The proliferation of small, inexpensive video cameras, coupled with the ease of online video sharing, has made wildly gyrating, poorly composed videography with garbled sound commonplace in the public eye. But just because people have seen a lot of poor video doesn’t mean they like it. Bad video is often good for a laugh, but it’s not going to sell much of anything.
If you want your online video to help convince people to spend their hard-earned money, you don’t need viewers laughing at intermittent views of your shoes or getting motion sickness from the picture dancing around. World-class film making skills aren’t required, but you do need to keep some basics in mind.
Video Is Motion
Motion is what sets video apart from still photography. And, no, a shaky camera doesn’t count as “motion.”
“Move your subject, not the camera.” In the world of professional videography and cinematography, camera movements are carefully planned and usually mechanically assisted. Unless you have a Steadicam rig in the closet, stick your video camera on a tripod and leave it there. The trick is to introduce motion into your video subject, not to bounce the camera around like a drunken sailor.
Many of the things you want to sell probably don’t move. RV, boat and home interiors aren’t going anywhere. In some cases, you can create motion in a still shot with a slow (and I mean slow) zoom in or out. Resist the temptation to “pan” the camera around or try clever, 360-degree shots. You’ll never make the camera movement as slow as it needs to be, and the whole thing will just be a distraction to the viewer.
You might consider introducing a living, breathing person into the shot — you know, somebody who can talk about the wonderful whatever-it-is that you’re showing. When all else fails, you can also dress things up a bit in post-production (which you ARE going to do; just read on).
Don’t Flub Your Lines
Online video is an opportunity to get your best sales pitch in front of potential customers everywhere. Does it make sense for that sales pitch to be a breathy mumble, punctuated by the occasional “uhhhh….”?
Write it down, or at least make some notes to keep the sales pitch coherent. If it’s going to be delivered on-camera, practice it once or twice. If the audio is a “live” narration or someone in the video shot, for heaven’s sake, use a real microphone; the audio pickups on most video cameras produce terrible playback, if for no other reason than because they’re usually far away from the sound you’re recording.
Unless you plan to use someone on-camera to speak to your viewers, consider recording a separate audio narration (“voice over”) after the video has been edited. This gives you maximum control over the timing and quality of the narration or sales pitch, and avoids any problems with the mis-matched ambient sounds you capture during each separate video shot.
Edit Your Masterpiece
The difference between an ineffective visual data dump and an online video that can help you sell something lies in what happens after the camera stops rolling. Post-production — “post” — is where the magic happens.
Pumping a piece of video straight from your Flip camera onto YouTube is no way to sell an expensive motorhome, a river front condo in Crystal River, or even a used kids’ bicycle, for that matter. There’s some very good video editing software available that doesn’t cost very much; Pinnacle Studio is one of my favorites for use on the PC. Compared to the sales a good video can help you generate, the cost of editing software is practically inconsequential. It’s a no-brainer.
By mastering a few simple editing techniques, you can tremendously improve the quality of your videos. Basic transitions like the dissolve and short fade give you the ability to smoothly switch from one shot to the next. Some transitions can even be used to induce the illusion of motion in otherwise still subjects.
Editing software also allows you to integrate a separate voice or sound track into your video. Most programs also give you the ability to modify the audio you record with your camera. Take advantage of both features to produce better-sounding videos that help get your sales message across.
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