This blog will teach you how to get the best possible picture quality with the equipment you have. Whether it’s a DSLR or a mobile phone, you will be handling and operating the camera in the same way.

Nowadays there are so many gadgets  out there with which you can record videos; from cell phones, to tablets, webcams to digital recorders, and DSLRs. Today families record more videos than ever before, it is essential to save your memories for future generations. Think about how important it was for you to keep your parent’s old photographs. When the time comes, your children will appreciate those moments as well. Check out the family video above as it came from a year’s worth of recording. It was filmed almost entirely with digital cameras and cell phones, and professionally edited here at our studio. Without any further ado, lets get started.

1) Ready, Set, Record… But Wait! Before you start recording anything, there are a few tips on how to operate the camera to get the best results possible with your equipment.

First thing is to make sure you hold the camera steady. Be sure you are in a good position and no one is in the way of what you’re filming. If you’re panning or tilting, move slowly. Capture the moment that is most important at that time by paying attention to your surroundings. For example, don’t film gold fishes in a tank when someone is blowing out candles on their birthday.


Fig 1. Notice that the subjects are shot in close up, slightly off-centre, and the background is out of focus.

Framing an object or subject is crucial as it makes the shot look professional. Most films frame the subject’s faces similar to Fig. 1. There is limited head clearance to better show the facial features. There is negative space on the left part of the screen with the shoulders slightly off-centred. If your camera is equipped with a zoom lens, you can create a shallow depth of field look, where the background is blurred and the foreground is in focus. Having said that, there is really no rule as to how you compose your frames. The above is just a general description of a shot. Whatever your style is, feel free to experiment.

You also need to make sure that you have enough lighting in your shots. Once in post, the editing software can only bump up the light levels by so much before quality is degraded. A crude way to identify low lighting situations is that if you see a lot of grain on your LCD screen it is most likely that the camera on your device cannot pick up enough light, so you will need to turn on a light, or open the iris.

The way you handle the device can create unwanted operating noises such as scuffling sounds. So be conscious of that when you are zooming in, or moving your hand on the unit because the microphones on most devices are close to where your fingers are touching. That brings us to the next tip, sound.

Fig 2. Use subtitles if audio is still inaudible like television reality shows from the Deadliest Catch

2) Sound is Everything. Audio is an important component. If you have poor visuals, people can still understand the content. Watch the Star Wars trailer for example without sound the first time, then later with sound. Hear the difference? I’m more intrigued by watching the trailer with sound.

You will have to think ahead as to what you will want to do with your videos after it has been recorded. When I film my personal family videos, I always try to keep in mind that sound will be used. If this is the case, make sure that your fingers are not covering the microphone on your device.

If you are recording an interview, try to move as close to the subject as possible while maintaining a good shot. Make sure that the environment is as quiet as possible. If your equipment allows, you can hook up an external microphone; that would be the ideal setup.

In post, you can increase the audio to a certain extent before the quality starts to degrade, industry standard is -12dB. For situations where it is not possible to recover the audio at an audible level, there is always the subtitling option. Reality shows on television do this all the time, as seen in Fig 2.

If you are not intending to use the recorded voices in your videos later on, then you may want to dub your video over with music. Some useful royalty free music websites are and A paid service can be found at

Fig 3. Sony Vegas Video Editing Timeline

3) Touching Up! The magic happens in post production. There are a few good editing softwares out there, such as the open source one by Black Magic, DaVinci Resolve. There is also Windows Movie Maker that should come with your Windows operating system. I use Sony Vegas, other popular ones include Adobe Premiere and Final Cut for Mac users.

Now that you’re armed with your post production software, it’s time to edit. During editing try to think from your audiences point of view, how long should it be? Where will it be seen? How should this video affect the audience? All the softwares out there do the same thing: you place clips you would like to work on onto the software’s timeline, you can then manipulate the clips by cutting it, and moving it around in different parts of the timeline.

If you don’t know what you’re doing, editing can be a daunting task (Fig 3). Check out my tutorial on how to edit film trailers. It doesn’t really show you how to edit a family video, but will at least give you an idea of the basics.

If editing is a bit overwhelming and you need help, you can take a look at this post write up where I discussed the basics in organizing your video for a fast effective cut. Also feel free to contact us with your questions. Hope that helped, and like always happy editing!

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