Sunday, March 01, 2009

Creating a Demo Video - Part 1

Today let me offer you a few tips on how to create a demo video that someone will actually want to watch.

If you are wanting to get work as a performer and you desire to provide potential clients with a video, it had better look good.

What they see on that video is a direct reflection on your reputation. You may have a great act, but if no one can stand watching more than a few seconds of a video because it is so poorly produced, you've just lost that client.

I'm sure all of you have seen home made videos (perhaps you've even been guilty of making some like this) where the color looks bad, the image is shaky, the focus goes in and out, the audio is terrible, etc.

I see DVD's like that made by people and sent to me all of the time. Let's discuss how to avoid these issues and how to put together a more professional looking video.

My college degree is in television and film production, so I am hopeful that these tips will help you.

First and easiest is to hire someone that knows what they are doing when it comes to shooting and editing video.

It's a good thing that video camera prices and computer based editing equipment have come down in price over the years to make it possible for nearly everyone to be able to create a video.

However, just because one has a camcorder and software on their PC to edit video does not necessarily make one good at making a decent one.

There are general rules to follow...which most amateurs don't.

So, option one is to hire a videographer to create a finished, edited video for you, if you don't want to take the time to learn how to do it the right way.

This, however, can be expensive if you are on a tight budget.

The second option would be to go to a local college in your area that has video course offerings and hire a student who has experience. You can save a ton of money by hiring a student and they are always looking for projects to do for class credit. Plus, they usually have access to equipment they can use.

Using option one or two will probably give you a good finished video.

There also is the option of doing it yourself. I'll list some ideas that should help you make your own video.

1.) Have someone record your show for you using your gear.
Don't try to do this yourself by setting a camcorder up on a tripod with the zoom all the way out, pressing "record" on the camera and then doing your show with the camera in this one position and one wide shot. You need to have someone who can zoom in and move the camera side to side (panning) and up and down (tilting) as needed during your show.

2.) Make sure the person running the camera knows how it works.
Don't have someone operate the camcorder if they've never used it before. Show them how to operate the camera a few days before the recording and let them get comfortable with the camera.

3.) Use a "fluid head" tripod TRULY designed for video cameras.
Most all of the tripods you see at Best Buy or other consumer electronic stores (even though they say "fluid head" video tripod) are not really designed for video. They generally are only good for static shots. If you try to pan or tilt them, they jerk, shake and jump.

The tripod head movement should be silky smooth when panned or tilted, and should have different degrees of "drag" (how tight or loose the movement) you can adjust.

I have never seen a tripod at a consumer electronic store that I would ever use for an important video production.

You can get a nice Bogen or Manfrotto fluid head video camera tripod for around $300. Sometimes less on eBay.

Having a steady and smooth image on your video is one of the most important things you can do.

4.) Use a camcorder with an audio input and headphone connection on it.

Good audio on a video is as important as good video. The microphone built into most all camcorders is only good for sound pickup for a distance of about 6 to 8 feet. Beyond that, the microphone also starts picking up all of the ambient audio noise in the room and you'll have a hard time hearing what the performer is saying.

If you have a camcorder with an audio input on it, you can wear a wireless lapel microphone and have the receiver to that microphone plugged into the audio input on the camera and get fantastic audio.

Use the headphone jack and wear headphones to monitor the sound going into the camera. You should ALWAYS monitor your audio. There is nothing worse than recording a program (and not using headphones) only to find that the audio isn't there or it sounds like crap after the taping.

5.) You need good stage lighting if you are going to make a video recording.

FORGET all of the marketing hype you read about the "SUPER low-light camera! You can record in total darkness!!"

That, quite frankly, is mostly BS.

There is a huge difference between a camera that produces an IMAGE in low light and a HIGH QUALITY image. The ONLY way to insure a great picture is to have enough light on you. Yes, you will get a recording in very poor light with a low light camera, but it will be grainy and have poor focus and colors. Is that what you want to give to a potential client?

I will stack up a $500 consumer camcorder shooting in good light against a $10,000 camera shooting in darkness any day of the week.

I have a lot more to discuss. So, I think I'll post a "Part 2" to this soon.

Oh, and I almost forgot. The MOST important thing is to have a good act! Be honest with yourself. Have others give you feedback on your show before you put together a demo video. If you stink, no video is going to help that.