Making the most of your DIY videos

Shoot your shot: It’s time to up your video skills

There are certain video projects where nothing but an expert production crew, with all the latest gear and industry-level standards, will do. But there are plenty of projects where you just don’t need all of that fuss and expense to create a product that works for you and your audience.

When you have a message to get out, there are fantastic and affordable opportunities to make quality video content, and to get your video out to the people you need to see them. These days phones take ridiculously good video, high quality cameras are  more accessible and affordable than ever, and powerful editing software is available... for free!

If making a video isn’t something you do regularly, here's some guidance from our in-house Production Manager and owner of TameFox Productions, Casey Harrigan.

Prepare

  • Put your audience first. Your audience is your bottom line, and it’s crucial to prioritise how they will receive your message.
  • Consider the platform you’re publishing on, and if there are any restrictions or best practices. For instance, video on Instagram feeds can be a minute long at most, and you’ve probably noticed that most videos on Facebook have a transcription onscreen.
  • If you’re speaking to camera, think about what you’re going to say rather than winging it. Spontaneity is tough even for the professionals! I would recommend writing a script or at least some notes, even if you don’t stick to either exactly. I’d also suggest delivering your spiel out loud at least once, if nothing else but to get your mouth around the words.

Invest (a little bit) (totally optional!)

  • If you’re going to spend any money, spend it on a microphone. Our eyes are far, far more forgiving to issues of quality than our ears are. There are plenty of cheap desktop or lapel microphones that plug right into your phone or camera.

Investing a little bit of money in a microphone can make a big difference.

Get the basics right

  • Choose a quiet spot with plenty of light directed towards your subject and an interesting background.
  • Make sure your camera is level to the horizon –basically, make sure it’s not crooked.
Crooked ❌  vs straight. ✅
  • If you’re using your phone, put it in landscape mode, and use your rear-facing camera (not the selfie one).
Landscape ✅. vs portrait ❌
  • Set and lock your exposure (brightness) and colour settings.
  • Make sure your subject is in focus
  • This one sounds silly but … make sure you actually hit record! Missing that step happens to the best of us.
  • If you’re shooting some extra footage, like for a demonstration, go for simple shots that clearly show what’s happening or where you are, and record for longer than you think you’ll need to.
There's nothing like a beautiful landscape, shot in landscape.

Editing – it’s all about the details

  • I’d recommend simple software like iMovie, but if you really want to step up your skills, you can’t go past DaVinci Resolve. There will be a steeper learning curve, but this is industry grade software that is completely free.
  • Beware the bells and whistles. You don’t want your video to look like a PowerPoint presentation or a holiday highlights reel. Keep your transitions simple – basic cuts or cross dissolves work best – and keep fonts and title cards simple. This will look way more professional in the long run.
  • Pay attention to where your shots start and end, and how they flow. Your audience will notice when something is just a little bit off, and nine times out of ten the problem is easy to fix.
  • As a general rule, shorter is better. It can be tough to know what, if anything, to cut out because by the time you get to editing it’s just about impossible to be objective – but this is the time to try. Try to look at the video with fresh eyes, and maybe get a second opinion (which will also help with the attention to detail mentioned above).

Have fun!

  • It sounds a little sentimental, but if you have fun when you make something, I guarantee it will pay off on screen.
  • Be creative – there are plenty of online tutorials that demonstrate each step in the process, so don’t be afraid to give it a try! Plus, once you know the ‘rules’ you can break them, or at least experiment with your techniques.

What I’m aiming for you here is not for your audience to think ‘what a gorgeous video.’ If you need one of those, hire someone to make it. My aim is for your audience not to really notice anything because your message or story is coming through loud and clear.

Using these tips shouldn’t take that much extra time but can make a big difference to your final product. The more videos you make, the more these techniques will become habitual to you.

When you’re producing a video, you get one opportunity to get it right, so you may as well take it.

If you'd like to find out more,  get in touch with our video production partner, Casey Harrigan of Tame Fox Productions on casey@thesocialdeck.com

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