How to Make a Good Video on a Budget
There’s a common misconception that making a business video is costly, complicated, and impossible to do in-house to a high standard. In reality, it’s completely accessible to any business willing to spend a bit of energy ensuring they get it right. With a little knowledge and some attention to detail, anybody can make a professional-looking video without breaking the bank.
Here in the Expert Market video team, we put our heads together and came up with some fundamental tips to help you take your first steps into video production. This video should demonstrate the common pitfalls and, more importantly, how you can avoid them without spending a fortune.
Don’t Neglect Your Audio
One of the most overlooked elements in video production is the audio and, although it may seem surprising, it’s potentially the most important. Poor quality audio is far more jarring for your viewer than dodgy footage; it will immediately give your video an amateur feel and can be difficult to decipher.
If you have any budget at all, invest in a decent microphone to record your sound. Either clip a Lavalier mic around 6 inches below your subject’s mouth or mount a Shotgun mic on a stand and get it as close to them as possible (without creeping into the shot of course). If you are really on a shoestring though, there are ways to improve the audio you’ll get from your phone or camera.
Keep the Noise Down!
The human ear has a real talent for focusing on what’s important and tuning out consistent, low-level sounds, such as air conditioning units and humming fridges. A microphone, however, will pick all of this up and you’d be surprised how distracting it can be.
Switch off anything in the room that could be contributing to the noise and close all your windows to drown-out wind and traffic. Whatever you do, do not under any circumstances shoot a video while music is playing in the background. When you come to edit it later, the song will be full of awkward jumps and it’ll clash horribly if you want to lay a soundtrack over the top!
Reduce Echo… Reduce Echo…
Large empty rooms full of hard floors and surfaces can make your audio sound like it was recorded in a tunnel. A good rule of thumb is to add softer materials, as these will absorb sound and dampen the echo. The best way to do this? Blankets. Hang them from the ceiling, drape them over your furniture, lay one on the ground or, if you can, shoot in a carpeted room. This is another change that will sound subtle initially, but can make a huge difference to the final recording.
Get into Position!
Depending on the style of the video, you will want to position your subject differently. If you’re recording a scripted ‘how-to’ guide then you’ll want them right in the centre of the frame and looking straight down the lens. If your video is a more casual Q&A, then have them looking just off-camera towards the interviewer.
Don’t sit them at too much of an angle, make sure you can still see both of their eyes; and leave a good amount of room on the side of the frame that they are speaking towards. You want them talking “into the space” rather than away from it, otherwise it can feel a little claustrophobic.
In the Frame
Once you’ve them positioned correctly, move or adjust the camera until you’ve got the perfect shot. If you go too wide and reveal a large room it feels impersonal, but a super close up looks far too intense. Find a comfortable middle ground that allows you to see their hand gestures while still engaging with their facial expressions.
Think about what is going on behind them, too. A plain, white background feels formal and authoritative but if you change that to a bright green, it has a different tone. The background can completely change the story that you’re telling. Setting your video in an office adds authenticity and feels warm and casual for the viewer. Just make sure you clear away anything messy and watch out for awkwardly placed plants and props.
The last thing you want to do is to put in all this effort making your video look perfect and then ruin it with jittery, handheld footage. Buy a tripod if you can but at the very least support your camera on a stable surface to ensure it remains completely still for a steady shot. There’s a time and a place for shaky-cam and that’s The Blair Witch Project, not the launch of your new campaign.
Light ‘Em Up!
As long as you’re thinking about light and using it consciously, you’ll always get a much better image. Just pointing a camera at your subject is fine but if they’re backlit by a window or hidden in a dark corner, it isn’t going to look great. Professional lighting can be expensive but just make use of whatever lighting you have on hand and you can get some fairly impressive results. Try placing a light either side of your subject’s face, just above their eyeline for an even, flattering look.
Use the Sun to Your Advantage
The sun is your best friend when it comes to lighting on a budget, but it can be fickle. Bright, sunny days may seem like the best time to shoot but direct sunlight is incredibly harsh and will leave you with a mixture of intense, white highlights and dark, underexposed shadows. What’s even worse is that as the sun moves and the clouds come and go the changes in light will cause jump cuts when you come to edit your footage. Wait for an overcast day, which will give you soft, flat and completely consistent light.
Don’t Mix and Match
The final thing to bear in mind is that all light sources have a specific “colour temperature”. Sunlight is incredibly blue on the spectrum, whereas standard tungsten light bulbs are orange and fluorescent strip lighting is green. The science of this is rather complex but the main thing to remember is that combining temperatures can look unnatural and won’t be flattering. Just make sure you pick one type of light and stick to it; do your best to block out any other light that might clash.
A lot of these video fundamentals will become second nature with practice, so the best thing you can do is just get out there and start shooting. Hopefully this guide will give you the resources you need to start making professional-quality video today, without having to outsource a thing.
So what are you waiting for? Action!