UMass Boston News

Video Production Guide

What follows are some things to think about as you begin the video production process.

First Things First

Always ask yourself: “Is video the best way to convey the story I want to tell?”

What’s the Story?

Even though you don’t need to have a written-out script, you should know ahead of time the through-line of the video. What is the theme? What are the key points? What should the people watching the video take away from it?

Who Are the Players?

Once you know what kind of story you want to tell, you need to identify who will be telling it. Will the video feature a narrator? Or will your interview subjects tell the story through their answers to your questions? Will you tell them what to say? Or will you let them answer your questions in their own words? (This final way tends to work best; you come up with questions that get at the points you want to get across, and let them say it in their own words. Your taped interview isn’t going to be live, so you can have the interview subject repeat their answer if the answer doesn’t come out the way you’d like.)

You want to make sure your interview subjects are able to convey themselves on camera clearly, concisely, and correctly. A pre-interview, where you talk over the phone or in person and go over the kind of questions you’re going to ask to find out how they’d answer, is strongly recommended. This will serve the dual purpose of giving you an idea of the types of video you might need to cover the interview(s).

For a video about a college program, it’s always a good idea to hear from at least one, if not two, professors/instructors, and one or two students. Realize that the more people involved, the more logistics that will be involved, and to keep the length down, you may only be using 30 seconds from each person, which works out to about two soundbites each. (See: Video Length.)

You should have at least two voices in a story. You should try to reflect the diversity of the campus: include both men and women, people of different ethnicities, and ages.

What’s the Video?

  • After you have identified your interview subjects, you will need to set them up for a sit-down (or stand up) interview.
  • You will also need video of the interview subjects in action, demonstrating what it is they are talking about (teaching, doing research, interacting with students, etc.). Not only does this provide some visual evidence about what is being said in the video (if the interview subject starts talking about small class sizes, then the audience should see video or still pictures of a small class), it gives us something to look at besides our interview subjects, and helps us to avoid jump cuts. (See: Tech Tips & Terms.)
  • Come up with at least a preliminary list of shots you want to get when you map out the narrative of your story.
  • If your interview subject mentions something that you haven’t thought of and you think you’d like to include that soundbite, make sure that there is video to cover it. (Still pictures work well as well.)
  • When you’re doing the interview, and when you’re writing your script with all your soundbites, always think about what video is going to be used for each section. Also, if you divide up your soundbite into two or more pieces, you will need to have video to cover the “jump.”
  • When planning out shots, it’s sometimes helpful to draw simple storyboards to see what works.

Interview Questions

  • Particularly as you’re first starting out, you probably want to come up with/write down your questions ahead of time.
  • You always want to ask open-ended questions (questions that don’t yield a yes or no answer.).
  • You always want to ask open-ended questions (questions that don’t yield a yes or no answer).
  • If you don’t have a narrator, your interview subject(s) need to tell the whole story so you should ask them to include your questions in their answer. Example: Q: “Tell us your favorite thing about teaching at UMass Boston.” A: “My favorite thing about teaching here at UMass Boston is …”
  • As you’re listening to the interview subject’s answers, make sure the interviewee is providing you with some transitional lines. Example: “In addition to Campus Kitchens, I’m also involved with the hockey team …”
  • Given time constraints, if someone takes 45 seconds to convey a single thought, please ask your interview subject to answer again more succinctly. Give them an example of what you’re looking for.
  • If you aren’t using a narrator, make sure that at least one of your interview subjects gives you something you can use as an opening statement and a closing remark.
  • You might want to have your interview subjects introduce themselves on camera, but if there are multiple voices in the piece, introductions throughout might bog down the video. In that case, use the university’s branded lower-third graphics. The Office of Communications can provide you with the template. (See: Branding.)

A few technical notes:

  • Ideally, the interviewer will have a second person with them to operate the camera. The interviewer should sit or stand slightly to the left or right of the camera (out of frame), and the interview subject should look at the interviewer. If you look straight to camera, you get a sort of “deer in headlights” look. Watch a television news story and you’ll see interview subjects always look either camera right or camera left.

Picture of video interview subject

  • If you have two interview subjects in the piece, one should look left and one should look right – so when you have back-to-back bites, they look like they are looking at each other.
  • Audio should be captured using a separate microphone whenever possible to ensure quality. Cameras come in with built-in microphones, but it’s best to use a wireless mic for your interview subject. (It’s also a good idea to mic your interview subject when you shoot b-roll so you can pick up natural sound.)
  • You want to make sure your subject is lit properly. Doing your interview in a studio setting with studio lighting, inside with a light kit, or outside, would be preferred.
  • If you don’t have the necessary equipment to produce this video yourself, you can hire the Video Production Center’s staff members. Contact Director John Jessoe. The Digital Learning Studio can help with and/or provide guidance. Contact Jessica Downa.

Video Permission

  • Because this is a public campus, written video releases aren’t required. However, if you are going to be shooting in a classroom, you need to clear it with the professor first. If you are going to be shooting athletics practice footage, clear it with the coach. If you are in a situation where someone in a class or event indicates they don’t want to appear in film, ask them to sit in the back of the class or otherwise out of the view of the camera’s lens.
  • If your film features children under 18, you need to get written permission from their parents. The Office of Communications can supply you with a form.


If you are using music, you must make sure it is not copyrighted material. The Video Production Center can give you access to music that is OK to use.

Video Format

  • Please shoot everything in 16x9 widescreen aspect ratio.
  • When possible, shoot in high definition at either 720p or 1080p resolution.

Video Length

The average television story is less than 2 minutes. (The standard “pkg,” or set of tracked, packaged elements, is 1:20.) It’s like that for a reason. People who are watching television can be simultaneously surfing the net, making a snack, and talking on the phone. People watching videos online can have just as many distractions. (The University of Louisville suggests keeping videos shorter than 3 minutes; the Office of Communications’ recommendation is that promotional videos should be no more than 5 minutes, with 2-3 minutes a more preferred length. If it’s under a minute, the audience might feel a bit shortchanged.) Keeping web videos short also lets you keep the file size small, which uses less bandwidth and loads faster.

Tech Tips & Terms

We can provide more details about each of these things, but here are just some general things you want to keep in mind:

  • Always white balance (show the camera what “true white” is when you change shooting situations [rooms/inside-outside]). You don’t want blue video.
  • Avoid extreme camera angles and excessive zooming.
  • In general, you don’t want to overdo effects within one video. What looks cool the first time might not look so cool the fifth time we see it in a video. That goes for shots as well.
  • For editing purposes, you need to shoot wide, medium, and close-up shots of your video subject/action that you will match in a sequence. 
  • A jump cut is what happens when the subject appears to “jump” – when, for example, our subject who is on the left side of the screen, suddenly goes to the right, and the type of shot (example: they are both head and shoulders shots) is the same.
  • Think of your favorite television program or commercial. The opening sequence of CSI starts out with a wide shot of the crime scene with an investigator on the side of the screen. The second shot is of our investigator head-on looking through a magnifying glass. The third shot might be a close-up of what that investigator is seeing through the magnifying glass. The shots aren’t jarring because they lead from one thought to the other, and both the angles and types of shots (wide [or establishing], medium, close, extreme close) are varied.
  • Look for opportunities to shoot match sequences: a wide shot of a teacher teaching from the back of the room (wide) goes to a shot of a student’s face close-up (close), to a side profile shot of the teacher from the front of the room where we also see a couple of students (medium). This may require having your subject repeat a movement. In the example below, we go from a medium shot, to an extreme close shot, to a medium shot of a different subject.

Student in classroom

Student in classroom

Picture of professor in classroom

  • Another thing to look for is to match movements: A student raises his or her hand in a wide shot and then puts it down in a close-up.  The two part-sequence below goes from a wide (establishing) shot, to a medium shot from a different angle. The edit is made on the girl’s movements.

Picture of students in gym

Students in gym

  • Below is an example of an edited sequence that goes from a close up shot to a wide (establishing) shot. Notice the different angles, in addition to the difference in the type of shots used.

Two people sanding a surfboard

  • When editing, you want to direct viewers’ eyes. Eyeballs will follow pointing/gesturing, the eyes of the subjects, and white space. Think of an imaginary little ball that’s bouncing around. If your eye is on the left side of the screen, your subject should be looking upper right screen, so you look right screen. Something should pop up next on the upper right (or white space might appear there.) In the example below, we see the student look up to the right, and then the professor is revealed looking toward the student.

Professor in classroom

Student in classroom


All videos that appear on the university website, and that promote university events and programs, should be properly branded.

IT Web Services, Creative Services, and the Office of Communications have developed a branded opening sequence (below) and closing graphic (also below) compatible with iMovie, Premiere, and Final Cut.

Opening Sequence

Picture of campus from above

Picture of the University of Massachusetts Boston campus with the logo on top of the picture

Example of a slide for a video sequence, with room for text to be entered

Closing Graphic

Photo of the campus with the university's web address at the bottom

If you are using lower thirds (also known as supers and chyrons), you need to use the following template, which is available upon request.

Picture of professor being interviewed

Don’t change the fonts or size of the UMass Boston logo.

Video Approval Process

All videos embedded on must be approved by the Office of Communications. All videos that are on the UMass Boston YouTube channel must be approved by Senior Web Designer Lisa Link. See Video Guidelines: Video Process for additional information.


These are just some general principles/concepts. If you would like additional information, contact the Office of Communications, Video Production Center, or the Digital Learning Studio.

Last Updated: January 9, 2012