How to Get Started

This section of Conservation Reel is dedicated to helping you to get started making videos of projects, your process and thoughts about conservation and collections care. Here you will find a general introduction to the basics of production, other items in this section will go over equipment suggestions and specific techniques for various modes of making. If you have suggestions for this section, feel free to use the comments feature on the other pages or submit a request to

Making Videos / Technical Information

Having some knowledge of basic video production will result in good quality video content making your video more accessible and understandable to viewers. Attention to these 4 elements of production will create better quality image and sound in your video so that viewers can hone in on compelling content instead of distractions such as a noisy background sound, or dark lighting obscuring the image.


Key elements for creating a good video

1. Sound

Sound is a critical component to creating video, the sound accompanying your image should be clear and understandable this is what makes your image accessible. Be sure you are recording your subject in a quiet location with minimal fan noise from heat or a/c vents, these sounds interfere with your viewers ability to understand your presenters voice and are easily overlooked at the time of shooting. It is good to spend time in a recording space to listen for possible interferences that day to day go unnoticed and mitigate sounds you are able to. Using a wired lavalier (or lapel) microphone is ideal as it cuts out a fair amount of background noise and and is close enough to your presenter’s mouth to capture clear audio. Wireless microphones are prone to interference from electronic devices.

2. Light

Light is what makes your image visible to the camera, and cameras have a much harder time "seeing" than your eyes. The more light you have the more the viewer will be able to see the details of any actions on screen or simply gives a more flattering appearance to the presenter in the video. Work lights and inexpensive clamp lights from the hardware store are great cheap ways of getting your “scene” bright enough for the camera. As light from windows is a different color than tungsten or fluorescent lamps it is advised to choose one type of light source to work with. For example block the windows and turn on all of your worklights, and perhaps add additional inexpensive clamp lights. Or if you can not avoid working with natural light be sure to use daylight temperature bulbs in your lamps, or add daylight lighting gel to tungsten lamps.

3. Stability

A tripod enables you to keep your camera level and still an gives you control of your framing. Handheld camerawork without a steadying device tends to result in difficult to watch video and in most cases movement simply distracts from the content of your shot. Of course some processes may demand you to take the camera into your hands to get closer, but before making that decision look ask yourself "Is it necessary that I move the camera to show what is happening?" And, of course, if you can capture what is happening without moving the camera, keep it on the tripod.

4. Camera

If the other elements on this list are implemented this can be the easy part. High Definition (HD) is the standard today, but keep in mind image quality is not equivalent to resolution, look at reviews and if you can try it out and get advice at a camera store. Generally it is good to get an HD camera that performs well in low light as it will be more forgiving if you have lighting challenges. We recommend investing in a camera that records in a format you know your computer can view, some of the inexpensive cameras of obscure brands may use file formats that are not compatible with YouTube or your software. You will also want a camera with audio inputs (which even an iPhone has an easy adapter, but not all cameras) or if you don't' have access to that or are working strictly with still images, you can record your audio separately as a voice over with a portable audio recorder such as a Zoom H4N.


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