The Art of Making (Great) Videos
The penultimate installment of I Went to Adobe Creative Camp at SXSW 2015… And all I brought back is a series of blog posts, the firsthand account of a first-time Adobe SXSW Creative Camp attendee.
Make Social Media POP! with Video with Dave Werner
It’s easy enough to agree on the persuasive power of video, but how to actually make one? Dave didn’t have enough time to dive deep into his process, but he shared what he’s learned over the years—usually by doing the completely wrong thing and learning from his mistakes.
When something moves, it catches the eye. And when someone tells a good story, there’s momentum. Photos and books tell stories for the eyes, but they’re static and silent; songs tell stories for the ears, with the element of time, with no visuals…
“Video combines the visuals of a photo (moving at 24fps), the storytelling of a book (being told through dialogue, acting and cinematography), and the forward momentum of music.”
Take it up a notch
“Ninety-five percent of people are just going to shoot with an iPhone; your videos will really start to stand out and you’ll start to differentiate yourself if you develop a vocabulary of techniques.”
- Edit ruthlessly. It takes a lot of time to pull-together a compelling video. Dave’s five-minute intro took him five days to make and he watched it over 50 times—changing bits at a time.
- Overlay B-Roll. Particularly good for videos of people talking for long periods, Camera A focuses on whatever’s driving the main narrative and Camera B shoots action that amplifies it, then the B-Roll shots are overlaid to keep the video visually interesting. (Dave used the technique every two or three seconds in his intro video.)
- Have a rough plan. I know when I get really excited about a project, I just want to jump up grab my camera, and shoot. But videos turn out better with planning. Then again, improvisation works too: The “tripod” Dave used for his intro video? A chair, with a cardboard box, a food storage bowl, and a tissue box… with his iPhone perched on top of it all.
- Refine audio. Someone could have the flashiest, best looking video in the world, and if the talking begins and it’s impossible to hear… it’s a fail. Quite simply: There are a lot of tools to help make voices loud and clear. Use them.
- Add a look. There are people in Hollywood whose jobs are to work on the color of films. So it’s probably worth it to spend just a few minutes on it; shadows, highlights, saturation create an enormous visual payoff.
- Don’t use canned titles. Don’t use terrible fonts, drop shadows, or funky animation. Typography is every bit as important as actors. Get creative: a sticky note with writing, chalk on a sidewalk, sketches on napkins, magnetic letters, anything that connects to the theme of a video
- Add explosions. OK, so it’s probably not necessary to add explosions to everything, but they do help keep things interesting. That’s the beauty of special effects: They aren’t expected. All of a sudden things just start exploding.
- End with a call to action. Don’t lose people when the credits roll. Never finish with “The End,” always give interested viewers a next step.
- Always tell a story. Add a narrative layer that takes people through the entire video. There’s a reason why people tell stories. They’re easier to remember. Don’t need a story? Try one anyway.
- Learn from the masters. Developing an eye for video means getting inspired by every. other. video. everywhere. Emulate things that look cool. Try everything.
Sharing with the world
Dave recently released a three-minute cover of the Sesame Street classic I Don’t Want To Live on The Moon. It took him about nine months to complete, was filmed entirely with an iPhone 6 Plus, and was edited and composited with Adobe Premiere Pro CC and After Effects CC (watch The Making of I Don’t Want To Live on The Moon). Look for cameos by Iron Man, Sponge Bob Squarepants, Buzz Lightyear, Voltron, Optimus Prime, and Princess Unikitty.
For sure video is prominent in social media, but each platform treats it differently. In addition, social media changes constantly; what’s true today may be ancient history tomorrow (actually, since Dave’s session, Twitter introduced Periscope). Dave learned a few things when he social-shared I Don’t Want To Live on The Moon:
- YouTube: The second most used search engine (after Google) is the best bet for crossing platforms (desktop, mobile, set-top boxes, game consoles) and creating a channel of content. Always make a custom thumbnail and add a title, description, and tags.
- Facebook: Either a) upload the video directly to Facebook or b) post a picture with a link to the video in the description (embedding a video by linking to the URL makes a not-so-eye-catching and much smaller thumbnail).
- Twitter: YouTube, Vine, and Twitter videos show up as embeds, Instagram and Facebook videos don’t. But, what seems to play best on Twitter, among all the words, is an image. With a link to the video.
- Instagram/Vine: Best for short video messages and teasers. Also perfect places to experiment with new video techniques.
- LinkedIn/Personal Blogs: Write a longer post and embed the video in it.
My Conclusion: Have a story to tell? In an era of short attention spans, video could be the best way to tell it. So… Look around. Frame the shot. Get things ready. Record.
Dave’s SXSW session in his words: Making Social Media POP! with Video and Making Your Videos POP!
Read the wrap-up of Session 7: Story Structure Secrets with Christine Steele