7 Tips to get started: making video

Chris Johnson at the Bloodhound Blog is getting into video. He seems a bit reluctant and admits that he is just getting over his “inherent dislike of it.” But from the looks of his post he’s getting off on the right foot. He ends by asking if he’s heading in the right direction. I bet he’s not alone in this.

In a former life I did a fair amount of filmmaking and I currently do some animation (when I’m not grinding out web analytics reports and recommendations). So I’m going to start with some very very basics for people to get going. Advanced cinematography, lighting techniques and blue-screen effects will be later. 😉

  1. Start with the camera you have. The thing that slows down most people is worrying about the gear and in particular, the camera. Sure it would be fun to get a Flip Mino. But, don’t sweat the camera. I bet your still camera has a video function. Use it. If you want to buy something to help get you motivated, buy a tripod and use it for all of your shots.
  2. Yes, I think using iMovie is better than whatever you have on PC but it’s not that big a deal. Use the software you have. All video software has strong and weak points. Just learn to use the basic import, edit (go easy on those canned transitions, please), voice-over and export features. Those are all you need to know as you get started.
  3. Don’t record any sound on-location (i.e. at the place you are shooting the video). It will probably sound bad and the time you spend trying to fix it will not result in significant improvements. Do voice-over in your office. This is a place where you can spend a little money if you want: go to a computer store and ask them to sell you a microphone that is good for podcasting. This will be good for your initial efforts at voice-over as well.
  4. Keep it short. One thing I like about the Flickr service is that length is limited to 90 seconds. If you can get your audience to watch for 90 seconds you’re a hero. If you are making five minute videos I bet you’re working three times as long for the same return (feel free to use your analytics time-on-page for your video pages to tell me how wrong I am).
  5. It has to work with the sound off. Given that people sometimes surf from work (check your site analytics for time-of-day traffic to confirm or deny this) and sometimes work computers don’t even have sound capabilities. Or maybe the surfers don’t have headphones… it’s quite plausible that much of your video work will be seen sans sounds. So watch your edited clip without the sound on and make sure it works.
  6. Go ahead and brand it. If your video editing software allows you to put information on the screen (ala music video credits or whatever) go ahead and include your call to action throughout the entire piece. Use your sense of taste to keep it in-line with your branding. If you aren’t sure about your sense of taste ask one of your friends that you trust if you’re being too aggressive. But the main point is not to put your call-to-action only at the end (because most people will never see the end of your video). This is the only point where I would disagree with Johnson’s initial thoughts.
  7. Write a script. Unless you’re great at off-the-cuff commentary you’ll save yourself a ton of time by using a script. Here’s a little trick as well: One page of text in double-spaced 12 point Courier will average into about 60 seconds of screen time. Also, if you aren’t comfortable speaking either use text in the video or get a friend to do the voice-over.

Bonus Video Tip: Over at Realtown there are three video tutorials showing you how to use the Flip video camera. The topics of videos include Flip video basics, how to import files with the Flip and when to do it yourself and when to call a pro.

Bonus Bonus Video Tip: Hubspot Marketing has a great post making a great business video.

If anyone is interested in more, I have a list of great people I could interview to cover some technical basics and advanced topics. Let me know what you’re interested in and I can give you more.