Video Production: Determining Your Equipment and Technical Needs

If you jumped right to this module first, I appreciate your enthusiasm and applaud your initiative. However, even if you did want to dive right in and start making videos, I’d encourage you to go back to the start and read the first two modules so you’ll know about your Video Purpose and Video Premise, before you attempt Video Production!

Once you’ve got that all important video foundation (Purpose and Premise) under you, you’re good to go on the production side. This is the real nuts and bolts of video, and where concept becomes completion. This is where it’s finally okay to ask “What camera should I use?”

So where to begin?

For that, we have to go back to the famous Stephen Covey quote, “Begin with the end in mind.” Once again, your equipment needs will largely be dictated by what you want to end up with. Are you shooting an on-camera/talking head video, or an animated video? Are you narrating over slides in a PowerPoint video or recording your computer screen for a screencast video? You’ll need different tools for different videos.

Keep in mind that your use of equipment or software will be based on your video goals and objectives (from Stage One: Video Purpose). I always encourage my clients and students to start with a “less is more” approach to video production. Don’t add any equipment or complexity to your project that doesn’t effect the final outcome. You’ve also got to determine if you’re creating an off- camera, or an on-camera video.

There’s no need to run out and start buying all kinds of equipment or software until you’re absolutely sure you’re going to need it! I hate to admit it, but I’ve got video equipment that I bought months ago, and I’ve never even taken it out of the box! While I couldn’t resist the allure of the “bright, shiny object,” I simply haven’t had a need for it thus far.

Buying equipment for video is not the same as creating video. For example,

buying a treadmill or ab roller may make you feel good about trying to get in shape, it doesn’t guarantee that you’ll exercise! (As evidenced by the treadmill gathering dust in my basement!) So hold off on the fancy lights, cameras or software until you’ve got a video plan in place.

Not to worry, we’ll have plenty of equipment recommendations and ideas for you in the coming pages, but let’s first focus on the production process so you can approach your equipment needs strategically.

The Video Production Process

The process of creating online video is not unlike the traditional film-making or television production process, though the online video system can be much simpler. The three phases of production include pre-production, production and post-production.

Pre-production, as the name implies, is everything that happens before you hit record. That includes planning, scripting, storyboarding, and all the elements of preparing for your shoot.

Production, of course, is the recording of the video, or the actual “shoot,” as it’s often called. And post-production, is everything that happens after the video is recorded, such as editing, adding music, graphics, etc. Let’s take a closer look at each phase.

Video Pre-Production:

The video making process begins with pre-production and the idea or concept for your video. This includes all of the planning and development of your concept; writing the script or plotting out your storyboard if you decide to go that route; your location scouting if you’re shooting on location; and your equipment or software prep. (More on that soon).

From a practical standpoint, let’s assume you’re creating a talking head, on- camera video. You’ve decided that the “idea” of your video is to offer your best tip in a short video to be uploaded to YouTube. (Perhaps your goal is to increase your visibility and begin to establish credibility by sharing an expert tips series to YouTube or your blog). You’ve got your topic, so now you can work on your script. For a simple, 1-minute “tip” video, you won’t need a storyboard or even an elaborate script. You can probably get away with an outline of your key talking points.

Next, you’ll have to decide if you want to be on camera for the entire length of the video, or if you’d like to share your computer screen to show a slide or graphic.

Tip: I like to use zoom.us to record my tips videos, so I can appear on camera initially, then toggle to “share screen” on Zoom so I can show a slide or related image, then switch back to me on camera for the end of the video and the call to action.

You’ll also need to determine your location and setting, or whether you’ll record from your desktop using a webcam, or from your smart phone or mobile device. You’ll have more control over the environment and background if you stick with a webcam from your computer.

Your equipment needs for an on camera tips video are simple: You’ll likely opt for your webcam as your camera and microphone and record directly from your desktop or laptop. Again, your recording software can be almost anything — Zoom, Skype, Quicktime, iMovie, YouTube, Facebook — any application or software that will capture your recording.

You can use the microphone that’s part of your webcam or, better yet, use an external USB microphone like the Blue “Snowball” or “Yeti” microphones. If you’re recording from your smartphone, you can use the mic on the phone as long as you don’t get more than an arm’s length away from the device.

Now you know what you’re going to say (using your script or outline), you’ve got your camera and recording app, and your “location” is set. It’s time to hit “record” and move into the production phase!

Video Production:

Here’s where we record your footage and do the video shoot itself. Hitting that “record” button is the single most powerful and important step in the process because, without that, we don’t have a video!

If you consider production the stage where you create all the pieces for the final product, then you can include recording the video itself, as well as sourcing graphics or images for the shoot; recording voiceovers; and choosing background music or sound effects, as needed.

Going back to my “tips” video example above, our production would require a slide, screen shot or graphic in addition to my on-camera appearance. I might also select the background music I’m going to use for the video — or I could source the music later when I’m editing in post-production. Consider any graphics, lower thirds or other images you might need for your final product, but the main thing is to get your recording down.

Once you’ve captured your footage and you’ve got a “take” that you’re happy with, you can move on to the post-production phase.

Video Post Production:

You may have heard the TV/film expression: “We’ll fix it in post.” This is a popular phrase in the industry, because there’s a lot you can fix or improve in post-production. Thus, post is where everything comes together to finish the final video.

Post Production includes anything and everything that happens after the “shoot,” primarily video editing, but also encoding or “ rendering” of your video and, of course, sharing it with the world.

Editing can include everything from trimming or cutting the video clips; adding transitions or effects; adding graphics, titles, or lower thirds; adding music or sound effects; and adding any other special effects to embellish the video.

Video editing can be a source of stress or fear, because it can get complicated and require certain skills and software. However, most editing is optional, and many videos (such as Facebook Live videos) require little or no editing at all.

In our video tips example, minimal editing would be needed, other than perhaps cleaning up or “trimming” the video clips to ensure a clean start and finish, and possibly adding background music or a soundtrack “under” the vocal track. You’ve also got the option of adding a lower third identifyer or other graphics but, again, these are optional.

Many entrepreneurs are intimidated by the prospect of video editing because there is a learning curve involved. However, you don’t necessarily need high end video editing software like Final Cut Pro or Adobe Premier to edit video. It’s possible to do basic video editing right within YouTube, using YouTube’s more than adequate on-board editor.

Another video editing option is to use online software such as WeVideo.com, a user friendly editing website that’s “platform-neutral,” meaning it works whether you’re using a Mac or a PC. Other editing programs include iMovie, Sony Vegas, Cyberlink’s Power Director, or Camtasia. (I’m on a Mac and have been using Final Cut Pro for the last 15 years!)

Try to find and use the video editing platform that’s going to be easiest to use without having to become an expert video editor. If you prefer not to tackle the post production editing yourself, you can always outsource the task to a freelancer or video editor you can usually find on Elance or fiverr.com.

The goal, as always, is to keep it simple and find the most direct route between you and a finished video product. Fortunately, even a little editing goes a long way to making your video look more professional. Keep in mind that done is often better than perfect!

Producing an On-Camera Video

Now that we better understand the production process, let’s take a closer look at the most traditional (and most useful) form of video: The “talking head” (on- camera) video. The tried and true, “head and shoulders” shot is the bedrock of the video world. In many ways, there’s nothing easier that firing up the camera and talking. (Although the prospect of appearing on camera may terrify some, it is now easier than it’s ever been to do a talking head video!)

For your typical on-camera video, you simply need your video recording device and a microphone. In most cases, if you’re using a webcam or a smartphone, both audio and video will be in the same unit. Depending on your setting and location, you’ll also need either natural light, or enough lighting to adequately illuminate the subject (you!)

Video newbies are often surprised to learn that you do not necessarily need a fancy or expensive video camera, and that a webcam or smartphone (i.e. iPhone) is more than enough to get the job done. Most smartphones (and tablets) today have excellent video capabilities, and the convenience factor can’t be beat! People are also surprised to learn that, even though I do video for a living, I mostly use my iPhone or my webcam (embedded in my Mac) as my primary video cameras. The iPhone makes a great video camera, and these days you’ll even hear stories of professional, high end commercials and movies being shot using an iPhone. If you’re more of a tablet fan, today’s iPads also have top notch video recording capability.

When I’m not using my iPhone or iPad to shoot video, I’m likely at my (Mac) computer or laptop using the built-in “iSight” webcam. Again, quality is rarely an issue when using these or other webcams. If you still don’t have a desktop or laptop with a webcam built-in, any Logitech or Microsoft webcam is a safe bet.

Most external webcams connect to your computer via USB port, and most can capture audio as well as video. Webcams range in features and price from $30 to $130 US dollars, but even the lower priced models can do the job. At the time of this writing, one of the consistently highest rated webcams is the Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920, which retails for about $65 US dollars.

Use What You’ve Got!

The bottom line when it comes to video cameras is to start where you’re at and use what you’ve got! If you’ve already got a smartphone with video capabilities, you’re ready to roll! I rarely, if ever, encourage my video coaching clients to go out and spend a lot of money on an expensive DLSR (digital single-lens reflex camera), as it’s way more “firepower” than the average user needs. DSLR cameras can run into the hundreds or even thousands of dollars, so consider your needs before you invest.

If you’re a professional videographer or photographer, you may want a higher end camera, but it’s certainly not necessary for most everyday video needs for the typical small business owner. Some of my clients even use older model “handi-cams” or pocket cameras, and I say, “if it works, it works!” Remember our video watch words when it comes to cameras or any video equipment: Keep it simple!

Many effective business videos are created (and distributed) directly from smartphone or tablets, so don’t feel any kind of video inferiority complex if you’re making videos with your iPhone. A smartphone and a platform for hosting your videos — such as YouTube, Vimeo or Facebook — is really all you need to get going.

Oftentimes, the camera operator is more important than the camera itself. If you’re doing a “selfie” video with an iPhone or smartphone, be careful to hold the camera steady. Better yet, use a selfie stick to maintain better control of the camera/phone. If your location allows, use a camera tripod whenever possible. You can easily find an iPhone or smartphone adapter or holder that connects to a traditional camera tripod. This will keep your shot nice and steady.

When it comes to audio, it’s often said that it’s just as important, if not more so, than video. I find that statement to hold true, as most folks will watch a “bad” picture if the content is compelling, but if the sound is inaudible, the video won’t be watched. Make sure the audio on your video is loud and clear!

Audio is also much more difficult, if not impossible, to fix in post production. You may be able to clean up the image in editing, but audio editing is much more challenging. So the lesson is to make sure you’ve got good audio when you’re shooting.

How do you ensure decent sound? First, you test, and make sure your volume is adequate. If you’re using a smartphone, you can use the internal microphone when shooting video, but don’t get too far away from the phone or the audio will degrade.

If necessary, get an external microphone for your smartphone, such as a lavalier mic. One popular and affordable model is the Audio-Technica ATR3350 Omnidirectional Condenser Lavalier Microphone — usually under $30 on Amazon. Another option is the higher end ($70) Rode smartLav+ Lavalier Microphone for iPhone and Smartphones. If you prefer to go totally professional (but more expensive), then consider a wireless system from Sennheiser or Movo.

Finally, you’ll need a place to “store” or host your videos once they’re done. The easy and obvious choice is YouTube, since it’s free and offers unlimited hosting of your videos. Tip: If you want to host your video, but you’re not ready for the world to see it, make the video private or unlisted on YouTube. Vimeo is another option for hosting your videos, and is often thought to be a higher end choice because there’s less “clutter” on the video channel. I often make the analogy that YouTube is the Wal-Mart of video hosting sites, while Vimeo is the Nordstrom!

Additional Tools For Video Production

We’ve looked at simple options for your video camera and microphone, but you may be wondering what other tools or equipment you might need to create great video. As is often the case, the answer is “it depends.”

First, let’s make an important distinction about two types of videos. I often tell my clients that most videos can be divided into two, simple categories, which I call “on the fly” or “keeper.”

An “on the fly” video is exactly what it sounds like: A quick, “in-the-moment” video shot on the go or live. An on the fly video is more about the moment and what’s happening as you shoot. It can be an event video, an impromptu testimonial video, an on-location video, or a live streaming video such as Facebook Live.

With these videos, content is more important than quality and done is better than perfect. These types of immediate videos may have less of a “shelf life,” (and may even expire like Periscope or SnapChat), and the key is to get the video done and posted quickly. Not surprisingly, most “on the fly” videos are created with a mobile device like an iPhone.

“Keeper” videos, on the other hand, are typically going to be more permanent and are usually created with a very specific goal in mind. Think home page video, sales video, product launch videos, etc. Keeper videos need more thought and planner, and should be higher quality than your quick, on the go videos. You can also think of “keeper” videos as branding videos, as they will often reflect your personal brand.

Keeper videos may require more editing and post-production, so you can really control what the final product looks and sounds like. These are the videos that are going to have more “shelf life,” and will likely be around for a while — especially if it’s something like the “welcome” video on your home page or the “channel trailer” on your YouTube channel.

Once you’ve made the distinction between “quick” and “keeper” videos, you can better determine your specific equipment needs. On the fly videos, for example, may not require additional lighting or editing. Think of a Facebook Live video, where you may be live streaming from your mobile device and don’t have as much control over the lighting or background noise.

Keeper videos that are selling a product or service, and are reflective of your brand, will likely need more production and editing, as you want these videos to look more professional. In this case, you may want additional lighting, control over the background, and possibly music or voice over done during the editing process.

When creating a video that needs to be more professional and polished, consider the use of these additional tools:

Lighting — I recommend “soft box” lighting, which provides adequate light for your videos if you’re shooting in a darker location or at night. Most video pros like to use “3-point” lighting (another trick borrowed from television production). 3-point lighting uses a “key” light, or main light source; a “fill” light, often used to eliminate shadows; and a “back” light, to light the background and create some depth between the subject and the background. Many light kits come in sets of three so you can utilize the 3- point lighting scheme.

Backgrounds — With a “keeper” video, you want to have control over your environment and your background. Do you want the background to be part of the message? For example, if you’re a medical professional, do you want to shoot in an office or exam room? Or do you prefer a more neutral background. Many videos are shot on a bright white background, made famous by Apple commercials and other top brands. Your video style may call for a black background. 

Or, if you’ve got the need for a completely different background, such as an animated or photo background, you may even consider a green screen, where you can replace the green background with any image or graphic in the editing process. Amazon and other retailers sell a background kit that comes with black, white and green for all your needs.

Tripod — Lastly, nothing screams unprofessional like a shaky shot. A shaky or unsteady camera is easily remedied by using a tripod. Most traditional (photo) camera tripods will work fine for video cameras, though you may need any adapter. The folks at caddiebuddy.com produce some excellent iPhone and iPad tripod holders and adapters, for example. Do what you need to do to keep that camera shot steady and stable!

More Cool Tools For Video Production

There’s no shortage of video tools, apps and software, and it can be overwhelming trying to choose the right resources for your video production. We’ll be sharing more tools throughout the guide but, in the meantime, here are three of our favorites:

Intro Designer: This handy and affordable app is available in the App Store for the iPhone and iPad, and is just $3.99. Intro Designer allows you to create high-end, animated openers, intros, credits and more using their 21 professional templates. You simply choose a pre-made motion graphics template, and replace the generic text with your own. You can customize their templates to create movie trailer style intros, birthday videos, holiday videos, and more!

AudioJungle.net: It’s usually a struggle to find affordable, royalty-free music for your video productions, but AudioJungle solves that problem. AudioJungle is part of the Envato Market family of resources (https://market.envato.com/), where you can find not only music, but graphics, stock photos, Adobe AfterEffects video templates and more. The music site is my favorite though, with over half a million custom tracks and sound effects to choose from. There’s every music style and genre imaginable, and cuts start at just $1, but average about $19.

Adobe Spark: Spark began as Adobe Voice, an iPad app for creating animated videos, but has grown and evolved into a series of mobile apps including Spark Post, for creating social graphics with custom text; Spark Page, for turning words and images into web “stories;” and Spark Video, used for creating animated videos using pre-designed templates. Spark video remains my personal favorite, as it’s super simple to record your voice to your iPad, then add photos, graphics, and music from the Spark app. Explore the possibilities at https://spark.adobe.com/

The Rule of Thirds For Videos

Even with all the great tools and resources available to you, if you’re doing a talking head video, you’ve still got to “look good” on camera. For a professional presence, you’ll want to make sure that your framing, or composition, looks good, and that you’re positioned properly in the camera frame. You can use the photographer’s “rule of thirds” to make sure that you look good in the shot.

The rule of thirds suggests that you divide your screen into three horizontal and three vertical lines, almost like a tic-tac-toe board. Ideally, the “action” should take place at the intersection of the lines, or the “focal points” within the frame.

And while you may not be running on a beach with a giant green flag as pictured, this image is a good example of using the focal points of the rule of thirds for good visual composition.

For a more typical head and shoulders video shot, you will usually want to make sure the person’s eyes are on the top third of the screen, and the person is slightly off center (on the left or right vertical line.

According to Vladimir Gendelman, CEO of CompanyFolders.com, portraits “work best when the person’s eyes overlap with the intersections on a 3×3 grid. Since those intersections are key focal points, this creates a better sense of eye contact and engagement than placing them dead-center.” (see example image)

You should also use the rule of thirds when it comes to graphics or on screen overlays. “Lower thirds” graphics get their name, not surprisingly, because the text occupies the lower third of the screen. You can see this effect at work in most newscasts or talk shows, though networks like ESPN and CNN have taken it to the extreme with lower thirds, scrolling text, logo bugs and other graphics sharing the screen with the on-camera talent.

Video Editing

Editing video often strikes fear into the hearts of most business owners, but you can take solace in the fact that video editing not as difficult as you might imagine. In fact, today’s tools make it quicker and easier than ever to edit and embellish your video.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when editing an on-camera video:

  • Keep in mind that a little editing goes a long way. You may not need to get too elaborate with your edits.
  • Don’t add bells and whistles just for the sake of it. You may have editing software that offers 200 different kinds of transitions, but this does not mean you should use all 200 transitions!
  • Simple is better: Use simple cuts or dissolves for transitions, minimal graphics, and subtle background music.
  • Be sure to trim the front and back (end) of your video is there’s unnecessary footage. This is likely where you leaned in to hit the record button.
  • Add a lower third graphic when possible. It gives the viewer a visual cue of who or what’s on screen.
  • Music can set the tone of the video and make it more powerful and emotional. Use music wisely.
  • An animated, branded intro and/or “outro” can also make your video look much more professional.

As for video editing platforms, start with the “low hanging fruit” of free and easy video editors, and work your way up to more professional platforms as your videos and your skills evolve. YouTube’s free onboard editor is a great place to start because it’s easy and intuitive and, chances are, you’re uploading your video to YouTube anyway!

If you need a more robust editing option, then check out WeVideo.com, which offers a variety of editing choices online, so it works whether you’re on a Mac or a PC. WeVideo even has a free version that includes 1GB of cloud storage and 22 free songs from their music library. 

WeVideo’s paid program starts with a one time payment of $29.99 and gives you more features, including access to 100 songs in their music library.

If you’ve got an iPad (or a Mac), then Apple’s iMovie is a great editing option, with lots of features, flexibility and built-in templates to start with. For more advanced video editing, check out Camtasia or, my favorite and go-to editing platform, Final Cut Pro.

On or Off?

Remember our distinction between “Quick” and “Keeper” videos from earlier in this module? Well, there’s another equally important distinction, or decision, we need to make about video production: Should you create an on-camera video, or an off-camera video?

We’ll delve more deeply into this in the next module on Video Platforms but, for from a video production standpoint, just know that the on vs. off-camera decision will obviously impact your approach to production. We’ve focused mostly on traditional on-camera videos in this module, because those “talking head” videos usually require the most production.

However, off-camera videos, including animated videos, PowerPoint videos, and screencasts, often require a completely different production approach, because most are based on software or specific applications.

There’s plenty more you should know about various off and on-camera options, and we’re going to do a deep dive on many of the tools and resources available to you in module 4, where we discuss “Video Platforms” and finding your “Video Sweet Spot!”

Recommendation: The Best Software For Creating Marketing Videos

If you want to save time creating high-quality marketing videos, I recommend using VideoCreator.

Using VideoCreator, you can now create all types of videos for any marketing objective.

The software includes animated transitions, 3D elements, and animations. You may have seen other video creation apps before, but VideoCreator offers over 600+ unique templates on its front end alone.

In just a few clicks, you can easily create scroll stoppers, product promos, e-commerce videos, motion tracking videos, explainer videos, animated videos, social media videos, and any other type of video you can possibly imagine.

Using other apps, users can only create short videos of 30 seconds. The VideoCreator application lets you create animated videos of any length.

Whatever your skill level may be, you can create videos with hundreds of customizable templates in minutes. Aside from that, the collection of royalty-free assets lets you customize any video to your liking.

To learn more about VideoCreator, you can read my comprehensive VideoCreator review first. 

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