video production raleigh

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Producing Your Own Company Video or Product Demo?
Twenty "real world" tips to get you there


Written by Bruce Wittman  - Executive Producer
Eagle Video Productions Inc.     Raleigh, NC 
 
www.eaglevideo.com

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 services. 

With that in mind I want to share some of my video tips that I have learned throughout my 35 year career in the television industry.

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Pre-production tips:
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 , orientation and safety video in the same program.  

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:   Lots of lights or use available light.  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 for equipment.

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. 

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Production
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. 

3)  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
 

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Post Production
1) 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.  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 lame excuses.

3) Use screen capture programs like Camtasia for the PC or ScreenFlow for the Mac to create effective computer demos.  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 product demo.                    

4)  Never use copyrighted music for your program, unless you have paid for the rights.   Even though you purchased a music CD at Walmart, donít think that you now have the music rights to use it in your video.   Synchronization rights restrict 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.
 

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Distribution
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? Vimeo?  iPhone movie for your sales folks?  Attached as an email?  AVI, WMV, MOV, FLV, mpeg1, mp2 or SWF?   Thereís a lot to think about.  The best thing about video is the ability to
re-purpose for many distribution avenues.  Be sure to use the right tool for the right job. 

Donít do this:  complete your company marketing video without a distribution plan.

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 be used.

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 16x9 video that is not HD? Absolutely!  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. It lost out to Blu-Ray discs.
 

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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:
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/
Best site for video forums: 
http://forums.creativecow.net/
Wittmanís Laws: 
http://www.eaglevideo.com/wittman's_laws.htm
Video examples: 
http://www.eaglevideo.com/demo9.htm
Free 3 column script templateĖ email Bruce: 
bruce@eaglevideo.com

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, DVD authoring or full turn-key video production.
 

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www.eaglevideo.com
                        

© copyright   Eagle Video Productions Inc    all rights reserved

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                                                       © copyright 1999 - 2014       Eagle Video Productions Inc.     Raleigh NC 27603-5240      
                                                                       pho: 919-779-7891    cell: 919-818-5556      bruce@eaglevideo.com
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