Step 1. Filming Your Project

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Before filming, you must know what you are going to do in front of the camera. Follow these steps.

Good videos

Preview several videos to get a sense of what makes a good video demonstration. For example, Magnetic Dessert illustrates how a lot of information is packed into a short space (click the video link on that page). Other videos - some great, some just so so, are viewable at | Phidgets gallery.

How long should the video be?

Good videos are short and to the point. You should be able to explain and demo a simple system in 1 minute, and a moderately complex one in 3 minutes. Only really complex demos should be longer (e.g., 6 minutes). So the rule of them is: if it is <30 seconds, it is likely too short. If it is more than 2 minutes, its probably too long.

Sequence of a typical video

Each video should roughly contain this sequence of steps. (Note that this does not have to be strictly adhered to, but it is a good formula for most videos)

  1. Introduction to you and your project. Camera is on you, with your project in the scene on the computer in the background. For example: Im <name>, and I made a <several word description> called <name of project>. Alternately, the camera can be on a view of your system in action, with you speaking as a voice-over. The choice of whether you want to be in the scene or not is yours.
  2. Explanation of your project.Camera pans and zooms onto the screen, or it switches as a cut-away to your working project. As it does this, you describe what the system does plus demo how it works.
  3. Briefly explain how it works. If you want to talk about the implementation, you do this at the end by showing its internals as you explain it.

For all the steps above, the video visuals should always support what you say. That is,

  • show people using the system
  • your talk should explain what is going on
  • do not have any dead times where you are talking but nothing is happening
  • it is better to demo the system in use rather than just as a feature list
  • try to have people do something constructive; i.e., if it is a drawing system, have them draw something interesting rather than a scribble

Write the script

Write out a script of what you are going to say and do.

  • Practice doing it over your project before filming it to the point that you do not need to look at it any more i.e., its more or less memorized
  • Create a storyboard of what the final video will contain this will help you block out the video into segments you need to film, and also will dictate what you need to film e.g., cutaways, etc that can be edited in.
  • Make a list of all the materials you will need.


Test your sound by shooting a test sequence and playing it back. There is nothing worse than doing a video only to find that the sound was not on or too noisy to be useful!

  • Levels. Use the microphone, and check its levels. If the sound is bad, the video will be awful.
  • Secondary sounds. If you use sound in your project, try to capture that with a separate mike (we have two). A single throat mike wont do it. Or, record the sound separately and edit it in later (this is harder)
  • Environment. Try to do your filming in a quiet area. If people are talking in the background, the mike will pick it up.

Filming in Blocks

  • Shoot in repeated blocks. Its always good to sub-divide your filming into scenes into blocks (i.e., a sequence or partial sequence, or a cutaway as described below). Also, do each scene at least twice. For example, do the intro several times, then the description several times, etc. Its way easier doing it that way rather than trying to do it all in one long shoot.
  • Tracking your blocks. As you shoot a block, write a title/description down on a piece of paper e.g., take 1 intro, and a note next to it indicating its quality e.g., junk, so-so, good sequence. This will speed up your video capture and editing greatly if you know which segments you want to use and which to discard. For example:
    • intro - 1 - junk
    • intro - 2 - ok, but has hesitations
    • intro - 3 - good (best?)
    • intro - 4 - good
  • What is in each block. Each block should be filmed as below.
    • Start the camera,
    • Put your hand in front of the lens in front of each take. This makes it easier to find beginnings and ends when editing.
    • Putting up your fingers as 1, 2,3 etc will also help number your takes.
    • Shoot the block
    • Repeat - you don't have to stop the camera if you are ready to go on, but remember to leave these dead spaces in between!
    • Important: Leave at least 7 seconds of filming before you start and/or stop the action. The scene should be in the pose that you will start/end the shot on e.g., a person looking at the camera. This dead space will make editing easier. For example, transitions between scenes (e.g., dissolves etc) use up a second or two of video, and it will look funny if you (for example) dissolve a half second into the action after it has started.


A cutaway is a brief shot of something other than principal action but peripherally related to it. Cutaways are frequently used as transitional footage, to avoid a bad jump cut, to show interaction detail if needed, or to set a context. You can edit these into the scene as needed, or as a picture in picture to show detail. Cutaways include:

  • close-ups of your interface that you may be talking abouot,
  • close-ups of you interacting with the interface
  • close-up of a hand using a mouse or keyboard
  • close-up of a user's face while interacting
  • a shot of the person at (say) a desk using the system which is on the screen
  • anything else that is relevant to set the context of use