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Field Production Basics

Release status: new

Description Description of learning guide
Author(s) David Keto (dketoTalk)
Email David Keto
Location Ag 33
additional location information
Phone 766-5695



This page is designed to introduce basic field production techniques that can be used with any camera to improve the overall quality of your images. If you are interested in operating procedures for specific cameras please see if your particular camera is listed in the learning guide index. For more advanced production techniques see the learning guides pertaining to lighting and sound recording particularly.

Essential Requirements


Camera, tripod, microphone, lighting devices, extra batteries, extra recording space (SD cards, hard drives, etc) notebook, contact information for crew and talent, release forms.


Learning resources information

How To

Basic field production begins with good planning and pre-production, please see the pre-production section before you run into the field and start rolling camera.

Once you’ve got your video planned out double check your scheduling of equipment, talent, and crew; if logistics run smoothly your shoot will go well.

On set, whether that’s in the field or the laboratory stay focused and on task, but be flexible and watch for opportunities you may not have planned for but might enhance your video. Be aware of cast and crew safety at all times.

Give yourself plenty of time to set up your gear, particularly for interviews. A few extra minutes will ensure you get quality sound and lighting. Fifteen (15) minutes is a minimum setup time, and you will probably feel rushed. Especially is you plan to light the space give yourself an hour, this may seem long, but this will give you plenty of time to assess a space and place your equipment accordingly, it also gives you time to move to a better space if need be and prep your talent for an interview.

A good order of operations is to setup your tripod and camera, set your lighting, then prepare your microphones and audio equipment. Having an extra set of hands is invaluable on set throughout the production process.

Once you’ve got your camera setup turn it on and start looking at potential frames within the space. For interviews you want consider how to position the subject for the best possible lighting and sound quality. Try to find an interesting background if you can.

For lighting you want the subjects face to be bright and visible, try to orient them so light is shining on their face, rather than backlighting them. Use natural light to your advantage. Ask your subject to remove their hat and sunglasses so we get a good view of their face.

For documentary and educational film sound quality is critical, we need to hear what our interview subject is saying, because a lot of information is conveyed in the audio track. Use an external microphone (preferably a lapel mic), do not rely on the built in mic on the camera, as it is not designed for interview recording. Place a lapel mic about 2 buttons down from the top and try to hide the microphone cable as best you can. If your outdoors try to place your subject with their back to the wind so their body helps block wind noise across the mic.

As you’re getting ready to recording try minimize all unwanted noise and movement; clear your background of distractions, close doors, turn off all electronics and appliances that you can. Don’t forget to silence cell phones on set.

Double check that your camera settings, lighting, and audio are all set properly before you begin recording and monitor these functions throughout your shoot. Don’t be afraid to cut in and make adjustments, you can always edit, and the talent can always repeat themselves.

While you’re shooting think about how you might edit your footage together later. Try to get shot variety during your interview, meaning get some wide shots, some medium shots, and some close ups. While a question is being asked is a good time to adjust your framing, but try not to move the camera while the talent is giving answers.

During interviews it helps if you can have one person asking questions while another person operates the camera equipment, that way each can focus on the specifics of their task.

At the end of an interview be sure to get the talent to sign a release and get their contact info for follow up if you haven’t already.

Don’t forget to shoot some b-roll, plan some extra time for this step. Since video is a visual medium you want specific images that illustrate the topics you discuss in your movie, this is b-roll. Quality b-roll will greatly enhance your video and allow much more flexibility when editing interviews. B-roll gives you something to cover cuts in an interview, or hide camera moves and interview clips that don’t look good.

When shooting b-roll again think about how you might use the footage while editing, get shot variety from wides to close ups as wells as pans and tilts; avoid zooms unless you have a very specific reason for shooting this way. Remember to keep using your tripod as you gather b-roll.

Be sure to double check that you collect all your gear as you leave the area.

Reading List

Key Web links

Video Tutorials