I am a relative newcomer to video production but have a background in still photography. This means that I have a good understanding of things like ISO/aperture/shutter speeds/resolution/etc. (and have already checked how these ideas transfer to moving images). I also have a lot of experience with Adobe CS and similar software, and some brief tinkering suggests that, at least for now, finding my way around Premiere/After Effects won't be too much of a problem. But when I look at books for amateur filmmakers, it seems that 90% of the book is usually taken up with stuff like "this is what a DSLR is" or "this is how you import a clip into Premiere". In other words, stuff a technically competent individual could figure out on their own.

I, on the other hand, am interested in learning about artistic/creative techniques that are harder to learn by osmosis. Some examples of the kinds of thing I have in mind:

  • how to plan and frame shots so that you end up with good variety of source material that can be edited into an interesting sequence;
  • how to imbue documentary style footage with a narative;
  • how to frame particular types of subject (e.g. how to position the camera for a talking head interview).
  • creative ways of making boring/static subjects more interesting;
  • how to manage on location when you have limited ability to control the light;
  • how to time the editing of shots/clips to achieve the right tempo;
  • how and when to transition between shots to get professional-looking results;
  • how to get source footage and music to work together harmoniously;
  • tips for colour grading from an artistic perspective (i.e. I know how to shift the colours, but I would like to learn more about when and in what ways this is typically done for various artistic ends).

This list is non-exhaustive, but hopefully gives an indication of the kind of thing I am looking for. Hence, my question is:

Can anybody recommend one or two good learning resources for this kind of artistic/'non-technical' aspect of filming and editing?

3 Answers 3


Do you realize people go through years of academical studies or expensive courses at private universities to learn all that? It's certainly not something you're going to master by watching a few Youtube videos ...

If you want to seriously get into film making, I would suggest you take a course. Not necessarily a full blown film studies degree, but you could look into some crash courses, an online course (not a playlist on Youtube but an actual, professional online course) or something like that. With some research, you might even find a free course (google for Open educational resources (OER), OpenCourseWare and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) or start here or here).

Apart from that, here are some tips and things that I would recommend you learn (from my humble not-a-professional-either point of view):

  • Watch movies: The best way to learn about great camera and composition techniques is to watch movies (by watch I mean actually concentrate on the movie, not have it run in the background while doing your taxes). There's a list of the 100 best movies of all time (actually, there are several lists; this one was assembled by the American Film Institute). Go ahead and watch some of the movies on this list. Also, see if you can find another 'Top X films of all time' list that wasn't put together by Americans for Americans.

  • Camera Angles: Different camera angles differ in what information and emotions they convey. Here's a list, here's another one and this is also a list.

  • Image Composition: There are several rules of thumb and guidelines to help you with the arrengements of the subjects of your video. This is the part where your photography experience will matter the most IMHO. Here's a short summary of that topic. Here's another one.

  • Video Montage: The montage is how you put all of your videos together, make them seem connected and fit together as a whole. This is very difficult. Apart from some general rules of thumb (e.g. there are some camera angles that just don't go with each other) and some specific montage techniques (e.g. jump cuts (historic example), match cuts (historic example), shot-reverse-shots and more), you will only learn that via practice (and, again, watch movies. Hollywood movies are fine in that regard by the way. Here's a great montage from James Bond: Quantum of solace). Here's a video tutorial on creating a music montage. Here are some other tips.

  • Dramaturgy: How to tell a compelling story. Again, this isn't something you'll learn over night. There are some very basic story structures that are repeated over and over again, the most common of which is the Hero's Journey (Seriously, four out of five movies you have ever watched follow that schema).
    Again, watch movies. People will disagree with me on that, but I think the best video to understand dramaturgy is the filmlet 'Schwarzfahrer' by Pepe Danquart. Watch it on youtube with english subtitles (it's only 12 minutes long).

  • Color: Color grading in movies is not only used to convey certain emotions, but also to tie sequences together. Take a look at this website. Read this on the meaning of different colors, then go read some more. Also, see my answer on color in movies here.

These are only the most essential parts of media aesthetics concerning film and film making; you will need to do your own research on top of that. Some other things to learn include construction of time (google won't help you here, this is about the relation between narrated and narrative time), genres, some more aspects of camera angles and perspective, camera movement, writing story-boards and screenplays and more. Again, look into what (online or offline) courses you can resonably take. Also, apart from internet summaries, read books on the topics. I can't really recommend a specific book right now ... Just look for a general introduction on film / media aesthetics.

Also, it is really important you get some practice. No matter what role you're planning on playing in a real-world film production (the smaller a production, the more responsibilities lie with every member), no amount of theory will prepare you for everything there is to know about filming and cutting (and possibly acting). So make sure to get some hands-on practice!


If you feel comfortable with learning from good Youtube resources, here's some channels that have tons of material to answer your questions:


Lynda.com has absolutely loads of pro Video courses i have learned quite a bit from them. I do however agree with MoritzLost in takes years to study and master with a lot of practice. But Lynda.com is a great resource for people who want to pick up some of the theory.


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