Category Archives: DIY ?

6 Absolute Musts For Shooting Yourself On Video

I have seen a handful of vanity channels, so-called business presentations, video blogs, and all the rest, and I gotta tell ya.. owning a video camera or a web cam no more makes you a talk show host than owning a guitar makes you Erc Clapton.

I was compelled to start watching these folks because they had a headline that drew me in, they said something interesting, or because I know them. Truthfully,  I didn’t last more than 3 minutes.

So I keep coming back to something I’ve said time and time again: Either you want to be known as an expert, or you want people to buy a product or service from you, so be as professional as you know how, or the next guy will.  Online video has no excuses for poor quality.  If you’re going to shoot yourself, here’s how to do it with a little class:

  1. Find an uncluttered spot. Look at your surroundings the way the camera is going to see it. Don’t let anything get in the way of the camera’s main focus.
  2. Back Away From The Camera.  Really. All this fisheyed e-trade baby video is making me nauseous.
  3. SMILE !!!!  And hold eye contact. Put a picture of someone you care a lot about beside that camera lens.  Then talk to them.  You will be more natural
  4. Take off the headphones.  You don’t have to hear yourself. It also looks really low tech. If there are music cues or an interview you have to respond to, get an earpiece, or just set the phones down out of camera range. You’ll still be able to hear it.
  5. Don’t take five minutes to get to the content.  I don’t really care that this is your fifth show, and you now have two thousand viewers.  Acknowledge what I came to see. At least Letterman and Leno start with a rundown of what the show’s going to be about.  It’s not a bad idea for you to do that, too.  Of course, it will mean actually planning, and not talking off the top of your head.
  6. That will directly affect your “um” quotient.  Take notes, and use those notes to prompt you for the next idea.  Planning and focusing keeps the “ums” to a mimimum.  A little silence is a lot more preferable to inane babble.
  7. Keep it short and to the point.  I’m not going to watch you for an hour. Especially if it’s just you on camera.  Sorry if it hurts your feelings.  Brevity is the soul of wit. You’ll get more viewers with a shorter piece. You’ll be more focused.  Did you know that all of the network evening news shows used to be 15 minutes long?

If you can do those simple things, you’ll be surprised how better you look, and how much more professional you come across.

–That’s A Wrap.

Bad Video ; Empty Promises

I’ve probably blogged about this before, but everytime I see one of these sites, I just want to erect a barricade around it.  Crime Scene Tape if you will.

It’s those sites who tell you how important video is to your website (it is) and then proceed to tell you that they can put one together for you using stock photos and a voiceover. (they can, but it won’t do you any good)

To make matters worse, THEIR websites usually have the well-placed red text that screams “SIGN UP NOW!!” or “LIMITED TIME OFFER!!”  They do this for the same reason Cosmopolitan writes the kinds of headlines it does for its magazine: It’s An Impulse Item.

If you own a small business, since when is your marketing plan an impulse item?

Yes, you can find some very nice looking stock photos, then add text overlays and pretty music, and you have a nice BORING video.

Where does it connect with your customers, your prospects? Where does it engage that audience of people who are looking for exactly what you do?

There are companies that will promise you thousands of hits on your website if you will just buy their e-book or sign up for their monthly program.  Some of these same companies promise you thousands of Twitter followers if you will just pay them “x” number of dollars.

But listen to me: You don’t want thousands of hits to your website. The only ones you want are the ones that will BUY from you. Those are the ones who are already searching for you. They may know that they want the product that you sell, but maybe there are different features. Help them decide. Do THAT in a video that stars you.

Ask people to watch a video with only words spinning and scrolling, and to me, that’s tantamount to the web pages of old with their blinking text and spinning animated gifs.

And it doesn’t tell me who you are.

I want to buy from you. I want to do business with you. I want to feel like I already know you.  That’s what your prospects are saying.  How will you answer them?

A slide show doesn’t cut it.

–That’s a wrap.

6 Reasons Why You Need To Use Flash For Web Video, and 1 Reason Why You Don’t.

If you’re putting video on your website, you want as many folks as possible to watch it, right?  No matter if your viewer is using Windows, or Apple, they should be able to watch it quickly and without hassle.

There are more than a handful of multimedia formats, and some players don’t play them all.

I’m a PC – always have been; always will be.  Here’s something I didn’t know – not all Windows systems have Windows Media Player pre-installed. On the other hand, not all Apple machines have Quicktime pre-installed.  Windows Media won’t play Quicktime files. Quicktime doesn’t like Windows. But there’s one format, and one player that works with both operating systems.

When it comes to putting videos on your website, Adobe Flash has a lot going for it.

  1. The small file size means it loads quickly
  2. You can pre-set the buffer size, so it starts playing immediately
  3. It embeds easily into webcode
  4. You can determine how you want the player to look.
  5. You can view it full screen if you want
  6. Mobile devices are using it.  (It’s true, Flash doesn’t play well with the Iphone.  That’s why you also need an MP4 version of all your videos.)

Your website visitors don’t want to have to wait while a video downloads. Give them the experience they want, and the information they need, and they will actually spend a longer time on your site.  My average viewer spends almost four minutes on each page.  And there are effective and affordable video players which will even generate the code for you.  All you do is plug and play!

Do it now.  The longer you wait the further behind the curve you will be.  Video is not a craze.  It will become as ubiquitous as text and images are on websites.

–That’s A Wrap.

5 Ways To Make DIY Videos Better

Of course, I’m a big supporter of using videos on your website. There are many ways to record videos for business. One way is to do it yourself. Some of these new pocket-sized cameras are making it very easy

So what’s being shown in all these videos? Not much more than talking heads.

There is so much that can make a great and compelling video: different angles, close-ups, b-roll. But it’s hard to take those shots and mix them in, because the selling point of the little micro-cams is that they will upload directly to the web. And that means no editing.

Editing is how you tell a story. Look at all of your favorite programs on TV. They have different shots, and various angles, reaction shots from the other players, location shots to establish where they are. You can do that if you’re doing it yourself. It just takes a little planning. Planning will make a mediocre video a GREAT video.

If you’re going to shoot with a microcam, here are five things that will make your videos better from the start:

  1. Make sure you have a steady platform. Use a mini tripod.
  2. You can’t see what you’re shooting with most microcams. Try not to get that “in your face fisheye” effect. Don’t be afraid to shoot it again and again.
  3. If there are going to be two or more speakers, don’t swing the cam from side to side. You’ll just make the viewer dizzy.
  4. Shoot in different locations. Use a background shot to show where you are, then in one edit, you can be moving forward with your content.
  5. Plan Plan Plan Plan Plan Plan Plan.

If everyone’s video looks the same, these tips will set yours apart. Many folks, however, are attracted by the easy shoot and quick upload of these microcams. If you already have an expensive looking website, don’t sabotage your image with a poor quality video.

–that’s a wrap

What's Wrong With This Picture – part two

Continued from earlier this week: the website that was the subject of this blog specialized only in editing. They wanted you to do the shooting and upload the video to them. They even had some videos to show you how to do it correctly.. eleven of them to start with! With such thorough instructions, you’d think they’d be sticklers for quality. Guess again.

Besides using a camcorder, they also give instructions on how to use a digital SLR camera to record a minute or so of video. Then you might as well use your camera phone too, because now you really will start looking like a YouTube cat video And now you get into the realm of why do you even need editing if you’re shooting with such low resolution cameras? Still, I for one would watch a bad picture with good sound. But I will never watch any kind of picture with bad sound.

What do they say about audio quality?: “using the built in microphone is fine, as long as you get close. Well, if you’re doing that, you might as well have a web cam, which makes you look really creepy. Listen, onboard mics have problems. They all do, unless you’re going to pay at least 10k for your camera, use an external mic. Always. This is one rule you cannot forget. Most people record in a room or an area which is way too big, that makes the sound boom-y An external mic is the difference between “anybody could” and Hollywood.

Doing it yourself is fine. It’s fun. But there are caveats if you’re looking to produce an engaging piece of content that is going to represent you .

–That’s a wrap.

What's Wrong With This Picture? part one

Today someone sent me a link to a website that produces video. I have to confess, I’ve had the site up for hours now, looking at it, trying to figure out its appeal, marveling at the technical gaffes.
It is a site which gives instruction on how to photograph yourself with your video camera. Then you’re supposed to upload the video to them and they will edit it for you and host it on their site.

They have 11 steps for the customer to complete before he even turns on the camera. Eleven Steps! Imagine doing that yourself. With everything else you have to be aware of, then you have to be your own director! If you’re familiar with the phrase about the man who was his own lawyer, it’s the same punchline. A director will give you advice, tell you how you look, suggest and cajole, and make you do it again until it’s the best you can do.
Do you know what aspect ratio means? That’s basically the size of the screen. Most websites are using the standard 16:9 wide screen ratio. They want their customers to use the older 4:3 ratio. Then the customer has to write his script, a chore for many even with the “catchy phrases” they suggest, and either memorize it, or hold it in his lap. Oh, but we’re not through, you have to upload it so they can edit it. There’s no other way to say it : video takes a hell of a long time to upload.

There are a few websites popping up which purport to produce video for anywhere in the country. Either they have to use actors that are local to them, and consequently do not represent you and your business, or they rely on someone else to get the right shots so that they can edit them, with no thought to telling the story, or showing your business in the best light. It scares me more than a little, because the cheap looking results that come from those kinds of folks further cheapens the concept you are trying to achieve with a video on your website.

Easy to understand now why we do it all, and we do it all right here in Cincinnati.

Later this week, part two: Video and audio quality.

—That’s a wrap

Quality Videos Reflect The Quality Of Your Business

New blog.  First Post.  I was going to hold off on this until my site redesign, but after what I saw tonight, I think it’s an important thing to note: Don’t shoot amateur quality videos and sell them as professional productions.

Tonight, a friend passed a referral to me.  I went to look at the company website – we’ll call them “”.  Their web design firm has posted some videos about what a great place this company is to work for.  Now, defining your corporate culture is an excellent use of video in today’s climate.  Google has done it with the Life At Google series on YouTube.  The Google series is shot well, and has compelling themes.

The videos I watched tonight on  the LLC site were (a) Grainy – if I didn’t know better, I’d think they were shot with someone’s camera phone.  (b) used the on camera microphone – a very big no no.  Sound is as important as picture, and since all of these shots were extreme closeups, to have the voice sound like it was coming from a barrel is quite rude from the position of a viewer. (c) one of the persons were shot sitting in front of a window. The light coming from behind washes the subject out.  It looks cheap.  I can’t hear what they are saying, so even if it IS a wonderful place to work, no one will know.

Truthfully, I don’t know if their web designer is also the video producer, but since the design firm touts multimedia production on their website, I could make a pretty good case for it. “LLC” has a nice website.  The designers did a good job.  Was this thrown in at the last minute?  Was it made to be a “value added” component ? At this point, I don’t know.  Maybe I can find out.

Producing videos for businesses is a lot more than Point And Shoot.   Some folks just love to do things like that for themselves, and that’s okay.  BUT
** You have to have an external microphone.  No discussion.
**The basics of 3 point lighting are simple.  So use  room lamps, and buy some Perfect Daylight bulbs so at least your colors come out right, and your subjects look like somebody you would want to watch.

And if you find that you’re in over your head, ask for help.   Your business and the image you convey can be seriously harmed by thoughtless multimedia.
———- That’s a wrap.