Putting Your Best Face Forward – Creating Better Videos to Drive Results

Previously we explored what equipment you need to make videos. This week we dig into how to make a good video.

First, use the best camera that you have available – this may be a digital SLR or it might just be your cell phone.  Just make sure that it is at least 8 megapixels – most newer smartphones are of this quality or better (click here for a guide to good video creation).  If using a smartphone, ensure that you are using the rear camera as it is the one with the highest quality.  Front cameras are ok for a short Snapchat video but if you are putting this on YouTube or Facebook you will want the better quality – click here for more.

Next, pick a location with good lighting, such as outside on a sunny day, a room with lots of windows or with a lot of good lights.  If you need to try and touch up or brighten a video you will likely lose enough quality as to make it unusable.  Pick a background that has the light source behind the camera to avoid any glare on the lens.  Position your camera at or above shoulder height.  Many experts suggest that a good shot has the character’s shoulders near the middle of the shot and their waist or knees at the bottom.  If you are wanting to do multiple angles, have the other cameras set up and record everything at once so that you can just switch angles with your editing software instead of moving the camera.  Putting your camera in motion is difficult for non-professional equipment to keep it’s focus and framing constant – the odds are it will come out looking like those old home movies that everyone cringes when watching.  Try taking a short video with your phone while moving – you will see how long it takes to refocus unless you move it extremely slowly.  It’s not what they are made for so play to it’s strengths!  While we are at it, avoid zooming in and out.  The time needed to get back into focus will be noticeable.

Having a script is an absolute must.  People will notice if you are trying to ad-lib and most of us are not good enough to carry it off.  Know what you are going to be talking about.  And practice, practice and when you think you have it memorized, practice it a few more times.  You are going to need to be loud as the microphone on a smartphone or digital SLR is only designed for the speaker to be close to it.  A normal conversational volume will come out as too quiet.  Record yourself a few times to determine what volume you need to be so that it can be pleasantly listened to but not so much that it sounds like you are shouting at your audience.  Just remember, you are not a professional and you are going to mess up.  Now, when you are speaking act like you are talking to someone.  Don’t just stare at the camera or any one object.  Shift your weight a bit, vary your voice (unless you really are going after sounding like the home room teacher from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off) and use your face to reinforce your points.

When you are recording, do it in landscape mode.  This will look the best when your audience is using something other than a mobile device to view it.  To help you keep the angle proper, add a grid to your screen so that you can use the background as a reference to make certain that your video is straight.  Nothing will say amateur as quickly as having your camera tilted to one side.  You may need to go into your camera settings to enable the grid (if it is available on your device).  The grid lets you align your shot with lines on the screen.  If you can use one, try to position your subject’s eyes level with the upper line of the grid.  If you are into photography, use the rule of thirds (see here for a short introduction for those who are unfamiliar with this concept).  This video offers some tips on getting smooth handheld shots

Be prepared to take multiple recordings.  Unless you are hiring professional actors, someone is going to make a major stumble in their spoken parts – it happens.  Similarly, if you are outdoors a bird, squirrel, car or just someone walking is going to photobomb your shot.  When you are indoors, make sure the ringer is turned off on all phones (cellular or land line) and lock the door and put a sign on it asking people not to knock or enter.  Don’t assume that people are going to know or remember that you are doing a video shoot.  Minor things will help make your video look authentic but if something major happens and disrupts the flow just do it again.

Finally, look at what other people are doing to see what you like or dislike about how the recording was done.  Ensure that you understand that if you are doing it then expecting a Hollywood level production is not going to happen but make sure that the quality is reflective of your organization.  There are a LOT of clips on YouTube that offer tips on how to create better videos (such as this one by Peter McKinnon or this one by Video Influencers).  Do your preparation, practice your spoken parts, pick a good location and most importantly, have fun with your video as that energy will be noticed by your audience!