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> A Few Beginner Tips!
Andrew Cockburn
post Aug 15 2009, 09:14 PM
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Where to Begin?

We all have to begin somewhere - it's true of guitar and its also true of video production. Whilst video isn't the main function of most of us, it is a useful tool to help us progress - useful for the instructors to produce lessons, but also useful for students who want advice on their playing, or who want to take part in the Mentored Training Program, or the REC Program. This discussion is really an introduction to video production, and over time I will be presenting additional lessons and information - a lot of it adapted from material presented to the instructors to help them improve their lessons.

So lets look at a few of the things you need to know about in order to produce video, and we'll focus on some of these in more detail in later lessons.

The Camera

Obviously the most important part of the video process, you will need one of these to even start producing video! There are 4 main types in roughly ascending quality and price:

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Webcams - a great starting place for those on a budget or who perhaps don't need great quality. Webcams are capable of decent results in the right situation, and are more than adequate for an entry into the REC or MTP programs. Whilst they are cheap, they do have their limitations in terms of low quality optics, and often low frame rates and resolutions. For the uninitiated, the frame rate is the number of pictures a second a camera takes (most webcams work at 15 frames per second which is a little low). Resolution simply means the number of pixels a camera produces - the more the better. Many webcams produce 320x240 pixels which is pretty low, some of the better ones produce 640x480, although there are often tradeoffs with frame rate for the higher resolutions.

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Still Photo Cameras - whilst its not their major function, many still cameras have a movie mode. Since these are generally more expensive than a webcam they often benefit from better optics and a decent sensor (the part that records the image). For this reason, some (although not all) still cameras do a pretty decent job at producing video. A dedicated video camera will do a better job, but if you have one of these already, it can be a great way of getting decent results without buying a new video camera. Again, this is a great option for the MTP or REC programs.

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Video Cameras - home movie video cameras have had many iterations over the years, moving from analog formats such as Hi-8 to better quality formats such as the current MiniDV generation of cameras. These cameras benefit from lenses and sensors optimised for video, a higher framerate (usually 25 or 30 frames per second) and high resolution, for instance 720x480, and they also often introduce the possibility of widescreen. MiniDV cameras are currently the suggested entry level format for GMC instructors as they produce excellent video for a web based service such as GMC, and are in fact capable of full DVD resolution.

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High Definition Video Cameras - the latest development is High Definition - this takes the resolution of the camera to a whole new level - typically up to 1920x1080 which is the full resolution of a High Definition Widescreen TV, and also of BluRay disks. This is top of the line, and suitable for any kind of videography, and also future proof as this format is set to be the standard for many years to come. In fact, this is actually overkill for anything currently on GMC, although lessons produced for GMC by HD cameras do benefit form higher quality, and of course, GMC continues to upgrade and reinvent itself - there will likely be a higher resolution player coming along one day that will need this kind of camera at least for lesson production!


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Ok, the next most important thing is lighting. Video cameras need light, they love it, can't get enough of it! In fact, lighting is so important that a mediocre camera with great lighting will look better than a superb camera with poor lighting. There are many approaches to lighting from using none at all (a bad idea) though using your bedroom or living room lights (not much better) to using sunlight or bright artificial light (best). There is also a lot of technique to setting them up to get the best effect - we will discuss this in detail in a later lesson. But here is some food for thought:

-A bedroom or living room light may be 100 Watts.
-Sunlight is closer to 1000W equivalent when it gets to the earth's surface.
-Many video studios use artificial lighting of several thousand watts.

So what this tells us is that a single light bulb won't give great results if the studio standard is over 10 times this amount of power! As an example, when I film my lessons I am using 1500W of direct lighting, plus half that again in indirect lights - the moral of this story is that to get decent video you do need to make some effort in this area even for a REC or MTP video.


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When you have your lights all setup you can begin recording. This can be as simple as putting your camera on a table (or a tripod would be better) and hitting the record button. In some cases you will record on the camera to tape, flash media or hard drive, and there will be a process to follow to move the video from your camera to the computer - this will vary between camera types. Sometimes you will have to capture the video from the camera in real time. Often though you will be able to drag and drop files to your computer after hooking the camera up - more common in newer cameras.

Most people find that about 50% of their abilities disappear as soon as they are being recorded - don't worry, this is a pretty common perception, and for this reason, expect to need several takes to get whatever it is you are videoing absolutely right even if you can do it flawlessly without a camera! This is probably due to a combination of nerves, and the fact that you can often overlook minor imperfections if they are never recorded, but video is brutally honest!

Some consideration should also be given to recording sound. The simplest way to do this is to just allow your cameras built in mic to record the sound, along with any backing track playing in the background. Most cameras however, even dedicated video cameras don't have great microphones, so results will not always be great.

A more sophisticated way to handle this is to record your audio separately into a DAW if you have one - this applies to guitar as well as spoken video - with spoken video you can use a good quality microphone just off the shot, and this is in fact how I record the spoken parts for all of my lessons. Once you have finished recording, you will have a video file and an audio file. We'll see what to do with these next.


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Once you have your video recorded, and moved to your computer, you will need an editing program. There are many decent programs out there - most GMC instructors use Sony's Vegas editing program. There are entry and mid level versions such as Vegas Platinum that won't break the bank. I use Vegas Pro which is pricey but worth every penny!

Using your editing program you will take the video footage and arrange it into the flow and order that you want. It will allow you to add fades, cuts and captions to create a finished product rather than something you just grabbed out of your video camera and uploaded.

If you have recorded your audio separately as discussed above, this is the stage at which you can marry the two together. Since your camera will record the live sound anyway, it is actually usually pretty easy to line the 2 waveforms up, then turn off the soundtrack from the camera leaving only your high quality DAW version.


When you have finished your editing, you will do what is called "rendering" the video. This is where the editing program takes all of your cuts, captions and audo, and writes them to an output video file. At the same time it will apply some form of compression to the video to make the file smaller - whilst this sounds good, there is also a tradeoff with quality. The higher the compression, the worse the end result will look. Different situations require different tradeoffs - GMC has its own set of standards for video compression based on the AVC standard for mp4 files.

That's it - hopefully this quick tour has been useful and will at least help you with what questions you need to ask on the board - over time I'll add more tutorials to fill you in on some of these various areas in greater detail!

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Live long and prosper ...

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post Aug 16 2009, 10:22 PM
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Very nice "introduction" Andrew!!! smile.gif
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Bogdan Radovic
post Aug 28 2009, 01:54 AM
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Very well put tutorial Andrew! It really steers you in the right direction! smile.gif

For GMC support please email support (at)
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Check out my beginner guitar lessons course! ; Take a bass course now!
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Laszlo Boross
post Aug 28 2009, 07:50 AM
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Great tutorial Andrew! Very useful informations also for me!

This post has been edited by Laszlo Boross: Aug 28 2009, 07:50 AM

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Todd Simpson
post Apr 17 2010, 06:06 AM
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Great post! Keep em coming! Breaks down the camera and light issues that many folks hit when they start out shooting vids and such.


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Ivan Milenkovic
post Dec 1 2010, 10:09 PM
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Wow, very good tutorial! smile.gif

Should we add some info on this thread too?

- Ivan's Video Chat Lesson Notes HERE
- Check out my GMC Profile and Lessons
- (Please subscribe to my) YouTube Official Channel
- Let's be connected through ! Facebook! :)
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