A how-to guide to shooting your first Zooppa Video

I’m often asked to boil down the film making process to its basic elements,  so I created this very simple guide to making your first Zooppa video.  If you are a graphic designer looking to make a video, or someone completely new to this website, you may find this helpful.

Here goes :)

A Guide to Making your First Zooppa Video

Making a great video doesn’t have to be a confusing and painful process.

In fact, it should be relatively fun and easy.  Especially if you break the process down into smaller chunks.

Step 1: Pre-planning

Before you start shooting your video, it is really important to make a plan, however rough.

One great way to start this process is to create a storyboard.  A storyboard will help you visualize and improve your video with nothing more high-tech than pen and paper.


Actually, while a piece of paper will work, a set of index cards is ideal.

Write out each scene on a separate index card.  Once you have your most important scenes written out this way, you can arrange and re-arrange your index cards to find the best way of sequencing your video.  This stage will also allow you to make a list of actors and props you will need.

The index cards will serve as a blueprint to your shoot, or ‘shot list’.  If you follow your shot list you will have a complete video with no missing pieces.

Step 2: Shooting your video

If you have a great idea, then your equipment should be the least of your concerns.  It’s nice to have the best gear, but some of the best videos on the internet have been made with very simple camcorders.


If you have a great idea and a solid shot list, then you should have no problem shooting your video with anything from a point and shoot digital camera (that also records video,) to a cell phone, to a pro-sumer camcorder.  The choice is yours, don’t feel constricted by gear :)

Things to consider when shooting video:

1. Get great sound.

If your recording device has a weak microphone, then make sure your actors speak up and stand near the camera.  If possible use a shotgun mic or a wireless mic.  If you know what those two things are, you probably don’t need to read this.

2. Stabilize your shot.

No one wants to get seasick watching your video.  Shaky video is downright distracting (unless you are aiming for that gritty, shaky, Cloverfield style.)  When shooting with an un-stabilized video camera such as the Flip Video camera, it is especially important to brace yourself while shooting and pay special attention to how much you are moving or shaking the camera.  One of the best ways to improve your video quality overall is to use a tripod.  Even a cheap tripod will allow you to compose your scenes more thoughtfully and keep the footage from being shaky and hard to watch.

3. Mind the lighting…or lack of.

Make sure your actors and scenes are evenly lit or lit from the front.  Back-lit actors will appear as silhouettes, which for the most part you probably don’t want.  Shooting at night under street lights is also very difficult unless you have a very good camcorder, so in most cases you will have to add additional lighting if shooting in a dark place.

4. Get a variety of shots.

When shooting, think about ways in which you can mix up your shot styles.  In general you will want a good mix of close ups, mid-shots, and wide shots to make your final edited video interesting.  Of course feel free to break this rule, especially if you are going for an unedited one-shot approach. A lot of viral videos use this approach.

Remember the Kobe Bryant jumping over a car video? It is a good example of using only one continuous un-edited shot.

Step 3: Editing your video

Once you have shot every scene on your shot list (the shot list you created from your storyboard, remember?) you are ready to edit.

I recommend editing in two stages. A ‘rough cut’, followed by a ‘final cut’.


First you will need an editing program.

If you have a Mac, you probably have iMovie. If you have a PC you do have an editing program called Windows Movie Maker.  Both are adequate for learning how to edit, although I would say Movie Maker is much more intuitive than iMovie.

Use your favorite editing program (which one you use is up to you) to lay out your scenes according to your storyboard.  This is your rough cut.

Once you have laid out your scenes according to your shot list, press play and see how it all works together.  Most of the time you will be pleasantly surprised that you have a clever video, with a beginning, middle, and an end.

Grab a pen and notepad and watch this rough version a few times making notes on what needs to be fixed or cut out.

Use this list to make final changes and improve your video.  How far you take this part is up to you, but usually you will need to make a series of revisions to really pare your video down into what you had first envisioned.  This last step is what I call the ‘fine cut’ or ‘final cut’.

(If you would like some more information on how to do specific tricks in editing (using Movie Maker) check these out.)

Once you have edited your video, check that the sound levels are good and that you are satisfied with the edit.  At this stage you may want to add a title, credits, or other graphics that will show at the beginning or end of your video.

Now you are ready for the last step: exporting your video.

Step 4: Exporting and uploading your video to Zooppa

You’ve made it this far. Congratulations!


Now it is time to win the prize. But first you need to get your video onto Zooppa.

In most of the basic editing programs it will give you an option to export to Web or DVD.  I recommend exporting to web and then clicking on the highest quality settings. Since most videos for Zooppa need to be under 1 minute in length, you don’t need to worry about file size.

In general you want to export to .MOV (Apple Quicktime) or .WMV (Windows Media). Zooppa will accept either format as well as host of others.  Don’t worry too much about this part, just look for ways to check the ‘high’ or ‘highest’ quality settings when you export.

For great tutorials on exporting videos check this out.

**Troubleshooting your upload**

If you have trouble uploading your video the cause is most likely:

1. You are using a relatively obscure browser.

Google Chrome for example, does not always work with the Zooppa website.  Try Firefox or Internet Explorer if you are having trouble.

2. You are behind a firewall.

If you are uploading your video from a workplace or from a shared Ethernet connection you may be behind a firewall that does not allow you to upload to Zooppa.  I recommend trying your upload on a different computer on a different Internet connection if you feel that this is the cause of your uploading problem.

*Remember, it is up to you to get your video uploaded before the competition deadline.  Zooppa staff cannot upload your video for you if you are having trouble.  In light of this, give yourself 2-3 days before the competition closes to get your video uploaded properly.

Good luck, and good shooting!

Zooppa USA Community Manager

Meme E


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