Vivacious Video Taping An Essay by

No doubt the medium of video is spreading like wild-fire all through the internet. The real question is: How can this medium be used for the sake of Allah?

In the past years, many Muslim video productions have been done Alhamdulillah (DVDs, VHS, etc.). However, quite a few failed in engaging its Muslim viewers, and the effect of the message was lost. In this iTech post, we will discuss a few techniques on video taping a production that will bi-ithnillah (with Allah’s permission) improve your video and draw interest to it.

The first thing that needs to be deciphered is, what type of video are you making? Is it a live lecture, speech, or a planned video?

Let’s define these.

1. Live Lecture/Speech

2. Planned Video

Depending on what video you’re doing, here’s a few principles to follow.

Lighting

Lighting is one of the most important elements to photography and video. The ideal set-up would be a 3-point lighting system. What this is, is three lights to light your subject.

You use three lights, a key light, which should be the brightest and main source of light, a fill light, less intense and used to eliminate the shadows that may show from the other side, and the backlight, which lights up the overall scene.

Try to use this for when you’re taping a planned video. Use the key and fill lights if that’s all you have. And use any natural light (sunlight, room lamp, etc.) when taping something. You don’t necessarily need professional work lights or all that. In many of my videos, I’ve used flashlights, lamps, torch lights, and even a chandelier’s lights. Here’s a video showing all the lights I’d used for a Ramadan Message I made. As you see, I have a lamp in the back, some light from the ceiling fan, and a bright flashlight hung unto a lampshade.

When you’re taping a live video, you don’t have that much leeway all the time. My advice – use the lighting already available to you. If you’re taping a speaker, ask him to move based on where the light’s best (a little to the left or right, but don’t move them to the other side of the room or something!). Use lights when you can and always look at your shot before you start taping, making sure that the camera’s settings make the quality look good.

Audio

Some say that audio is 51% of the production. People will look at a bad quality video, but they will not tolerate something that hurts their ears with all the noise. If you can, try to record your audio separate from the camera, with a microphone or a voice recorder. In many khutbaat (sermons) that I’ve taped, I used an mp3 player with a built-in mic to record the audio straight from the podium. If you don’t have the privilege of separate audio, then look at the settings on your camera for noise reduction (but don’t overdo it). Also, move closer to your subject, as opposed to zooming in. It’s better for the video quality and the audio quality if you’re camera is 9 or 10 feet away as opposed to the back of a 100 foot masjid. As a final point, never talk or even whisper when taping. Anything behind the camera gets caught, and it’s clearer than the speaker that’s farther away. I’ve gotten caught with a whispery “Salallahu ‘Alayhi Wasallam” a few times and it sounds unprofessional. Just mouth whatever you have to say.

Frame The Shot

Compare these two shots:

This is Gyasi McKinzie. The first one doesn’t look very Speaker_woRuleThirdsSpeaker_wRuleThirdsvisually pleasant. It’s far away, the speaker is smack dab in the middle, and there’s so much space above his head, it’s so hard to focus on him. In the second picture, the speaker is right there, and you can easily focus on him. The rule applied here is called the Rule of Thirds. (By the way, in the same video, the brother/sister who edited it did apply this technique in other parts, I’m not bashing their video.)

The Rule of thirds basically makes you divide your video into a tic-tac-toe board. Three lines across and three lines vertically. Then, you basically place your subject along one of those lines or at the intersection of two points (never in the center). Because the human eye usually would move from the top of the screen down, or from the left of the screen to the right. Think about any T.V. shows where they show interviews. Is the person ever in the middle of the shot? No, they’re always in the right or left side. This just makes it a bit more interesting. Here’s some more detailed info on the rule of thirds. Also, another technique used in the second picture is the elimination of head room. Headroom is all the open space above the speaker’s head. Usually, you want to eliminate that so the viewers’ eyes don’t wander.

Finally, the CONTENT!

Know that no matter what equipment you have, how many lights or microphones you possess, how much money you have to invest, it’s a filmmaker that makes the movie, it’s a creative person that creates beautiful video. As long as your intention is clear, and you’re trying to spread a message with the video, then Allah will bless your efforts and make it easy for you. Even if the video doesn’t come out 100% professionally, at least you can reap some rewards from it, and that’s what’s most important.

May Allah help us to perfect our skills in all areas and may He bless our intentions and allow us to use any medium we can to spread the message of Islam.