Read this before you shoot your promo video

It’s so easy to make a video these days. But it’s not so easy to make a good video. Just sitting in front of  your computer and hitting ‘record’ is not the answer.

So let’s look at some simple basic rules to make your video look and sound professional.

1 Get the right equipment

Get a camera that takes good clear pictures and – more importantly – get a microphone that captures good audio. By the way, don’t shout. Let the microphone do its job. Get a tripod for a steady picture. If you are recording on a smartphone camera you’ll probably need a phone clamp that fits on the top of the tripod. Try to avoid relying on your computer’s built-in camera (see #10).

2 Make a plan

Plan what you want to say. Rehearse it. And remember you are having a conversation with the audience. So ditch the grand words and the jargon. Keep the sentences short so they are easy to deliver. 

3 Keep it short

Generally the shorter the better. Just think about your own attention-span. People like their information in bite-sized chunks. They definitely don’t want to sit through a rambling 30 minute monologue. The shorter your video, the better it is likely to be.

4 Frame your shots carefully

Make sure there’s not a lot of wasted space above your head. Eliminate distractions. Check what’s behind you and off to the side of you. Avoid bright lights or windows behind you. It will be hard to get a good exposure on your face. If you don’t have lights use nature. Put the camera between yourself and a large window. As a general rule have the camera lens at or slightly above eye level. That gives the most flattering image for most people. This is really important if you’re using a computer’s built-in camera.

5 Vary your shots

If your video is over one minute in length you might want to vary the shots. Start off with a wide shot then perhaps a close-up, maybe a medium shot next and back to a wide shot. You’ll have to edit everything together but the big advantage is that you don’t have to learn and deliver your content in one go. You can deliver it in smaller segments then edit them all together, with the shot changes avoiding any distracting jump-cuts.

6 Chose your location wisely

Whatever your audience sees will take precedence over what they hear. You don’t want the audience to be reading the titles on the books behind you. Or studying the art on the wall. Or falling in love with the cat asleep in the corner. In some cases people put a screen or curtain behind them… something neutral and not distracting.

7 Sit or stand tall

Not rigidly erect but straight enough to project authority. And move your body naturally. If it’s a short video use a head and shoulders shot but always move your hands naturally even if they’re not on camera. You’ll feel more relaxed.

8 Speak to the camera

You want to look directly into the camera as you speak because you want to establish a relationship with the audience. Look your audience straight in the eye and give them your very best.

9 Perform it

Use the speaker’s tricks of the trade: Pauses. Emphasis. Simple words and simple sentences. One thought per sentence. And don’t rush it. And don’t forget passion. Video is a cold medium. You need to warm it up. So it’s really important to speak with passion. Use more energy for videos. It might feel over the top when you do it but when you see it, it will inevitably be right.

10 Computer videos

Built-in cameras on computers make most people look bad, because of the angle of the lens relative to your face. In most cases especially with laptops, it’s a couple of inches below eye level. And the screen is tilted back. So the camera is looking up towards the ceiling. Fix it by elevating the computer. You can put a couple of thick books underneath it. You want the camera lens level with your eyes. And bring the screen to the vertical so the camera is not pointing up.