Friday, April 17, 2009

Creating a Demo Video - Part 3

Let's finish up with part 3 of how to create a demo video that people won't run out of the room screaming that they would rather see Cloris Leachman naked than watch your video.

In the previous two posts we talked about the technical aspects, equipment and techniques of shooting a good video.

In this post we'll cover some tips as to what you need to do as a performer and editor to have a finished video that will get you booked.

1.) When editing your video, keep it short. Your demo reel should only be between 5-8 minutes.

DO NOT put a full show on the demo DVD. No one wants to see your whole act in your first promo pack. If they like what they see in your short video, they will contact you to either request a full length video, or they will want to come and see your show in person.

2.) On your video, try to have some shots of the audience laughing. And, this needs to be real laughter. Do not edit laughter into your demo video. First of all, a client generally can tell if what you are doing on the demo is indeed funny or not. If you tell a stupid pun and the sound track is a roaring laughter, they'll know you faked it.

Second, if they aren't able to figure out it is a laugh track on the video, how are you going to explain the crickets chirping and tumbleweeds blowing across your stage area if they come to see your show in person and hear the same joke that got the huge laugh on the demo?

3.) Be sure you have a truly solid act. It's very easy to take a bunch of show videos that may have a lot of mistakes in them at different places and put together an edited version that makes you look great. Again, don't fake it with an edit. If they come to see you in person before they book you, you'll be toast.

If they hire you without coming to see you, they'll really be ticked if you ruin their event.

Even worse, since most people are generally non-confrontational and may not want to cause a scene after your show, they may not tell you what they really think. They might decide instead to just tell you quickly "nice show", give you your check and walk away.

You'll never even really know that they were not happy with your act - other than that they never book you again, tell everyone they know that you were bad and maybe even post a poor review of your show on the booking company's (if they used one, like Gig Masters, etc.) website.

If you do read a bad review about yourself on a booking providers website, you can be certain that those are their true feelings.

Have a good act!

4.) Have a nice presentation of the DVD you send. Have a nice color computer label on the DVD. Don't write on the DVD with a Sharpie marker. Don't laugh. I've seen people do it. Have a nice color DVD cover insert on the case.

Your demo video should make you look like a professional as soon as they take the DVD out of the mailer. It costs next to nothing to make a nice label and cover insert for your DVD on your home PC and printer.

5). Include some REAL testimonials of people who have seen and enjoyed your show, listed on a sheet of paper. Nothing, and I mean nothing, sells your show better than having a ton of testimonials from satisfied clients in the promo package.

To wrap up, the whole underlying point of these past 3 posts is to have a great act and to present yourself in a professional manner in everything that pertains to your show. Your act, your promo materials, your demo DVD, the way you treat clients are all part of being a professional - no matter what market you work in.

If you want to know more about how to promote yourself, take a look at this great course from full-time performer Ken Groves:

Good luck!

Creating a Demo Video - Part 2

Let's move on to some other tips for making a great demo video.

1.) Avoid zooming in and out excessively. This is probably one of the most frequent mistakes I see on amateur videos. ZOOM IN! ZOOM OUT! ZOOM IN! ZOOM OUT! Man, that's annoying (almost as annoying as reading ZOOM IN! ZOOM OUT! over and over).

Zooming in and out should be used very sparingly. Keep the camera zoomed where it should be and stay on that shot until the action on stage dictates that you need to zoom in or out.

When you do zoom, do so very slowly. Your goal as a person working the camera is to make the viewers NOT see all of the zooming and panning side to side. Your video should look smooth and steady.

2.) If you have the option to use manual focus on your camcorder, do it. Turn the auto focus off and focus your camera manually. Here's why:

When you have auto focus turned on, your camera wants to focus on whatever is being seen closest to the lens.

If someone walks in front of the camera, or you are in a room where people are smoking and smoke drifts in front of your camera, the camera will focus on the person in front of the lens, or will focus on the smoke. Then the camera will try to focus on you on the stage once the objects closer to the lens are out of the way.

This may take several seconds and the camera will drift in and out of focus during this time. This is another sign of an amateur video.

If you can focus your camera manually, zoom in to as close of a shot as you can (before you start the actual taping). Manually focus the camera. Now zoom out to where you want your shot to be. Keep the camera on manual focus, If someone or something now gets in front of your lens, the camera will not drift out of focus. It will stay in focus throughout the whole zoom-in range of the camera.

3.) If you have a manual "white balance" option on your camera, use it. Most consumer camcorders have some pre-sets for white balance, which is the way camera sees whites and adjusts colors under different lighting conditions.

Some room lights make your camera see a red tint. Other lighting causes a blue tint and still others, a green tint to your video. I'm sure you've seen this before on some of your videos when you've recorded in certain lighting conditions.

If all you have is automatic white balance or some white balance pre-sets (usually an indoor or outdoor setting), try them both to see what reproduces more accurate colors.

If you do have the ability to manually white balance your camcorder, here's how to do it.

-Find a piece of white paper, poster board, etc. and place it in the area on the stage where the light will be hitting you.
-Zoom your camcorder onto the white card until white fills up your screen.
-Push the manual white balance button on your camera.
-Your camera will make the white look white in whatever light you are in. If white is balanced correctly, all of the other colors will be correct as well.

There you have it. Some of the biggest "technical" things you can do to help you make a visually good looking demo DVD video.

As I mentioned in the last post, the MOST important thing is to have a good act! Be honest with yourself. Have others give you feedback on your show before you waste time (and perhaps money) putting together a demo. If your act blows, no video is going to help that. (unless you're Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie).