Film Lesson: Portrait of a Place

Create a portrait of a place using video.

Any video camera: smartphone, DSLR camera, tablet with a camera.

Video editing software
Free software: iMovie, Windows Movie Maker, Splice, Videoleap
Paid Software: Adobe Premiere


  1. Pick a place you find interesting and set up your camera. Remember, some locations may require permission to film in them!
  2. Record your surroundings. Keep an eye out for interesting movement and interactions around you. People laughing, traffic lights changing, feet walking down a hallway, cars zooming past on a highway, etc. Try and use different kinds of shots to keep things interesting!
  3. If an action you’re filming is repeating, try and get different kinds of shots every time it repeats, so later you can try editing them together into a sequence.
  4. Upload your footage to your editing platform of choice. Arrange your footage into an order that makes sense, thinking about which clips flow well into one another.
  5. Export!

Video Techniques

Create a sense of time flowing past by using crossfades to transition between clips.

Build a sense of continuity by connecting the clips documenting the same event in sequence.

Jump cuts create a sense of immediacy.

Extend the audio, let the audio of a clip start in the clip before or let it run on into the next clip 

Fast Cuts
Vary up the lengths of your shots. Short clips shown in a rapid sequence create a sense of elevated energy.

Long Shots
Long, uninterrupted shots are more observational and slower.

What was most challenging had to be the timing and transitioning of certain sequences. I also realized how crucial timing is while I was working, and how difficult it is to make it work well all together as a small film.

Karas Cowger

I wanted to capture the atmosphere and environment of the rally. I walked around weaving my way through the crowd while filming. I ended up deciding to focus more on the crowd’s response and chanting, as well as include some more local level sounds of footstep shuffles and banners flapping in the wind.”

Anya Chen

On my visit to China, I thought this project would be best done in an unfamiliar place. The final product really conveys the whimsical mood of the park. I liked this project a lot because I could explore a variety of transitions and camera angles– variety is my favourite thing!

Victoria Lin