Skip to main content

Video Production Handbook

Video production is a powerful form of visual storytelling. You can tell your own stories, from your own perspectives, using your own filmmaking style. Your aim is to convey a story through visual means. Media can be used to document languages, record elders’ life histories, investigate social issues, or portray your own experiences.

This handbook will provide technical overview and assistance so that you can use media technology to capture and present your own stories. It covers best practices in pre-production, composition, image control, audio, lighting, and interviewing. It also provides helpful vocabulary and a sample video release form.

Kristin Dowell (Florida State University) originally created this handbook for the Oklahoma Native American Youth Video Workshops, part of the Oklahoma Language Digitization and Access Project, NSF-NEH Documenting Endangered Languages grant #0651992 awarded to Mary S. Linn, Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History, in 2007. Instructors included Kristin Dowell, Racquel-María Sapién, Michael McCarty, Mary Linn, Olivia Sammons, and Brooke Shackleford, who all improved the manual through use.

The handbook was updated in 2021 as part of the Language Vitality Initiative at the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage with funds from Ferring Pharmaceuticals. Cecelia Halle designed the handbook. Charlie Weber consulted on video production content and selected photos. All photos are courtesy of the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage.

We encourage use and translation of this handbook. Please contact us for the template and information on crediting, and let us know how you are using the handbook, at

Acknowledgement and Citation

To refer to this handbook, please use the following citation:

Dowell, Kristin. Video Production Handbook. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, 2021. Translated into Tibetan and Mandarin, 2021.

Support the Folklife Festival, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, Cultural Vitality Program, educational outreach, and more.