I know, I’ve been writing a lot about video lately. This is the third part in this series (which began in the August 2018 issue and continued in the November 2018 issue), and then I’ll take a break to focus on other topics for a bit. But before that happens, I wanted to give you some tools to empower you to make some great video content for your store.
Hopefully these columns have helped demystify the idea of making videos, and this will serve as a sort of primer to get you started.
1. Have a plan.
I use the term “plan” pretty loosely here, as is evidenced by much of my own content, because I think focusing too much on making sure everything is perfect can easily become the thing that overwhelms you and gets in the way of finishing anything. While engaging in any creative enterprise is enjoyable, the end product you deliver and hopefully reap some sales from is what matters most here. While you shouldn’t get bogged down trying to plan every detail, it’s helpful to have the most basic guidelines established. Even if all you do is jot down a few lines describing your goals, that’s a better place to start than not considering them. My advice is to consider who the audience for the video is and what the end goal is. Are you trying to give an in-depth product review, introduce potential customers to a service or just create some excitement about what’s new in your store? Jot down the goal, then bullet point a couple of ideas highlighting how you’re going to show that. For every bullet point you create, think of it as a new shot in your video. Try to arrange them in a logical order, so you have a beginning, middle and end.
2. Don’t write a script.
I know this sounds counterintuitive, given that I just said to have a plan. What I don’t advocate is writing an entire script of long lines you have to remember or read. Reading or memorizing lines, unless you have lots of on-camera experience, will result in a stiff on-screen presence, like a bad cable TV commercial advertising a car dealership. What you want to do is simply take each shot, each thing you want to talk about, and give yourself what some call “talking points.” These are simply bullet points containing the “McNuggets,” or the most simplified version, of what you’re trying to say. A couple of words reminding yourself to hit on a particular point is fine. These are a guidebook, a tool to reference when it’s time to talk.
3. Don’t try to say it all at once.
Long-winded sentences featuring you talking to a camera are how you drag the pace of a video way down. Take a breath, glance at your talking points, and try to hit each one in one to two short and sweet sentences. Give yourself a couple takes each and allow yourself to say things in a natural and conversational way. Trying to remember all the specs of a guitar and rattle them off in one long, unbroken shot will result in long, uninteresting moments in your video, which can cause viewers to navigate away. The same holds true for trying to show any kind of technical process in one shot. It’s difficult to keep a camera moving and in focus zooming in and out, and that can result in suboptimal footage, as can simply leaving the camera on a tripod and showing one long, wide shot. Here’s an example. Were I shooting a video on how to plug in and turn on a guitar amp, I’d have a quick shot to establish the scene and tell folks what you’re doing. Once you start explaining the “how-to” parts, you want to have closer shots illustrating plugging a cable into the jack of the guitar, plugging the other end into the jack on the amp, then cutting back to the wide shot to say, “Here’s a pro tip: Leave the amp turned off until the guitar is plugged in or you may hear a loud, unpleasant popping sound.”
4. Pay attention to lighting.
When possible, use natural light like a window. When it’s not possible, remember that harsh overhead lighting, like what’s found in most stores, can cause you to appear to have dark circles under your eyes or your products to not appear as attractive as you’d like. There are a wide variety of inexpensive LED photo lights you can purchase, and I highly recommend even the cheapest of those. If you really want to be a pro, take a mic stand and raise it into a “T” shape, then drape a thin piece of white fabric across the boom arm and shine the light through it. This is called diffusion, and it makes the lighting less harsh, which can drastically improve your video. There are plenty of YouTube videos on lighting that I’m happy to recommend to anyone who’s interested.
5 Shoot some B-roll.
B-roll is something you’ve seen a million times and have never thought about. You’re watching a TV show, and the protagonist arrives at a new location. To illustrate that, you’re shown a car turning into the parking lot, the key being disengaged from the ignition, the person stepping out of the car and the outside of the building. It’s over in a flash, and you didn’t think about it. When you watch a beer or restaurant commercial and they show close-up footage of food and drinks, that’s B-roll. That amp video I was talking about earlier? Find some fun angles to shoot it from, highlight the area in your store where it is, show the lights turning on as it powers up and your hand adjusting the knobs and settings. You may want these shots to use later while you discuss an action, or just to highlight the amp. Sometimes you find a problem in your main footage and need something to cut away to. I usually spend one to two minutes shooting B-roll footage of any key things I can find, including the inside and outside of a building I’m in. It’s just nice to have around when you need it. Again, there are loads of best practices on using it and editing it in that I’m happy to share. Suffice it to say, shoot some B-roll, and you’ll be glad you did. Take these tips and try to make a short one-minute video showing a product or service you offer. You don’t have to be a combo store to do this. Show your students how to clean a trumpet, put together a flute or just show off one of your grand pianos.
If you want some further tips, inspiration or have specific questions I can answer, write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.