Over the years, I've gathered some thoughts on what it takes to produce and deliver a high-quality video experience and, to a degree, succeed as a video producer. While most of this will be old hat to grizzled veterans, perhaps some newbie will find these ramblings, and the associated resources that I point to, of use.
On the shooting front, I'll start with light. Simply put, if lighting is inadequate, you can't produce high-quality video. You can reduce lighting requirements with higher-quality camera gear, but in many instances, client education is required. Specifically, lay out the facts and consequences of poor lighting and suggest some alternatives. At the very least, make sure you set expectations so the client won't blame the grainy video on you.
Along the same lines, since event shooters work in low light so often, learning to manually set exposure on our camcorders is critical. The key in-camera tool for exposure control is zebra stripes, and you can view a tutorial on setting exposure with zebra stripes at http://bit.ly/ozerzebras. If you're fortunate enough to be shooting with a computer attached to your camcorder, I recommend using Adobe OnLocation to help set exposure, as I do for all of my tethered shoots. Adobe has a useful tutorial on Adobe OnLocation at http://adobe.ly/adobeonlo.
Then there's audio. As I begin in my tutorial Capturing High Quality Audio, "It generally only takes a video shoot or two before your realize that the weakest link on your camcorder is the microphone." In that article, I outline microphone options and detail how to connect them to a camcorder, with options ranging from XLR connectors to external BeachTek boxes. Every sound kit should include a high-quality shotgun and wireless lavaliere microphone; I review three such microphones at http://bit.ly/ozermics. For most concerts or similar performances, the best option is to connect to the facility's soundboard, which requires an assortment of cables and adapters. If you're shooting with a DSLR, your best option is a separate recorder, which may need its own microphone or cables and connectors.
As hard as you may try to shoot perfect audio and video, it's the rare shoot that doesn't involve some form of correction or sweetening. Once you start editing, the most essential skills are color and brightness correction for video and pop removal and noise reduction for audio. You can find a tutorial on color and brightness adjustments for Final Cut Pro 7 at http://bit.ly/ozerfcp and for Adobe Premiere Pro at http://bit.ly/ozerppro. If you're forced to shoot in low light, or if you hosed your exposure settings, you may need to filter your video before encoding. Don't waste your time with the filtering available in your editor or encoding tool; instead, check out the Neat Video filter, which you can read about at http://bit.ly/neatnoise.
On the audio front, there's a tutorial on perfecting audio quality in Adobe Audition at http://bit.ly/ozeraudition, a tutorial on the Premiere Pro/Audition workflow at http://bit.ly/audworkflow, and a tutorial on normalization and compression in Audition at http://bit.ly/normcomp. There's a tutorial on perfecting audio quality in Soundtrack Pro at http://bit.ly/ozerstpro.
Once you've perfected your footage and are ready to edit, take a moment to remember the business that you're in. You can deliver highly creative, fully customized productions at a premium price or competent cookie-cutter productions at a bargain-basement price. Go vice versa in either direction, and you're doomed. Once you understand your value proposition, you have to stick to it relentlessly. Video is the ultimate tinkerer's paradise, and typically, practical considerations, rather than creative considerations, dictate when you're actually finished with a job.
In this regard, one of the most effusive compliments that I've ever received for a production was for a slide show I created in ProShow Gold (http://bit.ly/ozerproshow) in about 30 minutes. "Hmm," I thought, "high perceived value, low actual cost in dollars and time. I like that." This concept led me to stockpile a few programs that efficiently and economically add lots of wow factor. These programs include proDAD's Vitascene (http://bit.ly/vitascene), NewBlueFX Video Essentials IV (http://bit.ly/newblue), and Red Giant's Colorista (http://bit.ly/ozercolorista).
Once you have your DVD production ready, remember that packaging matters (http://bit.ly/packaging-matters). I recently bought a performance DVD from an event that I had attended for about $25. When I opened the black case without a label, I was underwhelmed by a LightScribe printed disc. It makes no sense to spend untold hours on a project just to deliver an unnecessarily plain DVD; color photo printing is the new standard. You don't need to spend four figures on a Primera Bravo Disc Publisher (http://bit.ly/ozerprimera), though you'll probably be glad you did. Instead, get the Epson R200 (http://bit.ly/epsonr200) or a more current model with similar functionality.
In the same vein, if you're delivering a streaming file, go big, or don't go at all. Resolutions such as 320x240 or even 480x270 are clearly way too conservative. Recently, I wrote about ESPN's new streaming delivery strategy that tops out with a 720p stream produced at 3Mbps (http://bit.ly/espnstreaming). If ESPN's customer can retrieve and play the stream in real time, it's likely that your customer can as well. For a background article on streaming HD, check out http://bit.ly/deliverhd.
Jan Ozer (jan at doceo.com) is a frequent contributor to industry magazines and websites on digital video-related topics. He is chief instructor at StreamingLearningCenter.com and the author of Video Compression for Flash, Apple Devices and HTML5.