Personal Small Business Enterprise

Getting Started with Video Marketing, Part 3

In my first post on this subject, I outlined five good reasons why you should incorporate video into your website and other marketing activities. I followed that up with a post describing the basic equipment you need to make videos in-house, and some things to keep in mind as you go shopping for that gear.

In this post, I’d like to go a little further and teach you some basic videography techniques. These are not going to make you a professional, but they will help you make the most of your basic equipment and to avoid some of the more common pitfalls.

First and foremost, you need to define your objectives
What are you hoping your video will achieve? Are you trying to explain your product? Introduce your company and its people? Establish someone as a thought leader on a given subject matter? What do you want viewers to take away?

These considerations will all affect how you approach the video. If you’re demonstrating a product, for example, you will probably spend most of the time showing the product, with a narrator talking over the scenes being shot. Showcasing the expertise of one of your people, on the other hand, lends itself better to an approach wherein a host interviews the subject-matter expert.

Write a script
Begin with an outline. The objectives you set will help you get started. Does your audience need to understand one concept before moving on to another? What’s the natural flow of how your ideas and concepts need to be presented?

Build from your outline. If you are going to voice over product footage, it would be best to write out the whole script. If you are doing an interview format, by all means share the questions with the respondent so he or she can prepare. However, respondents often sound better — and more convincing — if they answer naturally instead of from a script.

Practice your script out loud. Words that look fine on paper can be tongue twisters when you sound them out, or your sentence structure may have awkward pauses that become apparent only when you read them out loud.

Select your location
Where will you be shooting your video? Scout out locations in advance and pay close attention to factors that will have an impact on your video quality.

Will it be indoors or outside? If indoors, where is the light going to come from? Avoid a mix of artificial and natural light. Cover up or avoid light sources, such as windows, that will be in the background and draw the eye away from the subject or even interfere with your exposure. Outdoors, avoid the harsh, direct light of an hour or so each side of noon. Even better, use shade, which diffuses the sunlight and makes for more balanced lighting.

Whether indoors or out, pay attention to ambient noises. Something that we hardly pay attention to under normal circumstances can be really bothersome on video.

Consider the frame
Pay attention to everything that can be seen in the frame. What’s in the background? Is it brighter than the subject, or is there something in the background that’s moving? Either of these will draw the eye away from the subject. Is everybody comfortably in the shot? You don’t want to cut people off at the edges of the frame.

Framing also refers to how tight your shot is. There are generally three kinds of shots, each used for different purposes:

  • Long shot: This is most often used to set context, with the focus on the setting or the environment. It might be a long shot of your office building or manufacturing line, for example, or of the audience in a room with the camera panning to the stage.
  • Medium shot: This would focus on two or three people from about the waist up, or on a product in a setting that gives it context.
  • Close-up: With people, this is a tight shot where a single face takes up most of the frame. With a product, it’s a similarly tight close-up on the product or even a specific part of it.

Given that you may not have multiple cameras that can cut from one to the other to provide some variety in your framing, it’s generally a good idea to shoot the whole video first in a long shot and then in a medium, and then choose between them during editing. Close ups can be shot for specific scenes where you need to get that kind of detail.

Extra tips

  • If you’re interviewing someone, start with familiar questions that are easy to answer, even if they have nothing to do with the script. It’s a good way to help people relax and get accustomed to being on camera.
  • Similarly, get the person to try to focus on a single spot when they’re answering, such as your eyes, the camera lens or some spot off camera. Even slight movements of the head become exaggerated on video and so can be quite distracting.
  • Pay attention to continuity. One of my favourite games when watching a movie is to spot those places where something has changed between shots — a collar that was buttoned up is now unbuttoned, and so on. This happens when you edit together shots that were taken out of sequence.
  • Panning, zooming and cutting from one shot to another are your best friends; they can make a video far more interesting. When used too often, however, they become your worst enemy, distracting from your finished product.

The bottom line
Video is easier and cheaper to produce than ever before, and its power as a marketing tool is beyond dispute. So don’t hesitate to jump in and try your hand. You can only get better over time, so the sooner you start, the sooner you’ll be yelling “Action!” like a seasoned veteran.

What are your experiences with shooting your own video for marketing? What tips would you share with first times? Share your feedback in the comments, below.

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