from the book

Marketing With Digital Video Buy The Book Here


by Hal Landen


Murphy’s Law works overtime in video production. If something can go wrong, it will. Your only defense is planning. Planning will help you to anticipate potential problems and solve them before that big day when your script is transformed into videotape.


By visiting the sites you will be filming before you film, you can discover and solve the inevitable problems inherent in those sites.

Available Light

One of the first questions about a site is the lighting. If the site is already well lit with artificial lights, windows or skylights, you may not need to do much additional lighting. However, “available light” can introduce its own problems.

During your location scout, you may see a very pretty effect of sunlight coming through a window. Don’t count on it being there when you return to film. Let’s say that you’re filming an important testimonial with a client. Behind this client is a wall of paintings and plants. Direct sunlight from a window creates a beautiful pattern of light and shadow on this background. While you’re shooting this interview, black rain clouds suddenly obliterate the beautiful background lighting.

During editing, you want to take a piece of the interview from the beginning and a piece from the end. When cut together, these two shots will look very different because the light on the background changed. This is a continuity mistake. The viewer’s eye will go straight to this different looking background. This diverts his attention from the message of the testimonial and diminishes the effect of your video. To avoid this problem, many camera operators cover windows or skylights and then recreate that lighting pattern with artificial lights. Now, no matter what happens with the weather, they control the lighting.

On the other hand, a large factory with many skylights can make filming easier and cheaper. These skylights usually admit a diffused kind of light that brings up the overall illumination level of the scene. This ambient light helps you make that wide shot as written in the script without having to use 20 lights. You’ll probably still be using some movie lights, but the lighting job is much simpler.


Many scenes will require two, three or more movie lights. Typically, each light uses 1000 watts of electricity. That’s about the same as a hair dryer. Most home or office outlet circuits are rated for 15 or 20 amps. Each 1000 watts takes 8.3 amps. So a 20 amp circuit can safely handle two 1000 watt lights. (8.3 amps times 2 equals 16.6 amps.) A 15 amp circuit could only handle one 1000 watt light.

If each outlet were wired on its own circuit, you could safely plug one or two 1000 watt lights into each outlet. But this is rarely the case. Usually there are a number of outlets on each circuit. Knowing which outlets are on the same circuit helps you know where you can safely plug the lights.

If you need four 1000 watt lights in one room that has only one 15 amp circuit, you can’t plug them all into the outlets in that room. You could blow a fuse or even start a fire. The production grinds to a halt. A professional cameraman avoids overloading circuits by running heavy duty extension cords to other circuits in other rooms.

When filming in a large plant or factory, you’ll want to be introduced to the house electrician. This electrician can provide valuable information like how many watts each circuit can handle and the location of outlets, the fuse box or circuit breaker.

Movie lights generate heat. If placed too close to a ceiling sprinkler head, the sprinkler might start flooding the room. In a factory with dangerous chemicals or fumes, lights can create the danger of an explosion. Make sure the plant manager and the cameraman discuss any such potential problems. Explosions, during filming, can wreck havoc on your budget.


Sound is another production problem to investigate during your location scouting. If you are recording live sound that’s important to a scene, perhaps an interview, make sure you’re filming in a quiet area. It’s easy to overestimate how quiet an area is, because we’re used to ignoring much of what we hear. Take a moment and close your eyes. Listen carefully to all the different sounds you hear. You may hear birds chirping, a computer fan or a truck in the distance. Imagine turning the volume up. If you were recording an interview, these magnified sounds would be permanently recorded along with the interview.

The cameraman (or sound person, if you have one) must eliminate or minimize extraneous sounds so he or she can record a clean sound track. A location right under the final approach of La Guardia Airport will not be a good place to record clean sound. You’ll continually have to stop for the roar of airplane engines. (The US Open Tennis matches are held there and the noise used to be so bad that TV announcers would stop talking, look up at the airplanes and resume only when the plane had passed. After years of this, the flight rules were finally changed.) The same problem can occur if you record during rush hour traffic. The noise from rush hour traffic can make sound recording difficult or impossible.

A more subtle sound problem is central heating or air conditioning systems in office buildings. You may not notice it during normal conversation until you stop and listen for it. Microphones will record this noise and you’ll be surprised how loud it will seem on your sound track.

During your location scout, see if the system can be temporarily turned off. You can, of course, turn it on between camera takes. In some office buildings, these heating and cooling systems cannot be turned off. If this is the case, you’ll have to go to plan B: cover the vents to minimize the noise. The easiest way to do this is to tape cardboard or posterboard over the vents.

Refrigerators and soft drink machines create even more subtle sound problems. They run intermittently and have a tendency to turn on automatically just when you’re recording the most important sound bite. The solution is simple — unplug the offending machine, but please put a sign on the refrigerator reminding yourself to reconnect it when you’re through filming. Make it a big sign like, “This refrigerator has been unplugged for filming—PLEASE REPLUG WHEN FILMING IS COMPLETED.”

You could do a lot of harm by unplugging computers or medical equipment. Check before unplugging equipment! Telephones have a way of ringing when you’re recording once-in-a-lifetime sound bites. Again, unplug them when filming and insist that EVERYONE turn off their cell phones or beepers. Although you won’t hear a peep out of them until you’re filming, PA systems can be another subtle culprit.

Outside noises from lawnmowers, chain saws and jackhammers have delayed countless productions. The neighbor next door, or a road crew always seem to plan their loudest work on the day you’re filming. You’ll have to use diplomacy and imagination to solve these sound problems. (We’ve occasionally offered the operators of these machines $10 to take a break for 20 minutes so we could finish our work.)

Filming interviews in a large city will almost certainly put police and fire sirens on your sound track. There’s not much you can do about this. If a siren is especially loud over an important sound bite, you may ask the subject to repeat what he’s just said. (Of course, they never say it quite as well the second time!)

Location scouting helps solve many production problems beforehand and keeps your video on time and on budget. Many scenes in business videos can be filmed without sound. This is called M.O.S. for “Mit Out Sound,” a phrase coined many years ago by a director with a heavy German accent who mispronounced the word “with.” It’s now a standard phrase in the business. Silent, or M.O.S. scenes, save production money because they are easier and faster to film than sound scenes. Later, in the editing room, you can add music and narration.

A few other potential problems to look for in your location scouting are microwave transmitters, high tension lines and nearby radio stations. Microphone cables and sometimes even your camera’s video recorder can act as antennae for these unwanted signals which may interfere with the sound or video recording. When visiting a site, ask if any of these potential problems are close to the site. It wouldn’t hurt to look around yourself and if you suspect a problem, shoot a test at the location with camera, mike cable and microphone. Then carefully check the tape for signs of radio interference on both video and audio. If the tape looks and sounds OK, you have one less problem to worry about.

If you do have interference problems, a last-resort solution is to wrap the video recorder part of the camera in aluminum foil. This may sound silly and it doesn’t look very professional, but it does seem to work most of the time.


This concludes the excerpts from “Marketing With Digital Video.” The full length printed book is 260 pages. It includes over 60 diagrams, illustrations and photographs. The chapters you have just read are condensed from the original. Buy The Book Here