Creating good video content

As part of my Job as a Technical Evangelist I produce a lot of video content. I've only been doing this for around 4 years and have learnt paractically everything on the job. I sat down and did a Q and A last week so thought I would share it here.

How do you begin creating video content?

It depends on the position you start from. I personally took a course, which gave me a head start and I would advise this if you have some cash available. I find No Film School has some great tutorials and I regularly visit to get tips tricks and inspiration.

Let’s start with the basics, what advice would you give to someone starting out with film/video production?

You can often get too concerned with production quality. It's better to start and do a bad job than to never start at all. You will learn lessons even from bad work. Don't be scared to share, I have found that feedback has been the best way to learn. So, for example if some says the audio is too low or too muffled, fix that for the next shoot. Work on the stuff that people complain about until they start commenting on the content. Once people are engaging with your message then you know you have overcome the basics of video production.

How important is video length in a social media driven world? What have you found to work well?

Any agency you speak to will tell you that your videos need to be under 5 minutes. In general, they will say the shorter the better. Personally, I think videos should be as long as they need to be. Many of the most successful Youtubers, for example, often post hour long videos. It is however important that you can draw a viewer in, that means the first 30 seconds in a video are critical. You need to make sure that you do the following:

  • Tell the user why they are watching, what are you going to show them or tell them.
  • Put the viewer at ease, you’re a professional and this is going to be easy to watch and
  • Avoid repeating yourself. Try writing out what you plan to say and then really think about how you could say it more clearly with fewer words.

How did you gain confidence in front of the camera? Do you even need to be in front of the camera to make good content?

I went on a 2-day video presentation course with a former Blue Peter presenter Peter Pervis, which taught me a lot. I'd say that if you can't pay for professional advise then look at presenters that you like and study what they do. Where they look, how they address the camera, how they speak to others around them. Watch your recordings back, be self-critical and try and become aware of ticks that you might have so you can avoid them in future recordings.

Any tips on making a good tech review/unboxing?

Start by thinking what you would want to know about the product. Put yourself in the shoes of the audience, imagine the sorts of questions they might ask and build that into your script. People think scripts will make them more mechanical, but it does the very opposite, it gives you an opportunity to think about what you are going to say, in general a script will make you sound smarter, more charismatics and slicker than you are naturally.

What camera/beginning equipment would you recommend to a new content creator?

Microphone

With Microphones, there are lots of options. I use a Behringer B1 at home and a Blue Yeti Pro at work. I also have a Zoom H4 which is an audio recorder which is useful to have in your kit bag since it allows you record audio but also power phantom microphones (these are a type of mic that require some electricity to power them). Alternatively buy yourself a wired laver mic something like an Audio Technica ATR-3350, which will plug into most phones or SLRs. It's cheap and cheerful but will give you far better audio quality than relying on whatever is built into your camera. If you are recording a vlog think about buying good USB microphone.

Camera

If your using a Surface or Mac then the webcam in your device is great. Logitech C900 is a great webcam if you are looking to stream rather than record. I personally use 2 x Canon Legria G40 and a cheaper Canon 400d. Hunt around on ebay and don't be afraid to buy something older, you can save a lot by buying something 5 or so years old. Sure it might not have 4k or Wifi remotes... But it's the Image Clarity at 1080p you need to be worrying about for online video. If you own a high end mobile phone, plugging a Lavier directly into that gives surprisingly good results. If you buy a nice SLR or camcorder get familiar with the settings, I read a book called "Hot Shots" by Kevin Meredith which is a great book for getting to understand the different capabilities of your camera.

Lights

If you can afford it get some lights. The type you want will depend on the type of shot you want to take, if it just you consider a ring light, which gives you that classic youtuber look and feel. Learn about 3-point lighting. I love this really simple video that shows how you can achieve this with the sorts of things you will have around the house.

Tripod

Buy a tripod. You can spend as much as you like, more expensive fluid head tripods are probably only really required if you plan to be panning the camera around. If you are looking to keep costs down, this is an area I would buy cheap. You get what you pay for, but if you are simply looking for a static shot then you don't need to spend a lot.

How do you convey your personality through the camera?

It is all about practice. I try and treat the camera as a person. I speak to it like a friend. If you were speaking to someone you'd look them in the eye, the same is true on camera, look straight down the lens and mantain eye contact whilst your speaking. If someone else is speaking to the camera and you are in shot, look at the person speaking and not the camera. If you are having a conversation with a guest speak to them, look at them and largely ignore the camera unless you are explaining something to that person at home.

I like to imagine the camera is a single person, a friend. The more you practice the more ordinary it becomes. That's why it is so important to get on and start producing videos. You might be rubbish to start with but there is only one way to get better and that is to excersise that muscle.

How does editing a vlog differ from editing a podcast?

Editing video can take a long time. I use either Adobe Premier or Camtasia depending on the project. More recently I have been using Camtasia since I find it the fastest way to get video edited together. Premier is better though if you have some problem footage, an audio sync issue or if you want a more advanced visual effect.

For audio I use Audacity. I'd say audio is easier to edit.

What's the ideal length for a piece of video content?

As short as you can make it. I generally don't make video over 15 minutes long anymore, but it all really depends on what you are talking about. There are no rules. You should review your analytics though and find out how long visitors are spending on your videos, where they are dropping off and which videos are the most watched. Use the analytics to inform you about what your audience like and don't like. You will find a format that works for you.

Do you enjoy creating content?

Absolutely, in particular I like live streaming. Recently I've produced a live stream for AI Summit and DDD South East. There is nothing quite like the thrill of producing video live having the success or failure hang on a knife edge. For streaming I use some quite expensive equipment called a Tricaster Mini and it's absolutely one of the favourite aspects of my job. I'm learning all the time and I like to think recording by recording and stream by stream I'm gradually getting better and better. If I wasn't involved in software development, I'd absolutely love to be involved in Live TV.

Any additional advice?

Give it a go, you can learn everything you need to from the internet and if you are willing to hunt around you can pick up a lot of the equipment inexpensively, for me video production is a bit of a hobby, but I find in life that trying to integrate things you enjoy and making them impactful in your day job, means you end up much happier in your job.

Published by thebeebs

Martin works for Microsoft as a Software Developer. He’s been a developer since the late 90s and loves figuring out problems and experimenting with code.