In 2006, wine retailer Gary Vaynerchuk turned on his webcam and began to review wine. He posted the entertaining short videos on the website of his family business, Wine Library, and, before he knew it, he was a hit.
Five years later, he had grown his family business by millions of dollars and attracted a sizable online fan base.
It might be hard to replicate his success, but he does show that there can be good reason to put videos online.
There are many kinds of videos your small business can make, including:
• An intro. A video that introduces new browsers to your business, whether it’s posted on the home page of your website or distributed through social networks.
• Behind the scenes. Show your customers a side of the business they haven't seen or otherwise educate them about your business.
• The authority. Use your expertise to promote your company while educating your viewers.
As Mr. Vanderchuk shows, a personal touch is often to a small business’s advantage.
“[Mr. Vanderchuk]is doing the same thing as a mom-and-pop shop to a million people at once,” says Dan Demsky, co-founder of digital video agency BizMedia.
In previous parts of this series, we’ve talked about how small businesses can use video as part of their Web strategy. We’ve talked about how to plan. Now it’s time to produce.
The following do’s and don’ts are tips for producing videos, especially for those who may only have experience shooting video at their kid’s birthday party. These tips, with technical advice provided by Mr. Demsky and BizMedia co-founder Justin Brennon Smith, are useful whether you’re trying to produce an informative series or create an introduction or commercial-style video for your website.
Do frame your shots properly
Observe the rule of thirds. It’s a handy way to compose aesthetically attractive shots by imaging the different objects inside a 3 x 3 grid.
Also, shoot in a variety of locations. Keep images visually interesting. Watch videos you like, and pay close attention to where everything appears in the frame.
Do watch your lighting
Be aware of a room’s light, as it brings different colours into your shots. “It’s what separates a really good camera operator,” Mr.. Smith says.
Don't let your shots wobble
Hold the camera steady, and, if you notice any shaking in your footage, it's time for a tripod. If you’re using a small camera, one option is a GorillaPod that lets you rest your camera on a table or attach it to other secure objects. Unless you’re in the middle of a protest, there’s no excuse for shaky shots.
If you've planned everything out properly , you should know exactly what shots you need for your video. You can certainly take some extra footage, but you'll save yourself lots of time when it comes to editing if you know what you need before you hit record.
Do really listen to your sound
If your camera isn’t built for sound, invest in an external microphone. Poor sound is just as bad as grainy shots and can be grating for viewers. “If voices sound tinny, it’ll kill your video. No one will want to watch it,” Mr. Smith says. Get your microphone as close as possible to what you’re trying to record. The sound will be clearer and background sounds will be less disruptive.
Don't record an interview in a noisy room
Background sound will drown out what you have to say. You’d be surprised what rooms have noise if you really listen – even the hiss of an air conditioner through vents can show up. Avoid recording sound in small rooms, too, as they can produce echoes. Choose rooms with soft walls, if possible.
Do tell a story
You’ve made your plan of the video, you’ve shot your material, and editing is the time to put it all together. Think of it like telling any story: You need to start by establishing characters and setting (who and where) before you get into what you’re providing to customers. Mr. Smith recommends reading up, at least a little bit, on filmic storytelling.
Do seek out tutorials
Editing software can be relatively easy to use, and programs come with many operating systems, such as Windows Movie Maker and iMovie for Macs. There are lots of good tutorials online, including Lynda.com.
Don’t make your videos too long
Optimum viewing time is two or three minutes. Any more, and viewers’ attention starts wandering. If you have more material, make more videos rather than packing everything into one. Editing a video is telling a story.
Don't get too attached to what you've shot
Editing is about putting together a clean, coherent product for your viewer; it is not about fitting together everything you’ve shot. It might hurt, but you need to be able to leave footage behind that your video doesn’t absolutely need. “The art of editing is making more out of less,” Mr. Smith says.
Don’t ignore your compression settings
This is a measure of the viewing quality of your video once you’re done editing. When your video is finished and it’s time to export it into a movie file, make sure you’re not over-compressing the quality of the video. If you’re posting the video on social media sites like YouTube or Vimeo, check what compression settings they recommend.
You’ve planned, you’ve produced, you’ve edited – now all you need are viewers.
Next: How to get your videos out there, and how to measure
Special to The Globe and Mail
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