Get a Camera.. Or no wait, maybe just grab your phone? As long as you can adjust the settings manually you are good to go, which means your phone will probably suffice. If not, get a cheap DSLR camera. My point here is that a common misperception is that you need an expensive camera to produce good quality videos. That is definitely not the case. Instead, put more focus on…
Planning your shoot: One of the biggest differences between amateurs and professionals is that the pros know precisely what and how they are going to shoot beforehand. What is the story you are trying to convey and how do you best tell it for your intended audience? Scripts, storyboards or just notes on a paper, everything works. Moreover, consider what you want the viewer to do after they have watched the video. Do you want them to apply for something, attend an event or subscribe to a newsletter? If you have planned your production properly and know what you want it to achieve, that will improve your videos a lot more than an expensive camera could.
Audio and lights: Since you didn’t spend all your budget on that expensive complicated camera, why not spend some of it on some decent lights and audio gear? Most people don’t mind watching a pixelated video, but have you ever watched through a video with horrible audio? Most likely not, we are naturally a lot more attentive to audio quality than video quality. Learn the basics of how to record audio and if you are indoors without any sunlight, bring a few extra lights and your video will look and sound a lot more professional.
Editing: It is an artform in itself and there is a reason there are professionals working solely as editors. But if there is one thing I would emphasize when starting out it is to “trim the fat”, as an old film teacher of mine said. The most common beginner mistake is that videos are too slow and too long. Keep it short, and once it is shortened, cut even more. Kill your darlings and keep up the pace in your videos. Once that is done, learn how to do basic color grading to help make your videos look more crisp. Add a simple vignette or title and you have come a long way.
Experiment: So the video is edited and up on your channel of choice. That means you are done now right? Nope, this is where you need to look at the performance of your videos. Nobody gets it right the first time. Experiment with different channels, lengths and formats to find out what suits your your audience best. Maybe it’s the Instagram “square” format that is best suited for your audience? Or maybe cinematic 4K for everyone watching on their 50+ inch screen at home is the way to go. You won’t know unless you experiment and analyze every possible combination.
Program-wise: what’s a must and what’s a bonus?
A video editing software is a must. There are free versions out there that do the job perfectly fine, for example hitfilm express. However, if your end goal is to produce videos more efficiently and maybe even get into the world of motion graphics, the Adobe programs are the way to go. Not only is their video editing program Premiere Pro the industry standard, but it also offers you more room to grow and improve your skills. If Adobe isn’t your cup of tea, you could also use Final Cut Pro from Apple.
If you want to take it to the next level, look into Adobe’s After Effects. It’s basically like photoshop but for video. There is nothing you can’t do in there. At this point, you should probably look into extensions and plugins for your video editing software such as the Red Giant Magic Bullet Suite or Blackmagic’s DaVinci Resolve. If you get to this level, you should also step up your audio game and look into software dedicated for that purpose. I use Adobe Audition which works perfectly fine and spares me a lot of hassle since the Adobe Programs are so well synced. But these suggestions are more advanced. At the end of the day all you need is something that allows you to cut and reposition your footage.
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What channels or people should I follow to get more tips on how to get started producing videos?
There is nothing you can’t learn on Youtube. Especially when it comes to videography and video editing, there are a ton of professionals who regularly upload tutorials and educational content. Now some of these might be a bit too film-nerdy for your taste, but in those cases, use these channels as a library to search when you run into a specific problem or wonder about something video related. Chances are one of these channels have already done a tutorial about your specific problem. Or you can use them as I do, binge-watch all their content like it was a Netflix show and then expectantly wait for them to release new clips.
Film Riot – This crew, with Ryan Connolly in the lead, have been doing this for a long time (since before every filmmaker had their own Youtube show) which you can see by the huge number of videos they have amassed. As they say themselves, you can use them as an on-demand film school. Any problem or question you have when it comes to any aspect of making video, they have probably already answered it.
Peter McKinnnon – A Youtuber who has risen quickly. In just a few years he has gathered nearly a million followers and produced a lot of quality content. He has many great tutorials where he teaches both photography and video. He also does something called the ”Two Minute Tuesday” that are super condensed tutorials which is a must watch.
Darious Britt – A filmmaker who shares tips and tricks on filmmaking, screenwriting and directing. The reason I bring him up here is that he in particular does great videos for beginners. Videos I know would have saved me so many hours of doing things the wrong way if I had watched them when I started out, for example “Top 15 mistakes beginner filmmakers make”. His videos and tutorials are well worth checking out.
I know that a lot of these people keep discussing filmmaking and that it might scare off people with lesser ambitions. But even if you’re not aiming for Hollywood, filmmaking is an artform that has been around for about 100 years and there are so many lessons to be learned from it. No matter if the end result is a company promo or a 15 second Instagram video.
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