Video 101: Editing and Production
A good video tells a memorable story. In loud environments like the Consumer Electronics Show, it may be the only thing people remember about your company. In social media environments, your video may be the first way a viewer sees your brand. Being memorable therefore comes in handy when your brand appears again and they make that magic connection.
What makes a good video production, and how important is good editing? Using Help A Reporter Out (HARO), we put those questions to scriptwriters, editors and production companies themselves.
Perhaps not surprisingly, our experts’ responses focused less on software, editing techniques or post-production work, and more on setting the right expectations.
Susan Hawkins, a 25-year veteran producer, writer and director of video productions at The Shops at 24Seven, summarized what most respondents said were the three essentials for producing and editing a good video.
“Brevity is the soul of wit and social media videos,” she said. “Production values do matter, though sadly, not as much as they used to. And one well-targeted video will do more for you than 100 videos with no clear audience.”
Brevity, quality and a sense of audience are in fact absolutely key; how your producer and editor work with these elements determines the success of the final product
Brevity was an almost universal must-have.
“Longer is not always better,” said Mark Macias of MaciasTV.com. “I've produced social media videos for politicians who want to tell their entire life story in one video. Voters and viewers are not going to sit through a 5-minute video. Each video should narrow down the most important message and focus on that.”
Ted Braverman of Braverman Film and Photography in Las Vegas echoed that sentiment. “Two to three minutes is all that is needed in most cases. Something on the edge of a small documentary is just not needed anymore, unless you’re doing a tutorial.”
Think 30 seconds, not 30 minutes, said one respondent. If you feel like you have more story that needs to be told, said others, break it into additional videos.
“Your video should reflect your brand,” said Jeff Davis of JD Savage Productions. “I think a lot of companies try to ‘do it yourself’” and that generally does not work.
Nick Vivion of Worldli Film in Seattle put it even more succinctly: “Pay a professional. Just like you would be suspicious of someone trying to sell you a stereo from the trunk of a car, you should be wary of anyone giving you a quote that is lower than the rest. They might be just starting out - or that might be the quality of work they deliver. You get what you pay for!”
“The important thing is striking the quality balance that is ‘good enough,’” said Lisa Merriam of Merriam Associates in New York. “A lot of video producers have come up through television production and do gold-standard broadcast quality work - expensive and time consuming. That is largely wasted in Web video - your gorgeous hi-res footage is going to bump down in quality, especially when reposted and shared. On the other side is any goofball with a camera [who] thinks he can shoot something in five minutes with a Flip and post it as-is - the result is horrible, nearly unwatchable.”
Merriam’s point is that you should plan to spend what’s necessary given your goals. Here’s an example of what she describes as a “good enough” video that wasn’t terribly expensive, but it couldn’t be cheap, either (after all, this was an effort to appeal to a class of voters!):
Achieving this look and feel takes careful planning, not spontaneity.
“Flip cams are not the best policy,” said videographer David Grau, who provided this example of his work at Pixula.com (below). “Lighting, coloring, set design, and sound design all play an integral role in creating a high production quality that will capture the tech-savvy and drastically impress the generic browser.”
Good editing and graphics are essential to making this work, he added. “I highly recommend talking to either a local designer or scanning the web for good graphics.”
Our respondents universally emphasized the importance of good audio. The quickest way to turn your audience away from your video is background noise or poor audio quality. Microphones are a must.
In general, talking heads are also a no-no, but they’re often unavoidable. If you must put someone in front of the camera, here are a few important points from Lauri Flaquer of Saltar Solutions:
- Be friendly, upbeat and personable. Some of the energy is flattened on the screen. You'll want to pump up the energy, smile and be friendly.
- Look good. Avoid wearing white, black or red. These colors just don't work on video. Small patterns are also a no-no. And watch those accessories.
- Consider delivering your information in a story format, complete with a beginning, middle and end.
- Have a good time. Let your personality shine through and have fun and your viewers will too.
Andi Enns, a broadcasting honors student at Park University in Kansas City, said editing is the bulk of the work.
“If you’re going to be making a lot of videos, then invest in a good quality editing program,” said Andi. “This will allow you to more easily add text over your videos (for name and titles, for example), as well as audio editing. “The one thing that makes a good video stand out from an amateur video is framing the shot,” said Enns. “Place the subject of the shot on one side or the other (taking up about 2/3s of the frame), but never in the center. Another common framing mistake is leaving a ton of room at the top of the frame, over the subject’s head. You want their hair to barely breathe in the shot.”
Similarly, a good video editor knows that most people will be looking at the video through a relatively small window, so the shot has to be close enough to catch the right details. Good lighting – in front of the subject and behind – also increase the appeal of the video.
“To make a video more like television, break up the shots with long shots (whole body), medium (waist up), close (head and shoulders), and extra-close (just face). Switch between the shots at about three second intervals. This keeps the video visually interesting,” said Ennis.
Amanda Forbes, a senior account executive with Frye Hammond Barr public relations in Orlando Florida, took a slightly different perspective on quality, balancing it not against cost, but against timeliness.
“Time is of the essence in social media,” said Forbes. “If you're producing a video from an event or activity that happened today, your video needs to be up within 24 hours for the greatest impact. Think citizen journalism. The sooner you get it up the more relevance it will have to your audience. No need to rent an edit booth, just use the software provided free to create the video.”
Forbes said iMovie or MovieMaker are cost-effective alternatives if you'll be doing more of these videos throughout the year.
Braverman agreed. “Generally you don’t need a lot of graphics or extensive cuts or splices, which can be costly and time consuming. It’s more important to have a clear beginning, middle and end. The beginning sets up the story, the end closes it with a call to action and details on where to get more information, and the middle provides all the useful information your audience needs.”
Sense of Audience
A focus on audience needs is perhaps the single most important consideration, said all respondents.
“Know your demographic,” said Vivion. “Thats the number one reason Old Spice was so successful: They understood from the outset who they wanted to reach - female heads of household. Then they played specifically to them. This is essential, because if your video does not resonate with a core group then it loses its momentum as shareable content.”
“Make your video of interest to the viewer, not a means to promote yourself,” said Jeff Davis. “Answer their question or concern. For example a plastic surgeon might do better with a video called ‘The Top Five Questions Should Ask’ when getting a plastic surgery consultation rather than one called ‘Meet the doctors at ABC Plastic Surgery.’”
Expanding on this point, Davis added: “Shoot for the customer you want, not the customer you have. Don’t assume that everyone who sees your clip will understand your industry’s jargon. Assume they won’t.”
Even for non-technical video, a sense of audience is important.
“Video must be compelling and entertaining,” said Macias. “Video may be more visual than the written word, but if it's poorly produced, consumers will turn away just as quickly. Humor and - yes, even sex appeal - always sells in videos and the proof is in the number of hits that each video gets.”
If you follow these editing and production guidelines, you’re likely to come up with a good product….not a viral video, perhaps, but something that works for you and, more importantly, your audience.