Video production is complicated – that’s a fact. And if you don’t check yourself, rest assured that you’re most definitely going to wreck yourself (and your resulting video).

But the above truth isn’t meant to intimidate, especially if you’re new to the craft. With the right technical know-how and sufficient practice, you can create compelling visuals that get noticed. And sometimes the best way to get better is by snuffing out those forgetful habits.

Under Review Setup

(Here’s a setup of our own weekly video marketing series, #MSHUnderReview) Photo from Dave Perry

In this post, we’ll cover the most commonly neglected fundamentals of videography, and some of the best ways to check yourself mid-shoot.

Here’s what to look out for:

1) Did I white balance?

White balancing is important, and doing it correctly during a shoot can save you tons of time in post-production. Bring a white piece of paper or poster board to your shoot to use the custom WB option on your camera.

And if you’re devoid of a white balance prop, do your best to eyeball the light situation. Are you outside on an overcast day? Are you shooting in a room full of fluorescent fixtures? Or are you surrounded by abundant sunlight? Do your best to judge and select the corresponding color temperature on your camera if you don’t have the time or resources to do otherwise.

2) Did I level my tripod?

If your shot is supposed to be straight, then make sure it’s straight! There’s nothing like a tilted horizon line to distract from your subject (and make every visually-minded person who views your work cringe uncontrollably).

Most tripods have built-in levels, and even if yours doesn’t, take a moment to ensure your shot is straight. Footage can be rotated in post to correct for this, but you’ll need to crop your shot and render times can be lengthy. Taking a moment to straighten your shot will streamline your workflow and eliminate one more unneeded fix when you’re editing.

3) Does my audio sound alright?

Audio quality is just as important as the visuals, and it’s the most commonly neglected part of production.

Whether you’re using your camera’s on-board microphone or a more sophisticated external device, make sure you’re leveling your audio. Adjust the gain so that the source sound (whether it’s a person talking or a warehouse bustling) is averaging around -12dB and peaking just below 0dB.

Another part of producing quality audio is being conscious of your environment. If you can help it, turn off electronics and appliances producing ambient noise (computers, fans, refrigerators, etc) and get away from the wind.

4) Is my subject in focus, and will they be moving around?

Retaining a crisp focus can be one of the most difficult aspects of video production. As you may know, auto-focus is not a mind reader and is thus an imperfect function in video. And a blurry shot is not something that can be corrected in retrospect – you either got it, or you didn’t.

You need a keen eye and a steady hand when you’re dealing with moving subjects (and even with those you wouldn’t expect to move much).

To allow a wider margin of error in your focus, maintain a deep depth of field by setting your f stop as high as possible in situations where you’ll need it. Just keep in mind this will, of course, change the look and feel of your footage (as opposed to a more isolated scene with a shallow DOF).

In formal interview scenarios, seat your subject(s) when possible and remind them not to rock back and forth in their chair.

5) Should there be negative space allotted for titles/text/graphics?

Consider additions of titles and text before and during your shoot, not afterward.

Remember, you can always crop a wide shot down, but you can’t widen a tight shot. When you know you need to insert text, subtitles or graphics into the frame, make sure you’re leaving space for them and composing accordingly!

6) What FPS should I be shooting at?

Your frame rate can dictate the look and feel of what you’re capturing, as well as the bounds of the technical possibilities.

Slower frame rates (such as 24fps) offer a more cinematic feel to footage, but also suffer certain limitations. Noticeably choppy movement aberrations are created when quick panning shots are executed under slower frame rates. Also note that especially fast-moving subjects will appear blurred at 24fps.

If you’re shooting fast-moving action, quicker panning shots or moving the camera around a lot, then higher frame rates are what you’re looking for (30, 48, 60fps or higher). The footage itself will appear “smoother” and reflect a different feel.

7) What’s my ISO set to?

ISO can make a significant difference in your final image. When you’re faced with a poorly lit environ (such as a dark stage or nighttime space), a higher ISO will give you an extra boost on exposure.

But be careful when you’re pumping ISO into four or more digits. Different camera sensors will handle high ISOs better or worse, but bigger numbers will always mean more noise and digital artifacts. Weigh the importance of a brighter exposure against the drawback of increased noise when you’re setting your ISO on a shoot.

So next time you’re scatter-brained and think of taking a shortcut on a video shoot, THINK AGAIN! Check yourself every time to ensure you’re upholding quality standards, and you’ll produce beautiful visuals that get you (and your work) noticed.