This is the second in a six-part series on how your business can get started on YouTube. In this installment, we examine how to plan and shoot your videos.
To create a YouTube video for your business, you can either hire a professional production company or make your own. For most small businesses, self-production is usually the way to go.
With proper planning and the right equipment, you can achieve professional results on a much smaller budget. But it requires more than simply standing in front of a video camera and pressing the record button. Here's what you need to know to get started:
1. Plan your video in advance.
To produce polished videos on a shoestring budget, you must know what you're doing before you do it. You can't just wing it in front of the camera.
For some businesses, planning means writing a full script in advance -- and sticking to it when you shoot the video. Your script should include both dialog and shooting instructions, such as camera angles, props and the like. By going the scripted route, you should have the consistency you need to more easily incorporate multiple shots and camera angles. You know the onscreen talent won't be improvising but will be saying the exact same thing in all the takes, even when you shoot from various camera angles in multiple shots.
Writing a script also helps ensure that you make all the key points you need to convey and use just the right language in your video. This is essential when you're trying to maintain a brand or product image.
Another way to plan your shoot is to create a storyboard. This is a visual guide typically consisting of a rough sketch for each shot in the video. A good storyboard tells you exactly what you need to shoot, where to position the camera and where to place items and people on screen. Just follow the storyboard and you'll have everything you need to edit together the final video.
When shooting video for YouTube, shorter is always better. Sure, you can post videos up to 15 minutes in length, but that doesn't mean you should. The typical YouTube viewer has a short attention span, so plan your videos to be no more than two or three minutes.
2. Get the right equipment.
A small investment in a few pieces of equipment can make all the difference between a great looking video and an amateurish one. You don't need to spend tens of thousands of dollars for professional video gear, but you do need a few key accessories -- a one-time expense that should cost you well under $1,000.
First, you want to spend a few hundred dollars on a camcorder with a lens that shoots 720p or 1080i high definition (HD) video, such as those sold by Canon, Panasonic and Sony. Avoid shooting with a smartphone or even a digital still camera. Even though they have HD resolution, they're not designed specifically for video.
Next, you'll want to consider lighting. Shooting in room light will usually result in poor contrast and even worse color. A camera-mounted video light, or even better, a set of two flood lights can help. You can find light sets from companies such as Bescor, Smith-Victor, Westcott, and similar brands at any local camera store. Arrange the floods in front of and to the sides of the subject in a "V" pattern, and you should see an immediate improvement in picture quality.
You also want to make sure that viewers can clearly hear your video. Your camcorder's built-in microphone probably won't do the job, so consider purchasing an external microphone, such as a lavaliere type that clips onto the speaker's shirt. You'll get much cleaner sound with less interfering background noise.
Finally, for after the shoot, you'll want a high-quality video-editing program, such as Adobe Premiere Elements, which should cost less than $100.
3. Shoot like a pro.
To achieve professional results, you have to shoot like a pro. That means lining up your shots in advance, ideally using the storyboard or script you prepared in advance. You also should set up the lighting and microphones for some test shots to make sure you don't have shadows and that the sound levels are acceptable.
You also need to choose your settings carefully. Position your talent in front of a background that doesn't distract from what's happening on camera. Camera stores sell rolls of seamless background paper and fabric that can be useful. Also, dress the talent to match your message: suits and other business attire for a very professional look, business casual for a less formal image. Avoid stripes and busy patterns, and try to keep clothing colors as subdued as possible.
Next, work with your onscreen talent so that they're relaxed and project the right amount of energy. Shoot multiple takes to get it right, but avoid going on too long and killing the energy level. You want each take to feel spontaneous, while still including the key words and information you need to impart.
If you follow these steps, you should create a video that looks as if it came from a professional video production company. The results can amaze you.