Now that you’ve had some success with the basics of making a video for your website (you are using my Tips for Online Video That Sells, right?), you’re no doubt impatient to absorb some additional pointers that will make your videos even more useful. You still won’t quite be ready to take your clips to the Sundance Film Festival, but even small improvements can give your online videos more selling power.
Blinded by the Light
Video cameras use either CCD (charge coupled devices) or CMOS (complimentary metal oxide semiconductor) sensors to capture images. Because of continuing improvements in digital video technology, image sensors no longer require special lighting to function well. Nevertheless, proper lighting often means the difference between a good sales video and a washed-out mess.
You don’t need to invest in a full array of professional lighting equipment to produce a professional-looking video. A single-light umbrella kit and a couple of foil reflectors will handle most circumstances. With a little creativity, you often can get by with just the reflectors.
The problem is that raw natural light and ambient room lighting often produce images that have too much contrast and/or the wrong color tone. The umbrella light can provide a diffuse, even light source in most situations. Use a silver reflector to help manage shadows and contrast; a gold reflector serves the same purpose, but adds a warmer tone to the subject — handy for lighting people, and for lighting interiors with lots of earth tones or wood grains.
It’s About Time
Sir David Lean’s “Lawrence of Arabia” ran for 227 minutes. Your online video needs to be considerably shorter, especially since website visitors aren’t likely to return if you give them an intermission to get some popcorn and a box of Good & Plenty candy.
Think of your video as the digital equivalent of an “elevator pitch,” and you’ll be headed in the right direction. Take a lesson from the length of professionally produced TV commercials; there’s some sound psychology there. Website visitors need to be interested in the subject to watch past the 30-second mark in most videos, and they need to be really interested to watch anything longer than 60 seconds.
This is where your video editing software comes in handy. You don’t need to hit any sort of exact timing — it’s a web video, not a commercial — but you can control the length of the video by removing “empty” time and anything else that doesn’t directly advance your sales pitch. Sales videos are about selling, not story telling, so keep the production tight and focused. Challenge a site visitor’s attention span too much, and he’ll probably just wander off to another website.
Show Me the Gizmo
Video is a medium that has tempted many businesses into wasting a lot of time, money and effort. The problem? They get so carried away with what they can do in their sales videos that they forget what they’re supposed to do — sell something. The product or service that you’re selling should be the primary subject, which means that the video needs to spend a lot of time actually showing what it’s selling.
Failure to “show me the Gizmo” is a big mistake, but it’s also fairly common. Think about how quickly a talking-head video can put you to sleep, and you’ll see what I’m getting at. Another good example is a local-ish auto dealer whose TV commercials typically feature him telling his daughter how wonderful his cars are. I could probably pick him out of a police line-up if I had to, but I don’t have even a vague recollection of which brand of cars he sells.
Selling online is a tough enough business. It gets even tougher when you forget to show people what you’re trying to sell them.