Lights, Camera.. Making Developer Movies

As Mike Hall points out on his blog, I’ve been working with a small team on putting together some short videos highlighting some issues that mobile developers should find interesting. The format of the video is footage of a real, live developer or expert (like Mike) and screen captures of their development machine.


I’m been using my own short movie making equipment to make these movies, which comprises a Canon GL1 camcorder, Seinheiser shotgun microphone and some rather bright lights. The screen display is captured at 800 by 600 using an application called Camtasia, and the entire piece is edited using Adobe Premier (which I’m loving) and into a Windows Media video file.


Here are some techniques that I’ve been using as I go along.


  1. Good lighting is important, and if your subject is underexposed, there is only so much you can do with filters and gamma correction in Premier to fix it. It’s worth getting it right. The wrong exposure adds noise, which compresses badly.
  2. Use manual focus and exposure on the camera. Having the camera set to automatic causes it to occasionally vary the settings all by itself, and it looks bad.
  3. Stick to an aspect ratio of 4:3. Using 16:9 widescreen is great for my short movie projects, but doesn’t suit screen captures.
  4. Don’t use the camera’s built-in microphone. It doesn’t sound good, and it picks up way too much ambient sound.
  5. Edit in 800 by 600. Hurrah for Premier’s ability to edit in any resolution you like! This preserves the quality of the text in the screen captures very well.
  6. Sure, 29.97 frames per second is essential for good looking short movies in NTSC format. For simple talking heads and screen captures, 15 frames per second is perfect and uses a lot less data.
  7. Compress the final video to 300kbps to allow for streaming and electronic delivery. And a 100kpbs stream is a good idea too.


If you are attending MEDC in Las Vegas next month – and that should be WHEN you are attending – make sure you stop by the MEDUA booth and check out the completed movies!