Filmmakers, educators, elearning creators and entrepreneurs, Tracy Riddiford and Cathy Beitz have a few words to say about using video in your elearning. They have owned a production and publishing company called ourBizniss Productions for 15 years. They’ve made TV documentaries, feature films, training films and commercials. They’ve won dozens of awards, have several international best sellers and their education films are used by millions of people from thousands of companies in 60 countries, in 14 languages. Their programs reflect a level of experience and professionalism that is hard to equal in educational video.
Look at the YouTube stats for people shooting and broadcasting their very own videos.
- 72 hours of video are uploaded every minute
- Over 4 billion hours of videos are viewed each day by over 800 million unique users
- More video is uploaded in one month than the 3 major US networks created in 60 years
- 500 years of video are watched every day on Faceboo
- 700 videos are shared on Twitter each minute
- In 2011 YouTube had more than 1 trillion views
Obviously, all those enthusiastic uploaders haven’t gone to the London Film School. The truth is most of it (YouTube, Facebook and Twitter) is appalling quality – barely in focus, wobbly, moving camera and dreadful sound. But still people watch…
The care factor
So why do the ‘view/clicks’ keep on climbing? Because a great deal of social media video is about people and things they know and love and care about – babies and budgies, dogs and cats, planes and trains – whatever floats their boat. It’s about ordinary events that means something special to someone or extraordinary event where someone happened to be in the right or wrong place (depending on the event) with a camera switched on.
The most important tip about video making is that the subject matter, ie what you point the camera at, is relevant and interesting to your audience. It doesn’t matter how pretty the pictures, how slick the graphics, how crisp the sound or how many pixels your camera has, no one will want to watch, if it’s not about something they care about.
These days, we can call this The Facebook Factor. We used to call it the ‘Feel Something Factor’. It’s the touchy feely, hard to pin down but essential part of making great video. There are only two other main factors: The ‘Hear It Factor’, and the ‘See it Factor’.
Moving on to the Hear it and See it; because everyone loves a bit of tech talk.
We’ve used every type of camera you could imagine. But what was the camera I recently took to India to cover a conference? Yep, my Smart phone. Small, accessible, in your pocket, non-threatening. If you want people to talk, without feeling intimidated, it’s perfect.
We wouldn’t want to shoot a whole documentary on it, but for short grabs for your website or elearning program, they are sensational. They make you get close in order to get good sound, and that means you get nice close up pictures as well – very important for web broadcasting. (One thing that doesn’t work on the web is the tiny person on the big stage talking for an hour with audio you can barely understand.)
There are super easy editing packages like Pinnacle and iMovie and you can send them out to the world in a flash. But you are probably reading this because you want to be serious about this video making business. So we can talk about the ‘other’ cameras.
Choosing a camera is really just a matter of what you can afford. After that, what follows is a list of contradictory conventions. It’s infuriating, but there is a rule; and then there is, knowing when to break the rule.
Tripods and camera moves
- Buy a really good tripod. Whatever camera you have, a good tripod will make it better. Pans and tilts and long interviews demand a tripod and you will love not having ‘cheap tripod hiccups’ throughout your footage.
- Leave the tripod in the car. How can you be fast on your feet, unintimidating and get close to the action if you’re dragging a tripod with you everywhere you go? I told you there were contradictions.
- Use pans, zooms and all other camera moves at your peril – the endless amateur zooming is a dead giveaway. Hold it still and count to 10 and count to 10 again. Everything you really want will be in the second 10 seconds that you haven’t moved a muscle.
- You’d better have something really special to shoot if you’re not going to zoom, pan or tilt because that’s how you get close to your subject and illustrate points and tell your audience what you want to say. The trick is to learn to do it smoothly and judiciously.
I’m sorry to break the news, but if you think this looks good, I’m not holding out much hope for you as a videographer. Maybe you should be doing the budget for your movie. Every movie needs finance raised, schedules for food and parking and someone to get it to the audience. These are crucial to its success, so don’t feel bad – and even producers need to know what looks good, so keep reading.
Good looking pictures mean great composition. Spend some hours in the art gallery. Do a photo composition course or go hunting for some videos on YouTube about the golden mean – or even just look it up on Wikipedia.
If you are going to be using the camera yourself, learn what all the buttons do. The aim is to have it turned on, pointed at what you want to shoot, in focus and rolling within 5 seconds and not have raised a sweat. Practise.
Lighting makes all the difference. That doesn’t just mean shooting pictures to look pretty. Aim to make things ‘look’ like how you want people to ‘feel’ or react. Here is my 20 second Lighting Master Class. Pick up a torch like the one on the right.
Now hold it directly in front of you and shine it in your face – his is how they light the 6pm news.
Now, hold it under your chin – this is how they light a horror film.
Now put it behind you and let it gently wrap around your face – you would look great in a dove soap commercial.
Imagine you had 12 torches shining at you from every direction – then you would be in Neighbours.
And if you hold that torch up at 45 degrees, 3/4 from the side, and shine it through some baking paper – you are in the traditional interview/documentary/drama/corporate video.
These tips won’t quite get you into the London Film School, but hopefully they’ve given you something to think about. Now, check the menu on your phone. You’re sure to have a video camera hidden in there somewhere. Point, roll record, trim it up, publish – see, that part is easy.
If you want to know more about out how to make people stay on your channel, please contact us, Tracy Riddiford and Cathy Beitz – www.ourbizniss.com. We offer consulting, mentoring and all levels of production.