Now that bandwidth, storage, and cameras are cheap, everyone is making videos. Of course, not everyone is turning out the same quality videos.
If you’re using video for marketing purposes, you should care about the quality. Your budget may not allow you to hire teams that also happen to work for popular TV shows, but there are a few simple things you can do to improve a viewer’s experience that cost almost nothing.
1. Pay attention to sound. Sound matters more than most people think. As a marketer, it’s easy to get caught up in the visuals, but if the sound is poor, the overall video quality is poor. Clear sound is necessary for a great experience. If the sound is clear, the audience will be able to pay better attention to the message and they will be less likely to drop off prematurely. To get good quality audio regardless of what kind of camera you’re using, plug in a microphone that minimizes background noise.
2. Pay attention to lighting. Professionals understand the need for good lighting. While it will make sense to invest in lights if you’re going to be producing a fair amount of video, you can also improve the lighting quality by doing something as simple as turning the camera away from the sun. Pay attention to shadows and the clarity of the image, and adjust the lighting as necessary.
3. Tell a story. The best videos have a beginning, a middle, and an end. A good video tells a story that’s free of unnecessary distractions. While it may be tempting to throw in various shots, titles, etc., make sure the elements used help tell the story, rather than detract from the story. How will you know this? Preview the video before you produce it. Show it to other people – friends, family, colleagues. Listen to what your mind and other people are telling you.
4. Open your eyes. Professional photographers and videographers see things the average person does not see. Pay close attention to what is in the background and foreground of a shot. Many beautiful landscapes have been compromised by telephone poles, for example. In office shots, people forget what’s sitting on desks, tables, the floor, etc. Pay attention to everything that is in front of, behind of, above, below, or to the side of what you’re shooting and omit it or find a way to minimize it.
5. Shoot more video than you need. Professional videographers often do several “takes.” For one thing, perfection rarely happens in a single take – ask any movie producer. Quite often bits of different takes are combined to create the highest quality finished product. You may also want to shoot “b-roll” to exemplify what the video is trying to explain. For example, if the video is about the merits of a new manufacturing technique, the b-roll might demonstrate the manufacturing technique and/or the benefits of the manufacturing technique.
6. Measure and learn from your mistakes. Digital video can be analyzed for effectiveness. Quite often, people equate success with the number of views, which is only one metric. Another very important metric is length of view. By monitoring view length, you can identify drop-off points – the point at which people become bored, frustrated, etc.
7. If you’re going to do a group project, have a vision, a plan, and standards. I was recently invited to participate in a documentary that will feature the work of many artists. Traditionally, such a project would have been produced by a professional production company who travels to the artist’s studios or museums to shoot the work. Inherent in that process is having a vision and a plan. If you are going to have people contribute video which you will consolidate, you need a vision, a plan, and standards all of which are clearly communicated to the contributors. The problem with contributory projects is quality control. Some people will use a single lens reflex (SLR) camera, others will use smartphones, almost no one (or no one) will hire a professional videographer. Some will use tripods, others won’t. In the absence of standards anything goes – length, content, the appearance of models, tone, style, you name it.
8. Remember the audience. When producing a video it’s really easy to get so wrapped up in the concept and execution that the needs and desires of the audience get overlooked completely. Is your audience tween girls? Biker dudes over 50? Wealthy couples on holiday? The nuances will matter because they will influence the theme, look, feel, tone, style, and content. And, if you really want to do a great job, don’t assume you know what they want, do your homework.
Producing great video takes practice but you can also learn a lot by observing. Really well-made videos (including those done by professionals) can teach you how sound, lighting, titles, b-roll, music, transitions, and storytelling can be used to create effective and engaging experiences.