It seems like forever since we were able to bring people together safely to shoot educational videos, yet the number of videos being developed has risen during the crisis as alternative modes of communication became impractical.
Organisational video production has gone from a team exercise to one involving video selfies. Considering the majority of selfie efforts you see out there, this may seem like a recipe for disaster... but is it?
Sure, we all hear of the amusing fails, but in general I'm not seeing a lot of cringeworthy stuff being presented by organisations that have gone from the studio to the home office, so... what's the secret?
To answer that, it's important to start with an understanding of what's now missing - why we used teams when we could. In summary the answers (in no particular order) boil down to three key points:
- Professionalism and experience
- Managed environments
If you're in any doubt about the impact this can have on the result, you only need to compare a commercially produced advertisement to a self-endorsement on a small business' website. However it's also worth asking whether you need high production values all the time?
We're living in a period where we're watching TikTok, Youtube and Instagram - our diet for amateur video is such that professionals are looking to hide their professionalism!
For example, "queasy cam" is a term for holding a camera in an unsteady way - allowing the shot to jerk as the camera operator moves. Once considered anathema, this is now a professional technique used to convey a sense of authenticity. If Steven Spielberg has adopted queasy cam, it's safe to assume that the old rules are being rewritten!
What does this mean for us? Well it means that our amateurish videos aren't so amateur after all. What they sacrifice in visual comfort, they gain in authenticity. So let's script them accordingly. If you're not likely to deliver a schmick effort, don't script as if you will.
Instead, focus on the enthusiasm and genuineness of the presenter, and if that presenter is the same person who has set up the camera, you're doing what the vast majority of your peers are. Don't be dissuaded!
One final point... among the many and various skills of the cameraperson is the talent for making a subject feel at ease. They will chat to the nervous subject in a calm voice and one of those "practice runs" through the script will actually have had the camera rolling. If you don't have that support on hand, breathing and taking it slow is the next best thing. Your best shot will be the one that followed the brief meditation break. Your most authoritative speaking voice will be the one with the pauses replacing the "ums" and the nice slow cadence.
In contrast, this is an area that is easier to control and so most people do. While we might think that youtube shot from someone's bedroom is ad-hoc, it probably isn't and consequently we have not changed our environmental expectations to the same degree as our professional ones. That said, it's not necessary to spend thousands of dollars.
Ensure your environment is quiet - nothing's more embarrassing than the sound of a distant bathroom during your delivery and the back yard birdsong might be lovely, but unless you are selling farm produce or lifestyle products, it may not create the image you want.
Your choice of microphone is important. I use an audio-technica ATR2500x-USB which delivers great sound into my laptop's USB port, but others prefer a clip on lapel mic.
Lighting is equally important. In fact you can go a long way towards creating a semi-professional appearance with this alone.
With lighting, it's all about positioning. There is probably no need for anything more than the lights you already have to hand if you can ensure they are well placed. Consider where shadows will fall - if you have multiple lights from different angles, the "double shadow" will be a distraction. If you set up the lights behind the subject, they'll appear as a silhouette - awesome for that spy film you've always wanted to make, but perhaps not ideal otherwise.
Set up lighting in front of the subject, shining in the same direction and not directly onto the face. If your lights are powerful, soften them a little, perhaps using a sheet of greaseproof paper or a lamp shade. Inb a studio, the lights are sometimes pointing away from the subject into a reflective bowl to disperse them.
Much can be said about different cameras and it's true that the more you spend, the better your recording will be... before you compress it (and reduce the quality) and send it over the internet. Let me give you a secret... the video in your camera is fine. Place it on a stand and have your subject look "down the barrel" into the lens.
Now for the teleprompter... (the what?? I hear you say). Yep.. you heard right. that would be your iPad with any one of the many free teleprompter apps running and slowly scrolling your script up the screen. Place it as close to the camera as you can.
Nothing's worse than those "I'm actually reading this" scanning eyes though! Try and avoid your subject scanning the iPad screen by making the text as large as possible so you can keep their eyes directed to the center of the iPad throughout.
Oh... and the script?
A great way to write a script is to talk about your topic as if you were at a barbeque. Interview yourself - have a set of questions on a piece off paper and answer them. Record it on your PC, then use one of the many converters to convert your unscripted ramblings to text, before cutting and reorganising it into a concise presentation and then asking someone else to give it a final edit.
Above all, remember that like with every other aspect of Covid, we're in this together. People are rewriting the rules of every aspect of their lives and changing their expectations. You are not going to be judged for the odd lighting faux pas or the occasional stumble if what you're saying is valuable. If you have something that's worthwhile to say to us, we want to hear it.
The presenter of a video is giving us a gift in the form of their thoughts.
On behalf of the rest of us.... .Thank you for them.