Content marketing is continuing to grow into an important element of many brands’ marketing and public relations programs, and video is a valuable resource – it’s quick, personable content that can be easily shared and digested by your audience. If you have it in your budget, I strongly support hiring a professional videographer and/or editor. But if this cost isn’t realistic for your content marketing program at this point in time, and you have the equipment available, handling your own content creation is absolutely doable.
I got my start in communications as a newscast editor with a degree in broadcast journalism, and I have plenty of tips and tricks in my back pocket for shooting and editing videos. To get you started, below are some of my easiest suggestions for making your video content look and sound as professional as possible.
Tip One: Stabilize your shot.
There is no easier way to make your video look more professional than having a level and stable shot, so always, ALWAYS tripod. While a worthwhile investment, tripods do not need to be expensive, and there is a wide range of options available on the market for all types of recording equipment (even mobile devices) and price points.
But not having a tripod is no excuse for a shaky, handheld shot (and I promise you, a handheld shot will be shaky). As my broadcast professor would tell us, “The world is your tripod.” Do you have a sturdy desk nearby that hits the subject at the right level? A chair? Can you add a steady stack of books to elevate your camera? Get creative, but make sure that shot is level and stable.
Tip Two: Never cross the Z.
You know about the X and Y axes, but do you know about the Z? If you and the subject are facing each other, imagine a line connecting the two of you. Your shot should never cross that line. It is fine for your camera to be on that line, or either left or right of it, but once you pick a side, you CANNOT switch.
All shots must come from the same angle because it’s unsettling for the viewer to watch an action take place from the left, then jump to a shot from the right. The viewer is unable to establish where they are physically in the scene. Avoid that disorientation by committing to a shot from the left of the subject, or the right, but NEVER both.
Tip Three: Plan ahead for editing.
You’re shooting an interview. Easy enough. But what if your subject has a habit of saying “um” a lot? What if they stutter during the best part of your interview? Or what if you need to trim down what they’re saying to make the video more concise?
Making these types of edits to your video without laying alternate footage over it is called a “jump cut” – editing two shots together that show an unnatural progression of movement for the subject. Jump cuts should be avoided at all costs.
You might be thinking, “I’ll just dissolve or fade to black between the clips instead.” While these are options, they tend to look like you didn’t anticipate the edit. A solid rule for video content creation is making sure that you have more footage than you will ever need. So plan ahead for edits, shoot supporting footage (called “B-roll”), even get multiple camera angles during your interview if you have the equipment available (without crossing the Z, of course), and your video will look that much more professional.
Tip Four: Isolate your sound.
A shaky shot is the first thing that will distract your audience, but cruddy audio is the second. If you have a little flexibility in your budget, I recommend investing in a lavalier (lav) or shotgun microphone and learning how to use your camera’s audio input settings. Lav microphones are very small, attach to your subject’s clothing, and can either be wired or wireless. Shotgun microphones are cylindrical in shape and can be connected to your camera via an audio cable and held near the subject, or mounted directly to your camera. There are different pros and cons to these options, but the most important thing is sound isolation, and an external microphone will help you achieve that.
If you don’t have access to an external microphone, do everything you possibly can to make sure there are no conflicts in your audio. Background noises, ambient sound, poor on-cam microphone performance – it’s all very distracting for the viewer. And no matter what, you will NOT be able to correct this completely in post-production. Bad audio in, bad audio out. So do everything you can to record the best-quality audio possible.
One of the biggest lessons I took away from broadcasting is that you will make mistakes, but you’ll also learn from them. So go out there, develop those content creation skills, have fun and screw up a little along the way. But learn from a few of my past mistakes, and keep these tips in mind throughout the process.