If you’re hoping for your latest content to go viral, it has to do one thing: evoke strong emotion.
– Scott Stratton, Fast Company
Audiences expect quality these days. I’m not just talking about production quality, although in many cases that’s quite important. I’m also talking about the quality of your video’s story. Does your video even tell a story? If it does, is the story simple, honest, and direct? And does it appeal, on an emotional level, to your audience?
Video can be incredibly powerful, it’s the most effective way to intimately connect, to convey ideas and get your message across. But video has to be done right to be effective, and even more so if you wish the video (or better yet, the ideas you’ve presented in your video) to go viral.
These days, even corporate videos are expected to evoke emotion and tell a story. The old ways just don’t work anymore, audiences are more sophisticated and have higher expectations. And it doesn’t matter if your audience is the general public or your employees at a sales meeting. If you don’t work hard to tell your story in a way that grabs them, you’ve lost them.
Whatever kind of films or videos you make, this is a great time to be a filmmaker. There’s amazing cinema-quality cameras out there that are affordable (Blackmagic Cinema Camera, 2K Raw footage), super high-end stuff that’s becoming affordable for professionals to own, not rent (RED Scarlet-X), and now, finally, ultraportable “crash cams” like the new GoPro Black Edition (2.7K footage).
The big drawback of the GoPro is its codec: it only records in H264 mode, which isn’t as robust as what professionals like. But it does have a HDMI out, so it’s likely possible that you’ll be able to hook up something like an Atomos Ninja to it someday, for better quality footage. Here’s a link to the GoPro announcement.
They’re hoping to start shipping in November. Which may mean you won’t be able to actually get it until Spring, who knows. But I do think this is a camera that every professional video production company will have in their filmmaking kit. Again, not as a main camera, but as a specialty one.
I’m excited. These are the kinds of tools that even a wealthy person, or a high-end production company could not afford even a few years ago. It’s a great time to be a filmmaker, and I can’t wait to continue using these tools to tell amazing stories, both for myself and for our corporate video clients.
We do a lot of broadcast video and corporate films, but we also do a fair amount of video designed for the web. So I’ve learned a few things about how to do web video right.
Web Video Tip #1: If you’re still shooting using interlaced video- stop that! You shouldn’t be shooting interlaced anymore, anyway, unless you’re shooting sports videos. Even corporate videos deserve progressive-scan video signals, and web videos look a ton better when you get rid of that ugly “1980s” look by shooting with a camera that can shoot progressive, not interlaced.
Web Video Tip #2: Shoot to deliver your video at 24p. It looks way more filmic and cool.
Web Video Tip #3: If you’re going for a cinematic quality (and you should be, to stand out), try to minimize shaky camera moves. They scream “cheap amateur”. This is why you invest in things like tripods, dollies, and Steadicams.
Web Video Tip #4: Make sure you expose properly! You have no idea how much crappy video we see, here. Usually we’re asked if we can fix it. If the video involves blown-out highlights, we can’t fix it at all. Some places to watch for blown out video: foreheads of men. Noses. Anything that gets too shiny when you shoot. And yes, some video has blown out backgrounds. That’s usually not so bad, it doesn’t look as amateurish as blown out faces.
Web Video Tip #5: Audio quality matters! If you can’t use a dedicated soundman, then at least record with lavaliere microphones and listen to the audio as it’s being laid down. Ideally, you’ll be recording into a separate audio system. Why? Because most cameras’ onboard audio sucks. Sometimes, we run a mike into the camera and still record a separate, higher-quality mike into our dedicated audio recorder. Then, in post we use software that automatically syncs the good audio to the camera audio. Then again, we almost always use a dedicated soundman, too.
Upon reflection, each these tips applies equally well to almost any kind of video you create, if you’re going for a quality look for your message. But many companies and organizations don’t put as much thought into creating a web video as they do when creating, say, a corporate film or a TV commercial. As the web becomes the dominant medium in our culture, learning to do your web video correctly will help you stand out, and give your message the best chance possible of connecting with people.
We’re in the middle of a pretty large project that involves CEOs from major companies from around the globe. I wish I could say more about the project, but I cannot. I can say this: the corporate video departments of these multibillion dollar corporations really ought to invest in some quality video equipment, especially with regards to new cameras. Much of the footage we’ve received has been in the dreaded colorspace 4:2:0 that cheaper HDV cameras put out. And that’s a problem.
It’s not only a problem because the footage comes in as interlaced video. We can fix that. But 4:2:0 video doesn’t key well, and many of the shots we’re dealing with involve greenscreen keys.
I feel bad for the corporate videographers shooting this stuff. It doesn’t matter how hard they work it, they’re stuck with a colorspace that makes their video look bad.
As for us, of course we shoot on RED. Which is a digital negative, basically a 4:4:4 full colorspace image. The difference is startling. Yes, it costs a lot more. But it’s absolutely worth it to get rid of that cheap video look that 4:2:0 gives. That’s technology from the early 2000s. It’s time for it to go.
And yeah, it’d make this project a lot easier if we could have gotten quality video footage. Ah, well. We’re not just great cinematographers, we’re also pretty handy in the edit suite. We’ll make it work, and we’ll make it look outstanding.
Brandon, our friend at MidasMount, has been working on a special new prototype SnapFocus/Shoulder rig for our RED MX camera. We’ve got one of the very first prototype SnapFocus devices, which allow us to pull focus on the fly as we shoot, without needing a second person to pull focus, like traditional film cameras do. The SnapFocus is a huge advance, and will let us get some amazing shots that previously wouldn’t have been possible.
I’ve donated the shoulder pad support from our Birns & Sawyer shoulder mount to the cause, and Brandon’s bringing out the acetylene torch and the welding kit to build us a one-of-a-kind, RED MX version of his awesome invention.
Stay tuned for pictures, as this project develops.