I confess: I am not a natural presenter.
The first time I stood in front of the camera ready to film one of our video blogs I felt apprehensive, awkward and self-conscious.
If you’re making your own video in house you’ll most likely need some of your team to be in it. But, most companies are not made up of teams of presenters, to whom being on camera comes easy.
I’ve thought about it and I think the problem for me was that, in order to be lively and engaging on film, some exaggeration is required. You need to speak louder and with more animation than in normal, everyday life.
What looks good on camera can make you feel mighty stupid when you’re doing it in real life. And if you’re feeling stupid whilst you’re making your video, it will come across to anybody watching.
Well, the good news is it definitely gets easier with practice. After a few attempts I did start to feel more comfortable standing in front of the camera.
But, before that happens there are a few tricks that really helped me out.
You’re going to get it wrong.
(Music: Fluffing a Duck – Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com))
Accept this and move on.
Even the professionals don’t get it right first time. Multiple takes are just par for the course. Trying to get it right first time puts too much pressure on you. And the more pressure the more apprehensive you’ll feel.
Relax. Just make sure you’ve allowed enough time for reshooting and there’s really no reason to worry.
When you’re making your own video it’s important to look happy about it. If you aren’t enthusiastic about your product or service, your consumers won’t be either.
Producing a natural smile is pretty tough, though, especially when you’re already feeling nervous. People can spot a fixed, fake smile a mile away.
How did I get around it? Well it was actually fairly simple. I asked Terry who films our videos to smile at me while I speak.
I have found that when somebody smiles at me my knee-jerk reaction is to smile back at them. It’s not something I think about; it’s just automatic behavior. And, when I came to look into it, I found that most people are the same.
Research has shown that smiling is contagious. Sociability is so important to human evolution that our brains are simply hardwired that way. When someone smiles at you, you smile back.
Read through the script and listen to your intonation. Knowing which words you’ll stress and what kind of tone you’ll say things in before you hit record will stop your phrasing feeling stilted and unnatural.
Stumbling over your words? Stop. You’re thinking too much.
Concentrating so hard on getting all the words right means you, again, put unnecessary pressure on yourself.
A bit of movement can help you to get out of your own head. It gives you something else to think about and you’ll often find that the words flow more freely that way.
I first discovered this during the filming of our Dual Encoding video in which we asked for Beta testers. Unbeknownst to me Terry had hatched a dastardly plot to throw something at me at the very end of the video.
Now, you might find that this would distract me, throw me off and make me mess up the line. Here’s what actually happened:
When I watched the footage back I realized that I had in fact remembered what I was supposed to be saying, even whilst I was reacting to the missile that had just been launched at my head.
Because I wasn’t really thinking about it.
When you’re making your own video it can help to have a basic script in place. You should put in place the points you want to make and in what order you will make them.
But, if you try to match that script word for word when you film the video you’ll run into trouble.
So what if you say “also” instead of “and” or “video” instead of “video file”?
Seriously. Stop sweating the small stuff. If it makes sense run with it.
In fact, switching up a bit of the wording can be a good thing. You’re talking how you would in normal conversation. It’s much more natural and engaging to just be yourself!
Creating video in house? We put together a free guide to help you produce slick content – without huge production costs.
Every awesome video marketing campaign begins with an awesome video storyboard. So, where do you start in creating your own? We spoke with Han Lung of Vidaao, a video production marketplace that connects marketing teams with creatives, about his top tips for creating the perfect video storyboard….
“How can you build a house without a blueprint?” The answer is: you can’t.
In the same way, a video without a storyboard is like a house without a foundation. It might look okay on the outside, but once you step through the front door and see that the floor’s missing, you’re going to walk right back outside. Similarly, viewers watching a hastily-made video that wasn’t properly storyboarded are going to know someone was cutting corners, and they’re going to stop your video at hello. The current business video landscape is saturated, and no one has time for anything less than the best.
Yet, for some reason, many marketing execs and creatives spend sufficient time on every step of the production process except storyboarding. All too often a script is written and a videographer just goes to town during a shoot so there will be a lot of b-roll to work with. A little jump cutting here, a little match cutting there…and – voila! Business video, right?
Wrong. Storyboarding is just as important as scripting if you want a video to have a professional look and feel (and not just be erratic and uninspired). More importantly, storyboarding is how you arrive at a vision for your video.
If you’re not going to outsource your storyboard, then it’s crucial that you learn the visual alphabet. It doesn’t matter how good or bad of an artist you are – anyone can learn this alphabet because it’s comprised entirely of shapes like triangles, squares, circles, and lines.
Ever looked at a drawing book? Anything, from a car to a dinosaur, can be simplified into basic shapes. And shapes aren’t hard to draw at all. Once you get good at using the visual alphabet, you’ll be able to storyboard with relative ease. Doesn’t mean it’s going to be a comic masterpiece, but it will serve its purpose.
This one really isn’t a secret, but it bears repeating. Unless you’re some sort of virtuoso videographer who can shoot by the seat of his pants and make perfect, polished video, you better be sketching your heart out. If you don’t have the discipline of a professional artist and drawing stick figures rubs you the wrong way, then don’t even bother erasing. Just produce as many versions of your frames as possible – until you’re satisfied with your on-paper camerawork.
What’s your upfront cost at this point? What’s your overhead? That’s right. Nothing at all, except for the price of that printer paper you’re using and maybe a few Ticonderoga #2 pencils. You can afford to spend a few hours on this.
Alfred Hitchcock was notoriously stuck on storyboards. In fact, he considered them the most important creative step in the entire filmmaking process (to him, shooting was just a necessary evil). And look where it got him.
Yes, you need to buy one. Older storyboarders will always swear by their pencils, and some people just love drawing in moleskin notepads, but at the end of the day a digital drawing pad is going to be your single best storyboarding investment.
Digital drawing pads are easy to setup and easy to use. They come with every drawing feature you would possibly need to flesh out your storyboards, don’t leave a mess on your desk, and are automatically saved on your computer so that you don’t have to deal with taking pictures or scanning images.
In recent years, digital drawing pads have also become more tactile and sensitive, so they’re almost as true-to-life as pencil and paper. It’s important to choose a highly-rated one, however, because cheaper pads have lower sensitivity and precision. A decent drawing pad for the purposes of storyboarding will cost around $50 to $200 (and you’ll never have to buy a #2 pencil again).
A 30-second video has 720 distinct frames that the human eye can perceive (we see at 24 fps). Granted, you don’t have to storyboard all those frames. In fact, you don’t even have to storyboard each of the 30 seconds – you just need to hit the keyframes.
What are keyframes? Frames of particular significance in the context of the script or camera direction. For example, the jovial executive shown above is walking from point A to point B. Let’s say that, at point A, he suddenly realizes he wants a hot dog, and a thought bubble pops up next to his head. That’s a keyframe. Then, at point B, he buys the hot dog and starts to chow down. That’s point B. Anything that happens in between are transition frames, and they don’t have to be drawn out until after all the keyframes are drawn.
Keyframes are like plot points in the outline for a script. It makes sense to get them down first before filling in transition frames.
Chances are you don’t know how to use your video editing software as well as you already know how to use Powerpoint. That’s totally fine, because as it so happens, Powerpoint is a great barebones storyboarding tool.
After you have all your frames drawn and ready, popping them into Powerpoint and inserting comments for dialogue and direction is easy. Printing out each frame and laying them side by side on a giant corkboard is important, but when it comes time to “preview” your video, Powerpoint’s slide show feature is the perfect, low-budget storyboarding option.
I don’t know about you but we never have enough hours in the day.
And when you’re running around on the shoot the sands of time seem to fall particularly fast. And that’s not to mention the hour after hour spent stitching it all together post-shoot. But actually it’s relatively simple to shave a big chunk of time (and stress!) when you’re making your videos. Now, we can’t guarantee you a stress-free shoot: hurdles inevitably arise and you have to deal with them. But hopefully these tips will help you have some non-grey hair left at the end of the day…
Now, there are thousands (probably, we didn’t actually do the math) of ways you can compose a shot. As your experience grows you can experiment more and get some interesting results. But, before we get ahead of ourselves, it’s worth understanding the rule of thirds and then you can decide whether you want to break it.
The theory goes that if you break an image down into thirds, the eye is naturally drawn to the intersection of each line. If you place points of interest there, rather than dead center, you’ll get a nice balanced shot.
This is pretty much photography 101. And there’s a reason this rule is so ubiquitous – coz it works!
Tripod. The end.
Ok I’ll explain a bit more.
Handheld can (sometimes) yield some good results. It depends what effect you’re trying to create. For something tense and nervy (think The Blair Witch project) it can work well. But all too often tense and nervy turns into motion sickness. Sure it can work well, but unless you’re pretty experienced it probably won’t.
Take a look at these examples of handheld vs tripod:
You can see that sticking your camera on a tripod just makes everything much cleaner and simpler.
If you don’t know what you’re doing don’t introduce an extra element to think about. You’re already juggling a million and one things during the shoot. Why make it harder for yourself? Keep it simple.
This is kinda like the tripod vs handheld debate. Pan and pull can be effective. With emphasis on the “can”.
The problem is, used in haste you’ll mess your focus up. Instead cleanly cut each shot.
The difference is amazing. It keeps it snappy, keeps the pace up. You really are much better of keeping it simple. Believe me.
No, not that kind of tail. What I mean here is give yourself a few frames breathing room between each take. In the video below you’ll see there’s a few seconds space before and after the subject (in this case, me – hello!) talks. You don’t want, for instance, to cut too soon and miss a syllable of audio.
Ok so the next two tips are more about making your life easier in the edit, rather than the shoot. But it’s things you need to be doing while you’re on the shoot. So listen up :)
Let’s take a look at a video in the editing suite:
See the green bit? That’s the audio. What you need to do is match up the audio with the visual (unless you’re going for the badly dubbed effect). The camera itself will generally take a bit of audio (although the quality probably won’t be high enough for you to run with this version). So what you’re aiming to do here is match the audio from the external mic, with the audio taken from the camera mic (the bit in blue under the thumbnail).
This can be a bit of a painstaking process. But you can make it easier for yourself simply by clapping at the beginning of the take. This will give you a nice big peak and you can use this to match the two tracks up.
It’s the same thing a clapper board is used for. But free.
Back to the editing suite. This is how a typical 60(ish) second video clip looks:
That’s a whole lotta thumbnails.
Let’s say you filmed 5 takes of one shot. And you know the third take was the one you want to use. You know it’s somewhere in all those thumbnails, but where?
Rewind back to the day of your shoot. If you’d simply waved your hand in front of the lens after the good take, you’d now have a “bookmark” for where that take is.
Bad day on shoot? We’ve all been there. It’s ok. It happens. But the important thing is to learn from what happened. That way each and every shoot you run should get smoother and smoother. These are just some of the way we’ve found to iron out the creases during our video production process – hope they help you out too!
Over the last year or so we’ve been on a bit of a quest to learn more about how to make business videos that work. And we’ve tried to share that with you all via our various blog posts.
I thought this week, I’d pull all those various tips, tricks and bits of advice into one post. So here is your go-to guide to the video production lessons we’ve learned the hard way – so you shouldn’t have to!
If you’re using a video production agency then it’s really, really important that you brief them properly. Both parties should be crystal clear on what type of video you need for your business – that way there’s no surprises when the end product comes through. We chatted with video pros TNR Communications on this back in October; they told us there’s 7 questions your brief should answer.
Answer those questions and you’ll have a pretty decent brief from which to create a business video that will meet your goals.
When you’ve got a great idea for a video often it can be tempted to just *do* it. Don’t. You’ll wind up reshooting sections because you haven’t got the footage you expected. We use a 4 stage plan that works pretty well for us:
Essentially, you need to brainstorm some ideas and ask a few key critical questions (do I have the budget for this, is this relevant to my audience…), test the concept, give your brain a chance to digest and rest, and then reassess your plan with a fresh pair of eyes. Rinse and repeat this as many times as it takes until you’ve got a video plan that you’re satisfied with.
Really, this falls into the planning section of your video campaign. But it’s important so I wanted to pull it out into a separate point. Think about all the assets you need for your video. Want some nifty graphics? Tell your designer. Want a colleague to star? Make sure they know about it.
The point is, everyone is busy with their own work. If you need something from them it’s best to make sure they’ve got plenty of notice. That way you’re not springing a job on them right at the last minute. That’s just stressful for everyone. Not cool.
A 90 second business video which is just one long take can be pretty boring (not to mention hard to pull off without your talent fluffing their lines!). Our advice is to vary the visual to keep your viewers interest – especially if you’ve got a longish story to tell.
Video production agency Casual Films shared with us their top tip, “Vary the visual. You could, for example, use hand drawn illustrations which will bring the benefits of animation, without the associated costs of computer generation.
Having a two camera set up makes the edit *so* much easier. It gives you with a bit of extra footage so that you can vary the visual, for a start.
But it’s also great if you find that you have an unusable take. You can just cut to the b-roll until the a-roll can kick in again.
One thing we’ve struggled with when filming outdoors is the Great British weather. You may think that to combat poor lighting conditions you need a fancy lighting rig. Not so. You can make your own light reflector fairly easily. You just need a big piece of white card, some tin foil, some sticky tape and voila.
Another great tip is to steady a flimsy tripod by weighting it with a brick on a piece of string. There’s all sorts of little hacks you can try out that mean you don’t need to spend a fortune, and we’re looking forward to experimenting with some more this coming year – so stay tuned for more on that.
Here at vzaar we always use real team members in our business videos. It lends an air of authenticity and shows the human side of our business. Of course it can be tricky. Not everyone is at home in front of the camera, but there’s a few ways you can help put your talent at ease:
1. Get them to practice in front of the camera first. Nothing prepares you for being on camera, like being on camera.
2. If you’re behind the camera make sure you keep smiling. It’s contagious.
3. Accept mistakes – they happen to everyone. Laugh about it. Make sure they know it’s not a big deal.
It’s surprising how much footage you’ll amass just for a 90 second video. And come editing time it can be a real nightmare to sift through it all. We save time during the edit by using a few different techniques during the shoot itself:
1. Tails on takes give you a bit of room to play with.
2. Mark a good take with hand swipe in front of the lens so you can find it again easily.
3. Clap to mark audio to help you sync the audio by providing a big peak to work from.
It’s a lot easier to shoot extra footage while you’ve got the camera set up and everyone you need is in the room. It’s better to have too much to play with, rather than find out later you need an extra shot and have to set everything up all over again.
We’ve found this holds particularly true whenever we try to inject humour into our videos. What’s funny on paper isn’t always funny in real life. It’s better to film a few different alternatives so you can work out what works best for your particular business objectives.
Making great business videos means you need to be constantly improving and thinking critically. Always, always look back on what you did. All of the insights listed here have come from taking the time to analyse our processes. In fact we’ve started to share a lot of that process with you in our video retrospective blog posts. Making notes during all stages of your video process is a good habit to get into. That way you can look back through and question why you did what you did, and whether you can improve on anything next time.
Because of these video retrospectives, we’ve made lots of changes in the past year. For example, we:
1. Bought a second camera to allow us to capture B roll
2. Formalised our planning process
3. Allowed more time for planning, shooting, editing
As always, we hope that’s useful. We like to share our video making process in the hopes that when we mistakes, it means you don’t have to.
Until next time, bye for now.
You may remember last month we wrote about our video mistakes and how we fixed them. Well, I’m (err kind of) pleased to announce that on our latest video shoot for Tinypass Integration – we made a few more! But it wasn’t all doom and gloom on this video shoot – we also tried out some of the techniques we learnt from our last video efforts (you can read about those here). Here’s what went right, and what we can do better next time…
Avid blog fans will remember that the last time we made a video we wound up having to reshoot huge chunks of it. Once we saw the actual footage we realised it just wasn’t clear what on earth was going on.
We didn’t fall into this trap again. Instead, we added a pre planning phase to our video process. The aim of this phase was to sort the wheat from the chaff. I’ll admit it; sometimes we’re guilty of becoming fixed on an idea and then just going with it (hence last month’s heavy reshoot). If you go straight into planning you often don’t realise the silly ideas – until it’s too late. The pre planning stage helped us to get over that, simply because it *wasn’t* the planning stage. We went through 4 stages of pre planning:
– Video Conceptualisation
Throw a few ideas around and discuss how they work. You’re looking for *any* idea – no matter how crazy it sounds – so don’t create a hyper critical atmosphere. Everyone involved should feel comfortable to share. Jot all the ideas down and move on.
Ok, now you can criticise. And when I say criticise I don’t mean “that would never work!” or “that idea is a load of rubbish”. Take each one in turn and simply ask questions about it. Start off with some higher level questions:
Simply by asking the right questions you can often weed out which ideas you should scrap.- Test Your ConceptSometimes it’s difficult to see on paper how something actually looks in real life. Having the footage in front of you brings things to life in a way that words on a page can’t. It makes it easier to tell if something is a particular idea is a non-starter. We used an iPhone to just walk through a few of the shots.- Do Nothing
Seriously, take a break. Enthusiasm for an idea can sometimes get the better of you. When we went back to review our test footage we scrapped the initial idea and went in a different direction. If you’d asked me before the break I would have told you I loved the idea and I was really excited to get going on the video shoot. Not so much when we went back and reassessed. If you give yourself a break and you STILL love what you’ve come up with, the chances are it’s not half bad!
Our initial idea was “cash for clicks”. Our lovely video star Virginia would set up the Tinypass integration on her vzaar videos (with a few clicks of a mouse button) and in the cash would roll. To demonstrate, we decided we would show people watching various videos. Virginia would click, and cash would appear. Still with me? If that sounds confusing, it may explain a little about why we scrapped it.
The problem was, the cash really appears when your viewers click to pay. So in that case shouldn’t the viewers be the ones clicking? But then, we also want to show that it’s really easy to set up the pay wall so we kind of need Virginia to click as well. Maybe everyone could click? Or maybe no-one…? Or maybe…?
We were tying ourselves into knots to try and make the clicking for cash work. This is a bad sign. If we couldn’t understand the link between the clicks and the cash, how could we expect everyone else to?
Despite our initial enthusiasm we realised we were just forcing the concept to work. So we just came up with a new one. And then we went through our questions again until we were confident it could work: “Does it achieve our goal?”, “Does it make people feel something”…
We may have learned from past mistakes, but that didn’t stop us making a few new ones:
1. Plan For Bad Weather
For this video we decided we’d shoot outdoors. In the UK. In November. Perhaps not so surprisingly, on the day of the shoot we were met by very dull, gloomy skies.
This gave us the chance to learn something new: how to brighten a shot – even when the conditions are dull. We added extra bits of colour and interest to the shot and used all the light available. Then in the edit we experimented with a bit of color grading. You can watch our in house video producer Terry explain the specifics here.
I’m not saying that we’ll never make this mistake again. Even in the Summer it can be pretty hard to predict the British weather. But, if this does happen to us again, we know exactly what to do about it (and now so do you!)
Take Away: if something goes wrong don’t panic. Fixing it gives you the opportunity to learn something new.Tweet this
2. Collaborate Earlier
In this video we decided to overlay some graphics as a way of showing what was going on on the computer screen. We spent quite a lot of time trying to fashion a good looking set of graphics to use. And then we asked our designer and she did it in less than half the time.
It’s always great to learn new skills, but since we were editing to a deadline it would have been better to get our designer in from the get go. We would have saved time, and given her longer to prep. Lesson learned.
Take Away: when you’re in the planning stage ask yourself who from the rest of your team needs to be involved to bring your vision to life. Tweet this
Analysing what went wrong in our video production efforts is helping us to make or whole process much smoother, and hopefully resulting in some much more interesting videos! I highly recommend adding an evaluation stage after you’ve created the finished product. You’d be surprised how much clarity it brings, you can really see the crinkles that need to be smoothed. By sharing our own successes (and failures!) we hope it helps you too.
Here’s to our next video! In the meantime you can check out the final version of our Tinypass video here. Enjoy :)
Here at vzaar we want to unlock the power that online video can have. We are firm believers in the awesome conversion rates it can generate, the personality it gives your brand and the sense of community and relationship it builds with your consumers.
In our quest to make sure our own videos live up to their full potential we managed to grab David Sington, Principal Film Maker at Dox Productions for a chat about just how to do it.
What does video do that text alone can’t?
This was the first thing that David asked us and we readily reeled (pun intended) off all the virtues of video:
And all of those things are very true. Video DOES add that extra layer of information, with visual cues and implicit communication that text alone could never convey. It DOES add context and deeper meaning to complex concepts. And yes it DOES help us to bring our personality to the forefront and remove the barrier between business and consumer
But, as David pointed out to us, simply knowing that video CAN do all those things doesn’t mean it does do all those things by default.
Now, you may have noticed in last week’s blog we took a slightly different direction with the video, interspersing our classic head shots with some more visually interesting images. This was in an attempt to apply some of David’s advice – what do you think?
1. Show don’t tell
One of the key benefits of video is that we can add visual information to demonstrate our point. We could just TELL you we have a new feature – but by SHOWING it we can explain it much more effectively and that is where the value lies.
2. Cut the dead air
There are things we can show in a video which convey information simply by being there, without the viewer having to be explicitly told. As David explained, “there’s no need to start a video by saying ‘Hello, I’m here today to talk about…’ All of that information is implicit in the pictures; so get right to the point.”
Leave in all those introductory statements and you run the risk of viewers becoming bored and moving away. Cut them and your video instantly becomes less clunky and more engaging. The sooner you can get to the real story the better.
3. The first shot counts
It’s the reason the viewer makes the choice to continue watching. You may want to introduce an element of mystery. Don’t tell the viewer what’s happening straight away and they’ll be curious enough to keep watching. For instance, try starting with a tight close up that opens out to reveal the full story. Or, present a visually stimulating scene that creates intrigue. Create questions that the video promises to answer and your viewers will keep on watching.
4. Give it a punch line
As much as the first shot counts, the last one does too. Stand out and be remembered. Try a touch of humor (if that ties in with your brand image) or a strong call to action that sticks in the consumer’s mind.
5. Remember the audio!
It’s important to make sure the sound is clear. Carefully listen out for any microphone hiss or background noise that could be distracting/annoying to your viewers, and be sure to spare a thought for the background music you use – it can be a powerful way to build emotion.
We’re going to keep building on David’s advice throughout our blogs to refine what works for us as a company. But the main thing is that our videos bring value to you – our consumers. We want to bring you clear information in as engaging a way as possible and the only way we can do that is with feedback so tell us what you thought, we’d love to hear from you.
If you would like to watch the full version of the video head here.