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Ten Tips for Creating Decent Web Video

Posted on Jun 22, 2012 by billsimmon in community media, Digital Culture, filmmaking, Help!, social media, Video | 1 Comments

I’ve been asked to speak next week about using video in a social media context as part of BTV Social Media Day. In preparation for that event, I’ve dusted off an old “6 tips” document I’ve used in the past and added some tips bringing the total up to ten. The audience will be mostly business-types looking for advice about improving their use of video online in a social media context, generally.

I’d love some feedback from folks. I’ll obviously elaborate greatly on each of these points as I talk, but this will be my jumping off point. Here’s what I’m looking for:

Video pros: do you disagree with anything? What would you add/change?

Video n00bs: does this make sense? Do these sound like steps you could follow?

1. What is it you want to say?
Be clear about your goals with your video. If you can’t articulate them in words,
you won’t be successful doing it in video either.

2. Who is your intended audience?
Target your video’s distribution accordingly. Some videos are better for web distribution than others. Strategize how you will get eyeballs on the video. When you launch it and how ( and to whom) you spread the word are important decisions.

3. All media is “storytelling.”
Many basic dramatic concepts can apply to your video. Who is your main character? What are the stakes that she/he faces? What questions are raised that the video answers for the audience?

4. Show, don’t tell. Video is a visual medium.
If your video is five minutes of your executive director talking to the camera, you’re probably not making the best use of the medium. Think of other visual elements that can help illustrate what you’re trying to say. Note that these assets may already be in-hand — other video clips, photos, power point slides, news clippings, interviews, etc.

5. Don’t zoom.
Your camera has a zoom lens? Great. Use it to pick different frames and then shoot. Don’t zoom in and out while you’re recording. It can make your audience sea-sick and it will look like a bad home movie. Zooming around looks like you’re always hunting for a shot. Be confident in your shooting. Find a frame and commit to it.

6. Take advantage of available light.
Don’t shoot people in front of windows or with the sun behind them. Use light sources to their maximum advantage. Strategize the best shooting angle for both light and composition.

7. The secret to good video is good audio.
Despite the visual tips above, audiences will actually forgive a blurry, boring image a lot faster than they will tolerate bad audio. Make sure your audio is clean and understandable. Using an external microphone that’s as close to the subject’s mouth as possible is a good idea, and ALWAYS use headphones.

8. Owning a DSLR doesn’t automatically make your videos great.
Having good gear can enhance the quality of your production, but don’t expect the expensive equipment to make up for not thinking your project through. All of the above tips apply even when you have the latest and greatest camera. A thoughtful story told on a cell phone camera will be more compelling than random garbage shot with Canon 5D Mark III (or whatever).

9. When editing, cut, don’t fade.
Just because your editing software has six-dozen star wipe fade effects doesn’t mean you should use them. Even dissolves are best used sparingly. As a general rule, stick to simple cuts 99% of time. Dissolves have the effect of slowing down the narrative, which can be appropriate in certain circumstances, but generally it’s a good idea to keep things moving along at a good clip. “Good clip.” Get it?

10. Keep it short.
Stay on-topic and keep it focused. When you finish your first cut, ask yourself if you can make it half as long and still hit your main points. Try it and see if it works. If you’re not cutting out something you like in service of keeping it short, you’re probably doing something wrong.



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  1. On July 6, 2012, Alex C said:

    See also Vi Hart’s video on how to make a video on how to make a video.

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