City of Durham Videography


Best Practices Checklist

Be Prepared

  •     Know your audience
       » Take into account who is consuming your content and why.
  •     Know your objective
       » Align your objective with your department’s goal. Are you launching a new program and want to create awareness? Are you announcing a change that will impact residents but want to minimize concerns? Make sure you are always guided by your goal.
  •     Know your platform
       » Before you begin production, keep in mind that all platforms are consumed differently. Your content and video length should be tailored to those specific platforms.
  •     Know your story
       » Creating a story board ensures that your vision for your video is mapped out. This can be as simple as outlining the flow of the video and audio in a single page document using images grabbed offline as inspiration.

Be Upfront

  •     On average, 3 seconds is the amount of time you have to keep a viewer on your video. How will you grab their attention?

Be Brief

  •     The key to a successful social media video is concise, impactful content.

Be Equipped

  •     When shooting on an iPhone, always make sure you use a tripod and external microphone.

Be Appropriately Branded

Be Scheduled

  •     Set your shoot date based off the date you need to post your video. When setting the shoot date, work backwards to make sure you have enough time for post-production editing, reviewing, and getting sign-off on the video (if necessary).

Be Covered

Be In Touch

  •     When it doubt, contact the Communications Department with any questions, including guidance on process, production budgets, and equipment resources.

Be Platform Specific

  •     Facebook
        » Keep auto-play in mind. Videos on Facebook play automatically (without sound) for the majority of users, so the first few seconds of your videos need to be visually engaging enough to catch someone’s attention and make them stop scrolling. Aim to create videos that could be watched in their entirety without sound and still have an impact. You should also consider captioning your videos to make it easier for viewers to consume your content without sound.
        » Make it mobile-friendly. More than 65 percent of video views on Facebook come from mobile devices. That represents over half of your potential views, so it’s essential that you optimize your videos for mobile devices. That means they should be easily viewable on small screens (no one wants to squint).
  •     Twitter
        » 30 seconds or less, if possible. Twitter is a quick-moving platform, so it makes sense that the time limit for videos is short and sweet.
        » Try both pre-planned and real time. Upload your professionally produced videos to Twitter, but also try experimenting with real-time content like video responses to questions your audience sends in via tweets.
  •     Instagram
        » 60 seconds or less. This time limit makes Instagram a great platform to share a snippet of a longer video you’ve created, while encouraging people in the caption to visit your YouTube or Facebook profile to see more.
        » Hyperlapse. One way to pack more into a short video is using Hyperlapse, Instagram’s app that allows you to easily create time-lapse videos.
  •     YouTube
        » Use the tools available. Things like annotations, links, descriptions, titles, and tags can help your videos reach more people.
        » Shorter is better. Although YouTube is still a good fit for longer videos, top-performing videos on the platform are just under 3 minutes on average.

Wardrobe, Makeup, Accessories


  •     Extremely light clothing
  •     Extremely dark clothing
  •     Clothing with finely detailed patterns


    • Mid-tone colors such as medium blues, greens or gray.


Ideally subjects will not wear glasses, but if it is necessary for them to keep them on, be sure to position lighting to avoid reflections.


It’s not recommended that interview subjects wear either very light or very dark colors – this can make it difficult to balance the exposure for the person’s skin tones. They should also avoid finely-detailed patterns. Contact your interview subject several days in advance of the shooting date and ask them to wear a mid-tone color, such as a medium blue, green, or gray.


If an interview subject has damp, sweaty or oily skin, the reflectivity of their skin may cause slight hot spots (overexposure). Consider getting them a paper towel so they may pat their face to reduce this “shine.” Women may have makeup powder with them - ask them to apply it.

Helpful tip

Carry a small packet of pre-powdered blotter paper, which can be purchased at most drug stores.

Interview Skills & Tips

Interview Question Tips

In most interview situations, you’ll have a pre-planned set of questions to ask. Make sure the subject has these questions well in advance as well so they can review them and prepare succinct, cohesive answers. If the person asking the questions is not to be seen or heard in the final video, ask the interview subject to rephrase the question in their answer. This will make the editor’s job easier, and provide a context or point-of-reference for the viewer.

Unless you specifically want a yes or no answer from your interview subject, ask open-ended questions, i.e. those that cannot be readily answered with a simple “yes” or “no.” Most interview subjects may already know they need to elaborate, but you may not be able to count on all subjects elaborating.

Interview Location

With rare exceptions, shooting an interview outdoors is a recipe for problems. In urban, high-traffic or construction areas, the background noise can be objectionable. If full sun falls directly on your subject, they’ll be likely to squint. If your subject is in the shade, and there’s full sun in the background, the background will be overexposed in order to get a good exposure on the person’s face.

Indoors, you’ll have more control over lighting and sound and this is the recommended location for most types of interviews.

Place interview subjects in a non-rotating, non-rocking chair – an armless chair with a low back that is hidden by the person sitting in it is recommended. If you allow someone to stand, there is a natural tendency is to rock back and forth from one foot to the next, which is distracting to viewers.

If possible, it is best to position interview subjects well away from the walls behind them – if they are close to the wall behind them, more of the wall detail will be apparent, which can also be distracting.


When filming short videos for social media purposes, b-roll will likely not be necessary, but here are general guidelines for shooting b-roll for longer formats:
Plan to get b-roll on-site in addition to the interview. B-roll is general footage of the environment and the people in it. For example:
  •     A person doing his or her job, without interacting with the camera.
  •     The interview location, especially if it is interesting or telling about the character of the subject.
Most viewers want to orient themselves to the video by seeing something of the surroundings of the interview environment, i.e. getting a wide shot of the building the interview subject works in/lives in is always a good idea.


What kinds of light fixtures are already present in the location? Can they be turned off?

What is the effect of sunlight in the room at various times of the day – particularly the time of your scheduled shoot? Can you close the window shutters and blinds if necessary? Where are the electrical outlets in the room?

If outdoors, always keep your light source (in most cases the sun) behind the person filming. The sun should always be on the face of the subject.


All text used in your video – across all social media or video viewing platforms – should be of a large enough size to be legible on a smartphone.

Any graphics need to be created with the special demands of video in mind. Small black text on a white background is a poor choice for instance – the small size and high contrast ratio tend to make the text jitter on screen.

Straight cuts and simple dissolves are preferred transitions. Fancy transitions and wipes should be used minimally.


Use of your smartphone or camera’s built-in microphone is not recommended – these microphones tend to pick up more ambient sound than desired, and transmit camera-handling noise to the video file.
Be especially mindful of how well the sound will work. If the air conditioning system for the room is noticeable, it will be doubly noticeable on video.

Other sound issues to consider include traffic (foot and automobile) and work schedules of maintenance or cleaning crews (a running vacuum or leaf blower can make your job impossible).


Always use a tripod and position the camera’s lens at or very slightly above the level of the interview subject’s face.

Always use an external microphone when filming with a smartphone.

Reach out to the Communications Department with questions, recommendations for affordable equipment or to borrow equipment.


When using anyone’s voice or physical likeness on tape, it is required to get a release signed by the participant. If a form is not available, the participant must be filmed stating the following:
I, __________ (name) on _________ (date) do hereby give the City of Durham, its employees, officials, officers, agents, assigns and representatives the irrevocable right to use my (or, as applicable, my child’s) name or a fictional name, and/or my (or, as applicable, my child’s) image and/or voice in all forms and media, and in all manners, including composite or distorted representations, for informational, educational, promotional, advertising, or any other lawful purposes, and I waive any right to inspect or approve the finished product that may be created in connection therewith. I understand that I shall receive no compensation for my (or, as applicable, my child’s) appearance, representation or participation.

City of Durham Release for Photographic, Video and/or Audio Recording Participation


Government Access Channel Policy, PA-4 (PDF)