Posts Tagged ‘video’

Primary Visual Components of Your Video

August 21, 2009 2 comments

Here is just a quick reminder of some of the key components that will make-up your video, which are addressed in more detail in What Audiovisual Components Best Support Your Video.


Establishing shots

  • Get a lot of them from different angles and with different movements (but remember to get static shots too)
  • Use  a tripod when possible for a smoother shot
  • If possible, try to get your subject in an establishing shot because it’s a nice transition into an interview
  • Remember that establishing shots are used to show the audience a location, so make it as clear as possible – extra long shots are great establishing shots.

Observational sequences

  • Film your subjects doing their everyday activities and interactions with other people.  Tell your subject not to look at the camera – eventually the subject will not notice you as much
  • Be patient with this type of filming.  The more time you spend with your subject, the more comfortable he or she will become with you and the better your footage will be.
  • Remember that it’s much better to see an event unfold in front of your eyes than have someone talk about it later. In other words, your observational sequences are usually more powerful than interviews because ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS.

B-Roll shots

  • B-Roll shots are similar to observational sequences but they are more used to add images over the content of your interviews. Think about what you’ve heard in your interviews and see if you can film images that illustrate the content of the interviews. REMEMBER THAT IMAGES ARE USUALLY MORE POWERFUL THAN WORDS.
  • As with establishing shots, try to get b-roll from different angles and with different movements.

Cutaway and Reaction shots

  • Cutaway shots are similar to B-roll but filmed at the same time and location that the interview is taking place.  After your subject has finished his/her interview, ask one or two more questions that aren’t important and focus camera on subject’s hands, feet, or other objects within the room.
    Reaction shots are used when your subject is talking to another person or group.  After you have filmed your subject speaking, be sure to get shots of people listening to your subject.  These reaction shots can be taken at any time while the subject is speaking and help convey interest and emotion to what the subject is talking about.

What Next? Holding Your Camera

Content adapted from the original guide, which was produced for a WITNESS-HURIFO Training in July 2005 by Bent-Jorgen Perlmutt.

Finalize Your Video Advocacy Plan

August 21, 2009 4 comments

The WITNESS Video Action Plan (VAP) is a questionnaire designed to assist our partners in developing a comprehensive plan to integrate video into their human rights advocacy.  We provide two versions here, one formatted for use by our partners, which is a more in-depth plan, and another version for more general usage.

Download the Video Action Plan:
pdf VAP for WITNESS Partners
pdf VAP for Non-Partners

What Next? Choosing Your Equipment

10 Questions You Should Be Able to Answer Before You Film

August 20, 2009 2 comments

Though you may be excited and feel ready to start filming and getting the content you want, here are 10 key questions that you should be able to answer before you even pick up a camera. 

  1. Who has the power to create the change you want? (This is your primary audience.)
  2. Do you have access to this primary audience?
  3. If not, do you need to engage allies or an intermediary who has access (eg: a person who knows the person or organization you want to reach)?
  4. What do you want your audience to do?
  5. What will convince them to take action?
  6. What will be appealing, persuasive or interesting to your audience (i.e.: factual information, potential people who can be interviewed or featured in your video, any experts you may want to include on the video or in accompanying material)?
  7. Who will your audience listen to – and why? (This should be the messenger [or messengers] in your video.)
  8. How will your video be integrated into your campaign or advocacy plan?
  9. When should your audience see your video?
  10. What is your distribution plan to ensure your audience sees your video? (See Section 5 to learn more)


Be very clear at the beginning of your advocacy plan who the target or primary audience is for your video.  Though you can have more than one audience, the primary audience should be the person or persons that have the power to create the change you want to see.  Though this is often an elected official or representative of an organization, it can also be citizens you are trying to engage to get involved to help strengthen your advocacy work.   For each audience, you will want to chose the best message and messengers to move the audience to action.  Moreover, some of the most successful advocacy plans have multiple audiences at the same time, or they target different audiences, one after the other, using a variety of materials for different settings.  Analyze your situation carefully to design the best plan of action to support your advocacy.

What Next? Research to Know What is Out There

Plan Your Video

August 14, 2009 2 comments

[note: this and the outline are a bit of the same, need to find optimal path for users on this]

Step 1:  Write a ‘guiding paragraph’

Take time to write a description of the story and what viewers will see in your video.  This should not be a summary of the video’s message or an analysis, but a description of how you visualize the story unfolding.  This can also incorporate the style and feel of the video – for example, If you are looking for a fast MTV-like feel or a more slow-paced story, or a series of stark images interspersed with title-cards.  An example below is a description of a story on internally displaced people in Burma.

Think visually and verbally – every word should describe something you see in the video.  If you are producing a series of video, discuss with your facilitator how to consider how elements of your story will be conveyed through the series of videos.


Step 2:  Finalize Your Messages

List out the most important messages for your audience and put them in order of importance.  Remember, this should be a list of messages that you will be able to convey in your video with interviews, testimony and b-roll images and audio.  Think big, but be realistic.

Step 3:  Choose Your Messengers

Among the messages you identified that will best move your audience to the action you want, who can tell your story most compellingly for your audience?

Remember that compelling and memorable individual, personal stories are part of most powerful videos and stories, and that an “expert” interview may give credibility and help elaborate nuanced legal or policy obligations.  You may consider how you would tell “both sides of the story” or explain why this is infeasible or ill advised.   Consider that ‘who’ tells the story can also include the narrator – you can read more about narration here.

Step 4:  Choose Your Audiovisual Content

What are the video, images and audio that can best support your video to move your audience to action?  Write a create a wish-list of content and prioritize it, accounting for what you may already have or have access to easily, what content you’ll have to shoot yourself and what archival content you may want to find.

Step 5:  Create a Video Outline

Tips on How To Film With Your Mobile Phone

August 10, 2009 3 comments

Citizens have been turning to what’s in their pocket – their mobile phones – to document the events in their lives since the introduction of the camera phone.  However, an increasing trend is happening: Citizens are using their phones when they are in the wrong place at the wrong time to document everything from planes landing in a river to human rights abuses and police misconduct.  In addition, activists are using their phones to capture statements of support for their campaigns on video or via an audio-recording function – and with photos of actions and people holding signs of support.

Combined with the power of text messaging and platforms like Twitter to share from the scene, mobile phones can be an incredibly powerful tool and worth harnessing.   This is not an in-depth guide on how you can shoot video.  Rather, these are some baseline tips to help you film safely, capture the best footage you can, keep it safe and ultimately share it.  If you find yourself in a situation where you are an eyewitness to an incident, it is important to know how you can use your camera and available tools in the moment.

Top Tips for filming with your mobile phone

  • Be safe – assess the risks and make decisions to keep yourself safe.
  • Choose the highest quality setting your phone can handle – each phone is different, so explore to determine how you can maximize your quality and ensure the space needed to capture an event.
  • Set your settings to save your media to a memory card, not your phone (and get a large memory card).
  • Film short videos –
  • If applicable, ask someone to watch your back so you can concentrate on filming.
  • Focus on key actors and events.
  • As best you can, get footage to capture the context of the event – the who, what, where, when and why.
  • If it is safe to do so, get in close.  Your image will be probably be better and your audio will improve – particularly with mobile phones.  Know that quality diminishes quickly when you zoom.
  • Keep your hands steady and pan slowly – focus on filming as best you can.
  • Conduct interviews with witnesses to get context of what is happening in the moment – you may never have the opportunity later.
  • If applicable, record yourself in the moment describing what happened and as many details as possible from where you are at.  Include the date and time of what you saw, as well as what you are feeling.
  • Do a test-run (or maybe two).

SAFETY NOTE:  Protect yourself, your contacts and footage on your mobile phone

Protect yourself: If you are concerned about your own safety and security when using your phone, you may be able to use a phone anonymously if you can use a prepaid (also known as Pay As You Go) phone without a contract or registering the phone with identification, which is becoming more common.  However calls on mobile phones and the phone’s location can be traced through the mobile network provider.  Keep the phone turned off with its battery removed when not in use, and disable the GPS application.

Protect your friends: Remember, if you phone is seized, the authorities can find and review all of the data on your phone – your contacts, telephone call logs, texts sent and received, photographs, videos and audio files.  If you are filming in a high-security area, be sure to delete all you can from your phone.

Protect your media: Once the incident – which may only last a few seconds – is over, assess your situation for your personal safety, and then for the safety of your footage.  In many situations, a person or group of people may not want your footage to get out to either the authorities or to the media or both.  If you are safe but you assess a potential threat to your footage, you may have a few options other than fleeing the scene.

Whether your device has a tape or media card, you may want to either remove it and change it out, hide it or give the card to a friend to take away from the scene to safety.  You may also be able to share your footage from your mobile phone or device from the scene.  Though mobile phones and services capabilities range depending on the phone you are using, your wireless provider and capabilities of your network, there may be some way for you to share your images or video directly and immediately from your phone.

Upload from the scene: If you have a mobile phone or camera that can connect to the internet, use that connection!  For photos, you can email them to yourself (and a trusted friend as back-up) if you don’t want them to go public right away, a backup to ensure your content is secure and accessible if your footage or device is taken at the scene.  In addition to video sharing sites like YouTube where you can upload directly from your phone, if you are part of a social network like Facebook, Blogger or Twitter and want to get your content out far and wide immediately, then you can upload them directly to the site or through your phone by using MMS or email.

VIDEO:  Learn how to best film using your mobile phone

Categories: 3: Film Tags: , , , , ,

How to Stream Video From Your Mobile Phone

August 10, 2009 2 comments

Mobile video streaming technology is changing the world. Well, at least the world of video and how it can be shared online – and instantly!  Streaming tools run on a few different platforms that enable users with strong networks and a data plan to share their video in the moment and keep a copy in their user account – which you will need to set up in advance.  With an account comes a user profile page, similar to a YouTube profile page, where you can select your settings, describe who you are and enable people to find and download your content.

There are quite a few noteworthy features that some of the providers offer. In particular you are able to:

  • Indicate if your video is public or private
  • Geo-tag your content to document your location
  • Time-stamp your content in an indisputable fashion
  • Make your media embeddable and downloadable by others on the internet

As more ‘smart’ phones and robust networks are introduced and become accessible to more people, streaming video will be a more viable option for mass participation.  However, it has been and is being used in creative and effective ways to support social change campaigns. The following are two brief examples and ideas to spark your imagination.

Streaming video from an action or an event

Activists and groups have used streaming video from phones and even their computers’ web cams to show supporters their actions in real-time.  Smart tactics include inviting supporters to visit their website at a certain time to see what they and their supporters were doing to pressure their targets – often with an air of mystery by using email alerts and messaging that alluded to what was going to happen but just enough to ensure their supporters would come.  In addition to reengaging their supporters and keeping them updated and inspired with the campaign, streaming video can help drive actions to build email lists and garner more attention.

Case Study:  Streaming video to get news out from censored areas

Students for a Free Tibet (SFT) continues to be one of the most innovative grassroots organizations, successfully integrating online tools and video to raise awareness and pressure key decision makers.

During the 2008 Olympics in China, SFT worked to bypass the censorship and barriers to getting news coverage and focus on their actions within China to spotlight the campaigns to Free Tibet. Their innovative and multi-tool approach showed the potential of integrating new and old online and mobile tools – including a 24-hour live streaming video from six different cities around the world to cover their actions in Beijing – while keeping the focus on their campaign and supporters engaged. Additionally, they would stream video from their phones while actions took place to ensure the visuals got out and the story was heard.

Every situation is unique and comprised of a plethora of considerations that you will asses to determine your personal safety, which is clearly what is important.  Another consideration is the safety and security of those that are in your footage – how may they be negatively impacted if they are identified.  WITNESS, an international human rights organization that trains activists how to use video for advocacy, has a host of comprehensive guides that cover these topics in-depth.

Resources for streaming video from your phones

Please list company and brief description with links to the phones they support and FAQ pages.

FAQ with list of supported phones

general problems with qik

company website

site comparing qik and flixwagon with introductory videos (2 minutes and 1 minute)

Top 15 Interviewing Tips

August 10, 2009 5 comments

Top 15 Interviewing Techniques and Reminders

  • Good lighting and sound are key:  LOOK AND LISTEN CAREFULLY
  • Source light should always be BEHIND YOU when looking at your interviewee
  • Use a tripod (really!)
  • Use headphones to listen for sounds and turn off noises that you can control
  • Use the “rule of thirds” (Watch a video featuring info on lighting, background, shots (1/3 rule, composition) (6:39)
  • Keep your subject in a medium to medium close-up shot
  • Don’t move camera or zoom unless absolutely necessary
  • First question: CONSENT (see informed consent section)
  • Second question: INTRODUCTION and ask them to say and spell their name and affiliation (i.e. organization)
  • Make sure all your questions are OPEN ENDED (not yes or no) and have your subject answer in COMPLETE SENTENCES (tell them to do so if you have to)
  • Prepare a list of questions beforehand – and ask them all!
  • Don’t interrupt your interviewee – unless essential
  • ALWAYS ask the interviewee “is there anything you’d like to add?”
  • Keep silent during an interview
  • Log your interview and mark your tape(s)!

More in-depth resources on conducting an interviews


Info on indoor and street interviews, different shots (2:56)

good instructions on how to interview (setting, lighting, where to look etc) (2:33)

Click here to view a more detailed guide on how to film interviews

Another interview guide

Learn how to prepare for interviews and how to conduct the interview

What Next? Informed Consent