vzaar - The professional video platform blog Min vzaar site
vzaar is an online video hosting service with fantastic features that are designed for business. Deliver to mobile or the web straight from your site.

Archive for Video Production

Video on A Shoestring: Kit List

article by:

You know the stats. You know that video attracts visitors and engages them. You know the SEO benefits and the high conversion rates (and if you don’t take a look at the figures here).

But. Getting started with video can seem daunting. Often the cost is deemed too high. Has your boss ever told you video is “too expensive” or “we don’t have the budget”? And we’re no different. We have a budget to spend (and stretch!) too.

So what if I told you that you could make your own videos in house. And spend less than £1000 (that’s just over $1500).

Yup. The good news is there is a lot of fantastic (and cheap!) kit around that you can use.

The bad news is it can take a lot of time and research to find it.

So skip all that. We already did the research.

Our Kit List:

Camera : Canon EOS 600D / T3i ~£400 / $660

Although this isn’t the most recent offering from Canon, it still does a really good job of recording HD video. Capable of full HD 1080p recording, it’s easy to set up, and always seems to produce really watchable assets

Lens : Canon 50mm EF1.8 ~£80 / $130

Whilst you could use the kit lens that normally comes with the camera (18-55mm 4.5-5.6), we wanted something that looked a little sharper. This lens is amazingly cheap for the results you get. A 50mm lens, when used on a small frame camera like the 600d, gives a nice slightly telephoto feel that’s very flattering for portraiture.

As we don’t have a lighting rig to rely upon, the wide F1.8 aperture means we can get away with using only ambient light. Another bonus of the wide aperture is it allows us to throw everything behind the subject well out of focus, saving on the need for background screen

Tripod : Hama Star 63 ~£20 / $35

When using a DSLR without a camera “rig”, it’s almost impossible to get a steady shot. So keep things simple, and use a tripod.

This tripod is taller than many others in the budget range. When you are filming someone talking to the camera, you want the camera to be around level with the subject’s head. A shorter tripod would either need to be placed on something to raise it up, or only be used to shoot a subject that was sitting down.

Microphone : Rhode NTG2 Shotgun mic ~£160 / $265

We used to use a USB studio microphone to record audio, but because it needed to be right up near to the subject’s mouth, it massively limited the shots we could use.

This shotgun mic, whilst still needing to be close to the audio source, does allow a much wider array of shot options. Being a Rhode product, it’s also noticeably higher quality in a like for like test

Audio Recorder : Zoom H4n ~£220 / $365

When you use a standalone mic, you need something to record the output. The H4n is doing a brilliant job. It’s portable enough to hang around the neck if you’re changing locations or shooting a moving scene. It also doubles as an audio interface if you wanted to record the audio directly onto your computer.

Mic stand and cable : ~£40 / $65

And, of course, you need a stand to hold the mic and a cable to connect it to the Zoom. Spending more money on these can get a higher quality cable and a more versatile mic stand that will extend above the subjects head for example, but you can easily make do with the budget versions.

Total : £920 / $1525

Remember that just because you have the right kit doesn’t mean your video will be perfect – you have to know how to use it too! If you’ve got some in house talent, but a tight budget, this is the kit we recommend. Of course there are many other bits of kit that we haven’t tried. This is just what works for us. And if it works for us, it could work for you too.

Why not try renting for a day or two, make sure you can do what you want to do with it. And then you’re good to go.

Making Your Own Video On A Budget

Categories Video Inspiration, Video Production
Comments (2)

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….

Photo Credit: ianus via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: ianus via Compfight cc

“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.

1. Learn the visual alphabet

Sketching with the visual alphabet

Photo Credit: 72440charger via Compfight cc

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.

2. Sketch a lot

Creating storyboards

Photo Credit: alexis.j. via Compfight cc

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.

3. Get a digital drawing pad

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).

4. Start with key frames

Video Key Frames

Photo Credit: 2DKatie via Compfight cc

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.

5. Use PowerPoint

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.

Ever watched a movie and the actor’s clothing suddenly changes between shots?

Or maybe that prop they were holding magically switched hands?

That’s a continuity error. And these errors can be very distracting if you have too many of them in your video marketing.

If you’re shooting over a couple of days or in different locations it’s a good idea to have someone at the shoot whose job it is to look out for these kind of mistakes.


Monitoring video continuity isn’t quite as simple as watching out for a change in clothes or prop placement.

There are a few more subtle things you should be looking out for. Things, which if you don’t get them right, will throw off the whole look of your video.

Sound, lighting & color temperature should all match up

Sound, lighting & color temperature should all match up

1. Sound

For most cases you’ll want to be using the same mic throughout the entire filming of your video.

Take care to position the mic the same distance away from your audio source in each shot. Otherwise, you’ll end up with some louder/quieter sections – an unwanted distraction to your all- important marketing message.

Listen out for background noises. It’s really annoying if, for example, in one shot you have a bit of traffic noise, which pops up and cuts out when the take switches.

2. Lighting

You might find that you need to do a few pickups of certain scenes that you didn’t quite get right the first time around. Pickups have the potential to kill your video continuity if you don’t get them right.

It’s really important to get the lighting as similar as possible to the original takes.

Film your pickups at the same time of day as you did the original shoot. The light will be entering the room in the same position so each shot will match up.

3. Color Balance

If the color of your video changes from take to take it can stick out like a sore thumb.

Different light types all have a slightly different color. Daylight is a bit blue, where as candlelight is more orange.

There are 2 things you can do to balance these colors out and ensure your video continuity is top notch.
- set the color balance on your camera
- match up the colors of the clips in the edit.

Color balance on the camera

Years ago getting the right color balance meant choosing specific film and filters. Nowadays most modern cameras have a color balance setting. It’s normally set to auto, and will try to make everything look like you’re shooting in daylight.

Leave it on auto if mid day sunshine is the look you’re going for. Otherwise, play with setting it manually if you require more control or are after a different effect.

Color balance in the video edit

Once you have your footage back in the video-editing suite, it’s not uncommon to find further balancing is required. Use a color-balancing filter to match all your clips together so your edit takes on one continuous hue.

At vzaar we use Final Cut Pro x for our video editing. This has a Match Color setting available by default on any video clip you highlight.

Interested in learning more video production tips? Check out our free guide to setting up a slick video production – without breaking the budget.

Making Your Own Video On A Budget

Categories Video Production
Comments (0)

As a video hosting company we see a lot of different types of video content being distributed online.

From one minute in length to an over an hour, your video can be uploaded to vzaar. We took a look through our numbers from the past year to try and answer the question…

“How long should my video be?”

Answer: Keep it snappy
Average Video Length

  • 24% of business videos online are less than 1 minute long
  • Videos less than 10 minutes long accounted for 78% of online business videos

For business videos, it appears that short is most definitely sweet.

Perhaps because a lot of them are promotional in nature.

Short promotional videos work well because…

  • People have short attention spans.Studies have shown that our attention spans are getting smaller and smaller. Down from 12 minutes just a few years ago to 5 minutes. In the digital age information is at our fingertips like never before. The easy access to information means people are less willing to hang around and wait to hear what you’ve got to say.

  • People are busy. If they see your video is a long one they might not be willing to invest the time it takes to watch it.

  • Often, it can be hard to see the clutter until you actively try and cut it. Giving yourself a time limit will help you to sort the wheat from the chafe; encouraging you to convey the important information clearly and concisely. The result? Your video will feel snappier and more engaging.

Do longer form videos have a place?

Just because the data tells us that the average video length is under 10 minutes, doesn’t mean that long form content is completely ruled out.

It all goes back to understanding the type of content your audience are looking for and what video length they’re most likely to respond to.

For example, educational content like training videos, online lessons and webinars can all work well. Here the viewer is getting a lot of value from the content and it is therefore more worth their while to stay in it for the long haul.

Bear in mind though, that it is typically reported that the maximum attention span of the average adult is 20 minutes. Once you go beyond that point you might have a hard time getting the viewer to stick around.

And this was mirrored in our data, with a sharp dip in the number of business videos that go over 15 minutes in length.

long form average video length

So, back to the original question:

How long should your video be?

Well, for promotional videos the shorter the better, around the 1 minute mark is best.

For education and training videos go for under 15 minutes to ensure your students maintain their focus. If your lessons are typically longer than this try breaking them into smaller, more digestible chunks.

Categories Video Production
Comments (1)

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.

Sound familiar?

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.

1. Accept mistakes

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.

2. Get someone to smile behind the camera

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.

3. Read through

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.

4. Move around

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.

5. Don’t worry (too much) about the script

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.

Making Your Own Video On A Budget

Categories Video Production
Comments (0)