There’s no substitute for experienced professional video production and post-production. The quality you get from a professional director, crew and top-notch gear goes a long way and can make your messaging really stand out.

However, making movies isn’t cheap by any stretch. Often times you might not have the budget for a professional crew. It also isn’t quick — with writing, scouting, shooting, editing, and final delivery make up a long, tedious process. That won’t cut it if you need something on a really tight turnaround.

If that’s your case, here are some tips and best practices you can follow to produce a DIY video — whether it’s a video abstract, didactic slide presentation, on-demand speaker training module, or training for users on a new portal — that can pass as professional and get your message across.

Writing Your Script

  • Don’t wing it
    Make a script and get it pre-approved by all stakeholders, especially legal review.
  • Practice, practice, practice
    Make sure you can recite it comfortably and comprehensibly.
  • Convert it to bullet points
    Come shoot day, put your laptop up as close as possible to the camera and use it as a confidence monitor.
  • Start with a nice intro
    Then, after you’ve recorded the rest, redo the intro over again. Why? You (or talent, if you’re filming someone else) be warmed up already, and this time will feel (and be) smoother, and more personable.

Getting and Using Your Camera

  • These days, there are lots of options
    There are laptops’ built-in webcams, DSLR digital cameras — even the iPhone 11 can film 4K video, the standard for TV and movies. This will largely depend on what you have available — or, if you’re making a long-term investment in video-making, go for it!
  • Always use a tripod
    This is true no matter what you use, so the video looks stable and professional. And if using a cell phone — have it in landscape orientation, this will avoid the black bars on either side.
  • Frame yourself or the talent nicely
    Shoulders and up is ideal, as you don’t want too wide of a shot — again, personable! Try to keep the camera level with whoever your subject is and not too high above or below.

Lights and Sound

  • Make sure the room is well lit
    The more lights the better, without your subject getting overexposed.
  • Pick the same color lights
    Each type of light has a different color, so don’t mix light types. This ensures a smooth and consistent light tone.
  • Make sure the room is quiet
    Chances are any background noise will be picked up. Lawn service mowing the lawn will be heard. Phone ringing down the hall will be picked up. That can’t be edited out — so be cognizant during filming!

And…Action

  • Don’t expect perfection 
    Let talent (or yourself) take their time, and encourage them not to get upset if they mess up a few times. The great thing about digital is that you can keep doing over and over as many times as needed. If they do mess up, just have them redo that section or slide over, and you can then edit out the bad take afterwards.
  • Avoid jump cuts
    If the whole video wasn’t done in one take (and it won’t be — even professionals mess up) you’ll need to do some editing, and deal with cuts. A jump cut is when there’s a cut in the video, but the camera or talent doesn’t move — it’s jarring, and won’t look professional. Here’s how to avoid that:
    • Record your video twice from two different angles. One close angle, and then a wide angle.
    • If you’ve got a short script, two angles isn’t too much work. But if you have a longer script — One possible workaround might be to put up a graphic or slide on-screen to cover that edit.
    • It’s a good idea anyway to work in some graphics, stock photos, video, or slides in your video to add some visual interest and to help complement the key messages for your video — that could be a great chance.

Post-production and Editing

  • There are a lot of options for software too
    From iMovie to Camtasia to Lightworks, etc., how do you know which is best? Our two cents is that we’re pretty partial to Adobe, so we use and recommend Adobe Premiere — but yes, there are plenty of other low-cost options out there you can explore.
  • Avoid hokey transitions
    Unless you’re being tongue in cheek, try to steer clear of star and clock wipes. Less is more. A simple fade, or no transition at all (as long as it’s not jarring) should suffice
  • Export your video
    Once you’re all done, export it out a MP4 video file — there are also a lot of options for that file, but MP4 is as close as there is to a universal format nowadays.

And then…it’s a wrap!

Creating a compelling, professional-looking video on a budget and time constraint, without a crew or much equipment on hand, can seem like an enormous task — more effort than it’s worth. But if you’re willing to get resourceful, and follow the above suggestions, it’s not impossible.

Thanks for reading, and let us know how your videos turn out — and what came in handy for you working on it!

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