Stunning 4K, high-definition footage. Music that perfectly complements what’s on-screen. Smooth transitions at just the right pace. Crisp text, voiceover, and graphics that keep you informed but aren’t too distracting.
Can’t see the video on your mobile device? View it here.
These are all the makings of a polished live-action video you’d love to create for your organization. It might seem like producing a high-quality video should take months, a big budget, and in-house experts, but the truth is you can create video content just like the one above quickly, easily, and affordably with the help of freelancers.
In our article 8 Tips for Repurposing Your Content Into Video, we talked about how to produce short motion graphics video content. In part two of this series, we’ll give you tips to create engaging, short live-action video content in a matter of weeks—entirely with freelance talent.
What Is Live Action Video?
Video is a broad category with formats ranging from digital animation and screen capture to motion graphics and big-production cinematography. Live action refers to any video that uses footage of real people in actual physical settings. For the purposes of this article, we’ll focus on short, content-driven live action videos.
We’ve covered all the ways motion design lends itself well to short video content, but sometimes a concept calls for live action footage. Maybe it’s because you’re showcasing an actual product, event, or person or because you want visuals to act as B-roll for a script, similar to the video you watched above.
Here are some important pre- and post-production tips to keep in mind when going the live action route.
1. Zero in on who you’re targeting (and why).
In the same way you decide on an audience before you write content, knowing who you’re targeting with video content is crucial. Are you targeting new or existing customers? Customers at a point along the sales funnel or general awareness? This can inform everything from the style of the video to where it ends up published.
Tip: Write a creative brief that explains the type of video you want to produce and your goals, budget, timeline, and audience. This all helps convey your “vision” to freelancers.
2. Know your channel before you start production.
The channel you choose can impact length, aspect ratios, music rights, calls to action, and more. You might need to make different versions of your video for different channels.
Harry Yu, a video producer at Upwork, says, “It’s tempting to take a one-size-fits-all approach, creating one video to push out on all your channels, but that’s challenging to do effectively. While it may be cost-effective, it’s better suited for broadcast scenarios, not diverse social channels.”
That’s because you’ll run into a lot of channel-specific variables, such as viewer intent, format restrictions, and behavioral data. For example, 80% of Facebook videos play with the sound off, while 90% of YouTube videos are played with the sound on.
3. Come up with a strong, focused concept.
Just like written content, video content should meet a particular business need and align with your audience’s interests. Sometimes a concept comes up with itself: a promo for an upcoming event, a how-to for a new product or service, or a tour of a new facility. But videos can also be creative solutions to challenges, entertaining ways to engage with your audience, or fun, shareable videos to boost brand awareness.
Video can also be more conceptual. Say a camera company is showcasing its new durable helmet camera. Rather than another product demo, it produces a campaign with short videos of clips of stunning vistas and outdoor activities. Later, it expands the campaign to geographically target audiences around the world with clips of popular activities and locations specific to their areas, encouraging viewers to imagine filming their own adventures.
4. Convey your vision to freelancers with example videos.
You might have your video mapped out in your mind frame by frame, or you might have no clue what you want. The best way to get from concept to creation is by giving your team examples. Browse other brands and YouTube channels and gather a list of links you like.
5. Keep your script short and to the point.
Whether you use voiceover or on-screen text, your script will be the cornerstone of your concept. Remember to keep it short; no one wants to read too much on-screen text or feel rushed through a long voiceover.
Your editor will be able to help you adjust for pace and length, so expect your script to fluctuate as editing begins. Collaboration between your writer and your editor will ensure a tight final edit that doesn’t miss the mark.
Tip: Consider subtitles to ensure people engage with your video even when their device is muted.
6. Find clips that support your script but don’t compete with it.
Live action clips can be as simple as ones you film yourself with a camera phone or as high-budget as those of a Hollywood production studio. If you’re creating a short video on a budget, your best bet is to purchase high-quality clips from stock video resources such as Videoblocks, Dissolve, Shutterstock, or Adobe Stock.
“There’s a huge variety of clips out there that are high quality and well produced,” Yu says. “Some even offer batches of videos with the same actors in them for more character continuity, consistency, and flow.”
7. For more complicated editing needs, be sure to pick a nonlinear editing program.
“There’s a ton of different editing software to help you achieve your goal; there’s no right answer, just preference. Adobe Premiere is a nonlinear editing program that’s become an industry standard. It integrates with other Adobe programs for a really smooth workflow process,” Yu notes.
Using stylistic type or animated graphics? “Premiere’s integration with After Effects can be a lifesaver,” Yu says.
8. Choose music that complements your mood.
Music shouldn’t be too abrasive or mismatched, nor should it compete with the voiceover. Carefully consider the style and rhythm, and look into rights and licensing. Timing your entire video’s transitions to the beats of a song only to find out it’s blocked on a channel can be a major setback. Try a royalty-free stock music provider like Audioblocks, find a few songs you like, then share them with your editor.
9. Pay attention to your pacing and transitions.
Be mindful of the pace once you begin editing. Beyond timing, transitions have different styles—just make sure they align with your brand’s overall aesthetic.
Yu says: “Keep in mind the channel you’re creating for. Although some transitions can be made elegant and smooth, that pace isn’t always what you want on social, for example, where consumers are viewing and scrolling through content at a rapid rate. Your transitions should happen faster to make sure your viewer stays engaged.”
Tip: Editing transitions between clips to the beat of a song is a great way to add energy, but note the time this can add to your process. Every time you tweak a clip, your editor has to realign each clip after it to stay on beat.
10. Length is important, but it won’t make or break your video.
There’s no magic number when it comes to length, and research varies. The key is not letting the video drag on too long but not cutting it so short it loses value.
“Many say between 30 and 90 seconds, but there are lots of top-performing videos that are multiple minutes long. The rule of thumb: Viewers have a short attention span. Keep your videos to the recommended time, but if you believe your content is compelling and entertaining enough to go longer, you should definitely do so,” Yu says.
Ready to get started? Check out our guide on How to Produce a Polished, High-Quality Video with Freelancers.