Artful Techie Tuesdays – Video Tips and Tools for Artists

Yesterday, an artist friend asked me some questions about how I make videos of my artwork process. Hmmm…let me see…..

I’ll be the first to admit it – the last thing I think about as I’m about to start a painting is to set up the video camera and hit record. In my rush to create, it’s not a habit that I’ve gotten into, and yet it’s one of the best ways to share technique, information and tips with other artists. After all…isn’t that what it’s all about? Getting better and being the best we can be?

I’m resolved to do better at this in the future so look for some additional video tips…and if I don’t get them done, then DOG me and remind me I said it here.

Here is a video that I recorded when I was of sound mind and had everything ready to go. When time lapsed, it helps me to review my own process in making an underpainting and also to share, from concept to finish – how a work is created with other artists and some of my students.

Pretty cool, huh? I got “into” it when I finished this painting, and missed hitting the “Play” button for Episode 2. Live and Learn…I have to make this a better habit.

I’d like to share some tips with you on things I have found helpful in the process of producing your own artist’s video.


Lighting – make sure that your working area is well lit. You can see in my video, the sun moves back and forth across the room a little bit and it’s not as well lit as it could be. I don’t mind this, because it’s a reflection of my working studio and it doesn’t seem to interfere with the video quality too much. I could also have adjusted this in the editing phase, but just got too excited to upload it and share. If you’re setting up lighting for the camera – make sure that you do some cross-lighting with about three floods if you need them, all from different angles and that don’t conflict with what you need for your painting light, or cast an Alfred Hitchcock-like silhouette of you on the canvas while you’re working. Not so pretty.


Canon Vixia HFS200
Canon Vixia HF S200

Get a GOOD tripod and leave it setup in your studio all the time. I actually use my EasyL Easel tripod that came with my plain air kit. It rocks, is light and folds up into a handy carry kit that I’ve packed on and off planes without any security trouble. Make sure your camera is charged and ready to go all the time, or that you have a power supply (and a neatly tucked away cord system) so you don’t have to trip over it in your studio….(that’s happened to me, I’m such a klutz!).

Make sure that you have the best camera angle to your easel. If you have more than one camera, by all means shoot at several angles so that you have interesting camera shots to edit together in post-production. This is where it’s cool for artists interested in filming more often, to have a couple of inexpensive Flip cameras to use. (see below)

Rule #1: Buy the best video camera you can afford. Film in HD.

We have a Canon Vixia HFS 200 that is super and we’ve dragged it across Canada, filming in various lighting conditions for many different projects. We also use two FLIP Ultra HD cameras.  (You can get one through our Amazon affiliate store page – they are under Film, Cameras and Media) They’re super portable and great for plein air or mobile work. We use our iPhones sometimes, but usually that’s a spur of the moment thing and I never have a proper tripod setup for it.

We also have a GoPro that we use. My husband Kevin is into aerial video photography. You can learn lots of techie stuff from him over at RCHelimenace if you’re into gimbals, gyros and transceivers (<<that’s all GEEK to me. I have no idea what they are, but he does, so if you’re interested…ask him!)

The GoProHD Hero2 has a lovely wide-angle view setting and a fish-eye setting too so that you can get some super-wide panoramic shots if you need them. It’s a tiny little thing. You’ll feel like you’re someone out of Mission Impossible. This camera is one of the most used action-filming cameras in the ski industry. It also mounts on a helmet, the truck or any moveable object which makes it great for hiking shots and various other shots that require a small camera in a fast-moving environment. Here’s one of our family favourite videos by Jeb Corliss, “Grinding The Crack”. It takes our breath away every time. Maybe a bit more adrenalin than I get in the studio…but close sometimes! You can see the high quality that the GoPro gives. Fun little toy with some power packed into it!


Do what you do best. Filming is about telling a story, so think about what you might want to tell…before you tell it. Make a plan and have it ready. Look for a beginning, a middle and an end.

In this case, I simply wanted to “tell” about my process from sketch and through a final painting. It would be boring to sit through three or four hours of watching me paint but thinking ahead artistically, about HOW to tell this, I thought it would be good to speed up the film in a time-lapse and show it that way. Most folks are awed at the process of the artist, but don’t have the patience to truly understand what goes into this…or watch you paint….or watch your paint dry. How you tell the story is as important as the story itself.

A three minute video is about what you should be shooting for in this online video medium. Folks are used to the “three minute” rule and as you can see, it’s pretty simple to find a three minute song that accompanies the story. That’s about as long as you’re going to keep their attention. In this case, Lyle Lovett’s “If I Had A Boat” was the soundtrack to my film, and appropriate for the intent of the visual art piece.

Artful Editing

I work with Final Cut Pro Studio. It’s a massive editing suite that most professional filmmakers rely on, and the only place I can see where it’s still available is through Amazon, although some retailers might still have it kicking around. There is a new version that Apple has come out with, Final Cut Pro X now, not nearly as expensive as my original software copy, but reviews are mixed. I can’t recommend or diss it, as I haven’t tried it, although I’ve had a look at the interface and it looks much easier and intuitive than the older FCP version. It retails through the Apple Store for $299 Canadian. I haven’t switched over to that yet, as I’m still comfy with Final Cut Pro Studio which includes other modules such as Motion Graphics (the bumper that sets up the front end and back end of the video above…which I love and could play with forever), Colour, and Soundtrack Pro.

My sons use iMovie and they are whizzes at it… which is wonderful, but I’ve grown accustomed to FCP now, so find iMovie not quite all there for the things I ultimately require when making artful-type movies.

If you aren’t a tech lover, I’d suggest iMovie as it has a much lower learning curve. However, if you’ve got your eye on “Hollywood” and wanting to learn enough to produce some pretty fancy videos, you can learn FCP Studio through Both versions of training are there for FCP Studio and FCPX. They have a fabulous training library which is always being updated and the instructors are fantastic, knowledgeable and easy to understand. All in your own time, on your own computer and really reasonably priced at around $25.00 a month for a subscription.

I edited the video above, “Self Portrait In Canoe” for use in an installation for an exhibition that I did in 2010. Converting old family footage and splicing it all together with FCP, I spliced Johnny Cash’s rendition. The video actually played inside a real canoe in the gallery, surrounded by objects from my life and that of my co-artist for the show, Don Ahnahnsisi McIntyre.

Distribution – Your Own Studio System

Not much good having a great video and not sharing it. I like to host my videos on other sites rather than my blog. This increases the traffic and the sharing. And you know how much I love to share!  YouTube, Vimeo, Veoh, DailyMotion,, Metacafe are all video channels to which I post my video content.

What?!…you say? That will take me forever. How do I do all that, paint, deal with social media, marketing, yadda…yadda…yadda.

Easy-peasy, I say. There is a fabulous service called TubeMogul that will upload your video in one shot to all your channels and give you some rocking stats by which to gauge your distribution success or failure. I love TubeMogul, and it’s easy to use. MGM…move aside. Independent internet distribution is here!

Now I realize that this post is a bit general in focus. I’ll expand on the topics on future Artful Techie Tuesdays.


GREAT Related Posts:

Alyson Stanfield’s Art Biz Blog – 4 Quick Videos To Use In Your Art Marketing 

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. beckyjoy

    Good post Janice, really enjoyed it. And, picked up a couple of bits of new info.

    1. Janice Tanton

      Glad to hear that Becky! If you have any sage advice, feel free to share it! 🙂 Best of luck with your videos. Looking forward to seeing them.

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