5 tips for making your own corporate video

Any kind of corporate video is a fantastic addition to your website.

It can be about anything you like; interviews with employees and customers, a guided tour of your offices or facilities, even demonstrations of your products and services.

A picture is worth a thousand words but we think video is worth a million! Check out our take on the power of video.

Man using video camera Red Platypus

Corporate video: Image by jsawkins via Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Corporate video costs

But not every business can afford to lavish thousands of dollars on a professionally produced corporate video.

Luckily, DIY is now a viable option – HD video cameras are widely and sometimes cheaply available and most of the computer editing software out there now is simple to use.

So now you can make your own video and make it look like a pro was responsible. But there are a few things you need to do to make it happen.

As a journalist at The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) I was once given an HD camera and told to shoot my own TV stories after just one training session with a professional cameraman!

I learned quickly though and the tough lessons of my first few months using a new skill continue to serve me well.

Here are 5 tips I have learned over the years that will your video look pro:

1. Hold the camera steady

There is nothing worse than watching shaky, unfocused video. Half of YouTube is barely watchable because of this amateur mistake.

Good videos have clean, well framed shots that hold the eye’s attention. Check out this link for some of the different types you can use.

If you’re interviewing a person, keep their eyes in the middle third of the screen and keep the camera steady – you can use a tripod if you have one but if not whack the camera on a ladder or a desk, anything to keep it level and straight.

The same goes for landscape shots – images of things and scenery. Keep them steady and your audience will love you.

If you have no tripod or ladder or steady desk handy, keep the camera moving. Your body is a great stabiliser and if you just keep moving slowly the natural movement will cancel out any jerks or bumps. Rather than moving only your hands or arms to get the shot, move your entire body slowly and keep your arms still. Imagine it a bit like Tai Chi!

lego filming camera Red Platypus

Corporate video: Flickr User: puuikibeach, Creative Commons

2. Use a mixture of shots

 The zoom function on your camera is your friend and enemy at the same time.

Under no circumstances, unless it’s funny, should you ever press record then zoom in your subject. It looks jerky and terrible, like a goofy Uncle filming a child’s birthday party in the 1980s.

Instead, frame your subject up at the zoom level you want, then hit record.

Then zoom out and film it again from another angle. A mixture of shots, close in, far out, medium, will give you options when you’re editing and switching between them will engage the audience.

A good practice is to watch your favourite television show and click your fingers whenever the angle or zoom of the shot changes. This will give you an idea of the different kinds of shots you can take when filming and also clue you in to some of the tricks editors use to build up scenes.

3. Practice (lots) before pressing record

 ‘Take two hundred and three!’

That’s everyone’s worst video nightmare. You can avoid a lot of annoyance by simply practicing before you record.

If you have a script for your video, make sure everyone knows their lines and roles. Remember, it doesn’t have to be 100% perfect – a little bit of improvisation is okay as long as the information you want comes across.

Even simple shots should be practiced before the red button gets pressed.

If the shot requires the camera to start with a window in frame and pan sideways to a desk with a presenter sitting behind it, practice the pan a few times to make sure you start and finish in the right place and what you have in frame looks good.

The veteran ABC cameraman who taught me how to use a camera gave me this acronym – PPPPPPProper Planning and Preparation Prevents Poor Performance – so Practice, Practice Practice!

Canon camera Red Platypus

Corporate video: DIY with an HD camera

 4. Only shoot what you know you will use

 Every pro editor dreads having a groaning pile of footage dumped on their desk and being told ‘sort it out’.

If you’re doing it yourself, be kind to yourself.

Exercise discipline when you film – don’t record hours and hours of useless footage – record exactly what you need. Think about your video – what do I need to show? Make a list of shots and scenes and stick to it.

When Steven Spielberg first began making movies as a child he had a film camera so unlike in our days of digital technology every shot he recorded was permanent. To avoid costly and time consuming editing, Spielberg used a technique called ‘editing in camera’. This means every shot is a finished product, following on from the next, so absolutely minimal editing is needed to get the finished product.

Try and be like Spielberg.

If someone makes a mistake, delete the scene. Press record when the scene starts and press stop when it ends – don’t button on then say ‘action’ and when it’s over say ‘cut’ and press stop. You will have to trim the start and finish of every shot.

It’s better to just capture what you need and get on with your life!

 5. Make friends with the camera

This is the toughest tip to master but the most crucial.

The camera is an unblinking eye that makes even the most confident person quiver with nerves. People faint under its glare, say silly things or transform into the most entertaining people on the planet. You never know until you try it.

If the camera is freaking you out, relax. Think of it as a family member, a friend, anything but the cold and calculating little plastic and glass box that it is. If you befriend the camera it will love you back. If you fight it, it will win every time.

It takes nerve to get up and speak in public and even more to put yourself in front of a camera. Watch news shows or live presenters and see how at ease they are. Some presenters seem to be speaking directly to you – remember they are imagining the camera as a friend or family member, someone they are at ease with.

Move your hands, smile, nod, just move! Loosen up and the words will flow easy. If you make a mistake, start over. Practice your lines. Shake it off.

You can do it.

What other video tips would you add?

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