You’ve probably seen plenty of articles touting the marvels of online video. Video can be an extremely effective way to connect and share online. Just look at the success of Gary Vaynerchuk. He used his daily video show, WineLibraryTV to attract hundreds of thousands of fans and grow his wine business from $4 million to $50 million. It’s true! Just ask him. And there are many more like him.

Taking the plunge into online video is scary for a lot of people. Video has long been seen as a very complicated, expensive and mysterious process. That’s because back in the old days, before the Internet, before pocket video cameras, it was. If you wanted to create video, you had to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on equipment, have specialized skills that you probably learned in college, and have hours and hours of time to devote. It simply wasn’t accessible for the average person.

These days, most of us have at least one, if not more video cameras. We have web cams, flip cams, and cameras on our cell phones. Even our little point and shoot still cameras have video now. And the editing tools are plentiful too. Simple to use, free tools like iMovie (Mac) and Windows Movie Maker (PC) are standard equipment on your computer. So with all these tools available now, anyone can be a professional quality video maker, right? Well, not quite. Just have a look at YouTube and you’ll see that there’s still more bad video out there than good. Of course, the best way to make sure you have the best quality possible with your videos is to hire a pro (yes, shameless self promotion. : )

Unfortunately, for many small business owners on a budget, paying for a professional video company to produce simple web videos is not always an option. The good news is, there are some ways to experiment with DIY video in a low-cost, but effective way. But before you hit that record button, here are a few tips to give your videos a more professional edge. For the sake of brevity, let’s assume that the type of video you’re going to do is a “talking head” – so you, in front of the camera, talking or demonstrating something. In a later post, we can cover producing more complex videos with multiple shots if you like (let me know in the comments).

Turn on the Lights!

I can’t even count how many online videos are done by the glow of the computer screen. You know the type – grainy, underexposed shots of someone’s head, with the computer screen casting an alien-like blue light across their face. It just looks bad, and can definitely be a turn off to your viewers and prospects.

Video cameras are much less light-sensitive than our eyes. This means, in order to have a nice, clear image with good colour, cameras need plenty of light. Now, this doesn’t mean you have to go out and purchase Hollywood-style lighting for your office. But do turn on the lights. Try to avoid overhead lights though – they can cast weird, harsh, nose-enlargening shadows. Shooting your video in a room that has lots of natural light is best. Just make sure that you don’t shoot with your back to a window – unless you want to be a mysterious silhouette!

If you don’t have a lot of natural light available, then go to your local Swedish home decorating store and buy one of those $15 desk lamps. Place the lamp next to the camera, off to one side and point the bulb at your face (this works best if you’re within a few feet of the camera). Often that will be enough light to make a difference. If the background still looks too dark, get another lamp and put it behind you, and shine it across the wall./ Make sure you place it off to the side so it’s out of the shot and far enough away that it doesn’t create a bright spot in the camera frame.

Decent lighting is one of the most important things you can do to create good video. So turn on those lights and repeat after me – no more grainy video!

Turn up the Volume!

The other thing that makes a video seem unprofessional is bad audio. If the sound is too quiet, or so loud it’s distorted, or if there’s a bunch of background noise, it can be very distracting and take away from your message entirely. Invest in a decent quality microphone – there are plenty of USB mics out there that will plug right into your computer. The Snowball is a popular choice. If you’re shooting with a camera that has a mic input, get yourself a small bug, or lavalier mic that you can clip on your lapel. One other option is to use a digital audio recorder, like the spiffy Zoom H4n. It has an extremely sensitive microphone and can plug right into your computer or camera.

When you’re ready to record, make sure you try to reduce or eliminate as much background noise as possible. This means, turning off any loud fans (furnace fans, hard drive fans, etc.) and locking up the pets and the kids and the spouses for a few minutes. If you can, listen on headphones before you record. Microphones can pick up sounds our ears don’t always hear. So hear what your microphone hears, and then you’ll know that it sounds okay.

Practice makes Perfect

Presenting to the camera well is a lot harder than it looks. The pros make it look easy, but when suddenly you’re staring down the lens of this cold, inanimate camera, it can feel quite strange. It’s easy to freeze up, and seem sort of stiff and rehearsed. The only way to really overcome this is to practice. Everyone hates seeing themselves on camera and hearing their own voice for the first time. But stick with it, and you’ll get used to it (notice I didn’t say you’ll ever love it!).

Try not to read off a screen, it will be really obvious that you’re reading. Instead, think of it like giving a presentation. Make notes and think about what you’re going to say ahead of time. Then practice it, as many times as you need to in order for it to feel comfortable. I can’t stress enough, you will feel REALLY weird at first. Your inner voice will tell you that you sound and look ridiculous. But keep trying, and that inner voice will eventually quiet. Play your video back and see how you can improve it. Maybe you say “um” too much (a common problem). Maybe you’re babbling, or not being clear enough. Keep trying.

Talking to a camera takes practice, but persevere. You’ll get there!

Video can be a fun, interesting and inexpensive way to connect and share with your audience. Why not give it a try, and post a link to your video in the comments?

[photo by louisvolant]

6 Responses

  1. Great tips, for even better lighting take your budget desk lamp and point it at a white wall or a piece of white foam board off to the side of so the light reflects back toward your face. This will give you a much softer light with fewer harsh shadows, and you’ll look even better.
    Want more? Get “daylight balanced” bulbs which put out a nicer colour of light that your video camera finds easier to work with. 🙂

  2. Unclutter the background, remember the rule of thirds and position your face using the Golden Ratio. Pause for 3 seconds before you start talking. Pause 3 seconds after you stop talking. Your editor will thank you, even if you is he.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *