My dear friend I hope to inspire you, the website newbie, into the realization that creating professional-looking internet video is not for the technically minded only. It is an option for most Web site owners. How can you ever go viral if you don't start making videos?
If you can "point and shoot" a camcorder (for example) and follow some basic instructions for lighting, sound, and editing then you should have no problem!
When I talk with website owners who have never used video on their sites before, they are often filled with misconceptions and fear about the processes involved. But after a quick orientation of the basic steps and some examples, the realization dawns on them that it really is NOT that difficult.
Video production takes time and a small budget, two things to remember as you begin. However, the rewards will be worth the effort!
The mass adoption of Broadband, coupled with some advances in technology, makes Internet video an accessible opportunity for the average webmaster.
Below, I outline the basic steps for creating an Internet video for your site. Because this topic is broad in nature, I have presented an "overview" of the process.
STEP 1 - The Story and Desired Outcome
Before you even start shooting your video, you really need to know what you are trying to achieve with it. Is it promotional, training, PREselling, a news or views video, etc.?
What do you want the viewer to do after watching the video? Perhaps your Most Wanted Response is for him or her to make a purchase, visit a Web page or just tune in to the next "show."
When you have clearly thought this through, it is then possible to create a short "storyboard" of your video. By writing down how you want the video to look, segment by segment, you can then get a better feel for how to shoot it. At this stage, you may even want to write a script or write down a few key phrases to use as a prompt in your video.
The average Internet video is going to be around 2 to 3 minutes long, so storyboarding and scripting are not a difficult task. And if you are not that experienced with talking into a camcorder or camera lens, this preparation will also help your confidence.
Quick Tip: You can create videos of a much longer length but current experience shows that 2 - 3 minutes is preferable (and 5 minutes is absolute maximum). Anything longer and your chances of getting a desired action become increasingly remote.
STEP 2 - Using the Correct Shot
Internet video can take many forms... from using images with a background track to shooting some footage that involves you or others talking into the lens.
For this step, I just want to outline some of the common types of "shot" that can help bring a professional touch to your Internet video, whenever you use people as your subjects.
* The Rule of Thirds
Draw imaginary lines to divide the image into thirds both horizontally and vertically. Place the important elements of your composition where these lines intersect. Or in other words, try to use one of the four intersections to position the subject.
* Over the Shoulder
This technique is great if you have two people having a dialogue/interview. The camcorder, for example, is placed on a tripod over the shoulder of the "interviewer" in such a way as to have both subjects contained in the shot. The subject on the left, facing the "interviewer," should always occupy about a third of the frame. It is usual for both subjects to remain fairly static, (ex., in a sitting position).
* The Two Shot
This shot is all about establishing a "relationship between two people." There can be movement or static composition. For example, you can have two people sitting at a table or on a couch. I have personally used this technique at trade shows to video two company reps giving an informal talk about their product.
* The Close Up
This is when a feature, usually the face and eyes, takes up most of the frame. The technique is often used in commercials to convey a sense of intimacy and/or intense emotions. For example, it could be a close-up of someone brushing her teeth or eating a cake and then smiling.
*The Talking Head
This is probably the most commonly used shot when creating videos for the Internet. The subject is centered on the screen with the whole head and a small portion just above the shoulders. The subject then simply talks into the lens.
If this is combined with a technique called "green screening," you can then add any background image or video and it looks as though the subject is really there.
It is also common to see a title across the bottom of the screen, which is called the "lower third." You may be familiar with this when watching the news and the anchor has his or her name on the screen.
Combining the "Talking Head" with interviews using the "Over The Shoulder" shot is popular with those making online diaries and commentaries (often called "Videoblogging" or "Vlogging").
Remember that you can often combine several of these techniques in a single video!
STEP 3 - Using the Camcorder
The camcorder is the main piece of equipment you will need when making video for the Internet. (It is possible to use a high quality Web Cam but this is not as flexible nor does it produce a video of good quality that will survive the encoding process that we will describe later.)
--SIDE NOTE--My personal choice is a camcorder. But if you don't have one (or can't afford this type of business expense right now), the 640x480 "movie video option" on a "regular" digital camera means that anyone can do this. The quality? The 640x480 format produces perfectly acceptable Web videos.
Some digital cameras have a 30-second maximum for "movie mode." So what? It's easy to edit pieces together and produce a 2-3 minute video. It even encourages you to change angles and shots, then edit them together. --
My personal preference is to use a camcorder that records onto MiniDV tape, has a FireWire output and an accessory "shoe" on top to hold an external microphone or light. (Keep in mind that not all video editing software supports camcorders with USB connections and those that record onto DVD.)
The basics of using a camcorder for shooting a video are:
* Keep It Steady
Whilst image stabilization is common in camcorders today, you should not rely on that alone. Wherever possible, use a tripod. If that is not an option, then hold the camcorder in your dominant hand and keep the elbow of that arm tight into your body. Keep the upper arm rigid. If you have an LCD screen, open this and with your other hand, place your thumb under the screen. You should now have a steady camcorder.
* Use Your Hips
Never use you arm to move the camcorder. Always use your hips to turn whilst using the above technique to keep the camcorder steady.
* Use the LCD Screen
By using the LCD screen, rather than the built-in viewfinder, you will always have a view of your peripheral vision as well as the subject you are recording. You will be aware of objects/people moving your way whilst recording, and you should avoid any uneven surfaces whilst walking that may cause camera shake.
My personal recommendation is to always use a quality tripod that has a head that can "pan and tilt" whilst providing a quick release mechanism if you need to suddenly hold the camcorder manually.
STEP 4 - Lighting Techniques
Lighting can make or ruin a video, but it need not be a scary subject. When shooting outdoors, always bear in mind the position of the sun in relation to the subject. Try to avoid shadows and never film directly into the sun! And don't shoot with the sun directly behind you or your subject will end up squinting.
If shooting indoors, do a test piece of footage to see if the light is good enough and that your camcorder's automatic exposure can handle the situation.
If there is an orange hue to the video, consider changing your light bulb for a "natural daylight" one, available from many craft shops.
Not enough light? Then consider purchasing a builder's 200W halogen lamp that sits on a tripod. Point it at the ceiling, which is usually white. Doing this will reflect the light back down onto your subject in a "diffused" manner. There is no need for you to purchase a professional studio lighting kit.
Quick Tip: If your colors look washed out or are not good enough, you may need to adjust your camcorder's "white balance." Modern camcorders are designed with many automatic settings. However, they do not always get it right. By manually adjusting the white balance before shooting your video, you may improve the quality of your shot.
Each camcorder is different but the basic rule is to point your camcorder at a piece of non-reflective white card so that it fills up 80% of the screen. Then activate the white balance on your camcorder (check your manual). You are now telling your camera what "true white" looks like so that your camcorder can record it correctly.
You can also use this setting to be creative. By altering the white balance settings on your camcorder, you can make your shoot more orange or bluish (warmer or cooler) colors, without the need for a glass filter.
There are other lighting techniques such as filling and backlighting, but the above is a good enough guide to get you started. Please do remember that these videos you are creating are usually going to be for Internet video only. This means that your lighting does not need to be as professional as for making a DVD, etc.
You always have the option to use an external light that fits onto the accessory shoe on the camcorder and is powered by an external battery. I personally never use the built-in light on a camcorder as it is just not suitable.
STEP 5 - Using Microphones
Sound is a very important part of your video. You can always add sound/music later through your video editing software, but it is very difficult to remove unwanted sounds (for example, air conditioning units) and background hum from a poor quality microphone.
My personal recommendation is to purchase a quality microphone designed for camcorders. These only pick up sound in a limited field and often have a high pass filter on them for noisier situations. One example is the RODE Camcorder Mic. This unit is powered by a 9v battery and sits on the accessory shoe and plugs into the mic input on your camcorder.
A cheaper alternative is to use a "tie mic" that clips onto the subject and plugs into the camcorder mic input.
If you have more than one subject, you can always use a hand-held microphone and plug that into the camcorder's mic input. Make sure it has the correct connection though.
You might be thinking that the microphone already built into your camcorder is good enough, but it really is not. If you have the budget, purchase a quality microphone.
Quick Tip: Avoid recording in windy situations.
STEP 6 - The Pace of Your Video
This is the most difficult subject to master and really only comes with experience. Your aim is to match the "mood" of your video with its purpose. You can create emotion in the viewer just by the pace of a video.
A fast paced video is appropriate in some circumstances where a slow or dramatic one would be inappropriate. By combining different types of video shots (see STEP 2), you can influence the viewer's mood. A single pace throughout the whole video, even a 3 minute video, can get boring.
If you are new to this, do some experimenting. You also have another tool at your disposal that can really change your viewer's mood. Music. Ever watched a TV ad with the sound on mute? Totally different experience, isn't it? Could you imagine a horror movie without music? It just would not be the same.
You can create the same kind of effect in your viewer too. If you are just starting out, think about doing a simple "Talking Head" style video and add some music to the opening and ending credits just to give you some confidence. Then expand to adding a "Close Up" segment with music. Trying a few simple steps at first will have you wanting to try more techniques later.
STEP 7 - Editing Your Video
It would be impossible in this article to actually describe how you edit your movie, there is not enough space. But I do want to share some thoughts with you:
* What Software?
Both Apple and Microsoft provide free video editing software in their current operating systems. These provide a great base for learning the basics of video editing. For example, adding audio tracks/transitions between video segments/titles and credits, etc.
If you are looking to produce video on a regular basis and require more flexibility and features, then you will need to look for additional software. For the Apple user, that may be "Final Cut Express" and for the Windows user "Vegas Movie Studio" by Sony.
*Keep It Simple!
When creating video for the Internet, keep it simple. You are not making a home movie for your family, you are making a short video with the idea of selling/PREselling. Keep it simple and professional.
STEP 8 - Video Compression and Formats
Once you have edited your video, you will need to think about the video format you are going to use online.
Well, the movie file you have just created will typically be stored on your computer as an AVI or WMV file type (or MOV on a Mac). These files are quite large in nature so they take up both storage/bandwidth and have more issues in terms of how many of your Web site visitors will be able to watch them online.
Oh and whatever you do with the file, make sure you get your important keyword(s) into the actual name of the video file. Every little bit helps you get found!