I’ve listed my top video tips here because I’m so fed up with seeing boring, badly-made videos. Please everyone, make BETTER video!
And not just on YouTube! We live in the age of fast consumption where video is everywhere from LinkedIn lives (yes they’re a thing now), to facebook cover videos. This should be great news for me because I love video! I love being engrossed in great stories and I love the way film and video allows me to glimpse how other people see the world. But I don’t love watching a boring video while hoping that the point is coming.., soon.
So here are my Top Ten Tips on how to make a video that people will enjoy watching:
Tip 10: Be Creative (or be brief)
The best video tool you have is your creativity. Use it to be different and original – you don’t have to be the same as anyone else.
Your viewers are important people who have given you their time so please don’t waste it by making them sit though a boring video. Think up ways to delight them with your creativity.
And if you can’t be creative then please, at the very least, be BRIEF! Leave a little bit for the follow-up video and you can leave your audience wanting more.
Tip 9: Include Everyone
I’m talking about accessibility and being careful to include people with disabilities as valuable members of your audience and customer-base.
Use closed or open captions for people with hearing impairments (and also for those scrolling through video with sound switched off). Captions can either be typed into your editor manually, or you can try rev.com who offer a captioning service allowing you to download an SRT file that can be uploaded to your video in YouTube – do make sure you check the file for spelling errors or misheard words before uploading.
Also be aware of your vision-impaired audience, who will not be able to read all your graphics so include voice-over. For artistic pieces you might consider adding audio description which the viewer can turn on or off (similar to closed captions).
Tip 7: Avoid Illegible Graphics
If you’re recording screen capture with voiceover then be aware of the size of the text.
If you’re using powerpoint slides, for instance, remember that powerpoint was designed to be projected onto a large wall, whereas your video audience are probably watching on a phone.
So avoid cramped areas of heavy text, space out written words, use them sparingly and ensure all fonts are both clear and HUGE!
Tip 5: Light It Up
Lighting is important but doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Good lighting can be as simple as opening the curtains and facing the window. Let the light shine on the face being filmed from in front or slightly to one side. When the lighting is really good, you’ll get catchlights which are the little squares of white light that appear in people’s eyes and bring your video to life.
If you’re using studio lights, don’t put them too close to your face or you’ll look washed out. Diffused lights give a softer and more flattering appearance, smoothing out your skin. Watch out for ring-lights however, as if they’re too close or directly in front, they’ll cast a very unnatural catchlight (pictured).
Tip 4: Sound Check
Audio recording devices can pick up noises that your brain has tuned out, e.g., a refrigerator hum, a fan, air conditioning or traffic. Your ears are far less forgiving than your eyes – we may tolerate poor colour, framing or focus, but add some annoying background noise and viewers will switch off.
Quick Audio Fixes:
- Find a quiet space and pay attention to mechanical hums and noises.
- Close windows and doors to block out external noise.
- If your recording space contains smooth surfaces that sound will bounce off (e.g. a bathroom) placing a towel under the recording device will help absorb some of that bounce.
- Consider using a second sound recording device as back-up (e.g. a phone or iPad or a decent recorder if you have one – I’ve been known to hide zoom recorders in flower arrangements at weddings, just in case).
- Finally, and this is the important one, you need a good signal:noise ratio (SNR). The signal is the sound that you are trying to record (e.g., your voice) and this must be significantly louder than any background noise. For better SNR, move the mic closer to the signal and away from the noise – so if recording a voice, the mic should be as close to the face as possible and then you can turn down your levels so only the voice is audible.
Tip 3: Bin the Script
When doing a piece to camera, you should know your subject and the points you want to make. However, if you know the exact words you’re going to say, then you’ll just sound wooden and over-rehearsed. Most of us aren’t actors and we can’t read a script while still coming across as authentic and natural – that’s why Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks are on the big money, their talent is rare.
Another mistake is placing written notes nearby in case you “get stuck”. This is a bad idea because when you glance at your notes, that eye-movement is exaggerated by the camera and portrays you as being insincere. Conversely, if you did become stuck, then you’d actually come across as being more authentic in the viewers’ eyes for your stumble. Tripping up on camera is actually better than trying to be perfect.
Tip 2: Set The Stage
Imagine a video about healthy living where an empty pizza box is clearly visible behind the speaker… How would that undermine their message and credibility? Or how about the above scene from Game of Thrones where the accidental coffee cup undermines the scene credibility?
When you present a video to your audience, every little thing in your scene becomes a part of the message you’re conveying. In film-making we call it mise-en-scène which literally means to set the stage. Always ensure your space is camera-ready and perhaps leave some interesting items about if they’re appropriate to the subject of the video. When filming in an office, clear away the clutter – hide your piles of files, cardboard boxes and anything that might look unprofessional.
Check what’s behind you.
Un-ironed backdrops are a new issue. While backdrops are a really good idea to hide poor backgrounds, they’re prone to creasing so fix this with ironing, steaming or tension frames to get a smooth background with no mess.
Tip 1: Don’t be a BORING talking head
So you want to tell the viewer about yourself or your product or service. Many people simply switch on the camera and start talking, giving a fully exhaustive description of their offering and their ‘Why’ (which often involves a long story). This results in the kind of video we call a “talking head”. While the face might be beautiful, friendly or animated, nobody wants to stare at a face for that long – it’s BORING!!
Staring at someone’s face can be uncomfortably intense and humans are hard-wired to give our attention to anything that moves and changes – a survival instinct we’ve retained from prehistoric times. If you can’t be briefer, then try to mix it up a little by showing something new every 15 seconds or so. This can be anything other than your face (e.g., some props).
For edited pieces, film some cutaway shots (aka B-Roll) and insert these strategically. Examples include footage to illustrate a point, details from the room you’re filming in (e.g., a close-up of that interesting painting behind the person speaking) or details of the speaker such as a close up of their ear as they brush a strand of hair behind it, their hands clasped on the table before them, crossed feet where maybe one foot is wagging or tapping, a wrist as someone adjusts their watch, etc. Think about how when you’re talking with someone, you’ll often look away from their face perhaps noticing their jewellery, or glancing out the window and try to replicate these momentary distractions in film.
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