So, you want to start embedding video on your company website. The how-to’s of this is very foreign to many especially if you haven’t had exposure to the equipment and the processes involved. Where do you start? What’s important? I put together some of the essentials of getting started with the production of your own videos from equipment to post production tips.
The first thing to consider is should I shoot it myself or outsource? We have many clients that shoot in-house and others that need help getting started. This post will focus on businesses that want to bring it in-house.
Start with considering what kind of video you will shoot. Will it be Q&A, product demos, on-location or remote? Determining the kind of video you will shoot will help you with your equipment selection, your content creation and also your post shoot production and optimization. An additional part of this process is to determine the intro, transitions and post video outro needed.
Q&A video is a very popular Internet video format and my recommendations are for this kind of shoot.
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Visitors to our website often send us questions they have about link building, content creation and many other aspects of Internet Marketing. The Q&A format allows us to answer their questions and also gives us good quality content that the search engines love.
I’ve broken the tips for video Internet marketing into 3 sections — pre-shoot, during and post-shoot — to help you understand the needs of each segment. My intent is to give you ideas on where to start, not necessarily a complete how-to. The recommendations are also narrowly focused on Q&A type videos so they may not necessarily work if you’re going to shoot other kinds of video.
Buying equipment and setting up a studio is a pretty daunting process if you’ve never done this before. Where do you start? What equipment is right for you? My suggestion is you start with a basic set up. There are a couple of reasons for this. By starting with a basic set up, you will save money and you will also learn the fundamentals you need for setting up the essentials needed for quality video. Once you gain some experience, you can upgrade and add the equipment you need for location shoots and other special set up needs.
Keep in mind that money buys features. In most cases they are features you don’t need. You don’t need TV studio quality cameras for quick Internet videos for your web site. My suggestion is that you determine your budget and buy the best camera you can in your price range. For many, a “flip” camera is high enough quality for them. For others that need better quality a Canon VIXIA HF R20 is a great HD camera. The smart auto mode helps to take the guess work out of settings and automatically analyzes faces and brightness and does those settings for you. This is the camera we use in our studio.
If you want great quality video, you can’t rely on the fluorescents in your office. Setting up light boxes and umbrellas can get rid of shadows and help fill in light for a balanced shot. Again, you can have a tight budget and still have a great set up.
Check out Cowboy Studio for lighting equipment. For example you can pick up a complete video lighting set up for under $300. This kit includes: a carrying case, 3 light stands, 3 soft boxes, 3 light heads, and fifteen 85 watt 5000k compact fluorescent daylight balanced photo bulbs.
This set up is ideally suited for digital video and works perfectly in our small studio.
Good audio quality is as important as the video. If you have poor sound quality, you will lose your audience quickly. Most on-camera microphones will not produce the quality you need so an off-camera microphone is essential. Check out the AudioTechnica ATR6550 Selectable Shotgun Microphone. This microphone can be placed close to the presenter and will give you great quality sound. The only caveat here is that a boom mic will pick up any sound. So, you need a quiet room/studio, otherwise you’ll have lots of extraneous noise.
One of the things you may have trouble with initially is figuring out the set up for the presenter. Should they be sitting behind a desk or standing up? For a small studio, you might decide on a posing stool and adjustable table (Savage Posing Kit). The posing stool allows the person to hook their feet on the bottom of the stool and helps them sit up straight. The adjustable table does two things. It allows for the presenter to have a laptop with notes and doubles as a reflector with either a white or gold reflector that will reduce shadows and warm the shot.
Again, determining what kind of video you shoot will help you choose the background. You may choose a green screen or a background that includes your logo. Keep in mind that you want a background that is not distracting or one that pulls away from the focus of the person speaking.
For example, you don’t want a big plant sticking out above the head of the speaker. If you’re shooting in an office, a bookcase or office furniture can make a good professional looking background. The key here is to set your camera with a tight focus so the background will be slightly blurred. Adjusting your field of focus turns any background into a blurred collage of color.
Preparing for the Shoot
As my focus is on Q&A videos, I’ll walk you through how to get ready to produce this kind of video. As I mentioned above, our site is set up to engage our users and we invite them to ask questions about our services and/or Internet marketing. Hopefully, your site does the same or you’ve done research to determine the most frequently asked questions about your products or services.
I suggest you assign a number of questions to your staff to answer for the video segments. The questions should fall into their area of expertise so preparation is minimal. Although preparation is minimal it is still very important. Q&A vides are generally non-scripted so the preparation helps in gathering the content and creating a logical sequential flow of information. A non-scripted shoot just means you don’t read off a script or teleprompter. Always write out what you want to say and then practice it. Mark Twain once said he “never could make a good impromptu speech without several hours to prepare it.”
By practicing, you become familiar with the material you wrote and will know that the sentence structure makes sense and all your words can be easily pronounced. Remember, the easier your dialogue is to say, the better the outcome.
Practice your answer in front of the mirror, in the car — wherever you can actually hear yourself practicing. Practicing out loud will help you hear what our audience will hear. It will help you refine your dialogue and help you work out the transitions between the natural segments of your answer.
Don’t be stiff and formal; just be yourself when you give your answer on camera. Communicate as you typically would. The only thing to remember is to speak up and enunciate clearly.
You will be a bit nervous when you get started. Expect that. Work through it. Once you get started you won’t even notice being nervous. Remember, you can stop and start over at any time.
Smile at the camera; let the audience know you’re having fun answering their questions. A good smile comes across well and makes your segment more inviting and engages the viewer.
Give Energy to Your Talk
Give a bit of energy to your answer. As mentioned above speak up and speak clearly. Adding a bit of energy to your speaking voice will help engage the audience.
You don’t want your eyes to wander around the room when the camera is running. Maintain eye contact with the camera. Use it as a fixed point to focus on — look straight into the camera as if it were someone you’re talking with.
Keep It Simple
Don’t write complicated answers to your question. Using words you don’t normally use in everyday conversation might trip you up during your on-camera answer. Keep it simple. Stick to your key message and talking points.
You might try a Toastmaster’s technique where you introduce your topic by saying, “I’m going to cover three things in my answer,” then name those three topics and then add details to each one. This technique of creating a memory hook allows you to segue from one topic to the next smoothly without the need to look at a script.
Be Careful with Transitions
“Ummmm…” and “like…” are used by speakers as transitions between thoughts. Many times we don’t even realize how often we use these pauses and phrases for our transitions. Listen for these when you practice and try to totally eliminate them during your recorded answer. You can always take a breath between thoughts and that’s the best transition to use.
One of the most frequently asked questions for a video shoot is “What should I wear?” Dress as you normally would because the more relaxed and natural you are, the better you will come across on camera. You should wear solid colors for the shoot as they look best on video.
Stay away from wearing narrow stripes, busy floral or geometric patterns because the camera does not pick them up well. Avoid wearing black, white, bright orange or bright reds. These colors can cause problems on video. You want the viewers to focus on your message, not what you’re wearing.
Try to relax & enjoy the video shoot. You’ve done the preparation; you’ve practiced; so now have some fun.
The video is in the can, now what? It’s time to do the actual production. You should have determined the kind of production you want to have. That is, you should have an idea of the intro, transitions and other elements that are a part of the post production.
Many video production software packages come with sample intro/outros that you can use. Or, you can either create your own intro/outro or buy professionally produced ones.
For an example of a video intro and outro, check out the Q&A video we did for Link Building Criteria.
This is an area that can become expensive based on your needs. What tools do you use now for video editing? They could be enough to produce professional video. Are you a PC or Mac user? The computer system you use will also dictate what software is the best for your needs. Although you could go the free route or use the basic software that comes with your computer (iMovie), producing quality video efficiently requires you acquire a decent editing program. Programs to consider are: Apple’s Final Cut Pro (from $300), Vegas Movie Studio HD Platinum 11 (from $95).
Keep in mind that some of these programs require upgraded video cards and memory to run efficiently. Make sure your current computer hardware/software match up to the minimums required.
It doesn’t matter how good your video is if no one ever sees it. We transcribe all of our video and post that content on the page with the video embed. We also include titles and category tags as well. We want to give the search engines some meat to find the video and rank it well. As with any content page, be sure to optimize the page title, header tags and meta description to support relevant keywords.
In addition, if you are hosting your video on a platform like YouTube, you will want to optimize your video there as well as an additional way to get your content discovered. In addition to title, keyword tags and description, be sure to pick a relevant content category so that viewers browsing similar topics may find you as they browse.
So there you have it, some basics to setting up your own video studio along with pre-, during and post-production tips.
What did I leave out and what other tips would you give to a business just starting out with shooting video?