VIDEO TECHNIQUES

How to make a video story

10 tips and tricks to help you capture all the footage you need to create your own mini movies.
A flatlay of a Canon EOS R50 camera, external microphone and tripod grip on a pink wooden background, surrounded by crafting materials.

Whether you're an adventurous documentarian, a product vlogger or a social media chef, it's important to know how to make a video story. Filmmaking revolves around constructing a narrative, whether the destination is TikTok or the big screen.

So how do you craft a compelling video story? Firstly, you need kit that can match your creativity. Canon's EOS R System cameras are designed with today's hybrid shooters in mind. The Canon EOS R50, for example, is light and easy to handle but features oversampled 4K recording as well as a range of professional video features to help you create high-quality content, including up to 120fps slow motion capture, a vari-angle touchscreen and intelligent Dual Pixel CMOS AF II autofocus.

However, the quality and professionalism of your videos also depend on the right skills and techniques. Here are 10 tips for crafting an engaging video story from start to finish.

  1. Plan your shoot
  2. Establish the setting
  3. Keep things steady
  4. Focus on the detail
  5. Experiment with different perspectives
  6. Rethink your composition
  7. Play with speed and time
  8. Record clearer audio
  9. Build suspense
  10. Have fun but stay focused

1. Plan your shoot

Hands placing a Canon EOS R50 into a black camera bag.

The Canon EOS R50 is incredibly compact for a camera with such powerful video credentials. This makes it the perfect tool for content creation, as it's light enough to take anywhere.

Planning your shoot ensures you capture all the necessary footage. Write notes about what you want to show and how to approach it or compile a rough storyboard – this organises the shoot in your head before it happens.

It also helps to consider how you want your video to look and feel. A Canon camera such as the EOS R50 features a range of creative colour profiles for beautiful aesthetics. Experiment with these settings before deciding on the atmosphere you want for your movie.

It's also important to prepare your gear before the shoot: charge batteries, clean lenses and format memory cards.

Finally, ensure your smartphone or tablet is connected to the Canon Camera Connect app – this enables you to adjust your settings remotely and quickly transfer video from your camera.

2. Establish the setting

A woman in a brown fluffy coat stands holding an umbrella in a cobbled street alongside illuminated shopfronts. Taken on a Canon EOS R50.

Experiment with depth of field to isolate your subject or position them within their environment. Many of Canon's RF and RF-S lenses offer wide maximum apertures for soft, blurred backgrounds, but you may want to include your surroundings with a narrow depth of field, to provide context. Taken on a Canon EOS R50 with a Canon RF-S 18-45mm F4.5-6.3 IS STM lens at 45mm, 1/40 sec, f/6.3 and ISO 3200.

A side profile of a woman in a brown fluffy coat holding her hand to her glasses. Taken on a Canon EOS R50.

You can rely on Canon's intelligent Dual Pixel CMOS AF II autofocus to ensure your subject's face is always in sharp focus using face and eye tracking. Taken on a Canon EOS R50 with a Canon RF-S 18-45mm F4.5-6.3 IS STM lens at 18mm, 1/500 sec, f/4.5 and ISO 800.

When shooting on location, establish context with wide shots of the surroundings. Mix these with details and extreme close-ups of the environment. Move around the location and avoid shooting from the same position. Try to capture at least 10 seconds per clip for establishing shots, which you can then cut to your liking in the edit.

If you're filming other people, present the main characters by showing details of where they are and what they do. Take different clips of subjects in action and try unusual compositions and lighting styles.

3. Keep things steady

CINC_EOS R50_Movie IS mode

To avoid shaky footage and ensure your films look professional, it's important to support the camera and lens. Hold the camera with both hands and tuck in your elbows.

For steadier handheld video footage, the Canon EOS R7 features sensor-shifting In-Body Image Stabilisation (IBIS), which can deliver up to 8-stops of compensation from camera movement, depending on the lens being used. The Canon EOS R50 also has technology built-in to minimise camera shake when filming. Movie Digital IS – illustrated in the video above – ensures handheld video stays smooth and sharp.

Also consider using a lens with internal stabilisation, such as the Canon RF-S 18-150mm F3.5-6.3 IS STM. This affordable zoom lens features 4.5-stops of optical IS to keep handheld footage sharp, as well as a versatile zoom range for capturing a variety of shots.

4. Focus in on the detail

Isolating specific items with a close-up shot builds interest. Canon RF and RF-S zoom lenses can help you close in as much as possible to make subjects larger in the frame, while isolating them artistically from their background.

You could also use a macro prime lens such as the Canon RF 35mm F1.8 MACRO IS STM, which enables you to focus on every detail, even at short distances. A close focusing macro lens is especially helpful for product, food or beauty content, as viewers will want to see the intricate details.

The EOS R50 features focus breathing correction, demonstrated in the video above, which maintains the angle of view while changing the focus, ensuring attention remains where you want it to be and delivering a more natural and professional look.

5. Experiment with different perspectives

A Canon EOS R50 camera with a microphone attached is held by a vertical stand with the lens facing down. A frying pan is displayed on the camera's vari-angle touchscreen.

The Canon EOS R50's vari-angle touchscreen gives you the flexibility to shoot from almost any angle.

A man looks at the vari-angle touchscreen of the Canon EOS R50 he is holding to film a plate of food.

The vari-angle touchscreen also enables you to check your composition and exposure when recording handheld.

Capture your subjects from unusual angles to make your video more dynamic. Not all shots work out, but you won't know if you don't try. Change your viewpoint by getting above your subject and shooting down or get on the ground and shoot up.

Changing your perspective also helps with storytelling, for example shooting from a low angle can help to convey that the person in shot has power, or dominance, over the viewer.

You can also change perspective using lenses. If you're shooting beyond the subject in your foreground, select a specific focus point to keep the background sharp while introducing some cinematic foreground blur. You can do this by narrowing your aperture. An RF lens with a wide maximum aperture, such as the Canon RF 50mm F1.8 STM, gives an incredibly shallow depth of field and soft blur, for a cinematic effect.

6. Rethink your composition

A Canon EOS R10 positioned on a tripod between curved railings to film a woman in the distance.

Strong compositional lines, such as these curved railings, lead your viewer from the foreground to the background. Positioning the camera down low maximises the effect.

Think about how to best position the elements in your frame. Generally, tried and tested composition approaches such as the rule of thirds and leading lines work well. Make sure to try other viewpoints too, though. For example, using symmetry to create alternative shots. This can be as simple as taking a step to the left or right, repositioning the camera higher or lower, squatting or lying down.

If you find a specific composition that works for your subject, refine it, and make it your own to give your footage a distinct look. Many filmmakers gained recognition for their style of composition, so it’s worth experimenting with different rules – and how they can be broken – to convey the mood of the movie and your personal style.

7. Play with speed and time

Jump cuts are helpful to add pace to your video. Shoot similar sequences from the same angle, then jump between different parts of each sequence, to transition from one moment to the next.

A great way to film action is to record at high frame rates. Shooting in Full HD at 120fps on the EOS R50 enables you to create super-slow-motion effects, capturing every moment, when you play the clip back at normal speed.

You could also try engaging the viewer with a time-lapse sequence to compress slow-paced action into shorter clips, or have a go at creating a video haiku.

8. Record clearer audio

A woman, holding a Canon camera with a Stereo Microphone DM-E1 attached, filming a man with a drill.

Audio is incredibly important when creating a video story, so investing in an external microphone such as the Canon Stereo Microphone DM-E1 is a good idea.

The quality of the sound is just as important as the picture, enhancing your video story by providing context and creating atmosphere. Most cameras have a built-in microphone that can record sound, but you will capture better audio using an external microphone, such as the Canon Stereo Microphone DM-E1 or the Stereo Microphone DM-E100.

Pairing your camera with a Canon STM lens, such as the Canon RF 15-30mm F4.5-6.3 IS STM, is a great choice when you're recording audio, because the STM (stepper) motor delivers a smooth, quiet focusing movement.

9. Build suspense

It's important to include elements of visual tension, particularly as your video reaches its finale. Do this by using a range of shots, extreme close-ups and wide shots. Reframing the camera from a neutral subject to the main final scene is a good way to move the video to this final stage.

Keep shots short to build suspense. Remember that you can always shorten a longer clip, so try to capture a few seconds of spare footage before and after the content you want.

10. Have fun, but stay focused

While it's a good idea to film a little more than you need, it's easy to get carried away and dramatically overshoot, so try to stay objective and have a goal. You'll thank yourself later when you start editing and don't have to trawl through lots of unnecessary footage.

Ultimately, have fun making your videos and remember that sometimes things don't work out as you planned, but you'll always learn a lot from these situations. Your story has a part of your personality in it, so enjoy making it.

Peter Wolinski

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