Making Your Video Happen: More Than Just a Camera

As I discussed last week, web video doesn’t require the same kind of equipment you need to shoot an amazing indie short. However, that doesn’t mean you get to skimp on the creativity!

The blessing and curse of web video is that you have only 2-5 minutes to say what you’ve got to say. You don’t need to try and make a two hour long story make sense, like a filmmaker does, but instead you have to compete with a dazzling world of distraction — email, Twitter, other websites, etc. Your video needs to come on strong and stay strong.

So how do you do this? There are many tried and true forms, and when it comes to business-to-business, you have the added advantage that viewers are not as entertainment hungry as the typical YouTube crowd. You can focus on more informative resources such as a message from the President, a testimonial from a customer, or just a description of what you do in a slightly more entertaining way. One particularly nice touch I like is Christopher Penn’s opening to FinancialAidPodcast.com.

Of course, an idea does not a video make. You need to turn the idea into words and images, and this is where even the simplest web video requires a touch of art. Turning on the camera and letting it run just isn’t going to work. You need to plan out what the video will be in as much detail as possible before you even think about trying to record it.

This is the process in filmmaking called pre-production, and as many a seasoned videographer will tell you, the more time you spend in this process the easier the recording will go, and the finer the finished product will be.

So what do you need in pre-production? These specifics will get you going:

  • A script – Fancy software that uses the Hollywood screenplay standard is probably not needed. Instead, a simple two column format works. I tend to write it like play dialogue — SOANDSO says something, then paragraphs describe the visuals. A storyboard consisting of doodles of the frames that accompany the audio can help.
  • The actors – Who’s going to be in the video? Are they willing to do it? Do they need to memorize their lines? What outfits does your script call for?
  • A place to shoot – It all depends on your script, and there are trade-offs no matter where you choose to shoot. Interiors can be quieter, but are hard to light adequately. Shooting outside can get a very crisp shot with little effort, but you’ll be forced to deal with wind and possibly traffic noise fuzzing with your audio.
  • Props – Flying monkeys? Check.
  • A date and time – Once you’ve figure out what you want to shoot, who will be in it, and where you’ll do it, now you just need to get all of those elements into the same place at the same time. It’s not as easy as it sounds!

Even with the best of planning, a video shoot can be tedious and frustrating (Why DOES that plane keep flying by?!?!), but the more effort you put into the front-end, the smoother the process will go in the end. In reality, a good professional video team is more than just a bunch of guys who can wield a camera — it’s an organized, artistic company that can manage the logistics of a complex project, show endless patience as they do and re-do their work, master all of this technical gobbledeegook and use all this technology to convey a cohesive marketing message.