1.2 Tips for Creating Videos in the Laboratory

Protocol for Filming Videos

1. Planning the Shoot

Planning can be as important as the shoot itself.  Here are some tips to make sure you are ready to film – and to save time during the actual filming.

  • Reserving equipment and space: Is the lab available during the time you wish to record?  Do you have all necessary equipment, or have you reserved loan equipment for that day?
  • Lighting and camera placement: It is important to think out the shot angle and lighting before you begin.  This is especially important in labs where there could be limited space for equipment and lighting.  Doing a trial set-up is very helpful.  We were able to obtain blueprints of the lab spaces, so we could work with the floor map of many labs.
  • Scientific equipment and materials ready: Is the instrumentation you will use in the video ready to be used?  Some equipment takes time to warm up, or needs to be calibrated before use.  In some cases, you might wish to film these preliminary steps, but it is good to know that it will work during filming.
  • Which skills or learning objectives?  Create a task list or outline of skills or protocols you wish to film.  Some people find scripting to be the best way to do this, but others may find it more helpful to list the tasks to be accomplished.

2. During the Shoot

  • Short takes: Keep the video clips short (1-3 minutes) (reference).  One task or idea per video.  It is easier to splice smaller clips together, than to cut segments from a longer clip, because of the large file size of longer clips.
  • The “script:” We recommend making a task list of videos for each recording session.  Some may find it effective to create and read from a script (references).  Others may find it more effective to have a learning objective in mind, then talk to that objective.  We use the latter technique, as it gives a more authentic feel to the recordings.  A goal of this project is to show that problems will arise in the laboratory- we “let things happen” or allow fluidity to the content so we can show students what it is like to problem-solve in the lab.  Some problem-solving can also be planned.  For example, we prepared well-polished and poorly-polished thin section blanks before shooting to show some realistic examples of work that novice students might produce.
  • Quality check as you go
  • Sound & focus & white balance:

3. Production

  • Editing needs:
  • Hardware
  • Software: (Premiere Pro, Camtasia, etc.)
  • Closed Captioning via YouTube
  • Standardize intro and outro

4. Data Management

  • Space!
  • Communication!
  • Constant organization and upkeep!
  • A place for archiving the final products and related files

Detailed Tips for Filming

Adjust White Balance on Camera:

  • Adjust White Balance (AWB) on a Canon Vixia: HFR 600:
  • Go to “Home”
  • Select “Shooting Mode” : (Small P Logo)
  • Click Video Icon
  • Scroll down and select “WB” (White Balance) to adjust the white balance under florescent/ tungsten lighting
  • Extra Help in Videos Below (if necessary)

Using A Wireless Microphone:  

  • There are two parts for the wireless microphones. These should be used to increase sound quality but are not necessary.
  • Attach to subject
      • The part with the microphone (one on left in this image) should be on the subject at all times. There is a clip on the back that should be attached securely to the subject.
      • Attach the clip on the wire to the shirt of the subject so that the microphone is not ruffling up against clothing- this could alter sound quality. 


  • Channels should already be set to go but adjust accordingly so that both the transmitter and receiver are on the same channel
  • The receiver (piece without the microphone on it) should be plugged into the video camera. (See image above)
  • Switch both pieces on.
  • Do a sample recording with sound. 
  • Replay the sample video on the video camera to make sure that the sound is working. If you can hear sound, you are set to go.

 Tripod (Necessary for video quality and camera stability)

    1. Level the tripod. Adjust the legs so that they stand stably on the ground. Release the tensioners on the legs, and raise them to the height that you need them. 
    2. Check the level on the tripod. If the bubble is centered in the circle, you are ready to film (see image 
    3. If you are filming from a raised angle (arial view of a subject) then raise tripod to full height. Using the tilt bar, tilt the camera down so it is directly covering the subject. Make sure the entire picture is visible in the screen of the video camera. Stand on a sturdy chair if necessary. 
    4. For more help with basic tripod adjustments, click here.


Room Lighting- Shooting Under Florescent Lights 

Umbrella Kit Setup- optional. There are three light sources in the kit. These can be used in a fluorescent or dark settings

  • Prop all stands up and extend heights to full lengths.
  • BEFORE placing umbrellas on to the stands, locate the bulb holder (see image on right) and unravel the cord, plugging one end into the wall.
  • Place this piece on to the stand and turn knob to tighten.
  • Make sure that this piece is sturdy before moving on.
  • Locate the light bulb and screw into the bulb-holder piece. 
  • Repeat this two more times until all bulbs are in their placeholders

Inserting Umbrella

  • Locate umbrella and fully extend as you would do to any other umbrella.
  • Place umbrella’s pole through the small hole towards the top of the umbrella stand and securely fashion into place by tightening the knob.
  • Make sure that this piece is sturdy before moving on.
  • Repeat two more times..
  • Final set up should look like the image below.


Umbrella Placement

  • Follow the three-point-lighting system for the most part
    • Allow the shortest umbrella to act as the “Fill Light” which should be placed directly in front of the subject being filmed from a straight on perspective, follow the diagram below. 
    • Place the lights towards the subject but far enough out of the frame so that the physical umbrellas do not show up in footage. 
    • When moving locations, turn camera off and adjust subjects/umbrellas accordingly. Turn camera on to continue filming in new location.
  • Here is another image to help understand the standard three-point lighting scheme.
  • For the purposes of these videos, 0-3 umbrellas can be used based on the natural lighting of the room. As long as the video camera is set to White Balance, most imbalance issues should be taken care of automatically. 

Angle and distance of shooting footage

  • “Bird’s Eye” View Examples:
Filming a flat lay from overhead (Bird’s Eye View)
  • May Need a Lateral Tripod Mount
  • Neutral View Examples
*Note it is important to keep the camera pointed at the objects while demonstrator is demonstrating instructions on use in a way that doesn’t block the view of the machine being utilized.
*Keep camera on tripod and only use the tilt bar when needed during filming process so the video quality remains steady.

Editing and Finalizing Videos

  • Keep Clips Short
    • Each final clip should be less than 4 minutes long
  • Edit out unnecessary footage
  • Highlight certain areas according to instructional needs
  • Keep all related clips in a folder and mark with related topics, time and location of shooting

For More Information on Setting up Lighting Kit

(Start at 0:28)

For more on Three-Point Lighting

For more on Wireless Microphone Setup