HOW TO: Using Video Effectively – Part II

In our last video post titled: HOW TO: Using Video Effectively – Part I, we talked mainly about why you should consider adding web video to your content offerings and how you can use finished clips to promote your business. In this installment we’re going to talk about the nuts and bolts of actually creating your video content.

There are two schools of thinking when it comes to creating video. The first is that you invest in hiring someone with pro camera gear, lighting and know-how to create a professional and polished finished product. The other option is that you get creative with your iPhone or Flip Camera and create something that feels grittier and more user-generated. I don’t think there is necessarily a “right” answer here. It just depends on how you want your brand to be perceived and the resources you have at your disposal.

If you can afford to hire an agency to create, direct and produce your content for you, then have at it. They should be able to move your project in the right direction. That said, this post is geared more towards those that want to get started in video and want to take a more DIY approach. I’ll warn you, it won’t always be easy and you’ll definitely encounter your fair share of challenges, but if you stick with it the end result will be rewarding.

DECIDING ON A FORMAT

Now that you’ve squared away your budget, you have to decide what the meat of your video is going to be. Are you doing product reviews, interviews with tastemakers and influencers or screencast product demos? You need to decide what format is going to have the most impact on your viewers. For example, if you run a fashion blog you’ll probably get the most traction out of interviewing up-and-coming designers. Selling software? You’ll probably want to highlight your product through a series of screencasts. The format you choose will set the tone of your video series going forward so put some thought into it.

EMBRACE BREVITY

With so many choices available online, the average attention span has dwindled down to next to nothing. It’s hard enough to get people to watch your video in the first place. You’ll loose them for sure if you saddle them with a 27-minute piece that drags on and on. My advice is to keep your videos to 10 minutes or less unless there is a compelling reason for them to be longer. If you have lots of information to cover consider breaking them into bite-sized sections and creating a multi-part series. This will not only make your videos more approachable to your audience, but will also provide you with more content to share and promote.

TAKE CARE WITH AUDIO AND LIGHTING

The two biggest mistakes I see in amateur video production are poor audio and bad lighting. Both can ruin an otherwise great video.

First, let’s talk lighting. I always try to shoot outdoors if possible. There is something about the warm glow of natural light that makes people’s skin tones light up and look great on video (there’s a reason we shoot most “Chatting with ePN” segments outside). If you have to shoot inside, try to find a location with lots of windows or at least a lot of lamps or ceiling lighting. Shooting an iPhone video in a dark corner just won’t cut it.

Next, most people underestimate the importance that sound plays in a great video. If possible use a camera that has an external microphone input. This will allow you to use a handheld mic for interviews or a lapel mic for one-person video segments. Pretty much every camera can be rigged with an external microphone – even an iPhone. If for some reason you can’t work a mic into your shoot, then it’s imperative that you find a quiet place to shoot to minimize background noise. Trying to do a video update on your Flip Cam from the trade show floor may not cut it.

VIDEOLICIOUS

About a month ago I discovered the secret weapon of iPhone video shooting. It’s called Videolicious and it’s a free app that lets you create a fairly professional video piece with absolutely no editing experience whatsoever. I could try and explain it, but I think it would easier to show you an example of a video I put together for my personal blog.

I created that video in about 20 minutes. First, I filmed short clips of New York and BlogWorld Expo. Then I told a brief story while sitting in my hotel room. After I was happy with that take, I selected soundtrack music from the Videolicious library. Finally, I uploaded the finished video to YouTube from my Phone and published it to my blog.

I used this tool for a quick diary update from BlogWorld New York, but imagine what you could do with more time and some imagination. Oh, and Videolicious is FREE.

EDIT CAREFULLY

Editing is a good thing. It trims the fat and helps viewers focus on the most important parts of the content. It can also add polish to your project by adding titles and graphics. That said, I would caution you to not get sucked into the Hollywood trailer mentality. More is not always better. Try to keep your videos more organic and let the quality of your content tell your story rather than relying on flashy editing. I think your users will put more stock in its authenticity.

ENCODING

If you’re uploading content directly from your phone, the encoding decisions will be made for you. If you happen to be using an editing program like Final Cut Pro, Adobe Premiere or even iMovie, you’ll want to take some care in dialing in your encoding parameters for the best possible sound and picture. YouTube and Vimeo offer their own suggestions and are a great place to start. From there you can tweak various settings to your liking.

TAKING THE LEAP

Like most things in life the best way to get better at producing video is to just do it. You’ll start to develop your own tips, tricks and workflows and your videos will get better.

I know a lot of you already produce video content on your website. What have you learned about producing video that could be helpful to other publishers? What are some of your best tips and tricks? Please leave a constructive comment below.