Building the Scenes – How to make a professional video


Let’s say that you have decided to make a video to support your marketing plan and strategy, but you haven’t got the foggiest idea of how to approach this. Well, there are a few dos and don’ts, well, more than a few, for you to watch out for, and today we’re going to talk about a couple. This is in no way meant to be an exhaustive list, but will hopefully get you to start thinking about the little things that are needed in a video project, and help you to avoid some potential issues.

Don’t fail to plan

Whenever we set out to do something, we don’t plan to fail, but when you don’t plan, and I mean don’t plan at all, the results are rarely what you expected when you started. The minimum planning is to know your purpose and your story going into the project. The purpose for the work will help you to identify other important things like an audience, and marketing goals, while your story generally will lead you to discover your message for the audience. Doing this BARE minimum preproduction work is what is needed for a smoother video production and it doesn’t have to take a long time. Often, I will do a quick, probably an hour-long, brainstorming session and identify these elements first before thinking about what cool stylistic tricks I can use to give this video a little more pop. Planning doesn’t need to take forever, and an hour works for me, but try it out first, and let us know how long you spend on this critical task in our comments area.

Go HD, or go home

These days it’s too easy to get an HD camera, not to go with HD. It can come down to a personal preference, but essentially, it’s the wave of the future and if you want your content to be super viable in the long term, shoot HD (either 720 or 1080) and think about what to do with that content later. Bandwidth speeds are ever increasing, but make sure that the audience you are targeting can download the HD content if that is what you end up posting, and you can always scale down from HD, but not as easily scale up.

Lenses matter

When you are thinking about image quality, often the last concern folks think about is the lens, when it should be the first. In general, use quality materials and you will be happy with the results, and a quality lens will come across on your video especially one shot using a DSLR camera. When in doubt, go with a 50mm lens for interviews, and a 24mm (or less) lens for wide angle shots. It is just one way to immediately add quality to your work, from an aesthetic and filmmaking point of view, it’s a good way to start showing off your techniques as a storyteller. Most of the currently marketed DSLR cameras have HD video capabilities, and the price points are dropping each day on the camera bodies, so you can put that money where it counts, and into a good lens.

Audio matters

Bad audio will turn people off. They won’t even know WHY they don’t like your video and will just say that there is something about it that rubs them the wrong way. Now if your content is great, and I mean like, Pulitzer Prize great, then yes, people might not care as much about the audio. However, you don’t need to sacrifice the quality of your production just because you don’t want to carry around a separate boom pole and all the fixings. A lot of the DSLR cameras these days have 1/8” mic inputs. Combine that with an external camera mounted boom mic, like the RODE external, and you can automatically add to your quality, even if your style is more run and gun. That is by no means perfect, but will be miles ahead of the onboard mic that is supplied with, I would say, pretty much all cameras. Yup, I said it, ONBOARD mics equal bad. If you’re really looking for higher quality audio, but still want to enjoy the video produced by a DSLR camera, another option you have is to capture the audio separately using a separate audio recorder like a Zoom H4n, and connecting a boom microphone to that. You will need to sync the audio in postproduction, but the beauty of a Zoom recorder is that it can record WAV files, and some models accept XLR inputs, so you can take advantage of higher quality microphones.

With story, often less is more

I mentioned earlier that during your preproduction, you need to come up with a good story, and it’s worth re-mentioning because if you have a good story, people will watch. Often a good story is one that doesn’t take a long time to tell, and the old saying, less is more still applies. After you have come up with your story, try telling it to a friend of yours in less than a minute, or write 1 – 3 paragraphs that sum up your story and communicates what you hope to get across. If your story can hold up in a short format, it’s good indicator it will work splendidly over the video.

Rigging and tripods help

Remember the Blair Witch project? Looking past all the hype, and that major let down at the end, remember that shaky cameras get played out, really fast. Some of the times you can’t avoid it, but some of the times aren’t all times, and most shots can be stabilized just by leaning against a wall. An often forgotten, yet necessary addition to your video production is that a good, solid tripod, that will just hold the camera stable. Putting a shot on a tripod not only helps to stabilize the shot, but can free up your hands to do another production related task. When a tripod is unavailable, be creative. A stack of books and magazines might work, and the goal is to rely on something other than your hands, which are really unreliable.

Summary and quick tips

Here is a summary of a quick approach to planning and shooting a great video:

  • Preproduction – The minimum planning is to know thy story and thy purpose for the project. A lot of things will end up coming into place afterwards.
  • Audio and Rigging – The technical distractions that come up during your video distract from your very well crafted and thought out message, and can really be avoided. Get an external mic and tripod for your camera, and you will feel better in the long term.
  • A note on software – Last piece of advice not mentioned before, work with whatever software helps you tell the story best. We can get caught up, myself included, in the pros and cons of the various 3rd party postproduction applications, but if you can tell your story best through iMovie, then tell your story through iMovie. The goal is to become a better storyteller, not software user.

Thank you for checking out this series. We have more here available, wherever here is, and if you like what you see, then like what you saw. Thanks and looking forward to next time!

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