Producing Your Own Company Video or Product Demo?
Twenty "real world" tips to get you there
Written by Bruce Wittman - Executive Producer with Eagle Video
Keeping costs down in this economy means that
sometimes you are asked to perform duties that you didnít learn in
college Ė like creating a company marketing video or product demo.
Making an effective company website video
can help your company prosper
while an amateur video can bring down the good reputation of that same
company. Letís face it Ė viewers will judge your company by
the video that you present Ėso it better be a good one!
What makes a good marketing video or product demo?
Answer: a clear and compelling message, targeted audience, great audio,
good composition, decent lighting, understandable graphics, pithy
testimonials, a balance of narration and music, solid editing, and just
short enough that your viewer wants to learn more about your products or
With that in mind I want to share some of my
video tips that I have learned throughout my 30 year career in
the television industry.
1) Know your target
audience and know your message. An effective video doesnít confuse
the audience with a vague or mixed message. And so itís better to
make three different short videos than one long one with three messages
and three different audiences. Donít do this:
make a marketing video, an orientation program and a safety video in the
2) A good marketing video starts with
a strong script. A three column shooting script can force you to
make good decisions on what to say and what not to say. The
right column is for narration and sound-bites or testimonials.
The middle column is for video description and the left (much more
skinny) column is for scene numbers. Our scripts time out to be about a
minute per page where the narration is double-spaced. If
your marketing video script is longer than four or five pages, itís time
for a re-write. Good scripts are not written Ė they are
re-written! Donít do this: shoot a video and
then write a script.
3) Make a shot list from your script.
The middle column video description from your shooting script will drive
the amount of shots you need to cover any narration. I make
a master shot list from scene #1 to scene #56 (for instance). Then
I further sort the master shot
list by location and time of day. This will help you plan your
shoot days accordingly. Donít do this: plan
your shots on your shoot day.
4) Determine your equipment needs
in your planning stage: High Def or Standard Def camera.
Lots of lights or use available light. 4x3 or 16x9.
Lavaliers, stick mike or shotgun mikes. Your budget will help
determine your equipment. Be familiar with your camera and
all its functions and features before the shoot day. Donít do
this: skimp on equipment or wait until the shoot day to look
5) Line up your on-camera talent beforehand.
Let them get comfortable with the script several days before shooting.
And make sure they are wearing appropriate clothing for the camera Ė no
herringbone jackets, stripped shirts or white clothing on dark-skinned
talent. Line up your crew beforehand. They might give you valuable
feedback thatcan help you on the shoot. Have a subject matter expert on
each shoot location to make sure you are getting the correct shots.
Donít do this: wait until the shoot day to seek co-workers to
help you on the shoot.
1) Get a decent camera that has the capability to accept external mikes.
Nothing sounds worse than audio recorded off the camera from the back of
a room. This is one of most common mistakes that neophytes
make. Get a decent lavalier (lapel microphone), stick mic, or shotgun
mic Ė based on your situation. Make sure your
wireless microphone has extra
batteries. Donít do this: use the
camera microphone as your main audio source.
2) Wittmanís Laws
says ďIf you monitor your audio, you will always have it.Ē Always
use a decent pair of earphones to monitor your audio. Bouncing
needles on your camera display donít necessarily mean that you are
recording good audio. Donít run any audio cables parallel to any
power cords. Sometimes a 60 cycle hum in your audio can be
eliminated by crossing your audio cable 90 degrees to all of your power
cords. Record ambient audio - even if you donít think that you
will need it. Pictures without sound went out of fashion
back in 1927. Example -- seeing video of a water fountain without
hearing the bubbling sound. Donít do this: rely
only your meters to confirm good audio recordings.
Use a tripod for every shot, unless there is a really, really good
reason to forego your best friend. If you have to shoot
handheld, donít zoom in. Instead use the wide angle focal length
and walk the camera closer to the subject. Zooming in magnifies
any camera movement. Save those shaky handheld
camera shots for your first indie
horror movie! Donít do this: sicken your audience with
all the zooming and shaky camera shots.
4) Roll your
camera five seconds before your shot begins and leave it running for a
count of five after each shot ends. This is especially important
if you are going to ingest (input) videotape into your computer from
your camera or playback deck. The ingest process requires several
seconds of control track video before your first shot. Donít
do this: begin the action before you roll the camera.
5) Make it a habit to record ďroom toneĒ after every interview.
This means recording 30 seconds of background room noise from the
interview mike without anyone talking. This comes in real
handy in your edit session, for instance, when your interviewee
continues to make clicking noises with his tongue between breathes.
Instead of erasing each tongue click on your audio track Ė which sounds
like dead air Ė you replace the click with room tone. Now it
sounds more natural. Some audio programs can use the room
tone as a canceling sample for those annoying air conditioning sounds in
the background. Donít do this: annoy and
distract your audience with lousy audio.
Record your narration just before you begin editing and after you have
selected any testimonial sound-bites. Why? Because you have the
opportunity to adjust your script for any unexpected changes made during
shooting. Also, massaging the narration sentence before and
after a strong testimonial can greatly enhance your script message.
Make sure to record your narration with a good microphone in a small
quiet carpeted room with no air conditioning or computer noises.
If it sounds lousy to you when you are recording, it will definitely
sound lousy after you have edited. Believe it or not, great audio
is much more important that great video shots. If you donít
believe me, try watching a YouTube video with bad audio and see how long
you last. Then view a YouTube video with great music and lousy pictures.
See what I mean? Audio makes a big difference. Donít
do this: rely on software to fix your audio ďin post.Ē
2) Select a video editing program that will perform up to your
standards. There are a lot of them out there. My preference
is Final Cut Pro, which only
works on a Mac computer. Many ďfreeĒ editing programs out there
are just worth the price that you paid. Editing is the most
crucial part of producing an effective
marketing video. If I was forced to choose, I would
select a great editor over a great photographer any
day of the week. Edit
in sections. Lay down some narration and then add the best video
clips or graphics to match that audio. If necessary,
hire a professional video production
company to assist you in the editing process, using footage that
you shot. Be critical for misspelled words, jump cuts, bad
audio and slow pacing. Please, please preview your project
with co-workers before you display your marketing video online.
As with scripts, great marketing videos
and product demos are not edited Ė they are re-edited. Donít do
this: expect your audience to forgive your editing mistakes and
3) Use this process to create effective computer
demos using screen capture programs like Camtasia. First, record
the entire computer demo with all your comments. Next, edit
down the video portion, cutting out all the pauses. Use
video transitions to indicate time compression. Add graphics to
highlight key features. Next, re-record your audio Ė with a great
microphone in a quiet room, timed to your edited screen captures.
The result- a faster, more concise and more easily viewed computer demo!
My rule of thumb Ė if I canít sit through the entire video that I just
edited, I certainly cannot expect my audience to, either.
Donít do this: expect your audience to sit through a long boring
4) Donít use copyrighted music for
your program, unless you have paid for it. Even though you
may have purchased a music CD at Walmart, donít think that you now have
the music rights to use it in your video. Synchronization
rights restricts how you use music in timed relations to video.
Movie directors pay thousands of dollars for the rights to use
copyrighted music in their films. Synchronization licenses are
obtained from the publisher (or composer if no publisher) or the music
library. The best solution Ė purchase a couple of music cuts
from one of many library music companies. Royalty free music is
music that you purchase one time and can use indefinitely.
Another option is to pay for a one time use for each music cut.
The very last option Ė create your own music with your harmonica and
homemade drum. Donít ever do this: use
copyrighted music in your marketing video without written permission.
5) Anytime during the process, view other videos similar to
yours. Benchmark them. Copy what they did right.
Imitation is the best form of flattery. Improve what they did
wrong. Now edit your show. Sleep on it. Look at
it again the next day. Re-edit it. Show it to
colleagues. Take down their comments. Re-edit it.
Check for any misspelling errors. Fix them. Make sure the
boss loves it. Now go to print! Donít ever do this:
expect everyone to love your video.
1) Distribution is just as important as good shooting and good editing
techniques. A great video without an audience is just wasted
money. Maximize your marketing dollars with a good
distribution plan before you ever start shooting your video.
Ask yourself: Looping Trade show DVD? Streaming video clip
on your company website? Flash drive giveaways? YouTube?
GoogleVideo? iPhone movie for your sales folks? Attached as
an email? AVI, WMV, MOV, FLV, mpeg1, mp2 or SWF? HD or SD?
Thereís a lot to think about. The best thing about
video is the ability to re-purpose for many distribution avenues.
Just make sure to use the right tool for the right job.
Luckily, you have the Internet to guide you with copious amounts of
information on each of these lines of distribution. Donít do
this: complete your company marketing video without a
2) Use a good DVD authoring program to
complete your production. You can author your DVD to auto-run so
it plays when your customer puts the DVD in his machine or loop
repeatedly for trade shows. You can also add subtitles to your
DVD. One of our international clients had us produce a trade show
video for them, with subtitles in Chinese, Portuguese and Italian.
For a longer video, you may want to add chapter marks and submenus.
Donít do this: author a DVD without thinking about how it will
3) Keep your DVD costs down by ordering 500 to 1,000
replicated copies at the same time. Replicated DVDs cost less to
produce because a glass master is used to press DVD copies Ė like those
old LPs. Replicated DVDs play better on all DVD players. Movie
DVDs that you buy at Best Buy are replicated. Duplicated DVDs cost
more to produce because they are burned, one at a time. Duplicated
DVDs donít play as well as replicated DVDs because the process involves
changing the color of ink on the disc with a laser. You can
always tell a duplicated DVD by its purple color and ring lines.
Donít do this: settle for duplicated DVDs when you can
order replicated DVDs.
4) Consult with your
webmaster before compressing your video for streaming over your company
website. Take in consideration that WMV video clips play well on
PCs without extra plug-ins and MOV Quicktime video clips play well on
Macs without extra plug-ins. Is the majority of your potential
viewers PC-based or Mac-based? Again, get feedback from your webmaster.
Maybe offer both versions. Another option is to compress for Flash
video, which can play on virtually all web-based computers. Ask
your webmaster if your website is set up to play Flash videos.
Donít do this: compress for Quicktime video if most of your
potential customers use PCs.
5) Donít confuse HD
with 16:9 aspect ratio. HD stands for High Definition.
HD indicates a high number of lines of resolution while 16:9 defines the
ratio between the vertical and horizontal pixels of a video picture.
Can you have a 16x 9 video that is not HD? Absolutely! Can DVDs
play HD? No! Can they play 16:9 or widescreen?
Absolutely! Only Blu-Ray discs can display HD video. 1080i
means 1080 lines of resolution that are interlaced Ė even lines scan,
then odd lines scan. 1080p means 1080 lines of
resolution that progress one line at a time on your screen. Which
is better? 1080p! Donít do this: buy HD DVD
machines or discs. This format is no longer supported. It lost out
to Blu-Ray discs.
Final thoughts Ė The
professionalism of your video will reflect on the professionalism of
your company. The viewer does not know that you had a strict
deadline, no budget, poor support, equipment problems or bad planning.
They will just judge your video as they see it. Think of it
as a video resume for your company. Better get it right!
Best site to purchase video equipment:
Best site for video forums:
Free 3 column script
templateĖ email Bruce:
Bruce Wittman is a distinguished video producer,
editor, writer, and cameraman with over 35 years of experience in the
television industry. His clients run the gamut from Fortune 500
companies to small North Carolina startup companies. Eagle Video
has been honored with many international, national and regional awards
over the years. Bruce loves to use the power of video to
help companies save money or make money. He is available for
consulting, support with video editing and DVD authoring or full turn
key video production.
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