DIY Video – When is do-it-yourself video right for you?
Let’s face it, we’re all well aware that shooting and posting your own video to your company’s web site, your non-profit organization’s Facebook page or your Twitter feed is as easy as pulling your smart phone out of your pocket and pressing record. In today’s post, we’ll talk about good uses for do-it-yourself video, when to hire a professional, and pitfalls to avoid when going the DIY route.
We’ll even provide you with a free download at the end of this post to help you fix one of the most common mistakes that people make when shooting with a smartphone: the dreaded vertical video! At the end of this article, we’ll also provide some resources of inexpensive equipment you might consider having on hand when the need for DIY video presents itself.
Good uses of DIY video
Full honest disclosure: Given that Positive Light Media is in the business of creating great video content, we’d love it if you called on us every time you wanted to created content. Our clients think we’re pretty good at this, after all. That said, if you are going to go the DIY route, let’s make sure that you’re as successful as possible, and that you can do it in a way that maintains and elevates your brand. There are two big reasons you may want to consider DIY video for your organization: immediacy of the message and short shelf life. Let’s explore those reasons together.
Immediacy of the message
One of the most compelling reasons to go the DIY route with video is immediacy of the message. Perhaps one of your favorite clients just happens to be visiting the office today, and they’ve offered to record a quick testimonial video to talk about how great you are. If this happens, pull that phone out of your pocket and press record!
Short shelf life
Another consideration that often goes hand in hand with the immediacy of the message is the fact that your video might have a short shelf life. Perhaps you want to make a quick announcement about a new product that launches today and you just need to get that information out to your network.
Another reason might be that you want to quickly update your audience about a change to an upcoming event. In either of these cases, the video you’re posting is going to have a very short life. Shortly after posting the video, the product launch is going to be over or the event is going to be complete. Going the DIY route to quickly get the word out is a perfect use of DIY video technology.
Before you post that DIY video let’s make sure that the video you record looks and sounds as good as possible. Putting just a little bit of additional effort into your video will help you maintain and elevate your brand, and avoid any unnecessary embarrassment. In order to do that, we’re going to remember do four things well: Audio, Location, Lighting and Framing.
It may be surprising that when we’re talking about recording video that we’re listing audio at the top of the list, but it really should be your top priority. There’s nothing worse than DIY video that was recorded with poor audio. If you post a video with poor-quality audio, you can count on that your audience will quickly move on. To solve this, you should purchase a lapel microphone for your smartphone for less than $100, but what if your opportunity to press record is here now and you haven’t yet purchased a microphone?
In that case, stand no more than 5 feet away from your subject, choose a location that’s as quiet as possible and capture that great content that you need in a pinch. If you’re recording yourself, standing less than 5 feet away should be easy because you’ll either be hand holding the phone in “selfie” mode or using a “selfie stick.”
If you end up recording in a room that has too much background noise, you may wish to ultimately reconsider posting your video, because posting a video with unintelligible audio is a sure-fire way to diminish your brand and reputation.
A final recommendation for good audio with a smartphone is to consider using the microphone that came with your earbuds. Sometimes you can pin that microphone to the person on camera and it will sound better than no microphone at all or the built in microphone.
We’ve already mentioned that a quiet location is the best location to use for recording video with your smart phone, but what about other location considerations?
When choosing a location for your subject, never ever put them right up against a wall. This looks terrible and causes the viewer to feel claustrophobic. Instead, choose a location where you can put something behind your subject that says something about who they are.
When we conduct corporate interviews or record testimonials for our clients, we’ll often choose a location with a company logo in the background or we’ll find props that quietly reinforce either something about our on-camera subject or the topic of the overall video.
Consider the color of your background, too, and how well that complements what your subject is wearing. If your subject is wearing particularly dark clothing, it’s probably not a good idea put them against a very dark background. Doing so might cause your subject to look like they have a head and no body! We certainly don’t want that to happen!
The type of lighting available to you will no doubt influence your location choice, but because it’s so important, we’re going to address it separately. When our team shows up to record your video and tell your story, we sometimes bring an arsenal of lighting, but with DIY video, you often have to be a little bit more creative.
Whenever possible, the best source of light comes from Mother Nature. If you’re lucky enough to be somewhere near a window, use the window as a wonderful source of light. In the ideal world, there would be at least a nice thin veil of clouds obscuring the sun. Even heavy overcast is OK if you’re filming in the afternoon. If it’s after dark, put a table or floor lamp directly to the left or right of your smart phone so that it casts light on the front of your subject’s face.
One thing to avoid whenever possible is top down ceiling lighting. If that is your only light, it will accentuate the subject’s eye sockets and just doesn’t flatter anyone. Ideally, the source of light will be at eye level and to one side or the other of the subject to give the face a nice shape.
If you only take one thing away from this article, please let it be this: vertical video is never OK. Perhaps such a strong statement would offend the folks at Apple, but we feel that you should save vertical images for portraits. TV screens keep getting bigger and wider, and it just doesn’t feel good to look at a talking head on a vertical video.
So, please, in spite of the fact that your phone will let you capture a vertical video, don’t do it. Your audience will be happier if you hold that smart phone in the horizontal position. It’s simply a more pleasing and flattering view of a talking subject.
Here’s another framing tip: Don’t use “selfie” mode if at all possible. One reason is that you’re bound to record a mirror image of yourself. What’s particularly bad about this is that you’re so used to looking at yourself in a mirror that you might not even notice this happened until you’ve posted the video!
Lapel pins with words that are backwards and backwards signs in the background are dead giveaways to this mistake. Not only that, but the selfie camera angles tend to be very unflattering as they often distort the proportions of a person’s face.
If you’re tempted to go this route, please avoid it and enlist the help of a coworker to be your camera person. Have your camera person stand 5 feet away and hold the camera at eye level while they record you delivering your message. Trust us, it will make you look much better!
We believe that the best times to use DIY video are when the message is immediate and the shelf life is short. It’s amazing the way that DIY video has grown since a good video camera became an expected feature within the smart phone that we all now carry. Audiences are much more tolerant of smart phone video when the message is timely and the shelf life is short.
When your video needs to have a long shelf life (think anywhere from several months to a year or two), it’s best to consider hiring a professional. A good video storyteller or producer knows how to plan and ask the right questions so that you can maximize both your investment dollars and your time. They also know how to tell an engaging story about your topic.
It should also be pointed out that hiring a good video production company is about so much more than filming pretty pictures. A good video producer comes with a whole host of skills beyond the obvious of directing when the camera starts rolling. Those skills include everything from how to conduct a great interview to how to maximize the impact your video will have on social media.
Vertical Video Fix
At the beginning of this article, we mentioned that we’d be providing a downloadable resource to fix the dreaded vertical video. As promised, here is a link to an After Effects template that we built just to help you fix that vertical video that you now wish you’d shot horizontally:
The link includes a file with instructions that explain how to use the template. If you find that fixing your vertical seems too time consuming or difficult, let us know and we will help you. In fact, given that you’ve read this far, if you have a vertical video that you’d like to have reformatted for horizontal viewing reach out to us and we’ll fix the first one for you for free!
Smart Phone Lapel Microphone
As we mentioned above, you should try to use a lapel microphone when shooting DIY video. Here’s one we found that’s bound to give you great results with your smart phone:
Here’s a bonus tip for you if decide to go the DIY video route: Keep your video short! By short, we mean less than one minute at the absolute most. The shorter the video, the more tolerant your audience will be of a lower production value.
It’s clear that DIY video is here to stay and that it’s helpful to know how to use this trend to your advantage. The key is to use the medium properly and to your brand’s advantage. We hope the tips and resources we’ve shared have been useful. If they have been useful, please share this post with your network!
Beyond our thoughts, what are your DIY video tips?
If you have ideas for an upcoming blog topic, please let us know.