This is a confession of sorts. After working in a studio with professionals who shot and edited my scripts, it was tempting to think I knew how to produce web marketing video. However, the surest way to find out the limits of your knowledge is to attempt something by yourself. By presenting some sins I’ve committed and others I’ve been lucky enough to avoid, I hope to help you avoid same.
The following will make your web video scream “amateur” faster than you can click “close.”
One: Poor Sound
This can ruin an otherwise wonderful web video and has been my biggest challenge. Viewers are less forgiving of bad sound than of imperfections in your camera work.
Minimize background noise and use an external microphone, either a handheld one or a lavalier that attaches to clothing. If you’re using your camera’s mic, your subject must be close enough to the camera to be heard clearly, which is probably less than an arm’s length away. Really.
Two: Too Much Telling, Not Enough Showing
Unless you possess the charisma of a talk show host, avoid talking for more than a minute without cutting away to a visual of what you’re saying. A “talking head” is very static, and people are not persuaded by logical argument anyway. What’s convincing is a feeling your web video should evoke— that you are trustworthy and credible, and that your product or service will provide greater health, wealth or happiness. Visuals and music can help with this.
Three: Too Many Transitions Instead Of Simple Cuts
Available with all editing programs, fancy transitions such as ripples and swaps may seem like an easy way to add flash with minimal work, but trust me, it’s not the kind of flash that you want your business video to have. Be sparing with dissolves and fades too. You don’t want anything to distract from your content, which should be strong enough for center stage. Zooming should also be avoided by setting up each shot before filming, then cutting instead of zooming.
Four: Looking As If You’re Reading
If you can read without looking as if you’re reading from a teleprompter, go for it. Most people cannot do this without training and will sound mechanical. It looks much more natural to have someone ask you questions off screen and then edit out the questions later. A good interviewer will restate or rephrase questions until your answers are direct and succinct.
Five: Lousy Lighting
I once shot in a sunny room in the middle of the day. Big mistake. The constant shadows moving across my subject’s face meant I had to edit the footage to cutaway constantly and it still didn’t look right. It had to be reshot. Lighting has to be consistent. Learn to use, as the pros do, three-point lighting, which is simple and natural looking. Also avoid overhead fluorescent lighting (typically in offices and schools) which makes everything look greenish.
Six: Including Everything But The Kitchen Sink
Packing too much information into your web video is a surefire way to lose viewers. Your video needs only to whet your prospect’s appetite to learn more about what you’re selling and induce him or her to pick up the phone or visit your site. Remember, you have the rest of your website to educate. Effective video is unbelievably concise—television commercials are 30-60 seconds. Less is more.
Seven: Being Dull
The deadliest sin of all and the hardest to be objective about. Keep attention high not with flashy tricks such as transitions or by inundating viewers with information, but by piquing curiosity, often by withholding information. A common storytelling technique is to pose a question, either explicitly or by more subtle means. You do this by prompting the viewer to wonder something such as, “what’s going to happen to that man dangling out that window?” While the viewer is waiting to find out whether the danger is real, you have his or her attention.
Have I helped you to avoid these sins in your web video? Are you unconvinced your business needs web video at all? For the business case, see Four Reasons You Need Web Video.