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Jez Kay from nowhouse guest blogs: Top 10 video tips April 23, 2010

Posted by BCME UK in Social media.
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OK – so here are my 10 tips to put you on course for the kind of motion content you and your audience can be proud of. Some may seem obvious but it’s extraordinary how many forget or ignore the fundamentals. Remember, you stand a pretty fair chance of boosting your brand’s image and standing if it’s good. And of demoting it if it’s not!

1. What are you trying to say?
A clear message is essential, a necessary part of the planning process. One can get carried away. Brands often expect to cover all their ongoing key messages within one creative piece. Why is that? You should plan for coherence first and foremost. And non-brands are often just as guilty. Less is more. For the most part, your video will be largely promotional, so make the message clear, succinct and brief.

2. Who are you trying to say it to?
It doesn’t matter how good you are at documenting a moment (or even more than one moment) , think about who you’re addressing it to. If it’s decision-makers, put yourself in a buyer’s position. What would ring your bell. What is the call to action? If it’s an internal audience, say another department, what kind of messages are they after and are used to? What are the key triggers that will get the appropriate audience to react to your message.

3. Think of the first thing that needs to be done, then do it. Properly
Quite often video makers grab a camera, shoot, then hope for the best. Like reportage photographers, they’re waiting for the moment. For the most part, this will not work. Not in commercial surrounds, in any case. If you think that you’d like to shoot outside, pick the best location. If you think you’d like to incorporate other footage or brand imagery, then maybe you need green screen technology  to help you. Whatever you decide, it’s often this first decision that decides how successful your project’s going to be.

4. Make sure you understand your equipment
Whether it’s a flip or broadcast camera, freebie editing or funkiest new compositing software, it’s essential that you understand the fundamentals. Do you know why, for example, your mini camera isn’t focusing properly? Could it be the light? Are you using white balancing sensibly? Have you even thought about it? And do you understand how to pull a good chroma key , if attempting to replace the green screen?

5. You don’t need Pinewood
Whatever you decide to produce, remember that you really shouldn’t over-spec with production. The key things are how you plan your shoot (points 1, 2 and 3 above), direction and a good critical eye. Just because you don’t have the most modern cold lighting  or the latest HD solid state camera  does not on its own mean that you’re going to foul up your video creative. Work to your limits. You can achieve considerable amounts.

6. Think long and hard about the soundtrack. How are you going to produce it?
This is something very few videomakers think of when they produce. Of course, you don’t necessarily need a soundtrack. But if you’re making a promotional video, which involves creative thought and execution, then ordinarily you’ll need to consider it at the very least. Think of the mood and the context of the piece, then either a) create it yourself, b) get someone else to do it for you or c) download some royalty-free content  from the Web. Royalty-free still means that you just pay for the content and not (a royalty) every time someone watches your video.

7. Engagement is key
Essentially, your video should be engaging. For the most part you’ll be showing it online, in a fairly small rectangular section of your webpage. So ensure that the key subject of your sequence (whether it’s animal, vegetable or mineral) is prominent. And if it’s someone talking to camera (as is often the case) then ensure what they’re saying is interesting, articulated well, with good intonation. Interviews are particularly difficult to pull off convincingly, as the interviewee is not addressing the camera direct. So make sure you vary the camera framing. Zoom in, for example, when something particularly interesting looks like it’s about to be said.

8. A frame ain’t necessarily so. Is the subject centre, right, top, bottom?
Think creatively. It’s hard to be completely absurd with the camera. Sometimes the subject looks more interesting if they’re not bang smack in the middle of shot (this isn’t, professionally speaking, the done thing anyway). There are some “rules” you could apply but essentially the advice is this. Be confident. What do you think would be interesting?

9. Lighting is so important
It really is. Make sure you have good exposure. And, particularly when shooting someone indoors, get yourself some decent camera lights. Flat light on the subject can make them look dull, uninteresting. Shadow can be very compelling.

10. So is sound – use your ears
It’s very important to ensure that the sound quality is good, especially for online, where sound can be compromised in any case. If you have an audio input on your camera, it’s useful to have a good set of headphones with you. Again, be honest with what you hear. Is there background hum? Would you know what to do with this when it comes to post-production? Should you therefore wait until you’ve fixed the background hum?

There are so many more tips for video making. I’ve started with the ones I think are probably the most important. Because it’s at the outset of your project, then when you’re producing the source – the shoot – that are key to producing the best video content possible.