VIDEO MAXIMUS Part 4: Filming Events – Tips for Nonprofits starting up Video Production

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This is part 4 in a 7-part series of articles examining how a nonprofit organization with a small staff and limited budget can successfully delve into video, and utilize it in a variety of powerful ways to achieve multiple goals. See if it doesn’t get you thinking about Video Production for your organization. Access the previous entry here.


When your nonprofit takes charge of its own video, you have the luxury of trial and error. You don’t have to begin your first foray into video by filming your organization’s biggest event, which would be a very high pressure situation. Instead, you can start experimenting with video on smaller events (even staff meetings), where the footage may not necessarily be used. This can help you become not just familiar but comfortable with your equipment and the entire filming and editing process. After only a couple of experimental filming projects, you will start to feel confident and even professional. Then, when the day of your really big event arrives, you will be ready for it.

Camera Placement

There are a few things to consider when determining where to place your camera. Since you will be filming your own events, you generally should know where the “stage” area will be. I try to find a location that will offer a good perspective of the stage area while not interfering with line of sight between the audience and the speakers. This can be a little tricky in that you rarely can have your camera positioned front and center looking straight at the stage. Often, the camera will need to be placed off to one side. Determining how far back to place the camera will depend on the quality of your microphone and your camera’s zoom. After a few test runs, you will be pretty familiar with the limits of your equipment.

In placing your camera, keep in mind that the area of focus might change sometimes – for example, during a Q&A segment, you might want to pan the camera and film people in the audience. In this regard, having the camera off to one side of the stage makes it easier to swing the camera around and catch the audience shots. For press conferences, you might also want to turn the camera around to get footage of the news cameras.

(Note on backlighting – having a light source behind a speaker is undesirable. So if you see that the panelists are sitting in front of windows, it might be a good idea to close the curtains or shades if possible.)

You also might want the camera to be near:

  • A power outlet, so that you don’t have to rely on a battery. If you have no access to power, just be sure you have enough charged batteries to get you through the event.
  • A table or desk or some area where you can setup a laptop. A laptop can be handy for taking notes, live tweeting, or processing still photographs. Much more about this is examined later in this series.

Edit While You Film

Editing “In Camera” simply means to make the effort when filming to do some work now so you won’t have to do it later when you edit the video on a computer.

For example, when I edit and promote video from a press conference, I usually don’t produce a single, long video of the entire press conference. Instead, I divide the footage up and produce multiple separate videos, each one featuring a different speaker. Likewise, at a panel discussion or awards presentations, I produce separate videos of each speaker. As will be discussed later in a segment on VIDEO EDITING, these separate videos are advantageous in many ways, allowing you to work with smaller video files on your computer, and enabling you to promote each video separately if you like.

So, when I begin filming an event, I already know I am going to ultimately produce separate videos for each speaker. When I edit those videos on a computer, I being each one by zooming in on the speaker just as they are starting their speech, and then zooming out when they finish. Although that can be achieved on a computer during the editing process, it is actually much easier if I just zoom in on the speaker at the right time while filming. So, when I am at the venue with my camera, and I see the speaker is getting ready to speak, I start filming with the lens zoomed out. When they begin to speak, I zoom in. Then I let the camera run until the speaker has finished, at which point I zoom out and stop filming. This leaves me with a clip that will be very quick and easy to edit later. It’s practically ready to go.

While You’re There with a Video Camera…

During periods when no one is speaking on the stage, I find it is useful to shoot some footage of the audience at the event – not just for the visual element, but for the audio. There are often times in video editing when it is helpful to add those elements. This type of footage is called B-roll and can be handy to have when editing (as will be discussed later). Other ideas for B-roll footage can be footage of the venue (both inside and out), people filing into the meeting space or socializing, as well as architectural elements of the venue – sometimes, if I’m filming in a school auditorium, for example, I’ll shoot some pictures of flags and posters in the room. Little clips of this can be inserted here and there in your video, making it more visually interesting. The thing to remember is that you usually can’t return to the venue later to shoot B-roll, so you need to remember to film it while you are there filming the main content (also known as the A-roll).

Additionally, it is a rare opportunity for you to have camera equipment at the ready when this particular group of people are all together. If the event is going to have some scheduled break times, you might consider taking the camera around and interviewing people about the event, or asking them to make comments about your organization. When I know that there are going to be some major stakeholders at the event, I might even reach out to them ahead of time and ask if they could prepare to say something on camera about a particular subject. Then during the breaks, I go around and film what each person has to say. Having these statements can be very handy. Again, you can’t return to the venue and these people later to get this stuff on film, so try to take advantage of the opportunity while you have it!

When the event is over, you’ve got a camera full of clips, and you’re totally exhausted. But you’re done for the day. You can rest up until it’s time to transfer that video to a computer, edit it and promote it.


The articles in this series, and others relating to nonprofit social media, can be accessed at

My company is called SocialNet Works, LLC, & our motto is “Helping Faith-Related Nonprofits Gear for Growth through Social Media.” We provide all of the video services described in this series, as well as offer training to in-house staff on the same practices.