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How to Shoot Overhead Videos

by Celtx

shooting overhead video

What’s up with the current ubiquity of overhead videos? As the video content impresarios at Wistia say in their informative guide to shooting these top-down videos, the technique is “old news”, yet they seem to be popping up everywhere (and not just in the form of nacho tutorials flooding our Facebook feeds).

There’s a couple of elements at play here. Firstly, The style is incredibly easy to digest, and there’s something inexplicably satisfying about watching them. More importantly, the perspective of these videos is a direct analogue for how so many of us spend our days: looking down at a workspace. The content of the videos can be actual step-by-step guides to completing a physical task, or they can use that physicality to quickly explain a more abstract workflow.

For example, a few weeks ago we reposted this video from Vox, which uses the overhead stye to elucidate the process of producing a television show. What is in reality a huge undertaking comprising hundreds of people and vast amounts of material is communicated in a quick and entertaining fashion using a wooden table, some index cards, hands, and a couple of props. It’s amusing, easy to absorb, and relatively simple to execute.

These qualities make the format a great way for marketers to communicate the story of their product in a way that not only makes it easy for an audience to understand, but also enables them to experience the message in a manner that feels immediate and attainable. This is the familiar magic of the first-person perspective.

In their video, Wistia’s Chris & Trevor lay out three solutions for shooting overhead video, each increasing in complexity and requiring more specialized gear.


Go high on the tripod and and point the camera down over your subject. This is the simplest method and achieves a canted perspective. With the tripod, you won’t overhead shot, but coincidentally one that most closely mimics a person’s eyeline.


To achieve a true, 90° overhead shot you can affix the camera to a monopod and attach it to a well-secured boom pole holder, suspending the camera directly over your subject. Wistia recommends an external monitor for this method.


This one gets a bit trickier. By custom-rigging a mirror to a C-stand and suspending it above and behind the subject, you can shoot the reflected image at an upward angle. This makes the camera setup less obtrusive, therefore making it easier to adjust your shots. Of course, the footage will be reversed, but this can be easily corrected in post.

So that covers shooting overhead videos, but what about planning them? Well, it just so happens that your Celtx Studio offers a great tool for writing single-setup, narration driven shorts – the Video (A/V) script template:

By writing your overhead video using this template, you can instantly export your script in both a two-column and shot list format. This way, you can quickly plan your entire shoot from a single document. Sign in and try it out!


Source: Wistia


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