Harnessing the power of video on a shoe-string budget

Posted on: 10 April 2015

Video naturally appeals to the human brain.

Viewers retain 95% of a message when they watch it in a video compared to 10% when reading it in text (Insivia)

And the use of video is growing fast – according to Cisco, by 2017 nearly 70% of all consumer internet traffic will be video, with the equivalent of 5 million years of video viewing crossing the internet every month!

Video can combine with social media, websites and email, connecting with your audience 24/7, and it can be incredibly emotive; whether it makes you laugh out loud or brings a tear to your eye – big businesses like John Lewis bank on it when planning their advertising campaigns.

Now, more than ever is the time to harness the power of video to tell your story.

But what should you do if you’re an individual or an organisation on a small budget? Or without a budget at all?

One option is to create your own videos. You don’t need really expensive cameras, or big production teams as long as you keep it simple, and remember some key things when it comes to creating your own videos:

  • Keep it short and sweet…

Look to the classic pop song for inspiration: keep it short (three minutes is maximum), and you need to get their attention upfront. According to a recent study there is now only an 8 second window in which to grab people’s attention.

  • Wear your editor’s hat while filming…

When filming try and think about what you need to capture to help you tell your story, these are the elements you need to shoot. This is your shot list.

Think of these elements like jigsaw pieces or panels of a comic strip. Try to get a good range of shots from close ups to mid shots to wide establishing shots, shots that help tell your story visually. When you come to the editing stage you’ll then be able to edit together sequences of shots quickly and effectively that will engage your audience with your message.

Don’t worry too much about the order you shoot them in, that’s the magic of editing. The main thing is to be conscious of the editing process while filming.

  • Crystal clear…

Too often you’ll see (or more appropriately hear) videos with low quality sound or that’s not loud enough, that has too much echo, too much background noise; the amount of errors made can be endless. Unfortunately there is no easy fix button for sound so best to get it right on location.

It can sometimes be a challenge getting good sound but a few key points to remember are: keep your subject close to the camera if you do not have an external microphone (or if you can use an external microphone, place it close to your subject’s mouth, this is definitely recommended wherever possible), try and eliminate as much of the background noise as possible by shutting doors, turning off noisy fans or computers or even by putting up (polite) ‘shut up’ signs!

  • Know where the sun is at all times…

Think about your light sources within any given situation, the sun and daylight are obviously the most abundantly available (and free!) sources of light. In interviews for example, position people facing a window to light them well and evenly. A common mistake often made is to position people in front of a window, which plays havoc with the cameras automatic exposure, resulting in people becoming silhouetted or badly lit and hard to see.

  • Beauty is in the eye of the beholder…

Try to ensure that each shot is well composed; an interesting tip here is to look up the ‘Rule of Thirds.’ The key is balance and focus, more often than not for general visuals you’ll probably be keeping things quite central within your frame, but don’t be afraid to experiment with how you frame your shots, some people have an innate ability for this sort thing but with time and practice you’ll begin to learn what works well.

For interviews or talking heads, unless you are going for a straight to camera piece, it is best to use what is called an off camera interview set up. This is where the person speaking is looking off camera slightly to an (usually) unseen interviewer, for best results make sure the person being interviewed is looking across the frame rather than having the negative space behind them.

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The alternative to making your own videos is to work with a freelancer, a film student or a professional production company. Here are some things to bear in mind if you choose this option:

  • The Golden Rule…

Be honest about your budget (or lack of) up front. Don’t be embarrassed and don’t hold this back. The sooner you discuss this the sooner you and the filmmaker can decide if this is a viable project for you both. This will also save any misunderstanding or disappointment further down the line.

  • Make sure it’s a two way street…

If you cannot pay for your film, then you’ll need to think of something else that you can offer that would be beneficial to the person producing the film for you. For example, if you approach a student film maker you can be enthusiastic about them using this as a piece for their show-reel and offer upfront to provide a reference or word of mouth recommendation to others in your field if all goes well with the project

  • Make it count…

At certain times it can be worth approaching established companies to see if they can produce your film for you pro-bono. Whether you are successful will depend on their capacity at that time but also will largely depend on them being inspired by what you are doing and seeing it as worthwhile. Whoever you do approach, whether they are student, freelancer or Production Company find an angle that tunes in to something they care about, so it becomes more than just a ‘film project.’

If you are interested in getting some training to help you create your own videos with confidence then check out our courses at VideoKnowHow.

However you decide to move forward, do move forward, and best of luck with your video projects!

You can watch the great video that Be Inspired Films created for Student Hubs’ Emerge conference here.

Ravinol Chambers

Ravinol Chambers is an Irish born entrepreneur, speaker and video producer. He founded Be Inspired Films in 2009 to bring great ideas to life and tell stories that matter through the creation of broadcast quality video and animation.


Tags: Third Sector

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