Videos tips

Closeups and Cutaways of the Action

Closeups are necessary for most training videos. Whether it's to demonstrate a techniques or show a collection of materials needed, most training videos will have some cutaways of closeup shots.

  • Don't shoot the cutaways during the demonstration, shoot them afterwards, so you know what you'll need to isolate.
  • Stay wide on the main shot, don't zoom in, pan or move the camera. This will make it easier to insert cutaways and close ups of technique or small parts in editing.
  • Pay attention to continuity by matching the movement of the shot. If your talent picks up a wrench in his right hand in the main demo, make sure he does it the same way in the cutaway.
  • Make the cut from the main wide shot to the closeup during the movement, rather than just before or after the movement. This will make the shot appear more fluid and should mask continuity discrepancies.
  • Hold cutaway shots long enough for the viewer to understand what it is you're showing.

Use Two cameras or Shoot it Twice – Then Edit it!

Many people really want to do a training video in one long shot, with one take. More power to them. You can't run the camera and do the demo at the same time effectively, and zooming in then out to illustrate points wastes time.

  • If you choose to use two cameras, designate Camera A as your main camera, and hook the mic to that, and set up camera B for cutaways and close ups, but also record the audio from camera B to make it easier to sync the video later.
  • If you use one camera, consider doing the entire demo once, uncut, with the camera on a tripod, then shoot it again for closeups and cutaways – edit accordingly.

Simple Background and Lighting

An elaborate set isn't necessary for most How To videos, and in fact it often detracts from the subject at hand.

  • In most cases, you're going to demonstrate something on a table or in front of a backdrop – so make the background simple, never busy.
  • You can get pre-made curtains cheap or go to a fabric store and check out their discount aisle – most raw fabric runs 45 to 60 inches wide and you can buy it by the yard or by the bolt. Bed sheets work, too, and are wider.
  • Stick with neutral shades, a darker color will show off most products well, but invest in some lighter fabric if you are demo'ing dark items like cameras.
  • Stay away from a white background, which tends to fight with exposure too much, unless you have a well-designed set.
  • Set two lights about 45-degrees from the center of the demo area, one on each side. Even simple stand lamps will work, but the idea is to make it even.

Audio is MOST Important!

Videomaker harping on the need for good audio is like listening to a broken record. (You remember those, right? Black vinyl discs with grooves that spun on a player with a diamond needle that projected cool tunes in the old days?) Some people still don't get it – your audience will forgive bad video, but will tune out due to bad audio.

  • Use a mic. Use a mic. Use. A. Mic. Always use an external microphone,  please do not reply on your on-camera mic to capture the audio of your video presentation. Good audio is crucial for any type of video sharing.
  • If you are setting your camera 10 feet away from your display table the audio will sound muddy and hollow coming from the camera mic. Then if you move in close for a closeup cutaway, the audio will peak because your mouth is now closer to the mic.
  • Even a simple inexpensive $15.00 wired mic from the mall electronics store is going to sound better and more even than the on-camera mic.
  • If you MUST use the on-camera mic, learn some tricks to getting around AGC (Automatic Gain Control) and covering your camera to mask the electronic mechanisms for simple voice-over work. Automatic gain control is a pain to work around, but it can be done.

Keep it Short – Be Concise and Succinct

People have very short attention spans nowadays, especially for internet video. They have a lot of distractions taking them away from your video.

  • If the How To video is a simple technique, try to make it 2 to 5 minutes.
  • If the training video requires more skills and a longer involvement, make it a maximum of 30 minutes.
  • With a 30-minute or longer format video, find a good place to break it into segments of 3 to 5 minutes each. Give the viewer breathing time between steps.
  • If your video requires you to go longer than 30 minutes, break it into 2 or more separate videos, similar to how Videomaker created our "Making Commercials" training videos.

Use a Script  – Don't Ramble

Too many people tend to want to skip to the fun part – the shooting, and not work with a script, storyboard, shot sheet or any type of plan to getting their training video done. This wastes a lot of time and doesn't inform the audience well, and key points can be missed or lost in translation.

  • Follow the same format for every video you make, especially if they're in a common series.
  • Make a script – even if it's just a bullet point list of steps to illustrate.
  • Read through the script out loud – understanding the spoken word is different than reading a written word. Some sounds don't go together well when spoken, like the "ka" sound of a word that ends with a "K" followed by that same sound from a word that begins with a "K" or "Q"  as in  "Rake Quick."
  • Have a second list in your script of all the props or tools you'll need and line them up on a table outside of the shooting area in the order you'll need them.

Promote Your Videos.

Creating your videos is only half the battle. The other half is getting people to watch them. If you want to present yourself as a serious and professional video creator, you’ve got to promote your videos and grow your following. It’s okay not to have a lot of views or audience interaction when you start out. Everybody has to start somewhere, and some channels naturally have more mass appeal than others, which gives them an advantage in picking up new viewers. But as you create and publish more videos, your viewership should grow over time. Having lots of videos, but almost no views, can make your channel seem amateurish to the viewers who do come along. So how can you promote your videos effectively as a beginner? Here are a few strategies to start with.

  • Put your videos in the appropriate formats for social media. If you’re using, you can easily resize your video for any major social media platform.
  • Upload your videos to the channels your target audience uses. Don’t waste too much energy promoting your videos on platforms that aren’t popular with your audience.
  • Learn the basics of video SEO. Writing good descriptions, using keywords, and tagging your videos correctly can help you get more views.
  • Publish new videos regularly. Fresh content tells viewers that your channel is active and growing. This makes them more likely to come back.
  • Interact with your audience as much as possible. Respond to comments, answer questions, and thank viewers for taking the time to watch your videos.

Plan Your Videos in Advance.

Poor technique isn’t the only thing that can make a video look unprofessional. A lack of planning can also leave viewers underwhelmed with your finished product. By taking the time to plan your video thoroughly before you start production, you can ensure that the quality of your actual content is just as good as the quality of your footage. Every time you make a video, start by defining its purpose. Ask yourself what you want to achieve or communicate by making this video. In addition, define your target audience. How will you make your video speak to these viewers in particular? Once you’ve defined your video’s goals, write a script and create a storyboard. Then revise them until they’re as good as you can make them. Don’t be afraid to rearrange, rewrite, and delete sections that don’t work. Rambling videos bore viewers, so keep your videos as brief and tight as possible.

Shoot from a Variety of Angles.

Cutting from one angle to another is a good (and simple) way to add visual interest to your professional videos. This is an especially useful technique if you’re making a how-to video, a product demo, or another type of video that shows you doing something rather than just talking. Shoot plenty of B-roll footage for each video so you have the option of using it later if you want to. Pro tip: when you change perspectives, shift by at least 45 degrees. Smaller shifts in perspective don’t really create the intended effect – they just look jarring to the viewer.

Teaser – More to Come!

As they say in Show Business – always leave them wanting more.

  • If your training video is one in a series that runs online, you can have a short 10 to 20 second teaser at the end advertising the next video in the series using a simple voice-over that discusses what the next video will be along with an expected time it might appear. Don't forget to add your product name, company or business name and website.