Video Recording Tips & FAQ


Welcome, to video tips & tricks.

The following guide offers a variety of settings, information, and general creative ideas to help you record your video submissions with maximum quality. We have created the following tips and tricks that we hope can shed some light on the mystery that is video recording. The following recommendations are only suggestions. We will not deny any submission that doesn't use the following guide. In addition to our love of theatre, our team has an extensive knowledge of video production that is our pleasure to share.

Without further ado,

Table of Contents

2. FPS


1. Terminology

First, we need to catchup on our vocab, and ensure we're speaking the same language. Our definitions of the following are:

  • FPS: Frames per second. How many images (photos) are captured per second to form the appearance of motion.
  • Resolution: How many horizontal and vertical pixels are used to display the colors that form your image.
  • Frame: Any part of the scene that can be seen through the lens, and will be visible in the final video.
  • Orientation: Landscape vs Portrait. Determines if the horizontal or vertical pixel amount is larger then the other.
  • Digital / Physical Zoom: The ability to either physically (by moving the lens) or digitally change the perceived distance of an image. Often allowing you to go from a close up, to a far away wide angle, or vise versa.
  • Tripod: Equipment the camera may be mounted onto, to provide smoother motion, or restrict motion entirely.
  • Codec: The compression algorithm used to encode and decode a stream of data, for optimal size or read/write efficiency.
  • File Format (Container): The extension you see on video files. Ex .mp4, .mov, .avi. webm. Different formats provide support for different codecs.
  • DSLR: Digital single-lens reflex camera, very common and used for both photography and videography.
  • Editing: A post production stage of taking the separately recorded footage and audio files, and combining them all into a single playable piece of media.
  • Converting: The act of changing from one codec/file format (such as a larger less compressed format for faster editing / processing) to another codec/file format (such as a more compressed format that is better for web playback, or conserving file size.)

With the terms out of the way, lets talk more about each, with some examples of what they look like, and why we suggest you use a particular setting / approach.

2. FPS

12 FPS

18 FPS

24 FPS

30 FPS

We Recommend: 24fps (30 is okay too)

    Almost all cameras will allow you to specify a frame rate, and we suggest using 24 frames per second. While 30fps can produce a "smoother" look, 24 is a strong standard for feature film, and provides a bit of that cinematic feel to the piece. It's also less photos per second, allowing a smaller total file size. It's a Win, Win.

3. Resolution

We Recommend: 1920x1080 (HD)

    Most cameras and phones, will allow you to set what resolution you want to film at. This is a very important factor for the overall quality of your piece, and a higher resolution is desired. While 1280x720 is acceptable, its best to aim for full HD.

    Above are some common resolutions, and how they compare to each other. (No need for 4K, we won't be streaming at that quality.)

4. Orientation

We Recommend: Landscape (Horizontal)

    A wider frame horizontally allows you to capture more of the stage / scene, and aligns better with most modern day screens.

5. Tripods vs Hand Held

We Recommend: Tripods or another form of mount to stabilize the camera.

    We strongly discourage the use of hand-held where possible. This is because unexpected motion to a camera, distracts us from the scene, and instead draws our attention to the motion. A well executed shot with smooth motion, will go unnoticed, but a hand-held shot almost always is distracting.

    You can use a variety of creative solutions to fix cameras in place, and have them be more stable. Less motion or even no motion is okay, and will allow viewers to focus on the show. You can find mounts for cameras and phones, or use everyday items to hold them in place. (Just don't cover that lens!)

6. Zooming

Zoom Lens

Two Angle Setup

We Recommend: Not zooming the camera while filming.

    Similar to hand-held motion, zooming in or out draws our attention to the camera motion and away from the scene. Additionally, it takes specialized equipment and a steady hand to master a seamless zoom between two focal lengths. Instead, try using two cameras from two different angles, one wide and one close. The cuts between angles may seem jarring at first, but as viewers get lost in the scene, they'll forget all about the cuts. (Try watching a tv show, and counting the cuts, you'll be amazed.)

Here's another example showing how to setup the two angles.

Only have access to one camera / angle?

    Not a problem, instead go for the classic straight on frame, with no camera zooming. Just make sure your frame is wide enough at the beginning to capture actors who may move around the stage. While it may seem static at first, again viewers will focus on the content and soon forget the camera angle / position. Which is what we want!

Example of framing for a single straight on angle. (Make sure to use a tripod / mount)

7. Lighting

We Recommend: Always add more lights.

    Lighting is a very important factor for creating a high quality video. This is because the techniques camera's use to compensate for low light environments, often leads to visible noise or grain as seen above.

    Our eyes are quite good at adjusting for low lighting, but cameras are not. Remember this when considering if a room / or a dim lighting cue is bright enough. Chances are, it will seem okay to your eyes, but not be enough light for the camera. It's best to adjust your lighting while looking through the lens of the camera to know for sure.

    Theatres and studios are quite dim by nature, with dark paint tones, no natural light, and often heavy fabrics or carpets to absorb as much light as possible. This helps reduce light spill when lighting a show, but will produce trouble for you if you try to film in these rooms with only the fluorescents turned on.

    If you're not using stage lights, taking a couple very bright lights, and aiming them at the ceiling can provide a quick and easy way to increase the overall brightness in a small room. (Be Safe & use Gloves!) Also when possible, the sun can be an excellent source of light.

8. Cameras / Phones

We Recommend: Try out your phone.

    Phones have become amazing pieces of technology and can produce surprisingly great video results. Top tier models can even out perform DSLR cameras. If you don't have immediate access to a video camera or even if you do, we suggest testing your phone and comparing the results. Just make sure to mount it or prop it up in some way to ensure a stable shot.

    Most phones will allow you to change video settings so make sure to double check. Also worth ensuring you have ample space on your device prior to starting to film. They are capable of filming hours at full HD (1920x1080) at 24fps.

    If you're using a DSLR, double check how long you can continuously film. We've encountered certain cameras with a limitation around 12-13 minutes (or about 4GB per uncompressed file.). This may require planning ahead, and the use of two cameras starting at different intervals, to ensure coverage.

9. Sound

We Recommend: Record separate sound.

    Cameras are usually located quite far from the stage to aid in better angles, and wider shots. However; this makes it difficult for the audio quality. Some good techniques around this, is attempting to mic the actors and record the feed directly into the sound system.

    Alternatively, using an external recorder and microphone, placed closer to the stage / scene, to capture the sound. This is a great backup even if you've mic'd your actors to ensure you have a single audio track. Common equipment includes, a traditional shotgun microphone with a boom pole and Zoom H4n recorder. You can also try out the audio recording apps on your phone. They all have built in mics for telephone calls, but can double as recorder when needed.

    Just remember not to place the external microphone on a high vibration surface (like the floor), or all you'll be hearing is the actors foot steps. External audio will need to be combined with the video later during an editing stage.

10. File Formats

We Recommend: H.264 or H.265 (in an .mp4 container.)
However; if your submission is in a different codec or container (ex: .mov) and <10 GB this is alright too.

    If your camera supports changing file formats, we suggest a compressed format such as h.264 or HEVC (h.265). Tests indicate you can record around 1 hour's worth of 1920x1080 HD 24fps footage with a final file size around 7GB. We will be accepting file submissions up to 10GB which should be more than enough with our ~20 minute video submission limit.

    If after recording you find the file format to be larger than 10GB, there are a variety of applications that can convert your file to a smaller size (see below.) If after exporting from an editing software and finding the file size is too large, ensure you're using an h.264 option, sometimes labeled as (YouTube/ Vimeo/ Online)

For a free converting solution we recommend using VLC Media Player (Mac/Windows).
VLC Download Link

Please refer to the following VLC conversion guide.
VLC Convert Video Guide
For the Profile use: Video - H.264 + MP3 (MP4).

For a free editing solution we recommend using DaVinci Resolve (Mac/Windows). This isn't the easiest application to use, so plan some time to become familiar with it.
Resolve Download Link

Please refer to the following DaVinci Resolve export guide.
Resolve Export Guide
The Basic settings covered in the video should be all that is needed.

Some additional Paid Applications that can be used:
- Apple Final Cut Pro (Mac)
- Adobe Premiere Pro (Windows)

11. Summary

Settings and codecs to remember:

1920x1080 24fps H.264 (H.265) <10GB Landscape Video.
2x VideoCameras/Phones for optimal coverage.
Avoid Zooming, or holding the camera, instead use a Tripod.
Add lights and microphones for better quality.

We look forward to seeing all of your wonderful and creative submissions! Should you have any questions, comments or concerns with the information on this page, please don't hesitate to contact us.