Ever since LinkedIn and Facebook introduced their native apps, social media experts have been encouraging people to upload videos. There has been a lot of hype about it. It sounds like the magic bullet…the next big thing.
I’m always skeptical about following fads and the “flavor of the month.” Far too often, results have not turned out to be as promised. So, I started experimenting with uploading some of my existing videos using the native app to see if they gained traction. The results were mixed. After much reluctance, I recently started shooting and uploading new videos.
As of this writing, I’ve uploaded four videos. I shot nine but only six were usable and were far from perfect. What the experts fail to tell you is that shooting videos is not simply a matter of grabbing your camera or mobile and pressing record. In fact, the technical aspects can make or break your video.
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My recommendation is that some things are best left to professionals. If you can hire a professional videographer or engage a talented film student, do it. If that’s not in your budget, then a DIY approach is what you’ll have to use.
I’m an actress, so I am already comfortable on camera. Many people aren’t. I’ve even produced a couple of videos for clients, written the scripts and done some of the voice-overs.
When I am on a TV, movie or commercial set, there are always professionals to handle set design, sound, lighting and the shoot. There are also hair stylists and make-up artists. After the shoot, professional editors work their magic.
I’ve never had an interest in the technical aspects of making movies or shooting videos. But when you’re using a DIY approach to creating video content, it’s important to master the basics. It can be a steep learning curve, and I’m still learning. Here is what I have learned about creating social media videos from the school of hard knocks.
1. Prepare to go on camera
Here are a couple of really quick tips based on my experience on-camera and in training hundreds of corporate professionals in presentation skills.
- Keep it brief. Two to four minutes is best. Any longer than that and people will tune out.
- Never write out or memorize your script
- Put a few keywords on a large index card in large print to remind you of what you want to say. Post this where you can see it or have someone hold it. (A flip chart is even better.)
- Rehearse, but don’t over-rehearse. Your deliver must be natural. Rehearse in a whisper so that you don’t get locked into patterns.
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2. Make sure you look great
- Get your hair and make-up done professionally if you need help.
- Bring powder for the shine.
- Bring two or three tops so that you can shoot more than one video at a time. Make at least one outfit a business suit. For the other outfits, select colors that pop.
3. Scout locations in advance and pick the right location
Whether it’s indoor or outdoor, it must be free of noise and distractions. This isn’t always easy. That is why film and video companies have location scouts. Fortunately, some libraries and community centres have rooms that you can use for free. Make sure the room is furnished and not a relatively empty space. (See lesson No. 6 for the rationale.)
I recently attempted to shoot outside of my apartment building. A neighbor in one of the apartments overlooking the courtyard was coughing loudly and intermittently.
This brings us to our next point.
4. Always have a back-up
Even in a remote location like a lake, there can be cars passing by, dogs barking or children coming out to play. You don’t always have control.
Last week, I found what looked like the perfect location by a pond. As soon as I popped out of the car, I heard the motor running for the water pump. As I type this, a neighbour has just powered up landscaping equipment outside, near my office.
You need to have the option of driving a few blocks to go to a park, garden or greenhouse until the noise has stopped.
5. Select the right background
I’m not talking about going out and buying backdrops, although that would be helpful. When you’re deciding where to shoot, make sure that it’s a wide background with some height to it. If the person operating the camera is not a professional, they are going to have a tough time zooming to crop and frame you properly. The result is that you could end up with distracting objects in the frame. A wide backdrop is more forgiving.
6. Keep it steady
It can take a long time to get the technical details right. Many takes may be required if the person on camera is inexperienced and they’re making mistakes. If someone is holding the camera, their arms will get tired. It is also likely that they won’t be able to keep the camera steady the whole time. Save yourself the trouble. Get or borrow a tripod.
7. Shed the right light on it
This is very important, especially for people of color like me.
Even on a bright and sunny day with the shades drawn up on two large windows, there wasn’t enough light in my office for me to shoot. It took a long time of fiddling with lamps in order to get enough lighting.
As soon as you can afford it, invest in a ring light. Have the person being videotaped (on camera) sit facing the window. Set the camera on a tripod in front of the window and put the ring light around the camera. Make sure the person on camera is close enough to the light so that the light shines on them. If that is not enough you may need to invest in an LED panel light.
8. Sounding off about sound
Sound can make or break your video.
I learned this the hard way. Frustrated with trying to get the lighting right and a wide enough wall to prevent framing problems, I ventured into a couple of hallways. They were big and bright—and the videos looked great. After I uploaded them to LinkedIn, I received feedback that there was echo. I never noticed it.
Echo happens when a room or space is almost empty and the sound bounces off the walls. The solution is to always select a location that has furniture and, if necessary, bring in pillows and blankets to cushion the sound. It is also important to use an external microphone. Apparently, even if you invest in an excellent DSLR camera, the internal mic may not be enough. Check out “Improve Your Audio: How to Reduce Echo in Your Video” for more recommendations.
9. Get the right equipment
Perhaps this point should have been covered first, but it was important to set the stage so that it is clear why this equipment is needed.
- A digital SLR camera (DSLR) with an external port for a microphone and horseshoe for a light
- A tripod
- A ring light
- A panel light (optional)
I have what is considered to be a good camera—Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FZ70 (16.1 MP). It has a powerful zoom and it has been fabulous for shooting photos for blog posts over the past seven years. Echo was a problem in some of my videos, so I was advised to get an external microphone. Unfortunately, a quick trip to the camera shop revealed that there is no port for an external mic.
Sometimes you can pick up gently used or even new equipment online at affordable prices. Some libraries and universities have equipment that you can borrow.
If you have no option but to shoot using your phone or tablet, rest assured, ring lights and panel lights are also available for mobile devices. Here are some tips for creating content with mobile devices.
10. Get help
If you are using a DIY approach, get help. Get a film student to help you and/or team up with other event professionals in your area to share equipment together, shoot videos and learn from each other. Here are some tips for helping things go smoothly when you get together.
What challenges are you facing in creating LinkedIn videos?
Join the conversation on LinkedIn and follow #socialmediaSOS on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook for video tips.
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