microphone to capture the audio for the shot, but if you do this, you're likely to get lower audio level for the speaker's voice (a weaker signal) and more room noise that's audible on the videotape. You can improve the quality of the audio by connecting an external microphone to the camera and having the speaker speak directly into that microphone.
- "Lavalier microphones" (also known as "lapel microphones") are
perfect for talking head shots since you can discreetly attach them to
the speaker's shirt, lapel, jacket, or sweater and get good quality
audio with the microphone being either unseen or discreet enough not to
distract the speaker. To date, AIDSvideos.org has used a very
Shack microphone. This produces results that are better than
filming with the built-in microphone on the camera, but there's a fair
amount of line noise, so we're planning to upgrade to a more expensive
- If it's a home with a doorbell, make sure to cover the doorbell with a sign saying that you're filming and no one should press the doorbell.
- Make sure all cell phones and pagers are turned completely off.
Even the "vibrate" of a cell phone or pager can distract your speaker
and interrupt the shoot.
PowerBring multiple extension cords, power strips, and "two prong to three prong converters" in case power outlets are far away from where you want to be filming.
TapeRemember to bring plenty of extra blank tapes to the shoot!
Choosing a Place to Film
- You need a quiet room with doors that shut to prevent people from accidentally walking in on you and interrupting the shoot.
- Put a sign on all doors saying that you are filming and that no one should knock or open the door.
- Avoid all of the following things as they will create reflections that you don't want: windows, mirrors, glass picture frames, glass table tops, flat glass surfaces of any kind, etc.
- If possible, have your speaker deliver the video without wearing
eyeglasses. Eyeglasses create reflections and glare and prevent the
viewer from seeing the speaker's eyes. Ask them to wear contact lenses
instead of eyeglasses if possible.
- Avoid "backlighting," a situation where there's a strong source of light behind your speaker (a window with incoming sunlight, for example). Backlighting will make your speaker look darker by comparison and can create other problems like visual artifacts in the video.
- Make sure you have good lighting of the speaker for the shot.
- AIDSvideos.org uses the Lowell Rifa Pro-44 Kit,
a two-point lighting kit that is lightweight, portable, and rugged.
- If you don't have such a system, you can improvise with
well-placed floor lamps or table lamps.
- At a bare minimum, you should have one source of light that is in front of the speaker at a 45 degree angle to their right or left. If possible, add a second "key light" that projects light behind the speaker to reduce shadows cast by the other light. Generally speaking, the more you project light on and behind the speaker, the brighter the colors you'll get, the better the speaker's skin will look, and the less you'll have distracting shadows behind the speaker as they move.
- If you're using a professional lighting system, make sure to turn
it off between shoots, both to conserve the lifespan of the expensive
bulbs and to avoid tiring and drying out your speaker.
Setting Up the Shot
- Look through the camera and mentally trace the edge of the video
area. Look for things getting in to the visible area.
- If you're using a video prompter, is the hood of the video prompter dangling down in front of the video camera?
- Is the lapel microphone visible?
- Are there any brands or logos visible that shouldn't be in the
shot because of the possibility that the business owning that brand or
logo might object?
Eye Contact by the Speaker to the Camera
- The video will look much more professional if the speaker is talking directly into the camera throughout the video instead of reading from notes or from a script that is placed near the camera. Viewers really notice when the speaker's "eye line" is off-center from the camera, as happens when they are looking to the left, right, up, or down to see a script that is hanging near the camera.
- If possible, use a video prompter. AIDSvideos.org uses the DV-11
from PrompterPeople.com. This relatively inexpensive video prompter is
lightweight, portable, fairly rugged, and easy to use. It relies on an
external laptop to create and display the video image, which is why it
costs less than dedicated video prompter systems. We use the following
optional equipment for this prompter as well:
- Plastic reflecting pane instead of the glass one (to avoid the risk of breakage during travel)
- Wired controller so that speaker can discreetly scroll through the script while reading it
- Make sure you've got the right connector so that your video
prompter can be attached to your tripod
- If not, see if your speaker can memorize the script (or memorize it well enough to work from bullet-point notes).
- Otherwise, hang the script directly below the camera (not to
the left or the right) and make sure the font is large enough that the
speaker can read it.
Starting and Finishing the Shoot
- Set up all of your equipment and test it before the speaker is
scheduled to show up. Setup takes a long time and you don't want to
keep a speaker waiting. When AIDSvideos.org is using lighting, a video
prompter, and a microphone, we assume that setup and testing will
require two hours.
- Before you start filming, do a test shot where you verify that
both the video and the audio are being captured successfully. Listen
carefully to the audio quality for silence (indicating that the
microphone battery may be dead or the switch may be off) or line noise
or buzz (indicating that the battery may be dying).
- Make sure to have a few seconds of silence with the speaker still
at the beginning of the shot and at the end of the shot. You can use
this empty space later for "fade in" and "fade out" transitions.
- Expect that you will need to do at least three "takes" before you get one that everyone is pleased with. Allow enough time for this in your schedule.
- Ideally, capture some silence with "room noise" so you can use that as audio background if you decide to show video (like slides) without someone speaking.
Aim for "Good Enough," Not "Perfect"Don't get discouraged if you don't have and can't borrow or buy any of these things. It's much better to produce a video that is "good enough" and successfully educates people (even if it won't win an Emmy for cinematography) than to give up and leave people without access to the information they need. Right now, there's a desperate lack of high-quality scientifically and medically accurate HIV/AIDS education videos on the Internet, and by producing one, you can help address that need. Like Nike says, Just Do It!
Read on to learn more about other ways you can help by translating scripts, editing videos, and submitting finished videos!