(This column originally appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer)
Video has become an important marketing tool for businesses of all sizes to get out information about their products and services. There are more than three billion internet users around the world watching video at least once per month.
But creating professional videos about your business takes skill, time and money — and if you don’t do it well, it could reflect poorly on your company.
“The objective of any business video is to get your message out and cast a wider net than a salesperson could do,” said Ron Strobel the owner of VideoNet, Inc, a video production company based in Malvern. “But you have to be careful because you’re going to be judged the quality of your video and if it’s poor then your brand could suffer.”
Jon Sherman, the creative director and a founder of Video City Productions in Philadelphia, agrees.
“I think that for just about every small business, the biggest struggle is scaling their content to reach a broader audience,” he said . “Video content is a powerful way to continually engage your brand with your target audience.”
Youdon’t want your video to look like Wayne’s World. And you can avoid this by simply paying attention to a few details. Strobel, like other video professionals in the area, says that creating a quality video means focusing on a few core basics.
“You have to ask yourself why are you making the video and what are your expectations and then you need to be sure that your viewer will sit there and watch for 15 minutes,” he said . “Whether it’s an interview or a really in-depth video, you’ll need to first try to capture their attention with some kind of a hook, something that entices them to keep watching. And then at the end, there has to be some sort of a payoff.”
Both Sherman and Strobel warn that while investing in a high-quality digital camera is important, the cost can run into the thousands of dollars, and high-quality lenses can also be expensive. So is spending that money worth it? It may be, depending on your project. But for most business videos, it may not be necessary. That’s because many of us are already carrying around a high-quality camera.
“Everybody pretty much has a great camera in their pocket today and it’s called a smartphone,” Strobel said. “Today’s phones pretty much shoot in high definition which is what you want.”
Having a good camera, however, isn’t going to be effective if you’re not using it correctly. Sherman said it’s important to make sure the lenses are always clean and that the camera is positioned at or slightly above eye line.
“It can’t be too low on a table or too high looking down on you,” he said. “You should practice looking into the camera not only when you’re speaking but when you’re listening to someone else respond to your questions.” Making sure you’re not positioning the camera too far away is also a common mistake.
And although it’s very important to have a good quality camera for a video, what’s just as important is your microphone. That’s because as good as a camera may be on a smartphone, most of these devices have inferior microphones. Strobel said that you should up your game with a professional sounding microphone from companies like Sennheiser, Rode and Shure that will have an enormous impact on the sound quality of your videos.
“These microphones do an incredible job of capturing very crisp audio,” he said. “And that can have a significant impact on your overall production.”
When it comes to lighting, “ring” lights are popular and very affordable and standing lights — even two or three to avoid potential shadows — can be very effective, as long as they’re positioned off to the side so you don’t get those round reflective circles in your eyes. But the best lighting by far is natural light.
“The sun may be millions of miles away, but it does a great job,” Strobel said.
That’s a little trickier. Sherman laments the electronic or artificial backgrounds like the ones on Zoom that tend to eat into the picture and is wary of “green screens” which can cause similar issues if not setup the right way. He prefers to use a white backdrop, a curtain or blank wall behind the person.
“You want to use something that isn’t electronically sensitive to your movement,” he said. “You also don’t want to have an ugly backdrop or some political ad in the background, right? Your set is a reflection of your brand.”
Sherman also advises using clothing that reflects your brand too, like a button-up solid shirt (preferably a medium or light blue or white, no pinstripes or patterns).
“Tight patterns are more likely to create what’s called aliasing, where it looks like your shirt is vibrating on camera and you want to avoid that,” he said. “If you’re using a green screen, don’t wear a green shirt or you’re going to end up being just like a floating head.”
It’s a lot to know, which is why many businesses opt to invest in an outside production company like Sherman’s or Strobel’s to get the job done right.
“I get it, budgets are tight” said Strobel. “But there isn’t an adult out there today that hasn’t seen a thousand movies and your video will be judged by what they’ve seen. If it’s amateurish looking, they’re going to know immediately and that’s going to hurt you in the long run.”