How To Make A Web Series On Zoom

This guide is for keen filmmakers who want to keep creative during coronavirus. It assumes you have no budget and want to produce and distribute a web series in lockdown anyway — like I did with Retcon, a sci-fi series about a time travel agency.

Why Zoom?

A Zoom call layout, which we’ll turn into a sweet new show or short film.

1. Write it.

2. Cast it.

3. Shoot it.

a. Technical Preparation

Record a separate audio track for each participant

Optimise for third party editing

Get more help setting up for local recording with this guide from Zoom.

b. Host The Set

c. Table read, if you haven’t

On Retcon, we shoot 6 page scripts in two hours, with half an hour at the front to rehearse and run technical tests.

When you go to record, turn your own camera off and hide non-video participants. Then start rolling in Speaker View.

When you record that call, the recording will save down what you see on your screen as the local host. Once you’ve started recording a Zoom call, you can Stop Recording to ‘cut’ that take. You won’t receive a file immediately but, when you end the Zoom call and it saves down, each of your start-stop ‘takes’ will save in a separate folder in your Zoom directory.

If you have paid for Zoom, we’d suggest starting-stopping your takes like the above and saving them all down at once at the end your shoot.

If you haven’t — and this guide is for you—we’d suggest just shooting in thirty minute takes so you don’t run overtime of the limit. This gives you natural breaks between your different ‘setups’.

Record clean takes of Speaker View with yourself—assuming you’re directing/producing and not onscreen talent—muted and hidden from video after you call action. Run through this master shot a few times and, when you’re ready to move on, pin on your talent in Speaker View and go top to bottom with them. Repeat for each cast member.

You could also get coverage in Gallery View if you’re working with a few cast but editing this way could get tricky.

Video

Retcon scales the video up 500% to fit into a 4K frame with some room around the edges, then layers the characters’ respective desktops underneath the windows. It’s a fun effect and it’s a great chance to show off some sweet digital art as backgrounds too.

Jack’s desktop POV from Retcon, episode 1.

Audio

4. Cut it.

This is just artistic now rather than technical and the fundamentals of video editing are out of the scope of this article.

Add VFX, SFX, music, colour, titles as you go and you’ll wind up with a cool pilot ready for the limelight.

If you were just making a short film and reading this article anyway, enjoy.

If you’re making a web series, rinse and repeat this process for each episode. But how many episodes should you make? Depends on the story but it also depends on your release strategy.

Stay tuned for more articles in this series on making, distributing, and marketing a web series.

And don’t forget to watch Retcon, a new sci-fi web series about the titular time travel agency, its staff, and its clients as they explore their new futures in the past.

Writer, producer, social.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store