This post is by Maria Brilaki of Fitness Reloaded.
It’s 2013. We don’t live in the 90’s anymore. Do you know what this means?
It means attention spans are lower than they have ever been, YouTube video consumption is through the roof, and people’s video standards have risen dramatically.
Your content might be good, but if your video isn’t equally good, guess what your viewer will do? That’s right, click away to another video.
Bye bye, potential fan. Farewell. I realize I might never see you again.
The problem is when we are first starting out, we might be able to tell whether a video is good or not, but we might not be able to understand exactly what makes it good or bad.
That’s because we might have the taste for what a good video is really like, but we don’t yet have the skill to bridge the gap between our good taste and what we’re capable of producing.
In this post, we’ll help you level up your videos. And I’ll show you the most important things you should know about making your videos look great.
You Have to Start Somewhere
You see, I am no exception, I was a complete video rookie and I have proof. Here is one of my early videos revealing a surprising factor that makes Americans more obese than the Europeans.
And here is one of my latest ones giving away the #1 thing that successful people do that makes them believe in themselves. It’s not perfect, but it’s miles ahead of the previous one.
Take a look at both of them. Do you see the difference between the two? Let’s dive in and see exactly what it is that I am doing in the second video, that I am not doing in the first video.
1. Video Production Quality
The obesity video is shot in HD (720p) and then uploaded in a lower quality (480p). However, even my HD 720p uploads did not look good enough on YouTube, and this is the reason I didn’t bother uploading higher quality – it would take me longer to upload the video to get the same result.
The discrepancy between the actual quality of my videos, and the YouTube quality made me not embed my videos from YouTube on my site, but instead use my own video player. For instance, here is the “Obesity in America” post that includes the first video.
I didn’t realize it, but this practice hurt me. I didn’t get views on my YouTube videos from my site. I didn’t get YouTube subscribers from my site. All because I was shooting in 720p. You see, my old camera’s highest quality was 720p. Back then, I figured that 720p would be good enough. It’s not. If you want to shoot good videos, go for 1080p. The “believe in yourself” video is in 1080p quality and the difference is significant.
Nowadays, you can get great HD 1080p quality with a DSLR camera. I got a Sony A57 for $600. There are even point and shoot cameras that offer that for less than $200. If you are serious about video, then recording at 1080p is non-negotiable. Even if you later export it at 720p for file size, bandwidth, and uploading reasons.
(Note from Caleb: An important thing about your online videos that you want to be aware of is the fact that not everyone will be watching in 720p or 1080p. Many will be watching at 480p or 360p which makes things discussed later in this article, like sound and lighting, super important.
Also, just because a camera shoots in 720p or 1080p doesn’t mean it will look amazing. Heck, even laptop webcams boast “1080p”. The difference is really in the optics of your camera’s sensor and using a fast, fixed focal length lens. They will look much better than the kit zoom lens that comes with your camera.
If you’re a Canon or Nikon shooter starting out with video here are the best budget DSLR cameras that I’d recommend you check out:
Also, image quality has a ton to do with your lens choice. Instead of using the packaged lens, pick up a good prime lens (which means that it doesn’t zoom). A 50mm like the Canon 50mm f1.4 for ~$340 or the Nikon 50mm f1.4 for ~$335 is a great start. I’m a Canon guy personally, but they’re both great choices for high video quality for sub $1,000.)
2. Close Enough to See the Whites of Our Eyes
I first learned this concept by reading the book How to Shoot Video That Doesn’t Suck.
A captivating video includes close-ups. Close enough to see the whites of the eyes of the “actor”. This is what transfers emotions effectively and is an amazing way to show emphasis. My obesity video is shot with a fixed distance, and there are no close-ups.
Close-ups are easy if you have two cameras. One of them is closer to your subject than the other and you are all set. Then, it’s all a matter of combining the footage from those two cameras in a single clip during editing.
But what if you only have one camera?
One way is to edit in your close-ups. Some video editing programs like Final Cut Pro X allow you the option to “crop” a video. If you do this though, you will actually lose some of the quality of your shot. However, if your video was shot with good lighting and 1080p quality, then the drop in quality shouldn’t be obvious.
(Note from Caleb: You can see how cropping and slow zooms help keep the viewer’s attention in much longer videos like in the sales video Chase made for Fizzle.co.)
This is what I am actually doing in my “believe in yourself” video. When I got the shot, I was right in the centre. I created close-ups during editing, and that’s why I sometimes appear to be to the left, or to the right.
Another way to create close-ups with one camera is to shoot the video twice. Just put the camera a little farther or closer during the second time that you shoot the video. Then, once again you combine the shots in a single clip during editing.
No drop in quality this way, but you do need to shoot the video twice.
3. Excuse Me, What Did You Say?
The quality of the video rapidly deteriorates if the sound quality is poor. Camera microphones are not good enough because they collect the sound from the whole room, creating too much “noise” that is hard to filter out.
Our ears can filter that noise out, but microphones can not.
That’s why you need an external microphone that points at you and collects sound from you, while ignoring sounds that come from other directions.
Here are a few sound recording accessories with some of the best professional sounding, yet budget friendly options.
- A lavalier microphone (Olympus ME-15: $25 or Shure SM93 XLR: $135) – These are the small microphones that attach to your clothes and then run directly into your video camera. They are sensitive enough that they might pick up noise from your clothes rubbing on you. However, if you are being steady while you shoot your videos, then a lavalier microphone is your best choice. This is what I would have bought if I wasn’t shooting exercise videos.
- A shotgun microphone (Rode Video Mic: $150 or Rode VideoMic Pro: $229) – Those attach to your DSLR camera as shown here. They replace your camera’s microphone, and they do a much better job.
- An external recording device (Zoom H1: $95 or H4n: $250 or Tascam DR-05: $95 or DR-40: $175) – An external recording device can do wonders for your audio, but they also increase your overhead: You need to sync your camera’s audio with the audio captured from your device. That’s why film-makers use clappers.
I am using my camera’s microphone in my obesity video, and a Zoom H4n in my “believe in yourself” video. Turn up your speakers and listen to my first video. Can you listen to this “shhhh” noise? This is what I got rid of in my second video with Zoom H4n. My voice is sharper too.
4. Content Isn’t King, Lighting Is
Lighting is the foundation of a good video.
- Lighting improves the quality of the shot captured.
- Lighting enhances the subject of your video.
In my obesity video I am sitting right next to the window so the lighting is ok. It could have been better if had I used extra lights though. More lighting is almost always better.
In my “believe in yourself” video, I am using these lights ($220). There was no natural light in the room and I could have never shot that video without the lights.
How do you know if the light is too much? You check how the skin tone shows up in your film. If it’s washed out, then you are probably having too much light on your subject.
If you want to learn how to properly use 3-point lighting, this video is the best tutorial online.
5. Awkward as hmm, ehm, huh?
It is natural to pause and think about what to say. What does not come out well though is to leave even 0.5 sec of those moments in your video. You must learn the art of cutting!
As you see, there is minimal cutting in my first video, while my second video is much more sophisticated.
Now you might be worried that if you cut your shot in scene #1 and scene #2, then when you combine the two scenes together you will notice a “jump” in the video.
You’re are right. You will notice a slight jump that may or may not be bothering.
If you want to get rid of it, then change the angle of scene #2.
For example, scene #2 may be zoomed in. Or, scene #2 may be taken by the footage of the second camera that was shooting from a slightly different angle.
If you do this your final video will look natural. No jumps. Just a seamless progression.
What about transitions, effects, background music, branding intros, calls to action?
I could go on and on about creating good videos, but I really wanted to show you the basics. Putting in fancy sound effects and transitions may sound like fun, but nothing will show up good if your initial footage lacks light, the sound is just crappy, or your don’t know how to cut…ruthlessly.
Master the basics and then you are free to explore and play with your options. For example, that’s what I did with my “subscribe” call-to-action at the end of my second video, where I am being chased by YouTube’s “Subscribe” button.
Every step you take will lead you further in the creative process. Enjoy this journey as it almost never ends.
As the Olympic champion sprinter Michael Johnson said:
“It’s going to be fun. There’s always something to do.”
What do you struggle with when making videos? Or what are some of your favorite resources for learning how to make better videos online?
Let us know in the comments below this post.