You only have to scroll through your newsfeeds for a few seconds for a reminder that everyone’s hungry for video on social media.
If you’re looking to get in on the act – whether you’re shooting for Instagram and Snapchat stories – or looking to create cornerstone content for your brand pages on Facebook and LinkedIn – understanding a few video basics is essential.
Here, we’ve put together a quick guide to everything you need to know to get started – from the equipment you should use – right through to some production tips that’ll make you stand out in an ever-increasing crowd.
Special thanks to Sam McGhee for the cover photo.
What’s the right kit?
While it’s tempting to start shopping for new production kit when you’re thinking about creating video – you really don’t need to. If all you’ve got to hand is your smartphone, then give it a try.
You might want to upgrade if you get into creating video professionally – but a good video shot with a smartphone in the right environment will always beat something created with a DSLR and no thought for the right surroundings and environment.
Creating the right environment
Whether you’re shooting with your iPhone or million-dollar Hollywood level kit, making sure the environment you’re in is right is absolutely key to getting a good end result.
Few of us have studios at our disposal 24/7 – but, the good news is, it doesn’t take much to transform an office or room at home into something that looks the part. Here are a few things you can do to transform any space into a good video production area:
Cover photo by Alexander Dummer
White/very light backdrops are often too harsh for video – so don’t just stand against the wall. Instead, pick up some seamless photography studio background papers. You’ll find a color that fits with your brand – they don’t cost a lot – and you’ll usually get them on rolls that are 9ft (3m) wide, perfectly adequate to go behind someone talking to the camera.
If you want to go all-out, then shooting against a custom printed roller banner with a simple pattern or your logo can look good – but make sure it’s not ultra-glossy to reflect the lighting.
If possible, use 2/3 studio lights to avoid strange shadows from ceiling lights. It’s even worth shutting blinds to make sure you’ve got a consistent light and not at the mercy of changing sunlight. Using studio lights means you don’t have to worry about trying to light a shot with your phone or camera flash.
Don’t panic about trying to create the perfect effect with your lights – flat and even lighting will almost always beat trying to do something fancy and not quite getting it right.
If you’ve opted for working in a conference room or spare office, it’s worth making sure it’s not too empty. Even small rooms (especially those with hard floors) echo if there’s no furniture in there – so don’t be tempted to drag everything out. Soft furnishings absorb some of the sound waves and stop them bouncing around and creating strange effects.
You might get away with using the internal mic on your phone or camera – but the quality is likely to be patchy at best.
If you’re going to be moving a lot when you shoot, you could go for a clip-on lavaliere mic – but they can be hard to get right – and you might end up re-shooting if you run into sound problems.
Generally, a shotgun style mic is a solid all-round performer, it’ll cover a wide arc of sound and will tuck away out of shot while picking up crisp audio.
General shooting tips
Photo by Thomas Russell
Use a tripod: Even the steadiest freehand recording will look very poor compared to the panning and tilting that can be done with the fluid head on a tripod. If you’re not sure where to start, we’ve put together a list of 7 great videography tripods here.
Shoot landscape: While a lot of apps will crop your video according to their platform specifics, you should always shoot in landscape orientation. This is how your video will display when you’re editing and is the universal display across most players.
Don’t zoom: If you’re shooting using a smartphone, your zoom is digital, rather than optical – meaning you’re actually just zooming in on one part of the image that’s being shot – reducing the resolution. Don’t zoom – just position your equipment the right distance from your subject in the first instance.
Lock your exposure: A lot of smartphones auto-focus and adjust the exposure accordingly to the surroundings. While this can be useful shooting quick pictures in the park – it’s a pain if it does it half-way through the scene (and you can almost guarantee it will if you’re moving). Lock your focus and exposure settings to avoid this.
There are pages and pages of info that could be dedicated to each step of the video production process – so don’t be afraid to read up on each part in more detail if you plan to continually hone your video skills.
Planning your content
Photo by Devin Edwards
Setting up a good production environment is little use if you don’t have a solid plan around what you’re going to be saying or shooting.
So; create a script.
The process of writing down what you want to say might sound a bit contrived – but it’ll develop as you shoot and find more natural ways of putting across what you want to say.
Little changes are fine – but if you start out shooting with no guidance, you can quickly find yourself going off topic or not emphasizing the right parts of your message – all sure-fire ways to get future viewers to switch off…
Now strip the audio away
After you’ve gone to all that effort to get your sound and audio right – it’s time to consider what a video is going to look like without it.
Although it’s hard to say exactly, estimates suggest that up to 85% of social video is watched without the sound up – so, if you want to get your message across, you need to think about capturing your audience’s attention with visuals (we’ve got some great After Effects templates for exactly that) – or making sure you have your audio transcribed and hooking people’s attention that way.
Don’t be afraid to get started
Whether you’re going to be getting in front of – or behind – the camera, the very best thing you can do is get started.
Creating video for social media might seem a little intimidating at first – after all, we’re used to a range of beautiful filters that enhance the still images we create – but there’s no hiding with video.
This is unquestionably true – but it’s also the thing that makes video so powerful. People trust video far more than they trust stills – so, create a nice background and work on that script – your brand will definitely thank you for it…