When I was in school I always wanted to work in Television, there was something enchanting about that flickering screen in the corner of the room that I wanted to be part of. I studied media studies in secondary school, in sixth form and finally went on to study Television and video production in college. After a few years working on films and TV series I decided it wasn’t for me but my experience wasn’t wasted, I now produce videos at least once a week and help my clients create videos for themselves. Knowing this you might think that this choice of book was a strange one but it can be very different trying to shoot video with a flipcam on a zero budget to working with a professional crew.
How To Shoot Video That Doesn’t Suck by film maker Steve Stockman is a step by step guide on creating your own videos, whether they are for use online, marketing you business or just for recording family events. It’s easy to follow and if you work through it and experiment with all the tasks it sets, you will definitely be creating better videos in the end. It starts with easy stuff and works it’s way up to full on video production so whatever your level of experience there is something here for you to read. Here’s some of the key tips.
Would your best friend willingly watch your video?
One of the first issues that the book addresses is whether people, even your friends, will want to watch your video and it’s a good point. I’ve lost count of the number of times that someone has sat me down in front a computer and pressed play on their YouTube video. You know it’s a bad video when even they can’t bare to watch it for longer than 30 seconds. If people are going to invest time watching your video you owe it to them keep them interested, or as Steve puts it:
“When you release a video, you owe it to your audience to give them a good time. To change their world. To open their eyes. To make them feel. If you do, the fact that you had no money won’t matter. And if you don’t all the money in the world won’t make any difference at all” (Kindle location 1928)
I was relieved to read that it wasn’t just me that looked at the length of web videos before clicking play, anything over 3 minutes means I’d be unlikely to watch and it seems I’m not alone. If we can be persuaded to watch a video most of us make the decision if we are going to continue viewing after just a few seconds. For this reason, when we are creating our own videos, we really need to capture the imagination of our audience straight away and hold it for the duration of the video. That is exactly what this book teaches us to do.
Tell a story
Whatever the subject matter of the video you are making tell a story, that doesn’t have to be a big love story or drama but find a way of putting shots together to better tell the narrative. As Steve puts in in the book:
“Stripped down to it’s essentials, a story has four elements: A hero, a beginning, a middle, and an end. The beginning of the story introduces us to the hero and what situation he’s in. the middle tells what happens to the hero next. The end is how it turns out” (Kindle location 667)
So the key steps are, decide who your hero is. Is it your customer, the bride, the product? What is going to happen to that hero? Are they going to have a good experience, get married, blend an iPhone? The best and most memorable videos always follow this form, this morning I was watching this video of David Beckham and it too conforms to that structure. The hero is David Beckham, he’s going to kick the ball into the bin, he succeeds and is happy (see below).
Deciding what your video is about and what story it tells will make it more compelling straight away. There’s some great examples on how to plan your story in the book. Putting a plan like this in place before you shoot will really help you when you go to make the video.
Keep your shots short
This is a mistake I see made all the time with online video. There are some vloggers that are compelling enough that when they sit in front of a camera and talk you are engaged right to the end but these are rare. Gary Vaynerchuk is a great example (see below). In the most part a static shot will loose the audiences attention pretty quickly so we need to cut.
“Cutting makes us pay attention. Each cut to a new shot forces our brains to figure out what we’re looking at and what it means. We’re more engaged in what we’re watching because we have to do a little work to understand it. We’re more actively taking in information, participating in what video has to offer” (Kindle location 1656)
From time to time on my blog I conduct Skype interviews that are limited to a single split screen shot meaning that unless the content is hugely compelling no one is going to stick it out to the end. Shooting a video face to face and adding screen shots, close ups, interviewer reaction shots will keep the viewers attention and allow you to cut out anything that isn’t moving the story forward.
There is a huge amount that budding videographers can learn from this book. If you want to make videos for your business or even personally this is a quick and easy read full of practical tasks to help you improve. Even those with more experience like myself can pick up some tips. I know the way I think about and construct my videos is going to change as a result of it.
I read it on a Kindle and this isn’t really the ideal. Reading the Kindle version on a tablet computer or a laptop would be more beneficial as you will be able to directly click the links to examples that Steve shares. I’d also suggest setting aside some time to follow the practical tutorials before you start, you will get far more benefit if you are able to shoot video as you read. Of course you can go back after reading and complete these tutorials but there is nothing like completing them as part of the reading experience.
If you want to know more about how Spiderworking.com can help you create a video for your business get in touch.