Tips for Creating Professional-Quality Web Videos

A YouTube video is not only a powerful and easily searchable way to market your products but it can show aspects of your work that can’t be revealed in still images, such as how your products are designed and made and even testimonials from satisfied customers.

While videos demonstrating your craft can be helpful to your business, you may not always have funds to hire a professional to create a video. However, the last thing you want to do is to make a video that make viewers cringe – or worse yet, click away – because of poor sound, lighting or camera techniques.

“Like most people I started out with a basic video camera and no lighting…the videos looked awful!” says Tiffany Hendra, host and producer of Beverly Hills-based web series, “Sanctuary of Style”, http://sanctuaryofstyle.net/.  “Through lots of trial and error I figured out what is most effective at capturing an audience.”

Learn some tried and true tips from Hendra and other YouTube video experts to produce professional quality videos that you’ll be proud to put online for the world to see:

Plan First

Hendra says that pre-production is key to a successful video: “Have a location in mind, a specific product to highlight and hire a spokesperson if you are not camera-friendly,” she suggests.

Alicia Arinella, president and CEO of On the Leesh Productions, http://corporatevideo.ontheleesh.com/, which has produced many business videos for artisans, suggests that you practice being on camera before you begin to shoot. 

“Everyone always assumes that they’ll be completely comfortable while the camera is rolling and that is almost never the case,” she says. “There is an odd feeling when that red light goes on … People get nervous and suddenly things that they do every day feel foreign and uncomfortable.”

Take a lot of time to think and rehearse what you will say, what you will do and how you will do it, Arinella says. “Go over and over it so that once you're recording, and the nerves take over, you'll still have a sense of what you're doing,” she advises.

Have a Goal for the Video

Think about what your end goal is for the video. Are you showcasing yourself as an expert, or are you trying to sell products? Is there something that you can offer that competitors can't?

“If you're clear about the end goal of the video then you'll be better at crafting your script and editing the footage,” says Arinella. For example, if you're producing a video that highlights a pottery class that you offer, you may want to showcase your personality and interaction with the students. However, if you are trying to emphasize your pottery pieces you sell, your “teaching” personality will matter less, and your skill set will matter more.

Storyboard your video before you do anything technical, suggests Jennifer McKinney, who works in video direction and production at BCRA http://www.bcradesign.com/, a design company based in Tacoma, Wash., with branch offices throughout the U.S.

Storyboarding does not have to be fancy – simply get a piece a paper and start drawing. “You will start to be surprised at how many shots you will require for a three minute video. A storyboard helps you do everything from plan the days of your shoot to what equipment or additional help you will need to rent,” says McKinney.

Keep it Short and Sweet

Mark Shapiro, editor-in-chief of Internet Video Magazine (http://www.internetvideomag.com/), a guide on how to make web video, says that there are several telltale signs of an amateur video: bad audio, jerky camera work, jump cuts and unreadable graphics. But perhaps the biggest sin is a video that is just too long. Shapiro suggests that YouTube videos be kept short, “… one to two minutes tops,” he suggests.

Arinella agrees:  “People tire of web videos quickly…Get in, show your stuff and get out.”  If you feel that you have too much to say to include in a two minute video, break it down to segments and post each individually in a YouTube series.

Use Pro-Quality– Or Tailor Your Existing Equipment
 
Even the most inexpensive video gear can be easily (and cheaply) setup properly to get professional-looking results.

First, make sure that you buy – or borrow – a good HD (high definition) camera Hendra suggests: “Your product will jump off the computer screen and will be seen easily from any type of computer, smart phone or iPad.  The colors are amazing too.”

While most video cameras come with handy internal microphones, these are less than ideal for shooting quality videos, writes Rich Day in his blog, Traffic Bumper.com (http://www.trafficbumper.com/), a site with tips on how to make effective online videos. 

“The microphone on the camera picks up every sound in the room – echoes and all,” he writes.  “The sound will be distant, boom-y and hard to understand.” 

The problem is easy to fix, Day notes, with a simple external microphone (that will cost about $30 on eBay), or a pricier shotgun microphone (which will set you back $250 to $350). 

Also, use as much light as possible when shooting – but don’t shine it directly on your subject, instead bounce it off the walls or in the corner of a room. “Many problems are solved with throwing more light on the subject…the picture will be sharper,” says Day. Also invest in a tripod. If you can’t afford one, place the camera on a sturdy chair or ladder.  “Don't try to hand hold a camera...it just doesn't work very well,” notes Day.

McKinney suggests planning out a budget.  You may want to rent proper equipment with a high quality user-friendly camera, plus a lighting and audio package, but this does not need to be prohibitively expensive:  “Many cities have at least one filmmaker-friendly arts center where you can rent equipment and use their facilities for post production,” says McKinney. She suggests you find one near you and establish a relationship. “Many of these places can offer help with the post-production if you aren’t savvy with programs like (Apple’s) Final Cut,” she says.

Learn Editing Techniques

Your video camera may have editing features already installed – read the manual and get familiar with its capabilities.  The Windows Movie Maker or Apple’s iMovie are also good choices for user-friendly, but powerful, editing applications.  “Even if you use a simple editing program on your computer you can make your video look professional and clean,” says Arinella.

The end result of learning how to use proper audio, lighting and editing techniques is a video that you will be able to show not only on YouTube, but local public access television stations as well as at craft shows. “Having a video is, I believe, going to become industry standard,” says Arinella. “People love to watch someone who loves what they do and I've yet to meet an artisan who is not passionate.”

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MARCIA PASSOS DUFFY (http://www.backporchpublishing.com/) is a freelance business writer based in New Hampshire. Marcia’s articles have appeared on Yahoo Finance, CNBC, Bankrate.com, NFIB.com, Smart Business Magazine, The New York Times Lifewire, The Weather Channel, among others; she is the author of the book, Be Your Own Boss. Marcia wrote this feature article exclusively for Debbie May.com (www.DebbieMay.com), an organization dedicated to helping small businesses succeed.