Video has never been bigger, with just about every site supporting it and 500 hours of fresh footage being uploaded to YouTube every minute, and there’s never been a better time to jump in and start creating your own.
Making a video is a complex undertaking that requires skills beyond being able to talk into a camera and no small investment in equipment, but once you’ve got the basics nailed down there is no other medium as powerful or versatile for getting a message across and engaging your audience. So don’t be intimidated, follow our tips, and dive into the exciting world of video creation
Making a video: plan ahead
If you’re looking for a professional result, you can’t just switch the camera (opens in new tab) on and improvise. You’ll need a script for your dialog, a storyboard that shows which shots and cuts you intend to use and the major points you want to get across, and a whole production plan to identify the goals of the video, and everything you need to bring it to fruition. The work that you put in at this stage will be reflected throughout the finished product, so don’t skimp.
Another benefit of a well-written plan is that you can show it to outsiders you are looking for help from - be that investors, technical personnel or actors - to give them an idea of precisely what it is you are trying to create, and of your level of professionalism.
Your script should start simply then flesh out its subject, sticking to the point throughout. You have around 15 seconds at most to grab your target audience’s attention or they’ll start to wander, so prioritize your ideas, decide which fit together into a coherent narrative, and stick to just those. Hook your audience in, establish a personal connection, maybe shock or surprise them, but above all keep them watching. This is also the time to think about SEO, as it’s no good producing a great video if no one is led to it by search algorithms
Making a video: assemble your equipment
You likely already have the one piece of equipment that will open the door to video production: your cellphone. All modern smartphones are capable of recording at least 1080p HD video, with many managing 4K UHD and a few 8K. The world is not quite ready for 8K video, as almost no one has a TV capable of displaying it or a computer that can handle editing it, so while 4K is an attractive prospect, there’s nothing wrong with creating your videos in 1080p HD.
Along with your camera, which can be a DSLR or mirrorless camera that can record video, or even a dedicated video camera, you’ll definitely need a tripod, or at least something - like a table at the right height - on which you can rest your camera. There are plenty of cheap adapters that will secure your cellphone on a standard tripod screw in the correct landscape format. You can use more than one camera, editing the resultant different angles together afterwards.
You’ll also need some sort of lighting, which you may have around the house. Desk-mounted ring lights are popular if your video is of one person addressing the camera, but larger productions will require more elaborate lighting, and a standard three-light setup sees one trained on the subject, one on the background, and an extra one for filling in areas that look too dark. You’ll also almost certainly a microphone, either one that will sit on a desk in front of you, or attaches to your camera. The mics built into phones and cameras are rarely of sufficient quality.
Making a video: record and rerecord
Actually recording your video may turn out to be the least time-consuming part of the entire process. Stick to the script, be warm, confident and friendly, choose an area with a clean, non-distracting background to shoot in, and don’t be afraid to mess things up. Camera memory cards are big and cheap these days, so there’s no shame in recording the same thing a few times until you get it right, then cherry-picking the best bits during editing and saving the downright worst for a comedy blooper reel.
Follow the plan you made, get everything you need, and watch yourself back to identify areas in which you need to improve. Avoid unnecessary camera motion - zooms and pans - unless you’re covering a sporting event, but instead let any natural motion in the scene lead your viewers through it.
Lastly, make sure you’ve got everything you need before you leave - even if you’re in complete control of the lighting and environment, it can be tricky to go back the next day and film more footage that looks exactly the same.
Making a video: edit and publish
There’s more to video editing than chopping up your raw footage and reassembling it, although that’s basically what you’ll be doing. Video editing applications require a fast computer and plenty of storage. There are some, like Shotcut or DaVinci Resolve, that are free; others such as Cyberlink PowerDirector, that you pay for. The market leader, Adobe Premiere, is a subscription service; while others, such as InVideo.io, are completely online.
It’s worth learning your application of choice thoroughly, reading the reference manual and watching how-to videos too - these are complex programs that repay the investment you make in them.
Once you have a flawless finished product, upload it to a video-sharing site such as YouTube and begin a campaign of promotion on social media to bring in viewers. Your next video should be already planned, so get working on that, and while instant success isn’t guaranteed, you’ll be well on your way.