Videos that are going to be viewed primarily online or on mobile screens must be created differently than those watched on TV, says Mary Coffman, a broadcast journalism professor at Northwestern University’s Medill News Service.
Coffman, who also leads video-training sessions at the National Press Club, offers the following tips:
- Pick the right story. Make sure your story features a persuasive central character and vivid visuals.
- Get the best sound possible. “One of the most important aspects of the video story is the audio,” Coffman says. “People will put up with lousy video on the Web, but they will not put up with lousy audio.” Avoid scratchy, static-filled or muffled sound by using a camera with a good built-in microphone. Get as close to the sound as possible and use an external mike if you must stay farther away.
- Use a tripod. “You don’t want your shots to be shaky,” Coffman says. “Having a tripod makes all the difference.” She recommends an inexpensive tabletop tripod in addition to a traditionally sized one.
- Channel the moment. Capture details — such as a person’s jiggling foot or the natural sounds around you — to let online viewers experience what you saw and heard when you were there.
- Shoot sequences. A sequence shows the way things happen, Coffman explains. Shooting a combination of tight close-ups, medium shots (from the head to the waist) and wide shots will help your editing later. “When you’re editing, you don’t want to go from a tight shot to a tight shot of the same person or scene,” Coffman says. “You want to have a wide shot and then go tighter on the scene.”
- Avoid extremely wide shots. “Keep in mind the size of monitors people use to watch your video,” Coffman says. Extremely wide shots may look fine on big TV screens, but they pack in too much information for little screens.
- Don’t pan or zoom. “Too much movement online tends to make your video jerky and jittery,” Coffman advises. “Panning or zooming works better on TV than on a little computer screen or a mobile screen.” Instead of zooming in, move with your body -– as long as you can hold the camera steady –- or let the action happen within your frame.
- Hold each shot for 10 seconds. You may not use all 10 seconds, but having that footage will help you find five clean seconds of good footage when you’re editing. “Newbies don’t hold their shots long enough,” Coffman says. “Get the shot and count to 10, and then get another shot.”
- Don’t rush through editing. “Look at what you’ve got,” Coffman says. “Don’t just pick the first shots; look for the best.” The shots you pick will dictate how you write your script.
- Match your sound to your video. “Write to your video,” Coffman said. “If you’re writing narration, pictures are going to trump your words each time.”
- Keep it short. Your videos should be less than two minutes long. If you must have a longer piece, Coffman recommends breaking it into two-minute chapters. That way, interested viewers can simply click on the next chapter to keep going.
What are some things you’ve learned the hard way when making videos for the Web? Tell us what’s worked for you and what you still struggle with.
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