Author Archive

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

Creative Commons 101 (and Why It Is Fantastic)

Creative Commons (CC), generally speaking, is much easier and safer to use than traditional copyrighted material.  Basically, there are licenses that the creators of the content choose that let you know the ways in which you may use their material – some just want credit while others prohibit any use for profit (see below for the full breakdown).   If you’re looking for CC material, just use their user-friendly search function. For more tips on using free video content, look at the section on finding and playing video from Tactical Technology Collective’s Message in a Box toolkit.

Top 5 tips on Creative Commons

  1. Creative Commons allows creators to state clearly, safely, and legally how they will allow their work to be used.
  2. There are various levels of CC license, from “Attribute” (most permissive) to “NonCommercial-NoDerivatives.”
  3. To select your license, click here.
  4. If someone else’s work is marked with a CC license, you can use it without asking them just by following the conditions linked to by the license itself.
  5. CC licensing is permanent and irrevocable.

The above tips, and the handy explanations of the abbreviations used in CC licenses, are courtesy of Make Internet TV.


Attribution (BY)

Attribution is the basic component of all CC licenses and merely requires anyone using, sharing, or re-mixing your videos to give you credit in the way in which you specify.

Share Alike

ShareAlike (SA)

ShareAlike licenses requires that if a person modifies your video, they must share the resulting media under the exact same CC license. This is license is great because it encourages people to use your videos and to share their work in the same capacity!


Non-Commercial (NC)

Adding the non-commercial stipulation means that a person can’t sell your videos or any resulting media that incorporates your work. This might discourage websites using Google Adsense from featuring your videos, and can discourage others from further reusing your work.

No Derivatives

NoDerivatives (ND)

NoDerivatives restricts people from modifying your work. Be aware that NoDerivatives very much limits what people can do with your work downstream and will discourage people from reusing your work creatively. Mashups are a great example of how video and culture can be remixed and refined (example of mashup, Girl Talk Video). Despite this, you may want to consider NoDerivatives licenses if you are making video that contains footage you don’t want remixed, such as interviews or other sensitive content.

What Next? Finalize Your Video Action Plan

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

Translating – message in a box

Translating video

If your video is to reach its broadest audience, it needs to be understandable by people from other parts of the world — including those who are hard of hearing. For this to happen, it first needs to be transcribed, then translated into the languages of your target audiences.

Original Language Transcript:

The first and most important step in translating video is to create an accurate, digital transcript of all the words spoken in the final edit of the film. This should be a plain document of the full spoken word audio, plus any text titles on screen, written out in a text document in the original language.

Each phrase or sentence should be written on a separate line, with the start and end time code (hour:minute:second:frame) at the start of the line, like this:

00:01:10 00:01:20 This is a film about people resisting water privatisation in Bolivia

00:01:23 00:01:32 and the repression that they suffered

You can create such a document easily using free software like Jubler, and save it as a .SRT file. Jubler is an open source program for creating video subtitles. An .SRT file is the way these subtitles are stored and saved.

Using/Sharing the Transcript or Subtitle File

The resulting original-language transcript can be uploaded with your film, and included for distribution on any DVD or other offline format.

It can also be attached to digital copies of the film using the VLC player as closed captions for the hard of hearing and for screening in noisy environments.

Most importantly, it can be sent as a text file to translators for easy offline translation — even those without access to watch the film can help. The translator needs simply to replace the original language phrases on each line with a direct written translation, keeping the timecode in place to ensure the right phrase goes in the right place. This new file can then be used as a subtitle file just the same as the original-language file.

Even if you don’t have funds for translation, you should still create an original-language transcript and share it when you publish the video. You might find people autonomously take on translating your film into their language.

For more see the guides to Making Subtitles with Jubler and using VLC to view subtitles

Additional Resources

Categories: 4: Edit

Music suggestions

Jamendo Search (available on creative commons):

Josepha by Carlos & Miguel (guitar instrumental)

Les amants velours

Sebastien – Homeworks Vol.1 (The road to nowhere)

Frozen Silence – Childhood

CAEROU – world instrumental electronic

Gorilles de montagnes

Categories: Videos