How to Shoot Video That Doesn't Suck

How to make Screencasts Interesting

How can I make great screencasts?

I am an educational technology trainer and have to make videos for teachers to show them basics of online tools like Google Classroom. Most videos/tutorials out there are dry, a person with their face in the corner going through the site and explaining. This is great when someone is seeking quick directions, but boring for people who need to be convinced that this is the right tool for them.

Any ideas? Thinking in shots is hard to do when the only shot is a computer screen.

Keri Haas

I’m with you on how boring screencasts are. But is it true that your only available shot is a computer screen? Just because your fellow screen casters are locked into that format, who says you have to be? If you literally think outside the box, it’s possible to make screencasts more interesting and informative. And shorter (which is almost always better.)

You do it by creating additional non-computer screen footage, and spending more time editing your finished product. The extra footage costs nothing to make, and using it lets you to accelerate the pace of your lesson, clarify points and make the video more watchable by cutting out the boring parts.

I’ll take you through it step by step, and you can see what I mean:

1) Prepare your screencast. But instead of thinking of it as the finished product, let’s think of the “person in a little box” part as your “master shot.” Your master will be the spine of your edit– the shot you’ll come back to to tell the story of this lesson to your viewers.

In this version of a screencast, we’re going to cut a lot. You don’t need to get everything live. Instead of preparing one long lecture, think in information chunks. What are the must-include pieces of information? What can you leave out? Try really hard to leave things out.

When you record this, plan on multiple takes. You can try to show things different ways, smooth out your performance, and pause to think knowing you’ll cut in the good stuff and drop the rest. Maybe you want to make a shot list of the important bits.

2) Shoot your Screencast. Instead of the usual setup, let’s go with two cameras this time. The first is your “normal” screencast. The second is shot with a second camera, simultaneously, of you in closeup. This full-screen cutaway of yourself allows you to talk right to camera, or re-explain points as you go.

The easiest way to do this if you have it, is the Quicktime app. You can record a movie at the same time you record your screencast using other software. Quicktime records only what the computer camera sees– no screen– giving you a closeup of yourself that you can cut to whenever you like.

If your setup doesn’t allow this, you can accomplish the same thing by recording with your phone. Just set it up to one side of the monitor as you screencast.

3) Create additional footage. Watch your master. Where does it drag? What’s unclear? Brainstorm fun ways to fix the problems. Since you’re in the biz, your ideas will be better than mine, but consider adding:

–“closeups” of the detail of a specific operation. Zoom your screen in and record typing into the search window, a mouse movement, a result.

–Ad footage from the tool you’re using to show where an advertised function lives

–Closeups shot with your phone of your hands doing things on the keyboard or mouse

–Quick intros and outros to your video shot on your front porch or as you drive down the highway.

4) Edit. Cut the boring stuff. Add fun shots. Tighten, tighten, tighten. You can add graphics, music and sound effects to your screencasts too– something I rarely see when I pull one up.

The result probably won’t do quite the box office of Spiderman:Far From Home, but you should end up with a tight, informative piece that makes viewers want to come back to you the next time they need a lesson.

Do you have a question? I bet you do! Ask it here.

How to Do a Zoom Meeting that Doesn’t Suck

Zoom call While there are plenty of posts on Video Meeting Etiquette out there, much of that advice is painfully obvious. (Pro tip: It’s painfully obvious advice if the words “you moron” perfectly complete the sentence. Like this one: “Unmute before you talk.” See what I mean?) As the pandemic wears on and it’s clear that video meetings are here to stay, it’s time to go a little deeper.

We just shot a series of commercials for Saatva via Zoom. This made sense as a) there is still no actual production here in LA and b) the spots were set in a video conference. Immersing myself in video meetings got me thinking about how to make the meetings better—perhaps in ways that don’t end with “you moron.”

1)    First Do No Harm: Video is an information-rich medium. Nobody can tell when you send your “can’t talk now i’m on a plane” text from your lounge chair at the beach. Phoning the boss from the bathtub? Kinky, but also your secret if you turn off the jacuzzi jets. But in a video call, a tsunami of extra information flows to your fellow Zoomers. In fact, that’s the prime benefit of video conferencing: you go beyond voice or text to share a (nearly) full range of in-person human information transfer. All that extra visual data makes your interaction feel more like real life. You can get to know people better, and get more done.

Unfortunately, it also shows everyone how well you applied your makeup, whether or not you’ve dusted the fake books in your bookshelf, if you’re sitting eagerly or as if this is one more video meeting than you can stand. That stain on your shirt communicates things you might not have intended or desired. To use video’s information-rich signal right, you need to control the information you transfer.

Start with pre-production, just like they do on a real movie. Once you’re set up, hit record on Zoom or Quicktime and shoot yourself talking for a full minute. I know this is awkward for everyone except actors, TV hosts, and narcissists but it’s the only way to see yourself as others will see you. When you play it back, you will see problems. But that’s good—you can now fix them! Take out the obvious mistakes and you have a shot at being remembered after your meeting for something other than having spinach in your teeth.

2)    Lighting is an emotional tool: Once you’ve fixed the obvious, it’s time to level up. That so-so lighting you saw in your test shot will not magically change when the call starts. Lighting in film shows people where to look in the frame and sets a mood. Yours should too.

To make sure they see you clearly, add light from the front.  Some folks buy ring lights that clip to their monitors, but dragging lamps around and opening and closing the shades works just fine with a little practice. To make sure you don’t get lost in a busy background or blend in with your greenscreen, place another light behind you and to the side. Aim it to hit the back of your head and one shoulder. This will make you pop off the background.

When you’re done, see (by recording again) how your lighting feels. Tinder dates and cocktail meetings can look a little moodier, but most business meetings call for an “open and relaxed” mood. If the shadows on your face make you dark and mysterious, add more light to fill them in. Ditto if your face looks overly red. Are you blown out and blotchy-white? Close the blinds a bit or move your light farther away.

3)    Wardrobe is Character:  Business or t-shirt is up to you, but remember that clothes communicate information about you. Make sure it’s what you want to say. Beyond style, look at color and mood– If you are the same color and exactly as bright as what’s behind you, you’ll look washed out and boring. Try a contrasting top.

You CAN wear pajama bottoms to a video call, but actors know that the way clothes look and feel affects your performance, even when you can’t see them in the shot. You will feel different if you dress all the way. Try it for your next important meeting– you may be surprised.

4)    Backgrounds Tell Stories: On a recent call, the guy I was meeting sat in front of a bookcase. Pretty normal. Except on one shelf, next to the mystery paperback section, was an assortment of rags, cleaning supplies and bleach. I did not ask if he was a serial killer disposing of bodies, but I wanted to.

If your background is cluttered, clean it up. Or move your location for a better shot. If you can’t find something great, try a blank wall. If you don’t like the wall, try keying in a static custom background, like a wide photo of your old office. Consider what the background is saying about you before choosing, say, a moving roller coaster video.

5)    Don’t Shoot Until You See the Whites of Your Eyes. Viewers look at your eyes as you speak. That’s because the muscles around your eyes show subtle emotional cues, let people know you’re listening, even help them know when to jump into the conversation. If your eyes aren’t clearly visible, move your camera closer until they are. The more face you have in the game, the more presence you have in the meeting. The more people in the meeting (and the smaller those boxes get) the truer this is. You may have to move the monitor closer than you expect. This will feel odd at first, but you’ll get used to it.

6)    Know your eyeline. Here’s some terrible advice: one article I read insisted that you should look directly at your computer’s camera when you talk. First, this is nearly impossible to do without looking like a deer in the headlights unless you’re a trained TV host. Second, staring at the little green dot causes many people to lose their train of thought. Finally, you won’t see anyone’s reactions to what you’re saying. Which is the whole point of communicating via video call.

Instead, drag the video window so it’s right below your computer’s camera. Because the camera lens is very wide, it will make people feel pretty much like you’re looking right at them. It’s not perfect, but everyone’s used to it, and it’s better than blanking in mid-speech.

7)    Frame up nicely. There’s no point having 3 feet of useless space over your head. Having half your face cut off on one side is a look, but is it YOUR look? Reposition your monitor until you fill the frame nicely. You do not need to be perfectly centered.

8)    Don’t Mute Your Mic. Of course you should mute in a webinar, or if the trash truck suddenly shows up under your window. But it’s a last resort, not a go-to move. If you have sound issues, your go-to move is to someplace quieter. The noise-reduction in Zoom et al. will cover you for minor room tone. Muting/unmuting is an unnatural act, as you’ll learn when you’ve been talking for 20 seconds before you realize nobody can hear you.

9)    Always Use an External Mic. Vocal tones impart lots of subtle information. For better presence and maximum communication, always use an external mic. Fancy USB headsets are great, but your phone earbuds will do the job. The point is: Mic close to mouth. Always. Any noise between your mouth and the computer screen gets sucked into your computer’s automatic level controls and amplified. Wind, kids, washing machine—they all mix with your voice to make you seem farther away. Nothing undercuts your brilliant point about the marketing budget like saying it in a tinny, garbled voice.

10) Have fun. Video lets you do things you can’t do on the phone, or in person. A funny background loop or a well prepared screen-share joke can break the ice. You can (for real) do the meeting from the top of a mountain or on the veranda of your farm. All these things add information, and if the information is that you’re creative with a good sense of humor, why not?

Note that pre-packaged Instagram-type masks and funny hats (and roller coasters) do not communicate creativity because they are, you know, pre-packaged. Everyone’s seen them. You are only allowed to use them a) ironically and b) among real friends. Who will still snap a screen shot to embarrass you with later, but it least they won’t cost you the deal.

Do I Need to Know the Act Breaks in a Movie?

I’m from Poland. Sorry, for my English. I read your article about Arrival after seeing the movie. I was wondering about three-act structure of this movie. Could you tell me in which minute – in your opinion – are the act breaks for act I, II and III? I’m have a trouble to do this. For me:

I act ends at 41 min – after Louise return from the spaceship – “kangaroo” scene

II act = 92 min – after they get in contact with aliens

III act is about stopping China from attack on aliens

What do you think? Is it good understanding?


Great job on the English, Michal, and a good question. I can’t answer it, I’m afraid, but explaining why not leads us to another great question: Why is “three act structure” still a thing at all?

Applying a three-act structure to screenplay analysis was popularized by Syd Field. His book Screenplay launched the “how to write a screenplay” book business over 40 years ago. It’s a perennial best-seller, and has plenty of fans. My sense is that most fledgeling screenwriters buy a copy, and that most pros haven’t looked at theirs since they were just starting out. There’s a reason for that.

Field’s observations about how classic Hollywood films are structured opened the eyes of many new writers about story, but it confused even more of them. Finish Screenplay and, for a time, you’ll be obsessed about which page act breaks are on, and where the “plot points” are and on what page the “inciting incident” happens. Which, per your question, can seriously confuse people. (screenwriters don’t love numbers, generally speaking).

The book also gave formula-loving film executives license to become “story experts” on the structure of your film. (Are we 20 minutes in? Must be the end of Act 1!) In the first decade or so after the book came out you could set your watch by the beats of big commercial films– if you were still awake enough to check it.

Field was right that screenplays are a unique art form. Screenplays are structure- though he also wasn’t the first to say that– (William Goldman was. More about him in a moment.)

But it’s not helpful to pretend that screenwriting is as rigid a form as, say, haiku. All stories need a beginning, middle and end, but you don’t have to write too many screenplays to realize that page numbers don’t magically tell you where to turn a plot. As the writer, you need to deeply understand what structure works for an individual story, and for your particular way of telling it.

Field confuses new writers because it’s a super-simple formula applied to something that’s really very complex. Screenplays always tell more than one story, and each story has its own beginning, middle and end that don’t align themselves to made-up page numbers. The more complicated those stories become, the harder and more pointless is it to try to hang your film on a mechanical formula.

Since I’ve written a lot here about Arrival, let’s use a different example and try to find the “act breaks” in The Princess Bride:

The Princess BrideWilliam Goldman’s script, expertly directed by Rob Reiner, is of course about a Grandfather who tries to win the love of his sick 10-year-old grandson. Oh– that’s not the story you remember from the film? Hmmm.

Okay. The Princess Bride is about a man who as a young boy saw his father killed by a six-fingered man and now seeks revenge. No? Try this: It’s about the Dread Pirate Roberts, coming ashore to find his successor and pass down the business. Or a woman so convinced she’ll never love again that she decides to kill herself. Or a corrupt Prince trying to start a war, or a Hero rescuing his former love from the clutches of said Prince.

Or maybe The Princess Bride tells the sweeping tale about a poor servant boy who falls in love with a rich girl, loses her when he’s kidnapped and she agrees to marry a prince, finds her again and rescues her, reveals himself to her and rescues her again, loses her again when he’s captured, almost dies, and then finds her and rescues her yet again. That, by the way, is seven acts, not three.

The Princess Bride is about all of these stories, all at the same time. As an exercise, I recommend tracing each story through the brilliant script and see how they work in the overall film. The beginnings of most of these stories happen somewhere in the first 30 pages, although the Six-Fingered Man doesn’t get a mention until page 34. The main love story starts on page 4, then lies dormant for 44 pages before the boy and girl reunite on page 48– and, as mentioned, has 7 acts. More surprises await you– check it out!

Then do the same thing with Arrival, which is even more complicated because it has at least 6 main stories centering just on Amy Adams’ character and which may or may not have something to do with one another. And they all jump around in time throughout the film. Which means you see things at the beginning of the film that tell the ends of some big stories– only you don’t realize that until the end of the film. We’re talking “bending the spacetime continuum” complex.

Where the “acts”  break in a film isn’t a fact, it’s a discussion. Your analysis of Arrival is fine, from one point of view. But I could argue 12 other POVs with you over beers. That’s a good thing, because (a) beer, and (b) we would deepen our understanding of how to construct a film and why Arrival works.

To make a film or video, you need to understand its story(s) well enough to see and feel the how it affects the audience. What is each character’s goal? How do they start, what do they do in the middle? Do they get what they want or not, and why is that the right thing to happen? How does this character’s story relate to this other character’s story? What happens when they meet?  That’s important. Which page is the “Inciting incident”? Not so much.

Story structure– beginning, middle, and end– is a critical tool in film and video. But only because it helps us with what we really care about: Does my story feel right? Will the audience enjoy the ride?

Beyond that, don’t look for rules in art. There aren’t any.


PS: Did you know you can buy the Polish translation of How to Shoot Video that Doesn’t Suck wherever fine Polish-language books are sold? Did you also know that I have no control over foreign-language covers? Now you do.

Polish Language version of "how to shot video that doesn't suck"

Adding a Story After the Shoot

I bought your book last Saturday and have already read most of it!  I have a question about creating a story for a book-signing that I shot on Saturday to promote my friend’s new book.

Using your story formula, I know my hero is the author. But what’s the story? Should the video tell the story of how she breaks into a new genre of writing?  Or should it focus on the story of her book?  I’m confused.

Can you help me get to step two with my video?

Babs Hogan
Arlington, TX

Thanks for reading the book, Babs. Great that you happened to be shooting at a bookstore!

The “formula” you’re talking about isn’t really mine.  It’s some guy named Aristotle. He said that every story has to have a hero, a beginning, middle and end.  And you can use his simple story structure no matter what story you want to tell.

Even though you’ve already shot your footage, it will still make a better video if you find a story. Story functions as an “organizing principle,” helping us arrange our thoughts in a way that makes them easier to share and easier for others to remember. You aren’t the first to have a pile of footage in front of you without a clear story– half the reality shows on television are built that way. And yes, it’s better to know your story up front because it will guide your planning, your shooting and your editing. But hey, stuff happens.

To help build story after the shoot, first load your footage into an editor and see what you have. Editing programs let you “bin” footage, or set it aside by topic, so in this first round, keep only the shots you like. No wrong answers- just do it by feel. Make three piles called (and this will shock you) “beginning”, “middle” and “end.”

Now go through each pile, cut out all the shots that you don’t like (again, just doing this by feel), and play down what’s left. As you watch, brainstorm a list of possible stories. Again, no wrong answers, just see what’s there. Are there any shots that feel great as a start? What is the footage in the middle about? What shots definitely grab you for an ending?   Brainstorm a list of story themes the footage suggests.

For example, is there a lot of footage about “an author signs books”? Maybe you shot her (beginning) arriving at the store, (middle) sitting behind the table, shaking hands and signing books, and (end) thanking the owner. Or maybe the footage shows the “author is nervous about the signing.” Did you cover her at home before the event? (beginning), hands trembling as she puts on makeup and describes her fear (middle), her arrival at the store and reluctance to even get out of the car (more middle), and (end) the smile that lights up when 50 people applaud as she’s introduced. If she gave a talk, is that a story? Can you build something around her three key points?

Once you have a theme– “Author’s Nerves” or “High School Boyfriend Shows at Book Signing” or “People Ask Authors Strange Questions”– and a few beats for beginning, middle, end, use the best of the rest of your footage to support it. If you discover multiple story options, you’ll enjoy the whole process more if you choose the one that’s most entertaining to you. You can’t go wrong– any story is better than no story.

Another tip for stories assembled in the edit: you can shoot more footage! There’s no rule preventing you from editing a story, seeing what footage you’re missing, and then going out to shoot it. TV and films do it all the time. Can you get “b-roll” by re-shooting the drive to the store, or hands taking her book out of the in-store display? Can you do a new interview with the author or the store manager? If so, focus those interviews to highlight the story your footage is now telling.

If all else fails, try this: Put the footage in chronological order. Cut out all the bad shots. Add a title. Be done. You’ll have will have a chronological beginning, middle and end for a story called “My friend’s book signing.” While it might not be Netflix-worthy, it will still be a good record of the event, fun to watch and worth posting.

Good luck!


Don’t Start Your Video Marketing Conversation with SEO

video marketing does not equal data managementGoogle “video marketing” and you’ll get—as of this writing—2.63 BILLION hits. That’s way more than Kim Kardashian (266 million), weed (382 million), Donald Trump (1.4 billion) and, surprisingly, porn (also 1.4 billion).

Books, articles and videos (and more videos) offer you “21 Video Marketing Tools” or “5 Super Secrets” or “8 super-successful tips” every video marketer should know, all of which revolve around data manipulation: jacking your view count, tracking prospects, a/b headline testing, the latest changes to the YouTube algorithm, and reams and reams on Search Engine Optimization schemes.

Scrolling through this mass of information, you could be forgiven for thinking that all you need to know about video marketing is how to force people to click on a video by whatever means necessary—buying views, SEO, banner ads, influencers, social media, click-bait headlines and more.

But something’s missing from this data-centric rush to get people to see your video. Our emphasis on getting clicks skips past a much more important question: What, exactly, are you asking people to watch?

80% of Americans carry tiny computers in their pockets, and they stare at them an average of 4 hours a day. Nobody watches bad video- ever- because they don’t have to. Fingers poised above the screens, smartphone users can instantly watch almost any piece of film or video ever created. People have become experts at judging, in seconds, what’s worth their attention.

You know this is true, because “people” is you. That’s your finger hovering over the screen of your phone, deciding if a video lives or dies. You’re the one clicking “skip this ad” ahead of your YouTube unboxing video, or wondering just how long this boring testimonial video about a real estate lawyer is and whether maybe instead you should watch the next episode of Stranger Things. Or this new song. Or comedy special. Or cat video.

You’re the one who takes about 3 seconds to decide if the video playing on your screen is attention-worthy. Because in today’s infinite entertainment universe, there’s always something better on.

Your video marketing content is constantly being evaluated by its audience. And it’s not being compared to content from your fellow lawyers, software companies or real estate agents. It’s being compared to stuff from Disney, NBC/Universal, Netflix, Amazon, CBS, AT&T, Fox, Discovery- and every other on and off-air network ever created. Like it or not, that’s who you compete with for attention.

If you’re starting your video marketing strategy meetings with SEO and data points, you’re doing it wrong. No matter how you trick your customers into clicking on your video, if they don’t love it they’re not going to watch it.

To get attention, you need to pay attention—to the entertainment and information needs of your audience. This is creative work, not data crunching. Start with your existing customers and on-line visitors. Work to translate into video what your brand means to them, and then give your customers something of value to watch (Hint: if you love it, you’re on the right track. And vice versa.)

There’s a right time to use data, SEO and influencers.  It’s last– after you figure out how to say something valuable to your customers. Great video marketing always starts with content.

Shooting Ratio: How Much is Enough Footage?

How do I know if I’ve shot enough footage? I hate to waste money and time, but I’m nervous I won’t get what I need for the edit.

PS: Absolutely love your book! I’ve read it cover-to-cover twice now and starting my third time through.


Directors always shoot more than they think they need. Which means some of it will always be wasted. That’s how it’s supposed to work. It’s so normal that there’s even a name for this waste. It’s called the “shooting ratio” and it simply means the ratio between how much footage goes on screen, and how much you throw away.

Different projects have different shooting ratios. For example, if you shoot a webcam video for Youtube, you might do 5 takes of your rant and cut the best parts together. That’s a 5:1 shooting ratio– 5 seconds shot for every 1 that gets to the screen.

On the other end of the spectrum, a massive effects-driven superhero movie, with tens or even hundreds of effects layers in every shot, reshoots and multiple takes from multiple angles will ratio waaaayyy higher. Some of these films are rumored to have a shooting ratio as high as 400:1.*

Between the solo rant and the blockbuster is everything else. We might shoot 2 hours of footage to get 30 finished seconds for a national commercial– a shooting ratio of 240:1. “Normal” big-budget feature films could shoot 30:1 or 300:1 depending on how big and how effects-filled they are.

A good producer spends a lot of time thinking about shooting ratio when they’re setting up a budget. Shooting more footage costs more time on the set. Later, it also means more expense in post-production because you need more person-time to review the footage and edit it into the finished product.

Given that you have a good producer, a good director doesn’t spend too much time worrying about budget. If you go a little over budget and get brilliant shots, the client or network will still love you (most of the time.) But if you don’t get what you need for the edit, nobody will thank you for coming in under budget.

For reference, here are some ballpark approxi-guesses for the shooting ratios of typical film and video projects:

Shooting ratios are different for different productions.

Whether you’re a producer or director, get comfortable with overshooting. Budget and plan for it. That said, in the real world, it also pays to respect the budget.

To do that, know your material backward and forward. Create a shot list. If you’re shooting something complicated, storyboard your scenes. Doing your homework helps both your time management and that nagging feeling you’ve forgotten something.

It also frees you up to be creative. Once you’ve got the coverage down, it’s playtime. Improvise with your actors. Let the DP do that macro shot she’s been dying to set up. Wait for the light. Try ideas that come to you. Most of it won’t work (which is fine! Shooting ratio!) but you’ve seriously upgraded your finished piece with the stuff that does.


* At that ratio, it would take one person watching 7 days a week, 12 hours a day for 4 months to personally see all of the footage created for Avengers:Endgame. In real life, no one person does this. Teams of assistants will separate the wheat from the chaff in what’s been shot live-action, while animators and f/x houses will only send the most-likely-to-work material to the editorial team. Of course, that’s still a lot of man hours and a lot of people to pay.

Teaching Video: Summer Stars 2019

Summer Stars campers perform live August 2019 to Andy Grammer's "Don't Give Up"

Summer Stars Campers perform live to this year’s video

I do a lot of speaking and consulting on video, but by far the most rewarding is teaching I’ve done almost every year since 2000 at Summer Stars Camp for the Performing Arts. This is the camp’s 20th Anniversary and I’ve managed to attend 17 sessions, teaching music video classes to 12-17 year-old disadvantaged kids from New York and Boston who pay nothing to attend. Much of my book comes out of my work teaching those kids.

(I’m also on the camp board, so now must suggest that you donate at

The first step in creating a music video: immersing yourself in the music. We started our first class meeting by listening to the song we were going to shoot– the pop masterpiece “Don’t Give Up” by Andy Grammer, from the angsty teen-romance movie Five Feet Apart.  Our goal was to have students create an original piece, re-interpreting the song in a way that had nothing to do with the movie or Grammer’s video. In class, campers listened, then talked about what the song felt like to them: “Yearning” “defiance” “I’m not going to stop” “I’m coming for you.”

Since you can’t film an emotion, we discussed how we might shoot images that we hope will make people feel emotions. We played the song again, and talked about what images came to mind.

A 14-year-old boy from New York raised his hand. “It made me think of my Grandfather, and how he was deported last month.” This is so far out of my personal experience that I would never have come up with it, but the class felt it, and that’s the image we started with to develop our video. The kids not only suggested the theme, they crewed the video and performed in it.

We shot and edited the video from Tuesday to Saturday– 4 1/2 days. In the real world, I would have quoted a job like this as a couple weeks of prep, 2 12-hour shoot days (we shot it in 7 hours) plus a 3 week edit (our edit: 3 days.) Dp/editor Wes Diaz, our only other professional crew member, delivered it to the projection booth for the Saturday show with 20 minutes to curtain.

During the show, the entire camp sings a choral arrangement of “Don’t Give Up” live (arr. by Rob Goldman, who’s a genius at this sort of thing.) The video plays above them, on-screen in perfect sync. The audio you hear was recorded live during that performance.

Once again I learned so much from teaching.

Technical note: The video was performed and edited (as most music videos are) to a click-track– a rough audio track laid down for timing. During the shoot, the kids sang to the click track so their sync would be perfect. The editor edited to it. In our live performance, the click track played in the ears of the conductor and the band’s rhythm section as a tempo reference while they played live. So the band synced to the track,  the kids sang in sync to the band, which kept them in sync to the video, which was also synced to the track. You might call this “the transitive property of performance sync.” Make sense?

This is a fairly simple live performance trick, but the effect of 125 kids singing live in perfect sync to the performers and action in the video on a screen above them is amazing to watch. You can see the live performance with the singers in the picture here at minute 33:40.