How To Create The Best Videos
In addition to being a company whose livelihood depends on producing exceptional web videos through top-notch video production, we are also advocates for the internet, continually promoting the highest standards of excellence for all web content.
As such, we offer advice and education freely for anyone interested in making the web experience rich, diverse, aesthetic and useful.
Since many web users who are exploring ways to seize the power of web video are first-time buyers, here are some practical do’s and don’ts.
Things To Do
Go to the Top
Speak with the boss. If the boss is not also the videographer who will be shooting your video, you want an accurate description of who will be doing the shooting and what to expect when working with them.
The company shows an understanding of the context of the video production. Afterall, the video will become a featured element of your website. It will help to define and extend your brand. It will play a role in your overall marketing plan. Or, possibly, it could be an early step in developing an internet marketing plan. Either way, the producer of the video should be asking pointed and relevant questions that will help maximize the effectiveness of the video. For instance, he asked if your company has brand guidelines and logo guidelines. If the video uses humor or sarcasm, he has made sure it will fly with corporate, legal and other relevant parties in your company. If the video conveys a time-sensitive offer, is there a plan for taking down or modifying the video by a certain date?
Any negative experiences with video production companies you might have had in the past will affect your decision-making process. In that case, you need to be assured that those experiences will not be repeated. You received acknowledgment about the most common video customer complaints and a guarantee that those won’t happen with this company. More importantly, you need to walk away with the gut feeling that they know what they’re doing.
If your video is the same as someone else’s, what’s the point? Some companies understand this and some don’t. Some know how to convey to new customers that a video is not a promotional item – fill your name and logo into the template and you’re done. When asked, “How will my video be unique?”, the answer was immediate and affirmative.
Open to Your Ideas
When you referred the company to a video you think is cool and has an element you would like your video production to emulate, they said, “We can do something like that.” You were asked for your own ideas about your video early in the conversation.
You can also get a sense of their ability to create a customized production by the level of curiosity. If the questions are few and superficial, you can fairly conclude they decided what kind of video you need before the conversation began.
No matter how short they are, making videos is making movies. Making movies is telling stories and telling stories requires imagination. Even educational videos, training videos and public service announcements require creativity. And creativity, while hard to define, is something you know when you see it. Is the other guy coming up with ideas or do you feel like you’re doing all the work? Your reasonable expectation with a video production company is that creative ideas come included with the project and are presented for you to consider, respond to and choose from. A certain amount of brainstorming is part of the fun.
A lot of listening is required in order to develop an appropriate and creative concept for the video. First, the video company needs to ask enough questions to get to the heart of the matter. What is the purpose of the video? Who is the target audience or demographic? What kind of budget are you working with? Should the video be designed to increase brand awareness? What is an appropriate distribution model? Once the “what” is clear, the “how” can begin to be answered.
You want to be not only impressed with the variety and impact of the sample videos on the company’s website, you also want to see their work in action on clients’ websites. Are the videos cool? Did they make you want to watch them all the way to the end? Are they entertaining? Are they informative? Is the purpose of the video immediately clear to you? As a smart consumer, you are looking for proof of that company’s track record and ability. Your great advantage is that, unlike insurance, carpet cleaning and auto repair, web video is a uniquely public product that is accessible instantly. Wonder if the company is any good? Go see for yourself!
WEB video or just video?
The company should have their own clear concept of what a “web video” is and be able to convey it to you in a compelling way. They know what is unique about web video and how to make it work on your site. Their samples are never too long or boring in parts. They engaged you and made you want to watch until the end. They might even be able to provide statistics on which online videos get watched to the end, or for just 10 seconds, and why.
And their videos definitely do not look like they were made for non-web use and later got “dropped” onto a website.
Your company takes the time to show you how to leverage your video to the fullest. For instance, you might need a long-term video strategy, such as how a series of videos can be more effective (and more cost effective) than just one. Video marketing strategies might be beneficial. The video itself is only the beginning: using it as a branding, search engine optimization and inbound link magnet is where the fun begins.
Also, they showed you what you can learn about your visitors who watch the video, for instance by tracking their activity on the page where the video lives. They cared enough to educate you. Speaking of which…
The company has been patient and generous with their time and educational materials in order to help you make the best possible decision.
Things Not To Do
The conversation features jargon. The video company assumes that you, like they, eat and breathe video all day long and automatically “get” all the concepts. Some of the questions make you feel stupid. You don’t even feel comfortable asking some simple questions of your own. You preface a question with, “This might sound stupid, but…”. Any of the following things were asked without explanation:
- Were you going to want flash, quicktime or Windows media?
- Did you want us to shoot high-def or SP?
- Will this be for streaming, download or both?
Clients do not benefit from working with someone who they feel is overly technical or, worse yet, some kind of “gearhead”. Too much emphasis on technical elements such as cameras, lights, microphones and schedules are a warning sign. Any concerns about the “human” side of the process and other legitimate reasons you might have for feeling apprehensive about making a great video (possibly for the first time) need to be addressed early on. Videos often require you to “put yourself out there” in a unique way that sometimes creates challenges that need to be handled with sensitivity.
Template-based (“cookie cutter” videos)
In order to make a video production that is customized to work for you, the vendor first has to demonstrate some range and flexibility. Samples of their work must be individualized and serve a specific function or functions. For example, is it meant to entertain an audience, engage a community, promote a new product, announce a new service, provide a testimonial, generate interest in an event? So do some research. Insist on observing samples “in their native environment”, in other words on actual clients’ websites. As a consumer of online video, you should be able to clearly understand the function of each sample video. If they are all the same, or if the purpose is not clear, it’s a warning sign.
Style and Format Choices
You should be given a choice concerning a scripted or non-scripted video and consultation about which will work best for you. Feeling pushed toward one type of video from the get-go is always a red flag.
No explanation of price
One price fits all? Probably not. Especially if you have never purchased video production services before, you might have lots of questions about costs. Is the company prepared for them? Do they have materials that give insight into how they charge? Ask for something that explains in plain language what the quote covers and why the costs are reasonable.
Lack of Options
No one wants to worry about being stuck with something that costs a lot of money and doesn’t do what it is intended to. As a client, your concerns need to be addressed. Common concerns about videos that feature the customer himself or herself on- camera include: What if I’m no good at this? Can they edit out the bad stuff? What if I don’t look good? Am I going to be stuck with something I don’t like and don’t want anyone to see?
It’s All Good in the “mash up” culture
Everyone likes a “can do” attitude. Unless it gets you in trouble. “Mash ups”, or web-based works created by collecting and combining existing materials found on the internet, are popular but not always legal. Any video producer who tells you that you can copy, borrow and steal any video clip, photograph or music selection for use in your video is steering you in a dangerous direction. Copyright and “fair use” laws apply to videos you post online and your video company should be able to demonstrate that they know how to keep you out of trouble. For example, do they know when to use release and consent forms? Can they explain the difference between copyright, trademark and “right of publicity” (your right to control how your image is used)?
A note about the author:
David Mayer’s 25-year career as a video producer includes experience as an educator, journalist and composer of advertising jingles. His company Videoburst creates web videos that employ internet marketing strategies, video marketing and search engine optimization. All to help drive web traffic and increase new business. Typical Videoburst videos are short, creative and fun to watch. Videoburst works with clients in Auburn Hills, Troy, Southfield and all over metro Detroit.