Video is a powerful form of content and it is becoming more and more common on even the smallest business’s website. However, just because there is a lot of it, doesn’t mean that it is all of the best quality. Or even moderate quality. Most of it is rubbish. Getting good at the process requires time, patience and practice. Or a budget to outsource.
If you’re going the DIY route, making a video for the first time won’t yield amazing results. Even the second, third and fourth attempts might leave you with a less than satisfactory video. There are two key factors to get better:
Start small and keep it simple
Your first videos don’t need to be elaborate. In fact, you can’t do elaborate. You have iMovie and an iPhone.
If you’re capturing footage of people or scenes (as opposed to solely using still images and graphics), use a tripod. There are some good ones that fit most smartphones and they aren’t expensive. It doesn’t matter how steady you think your hand is, it’s not steady enough. If your skills advance and you want to start making camera moves, then you can consider some form of selfie stick. Bear in mind, people study and work for decades to get good at meaningful camera movement, so if you’re just selling tiles or something, don’t even bother.
If you need to have field audio, such as people talking or ambience (wind through trees, the ocean, couples fighting in the park), invest in a microphone. There are hundreds available, at a range of prices that reflect not only their quality, but often their versatility. At the moment, you just need one that works with your phone.
Write a screenplay. At the most basic level, this means:
- Write the narrative
- Figure out the background
- Maybe write dialogue
- Map any camera movement or changes of angle
Film it. Take as long as you need to get every scene right.
Watch every piece of footage as you go, listen for audio quality, look for camera shake, and any other errors. If you don’t like it at this point, it’s better to just film it again until you do. It’s easier than trying to make bad footage work in the post-production phase. If you’ve filmed well, it makes the editing phase a lot easier.
Edit carefully and again, take the time to do it well.
Try to make as few cuts as possible and don’t try chop up dialogue at all. The cut points are the best places to put any full-screen graphics and angle changes. Pay attention and make the audio as seamless as possible when cutting to footage taken at a different angle, and listen for sudden changes in background noise. Use audio crossfades to smooth the transitions. And avoid using screen wipes because they just looks cheesy outside of Indiana Jones and Star Wars. No one is impressed by a star wipe.
And recognise your weak points
Once you’ve got the final edited film, it is important to take a critical eye to the final results. Put aside your pride and look and listen.
- Is there any loud background noise that detracts from the dialogue?
- Do the actors say their lines well?
- Was the lighting right?
- Is the editing smooth and professional?
- How is the camera work?
Sometimes you need to look at it and answer one question honestly:
Is it boring?
Most of the time, the answer is probably yes.
How can you make it not boring?
Making interesting and engaging videos takes a lot of practice or a lot of money to pay people who’ve already put in the practice. If you don’t have that kind of budget, then the following are some further tips for the DIY inclined:
- Try a variety of camera angles. Even changing the angle once or twice can add some energy to a scene.
- Use cutaways and graphics. iMovie is so simple and so easy that there is really no excuse for not including scene breaks and onscreen graphics. You just drag and drop them. I am sure there is a Windows or Linux equivalent, but I’m not sure they’d be free with the OS like iMovie is.
- Put some music on it. Garageband is easy to use and comes with a whole lot of free loops. Stick them together virtually any which way, and you’re almost guaranteed a song. Again, there are many alternatives for Windows and Linux. Reaper is one that springs to mind. There is also a whole world of stock music around, often it is free, or you could commission a composer to make you something bespoke.
- Don’t try too hard to be funny. Enthusiastic delivery and a smile are more engaging than puns and sub-Christmas-cracker-level jokes. Have someone else read your script. Don’t be too proud to change it if the reaction is underwhelming.