Shooting Your Own Video – Common Mistakes

So, you want to create a video for your blog or monthly newsletter? Great idea, online videos are hugely popular and are a great way to increase engagement, click-through rates, and conversions. Since hiring a professional video production company is not in your budget or isn’t practical for your situation, you’ve decided to create your own video content. Besides, the Verizon guy made sure to point out how amazing the video capabilities are on your phone, so it is time to kick the tires on that little baby.

You wrote a great script, you have the camera, the drive, and your inner Seacrest is ready to shine… that is when things go terribly wrong. The following are three common pitfalls that can torpedo even the best video intentions:

  1. Lighting – An under or poorly lit scene is a sure-fire way to kill your video. You don’t need expensive professional light fixtures, but your first step should be to identify the main light source in your scene. Typically this is a large window (if you are shooting inside during the day), but could be the sun itself, overhead lights, or a nearby lamp. Standing in front of the window or light source is the quickest way to sink your video. Instead, position yourself so you are facing the light source and then turn about 45 degrees away from the light. Additional lamps can be used to light your background, or positioned on the other side of you (away from the window) to create a more even light across your face.
  1. Audio – Poor audio is the first giveaway of an amateur video and another very common web video mistake. Generally when people think of creating their own video they consider the script, picture, and delivery, but rarely do they think, “Can my audience actually hear what I am saying?” Using an external microphone is always a good idea and almost always required to get great sound. You don’t need the same mics used to record the Beatles White Album, but you should never rely on a built in, on-board microphone. These types of microphones, like the one on your iPhone, are omnidirectional and pick up any noise around your camera, like your computer fan, the receptionist next door, and even traffic outside. Using an external shotgun or lavalier microphone is the way around this problem. Professional wired and wireless mics for video cameras are relatively affordable (especially if you are going to do this a lot), but there are also options out there for your phone: http://www.smartlav.com/
  1. Framing/Composition – Your one-minute of video is worth 1.8 million words (no, seriously, Dr. James McQuivey of Forrester Research counted), so what your audience sees says a lot about you and your business. Creating a visually interesting scene is critical to a successful video and also a common stumbling block. After setting up your lights, you want to place yourself and the camera in a manner that creates interest for the audience. Stage your background (add artwork, plants, brightly colored walls, but no computer screens, light sources, or windows) and then be sure to position yourself a good 5-10 feet in front of that background. Arrange yourself and other foreground objects (furniture, props, the dog) as best you can by following the Rule Of Thirds (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rule_of_thirds). If you are using your phone, resist the common urge to orient it vertically. For starters, nobody needs to see your feet, unless it’s a video about shoes. Secondly, by shooting horizontally you conform to the way online videos are displayed and your video won’t end up on youTube sideways or with big black sidebars. Lastly, make sure you can see the top of your head and just a few inches above it, because unless you are impersonating Lincoln, nobody needs to see all of your invisible top hat.

Of course there are many more tricks and tips that can help make your web videos more awesome, but paying attention to these three common mistakes will get you on the right track. Hopefully, you are now empowered to go try these techniques out and make great video, but if you are feeling overwhelmed, just call Sidecar and we can help ease your video production pain. Happy shooting!