How to Create an Opening Sequence for your Video

The first few seconds of your video has to be good. You need to hook your audience's attention and get them ready for the rest of your message. But how do you go about creating a great opening sequence?

Here's how I worked with Blair Academy to create a stunning opening sequence for an athletics video.

Step 1: Figure out the Tone

The first part of the process is to have a conversation about the desired tone of the video. For this project we wanted to get the audience fired up. We weren't trying to explain anything... the goal was excitement! So far... so easy... but how to make the audience immediately excited? Music is how!

Step 2: Pick the Music

I typically select the music for a video before I start editing. This lets me make sure I'm getting the tone right. In fact sometimes I'll even work with the client to select the song before we start filming. In this case I found a track that had a strong opening with a rapid fire sequence early on. That's pretty sweet. That's a perfect opportunity to cut to the music.

Step 3: Cut to the Music

It's easy to cut to the music if you have a good track. The idea is to cut between two clips at the same time there is a cue in the music. Strong downbeat? Cut between two clips right there! I liked that quick section at around 10 seconds followed by the more mellow section. Cool - that's a good spot for a rapid series of shots. On this project I cut that section first. Then I knew I had to find 10 seconds of something to get me to the rapid sequence. What shot to put first?

Step 4: Put Your Best Shot First

While filming I got this awesome shot of a tennis swing and a hit. It was so awesome I almost got clocked in the nose. I got the shot with the DJI Osmo so I was also able to review it with the client on the spot. I was pretty sure that was going to be the opening shot. When I slowed it down to 50% it looked super dramatic. An aerial, a couple of other shots, a little bit of black screen and that gave me the tension I wanted heading into the montage. Awesome... but I really wanted to sell it.

Step 5: If you SEE it then you have to HEAR it

Audio is a great way to sell excitement. First I went through and added sound effects to match things I was seeing on screen: the hit of a ball, the crash of athletes. All of these sounds were stock audio from my video editor. I didn't get good enough sound from the camera to use. Sometimes I'll use but for this project I had everything I needed on hand.

Step 6: Layer the Audio

I kept layering the audio and layering the audio... static, zings, whooshes, countdown, crashes... I kept going until I thought it was exciting enough. It was ready for the final touches.

Step 7: Titles

I love the titles from MotionVFX and I had been looking for a project to use them on. When the football players crash toward camera I thought it would be cool to glitch the titles away.

What do you think? Have questions? How do you capture your audience's attention in the opening seconds of your videos? Let us know in the comments and check out the whole video here!

The Key to a Cinematic Look: Aperture

Image source: wikipedia.

Image source: wikipedia.

If you make videos for your school or nonprofit you naturally focus on creating compelling content that helps your organization meet its goals.

But you also want to make a video that looks awesome.

One simple way to create content that looks great is to get a shot with a shallow depth of field. Depth of field refers to that look when one element of a shot is crisp while the rest is out of focus.

Shallow depth of field means some parts of a shot are crisp while others are blurry. This shot was taken with a 50mm Canon lens at an aperture of 1.8.

Shallow depth of field means some parts of a shot are crisp while others are blurry. This shot was taken with a 50mm Canon lens at an aperture of 1.8.

How is this look achieved? Depth of field is determined not by your camera but by your lens. Specifically the aperture of your lens. The smaller your aperture the shallower the depth of field you can achieve. You will find your aperture written on the front of the lens. For example the aperture of the lens at the top of this article is 1.4 while the aperture I used for the screen shot above was 1.8.

A lens with an aperture greater than 3.5 on most cameras won't give you a very shallow depth of field which means it might be time to go lens shopping. The good news is a 50mm 1.8 lens on most cameras is pretty cheap (like under $150 cheap). So many photographers and videographers have a lens like this that it even has a name: the Nifty Fifty.

What do you think? Did you find this article helpful? Still have questions? How do you achieve a cinematic look on your videos? Let us know in the comments!

Success Story: Video Posted to Facebook Earns 50,000 Views

Central Catholic High School in Lawrence, MA has a loyal following, a strong personality, and a good sense of its brand. So when Director of Admission Christopher Merrill '89 reached out to me to create a video for the school I jumped at the chance. I was also a little nervous - how to capture all of the awesome that is CCHS in 2-3 minutes while making sure the piece resonates not only with prospective families, but also current families and alumni?

We started by brainstorming the iconic images that had to go into the video. Over that we added the story elements that would tie the narrative thread of the story together. We filmed on location for two days over two weeks and the result is the video you see above.

When Chris told me the video had reached nearly 50,000 views on Facebook I was impressed! He had uploaded the video directly to Facebook which is a good start but how had he reached so many views? Chris reports they spent a few hundred dollars in promoting the video but the real impact came from the hundreds of shares and interactions the video got from the CCHS community.

Here are a few technical details:

  • Main camera: Sony A7s
  • Lenses: Rokinon primes: 24mm, 85mm & Canon prime: 50mm
  • Moving shots: DJI Osmo
  • Drone: DJI Phantom 4
  • Mic: Audio-Technica AT875R shotgun mic
  • Music: You and Me by Ben Rector licensed at
  • I didn't know you could embed Facebook video on other sites but it turns out you can

What do you think? What kinds of experiences have you had with video on Facebook? Let us know in the comments!

Two Motion Graphic Projects (with tutorials)

I recently completed two motion graphic projects. One was a part of a larger holiday video for a client. The other was just for fun.

I find these kinds of stretch projects a great way to learn and grow as an artist. For me the learning comes from two places. First I'm doing something I've never done before so that's awesome. But second I'm also following someone else's workflow which is also a great way to figure out new ways of doing things.

If you'd like to learn how to do this kind of thing check out this great tutorial for the Rogue One titles and this one for the writing effect. I used Final Cut Pro X and Motion 5 to do these but I'm sure you could do something similar in Premier.

What do you think? Have you done motion graphics? Have you tried something new just to see if you could do it? Let me know in the comments!

A Fake News Activity For Students (updated)

Fake news is making news.

Teaching students to assess the content they read online for bias has never been more important. Here's an activity you can do with your students loosely based on Alan November's REAL method.

Warm Up

Ask your students the following warm up questions. Collect their answers on the board.

  • What is bias?
  • What kinds of websites would we expect to be biased?
  • What kinds of websites would we expect to be unbiased?
  • How do we decide who won the election?
  • Who won the 2016 US presidential election?
  • What is the difference between the popular vote and the electoral college?

Teacher's note: Hopefully the concept of the popular vote and the electoral college will come up. According to CNN Clinton won the popular vote but lost in the electoral college.


This article makes the false claim that Clinton lost the popular vote. Is this claim true? Follow these steps to assess this article for bias:

  1. Read the article and consider the evidence given to support the claim.
  2. Read the website address to determine what kind of news outlet created this article.
  3. Examine the design of the page to determine how professional the site is.
  4. Ask about the article author.
  5. Ask Google for other points of view.
  6. Ask EasyWhoIs for the site owner
  7. Reflect on how much you'd like this article to be true. You don't want this article to be true? Reflect on how much someone else might like for this article to be true.

Teacher's note: Perhaps you want to make up a handy worksheet - or divide into groups? I'll let you figure out the logistics of this. But give your class the time to dig deep into each of these seven areas.

Report Out

Okay - time to share your results. Have the class share what they found.

Here's what I found out:

  • This article is almost entirely based on unreferenced twitter posts
  • The website address is a free Wordpress site
  • The content on the page is amateurish to the point of probably being a default template of some kind
  • The article does not have a listed author, the site also does not have a listed author
  • Google searches easily return wide agreement on a different point of view
  • EasyWhoIs doesn't work because the site is a free Wordpress domain
  • Although I don't wish this information to be true I can easily imagine that a great many people would like to claim a groundswell of popular support for the president elect.

Overall my conclusion is that this site is very biased.

Teacher's note: After sharing out the results of the review let students have a dialog about what is news and what constitutes an opinion. Why do students think fake news is in the news?


Option 1: Listen to this podcast and answer the following questions:

  • Why did the Fake News King start his fake news sites?
  • Do you think fake news sites like these influenced the outcome of the election?
  • Should fake news be regulated by the government?

Option 2:  Read this article and answer the following questions:

  • What does Mark Zuckerberg think about fake news on Facebook?
  • Do you think Facebook influenced the outcome of the election?
  • Should Facebook ban fake news from the site?

Option 3: Read this article and rewrite it as fake news

  • Imagine you wanted to persuade / move / influence people on this issue
  • What psychological theories and practices would you use? Would you appeal to fear? Perhaps propose a secret conspiracy?
  • Write a new headline and a new article
  • Bonus: Create a chart or graphic to support your new article

Thanks to Ernest Koe for the idea on homework option 3!

What do you think? How have you been helping students learn about fake news? Let us know in the comments!