Double R Productions

How to make a web video

So you’re a small business owner, you’re sold on the idea of a promotional video and the power of the internet to spread your word, but you feel you just can’t afford to have one made for you and you want to know how to make a web video? Well this posting’s for you then.

When it comes to marketing for small businesses not many things can beat the small business web video as a cost effective tool to getting your message out there. The dream is of course that your internet video goes viral with everyone on the web talking about how clever and funny your video is, but even small amounts of views can be effective if viewed in the right places.

For instance Double R Productions recently did a promotional video for Swanky’s Lash & Brow Bar. The video was done because they had previously been offered a free web video, which turned out to be a guy coming round and filming with a mobile phone and then putting the disastrous results on an obscure internet directory.

Donia, the owner of Swanky’s was horrified that this video was representing her online, so wanted to film a better one. We made the video and posted it, it made a hundred or so views in a couple of days, but then got picked up by an online beauty directory who shared the video on their site, where it got hundreds more hits, which eventually led to business.

The question; ‘how to make a web video?’ Is a pretty open-ended one as there are many different types of video you can go for. So for the purposes of this blog post, I’m going to assume that it’s live video that you’re interested in and that there are three types of reader of this post.

1. The small business owner with little or no budget say £200 or less.

2. The small business owner with a small budget, say under £500.

3. The small to medium business owner with a medium sized budget £1500

That’s not to forget you readers who just want to know the mechanics of how to make a web video with a more creative tilt, say a short film or documentary, it’s just that for now we’re going to focus on the commercial side of things; I’ll have subsequent postings that cover the more creative side of web video making in the future.

Firstly we need an idea, this is especially important if you have a small budget, this may seem obvious but there are a lot of people out there who just want a web video for their company but don’t know what type of video they want, without this information budgeting for your web video is impossible.

Think of it this way, if you wanted a new bathroom or kitchen in your house then unless you’re extremely wealthy you won’t just go into a bathroom showroom and say you just come up with something for me. You’d choose the bath, the taps the shower head and all the things you needed to make up your bathroom, using style and budget as denominators, this is the same for your video.

The problem is of course if your speciality is plumbing or accountancy, then you may not be so hot on coming up with video ideas. That’s no problem; the best way to get ideas is simply to look on the web, put your product or service into Google or whatever search engine you use and look for video results.

Then you’ll be able to get a style of video that you like and if you read my blog on How Much Should My Web Video Production Cost? You’ll get a good handle of mentally costing a video and therefore manage your own expectations as to what can be achieved with your budget.

Once you’ve got your idea and hopefully some kind of script together, you’ll need a venue for your video. If you’re a restaurant owner or a fitness trainer then getting an interesting venue is going to be easier than if you’re a mobile worker or work in a bog-standard office.

Our advice would be if your natural environment doesn’t cut it, then look for somewhere suitable outside (great if you’re on a low budget as daylight is effective and free!) or think about a friend or colleague who lives or work’s in an interesting environment that you can use.

OK, so we have our idea, we have a lovely location to shoot at what next? Well next you have to think who’s going to present it? If the answer is you, then great let’s skip to the next stage; if not, then you’re going to need a web video presenter. If you’re on a low budget, you’re not going to be able to afford the at least, few hundred pounds that this will add to the cost. So if you feel you have got a face for radio only, then it comes back to family, friends, colleagues or employees.

Now we need equipment, which if you’re on a medium to large budget and you don’t know anything about making video, then it’s probably best to shop around and leave it to pros like us. However if you’re on a low-no and sometimes medium, then you’re going to have to acquire the equipment yourself.

What camera and sound should you use? HD is pretty much the standard out there now so it’s just a case of which one, I’m not going to go into a camera review here, but I will say that you want one with manual focus and preferably an XLR input for your wireless mic which is a connecter with 3 holes, note; don’t use the in-built camera mic, it will sound terrible and worse amateurish!

XLR inputs for a Panasonic HVX camera

This is the kind of input that you want to see on your camera

These types of cameras are in the prosumer range and are pretty expensive to buy and unless one of your friends or family is in the video production business, then it’s unlikely that they will own one of these cameras. If they do by the way, it is them who should definitely be filming for you.

You can hire a Sony Z1 or Z7 or a Panasonic HVX for around £50 per day and a Senheiser wireless mic for around £30 per day, with that you’ll need a tripod and at least a video top light, so for around £150-200 for the day you’ll have the right kit. The hire company should be happy to give you a demo of how things work, plus our old friend the internet will have lots of tutorial videos on how to use your equipment.

Even if you do use a consumer camera with auto focus, make sure you can plug in some kind of mic to it, it’ll be a hand-held Maplin’s type microphone, but it’ll be better than the camera’s own.

Panasonic HVX 200a built-in microphone

Don’t rely on the camera’s built-in microphone, no matter how good the camera is.

So now we’ve got the idea for our web video, the venue, the presenter, the camera, sound and lights. We now need to decide on the cameraman and the editor.

I would always recommend using a second person to work the camera, even if you’re just doing a talking head type video, intercut with some location shots (b-roll), as there will always be something you miss if you try and set up the shot, hit record and then go to your position. So unless you’ve got less friends than a pig farmer in Mecca, get one of them to help you out.

As far as an editor is concerned, this is where, if you’ve saved money elsewhere, you should pay for it and give it to someone with the skills, knowledge and none too important, the equipment to edit your footage. There are trial versions of pro editing systems out there and of course free tools like Windows Movie Maker and iMovie, but there are pitfalls to be aware of such as if you use Windows Movie Maker or iMovie you won’t be able to edit footage shot from a prosumer camera.

If you go down the route of downloading a trial of some pro editing equipment, then you’ll need to watch a fair few video tutorials before being able to do much more than turn it on.

So finally everything’s in place, how do we make sure we get good compelling content? I’m going to assume you’ve come up with the greatest idea since women’s Olympic beach volleyball and that you’ve come up with a really ingenious way to execute it cheaply.

The first thing you want to make sure of is that your subject, be that you, your product, your place of work, is well lit and in focus. Again, sound’s obvious, but there are a plethora of home-made company web videos out there that are neither. Remember when looking at an image in a video camera, unless you’re zoomed right in with a low depth of field setting (I’ll explain that later) you won’t necessarily notice that you’re out of focus.

To check that you’re in focus, zoom right into your subject and focus, if you’re looking at a face, use either hairs on the head or individual eyelashes to check you’re in focus, if you can see an eyelash then you know you’re in.

Lighting; as I mentioned before, daylight is effective and cheap, on a bright day you can position your subject so that daylight is coming through a window, diffused by net curtains, hitting the face square or three quarters on. You can then use a reflector or video light to fill the side that is in partial shadow, this will give a nice effect, especially if you place the fill light just behind and to the side of the subject.

Framing in a small business video is all about information; what information are you trying to convey? For instance if we have a talking head video, then the information we’re trying to convey or rather the message we’re trying to convey is that the small business owner (you) is talking directly to the customer. This is different when we are doing an art piece as we may sometimes deliberately use framing to throw the watcher off what we are later going to reveal.

With that in mind we should make sure there is enough room around the subject, if you were talking to a customer in a live situation unless your business involved selling rather personal services you wouldn’t press your face right up to theirs as you were pitching them, so why do it on camera?

Use the rule of thirds, divide the frame equally up into 3 parts and sit on the left or right of the frame, look off camera into that space. If you’re someone that talks you’re your hands a lot, then make sure your hands can be seen and make sure there’s enough room at the top of the frame, but not so much that your subject get’s lost.

We’ve been talking about the talking head video as an example so let’s explore that first. Your type of business will determine exactly how you tackle this, for example if you are a restaurant owner or another business whereby the public come to you in a public setting, then you’d want to have lots of shots of the business.

So the formula for the talking head web video is as follows; record an interview answering key questions about the business add some history of the business or if it’s new then some history about the people behind it.

Record interview with a customer or customers, preferably while or just after they’ve benefited from your product or service, there’s nothing like a customer recommendation. Don’t cheat with this one, you can tell (especially when the budget’s low) when (usually bad) actors have been used instead of real customers. Having a real name, title and place of business as a title gives the customer testimony more credence.

Shoot plenty of b-roll footage, b-roll is your filler, it’s the shots that you edit together in a pleasing visual montage to go over some or all of the interview(s) you’ve shot. Remember you can NEVER have too much b-roll, this footage often saves you when a mistake has been made or you’re trying to stitch two parts of an interview together and you want to hide the join.

That is the basic formula for a corporate talking head web video, but there’s obviously the detail which will vary depending on idea, business and other factors, as I said earlier, look at other people’s ideas and borrow elements form the videos you like the most.

OK, hopefully that’s given you a good platform to go out there and organise your own web video. You can use that generic template even if you’re not shooting a talking head video so get out there and start shooting.

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