Video has proven to be one the best tools — if not the best — for communication and promotion. Its ability to convey and elicit emotions is without equal. So it’s not surprising that video is now the number one form of media used in content strategy, overtaking blogs and infographics.
And while demand for video is expanding, so are the tools to take high-quality video. Cameras in today’s smartphones have better video capabilities than professional cameras had as little as 10 years ago. With the right knowledge they can yield extremely high quality results — without a George Lucas-level budget. Let’s explore four areas where the right tricks and tips can help your videos look professional and achieve the desired impact:
- Shot composition
- Effective lighting
- Audio, audio, audio
Perhaps the best advice for improving your shot composition is to follow the simple rule of thirds. Using an imaginary grid, divide your view into thirds with two horizontal and two vertical lines — creating four intersection points. If you position your most important visual elements at one or two these intersections, your composition will look and feel natural.
Since most people don’t carry a video light ring with them, you’ll need to work with the light that’s available. Your main source will either be the sun — outdoors or through a window — or interior lighting. The key in either situation is to make sure your primary light source is shining on the subject’s face ... not behind them. This simple positioning strategy will make a world of difference in your video quality.
Excessive motion in a video can be jarring and distracting. To minimize motion, professional videographers either use tripods or costly stabilization tools. Some tripods are pretty affordable … so if you have one, use it! If you need to be on the move, keep your phone attached to the tripod and just fold up the legs. The tripod will spread out the weight of the phone in your hand and help stabilize the shot.
If you don’t have any stabilization equipment, just make sure you always use both hands to hold the camera, or lean against a wall to help steady your shot.
With video, audio is half the experience. So it’s really hard to create a positive viewing experience without high-quality audio. Here are three tips for making sure your audio is as good as it can be.
Avoid ambient noise. If you can, choose to shoot in a location with the least amount of background noise. While it seems obvious, it is often overlooked.
Consider using an external microphone. If you frequently shoot video with your phone, a small and compatible external microphone is a wise investment. While the microphones on many phones are decent, they still pick up ambient noise. A compatible lavalier microphone can be very effective, and affordable.
Go pocket commando: If you don’t have an external mic handy, you can use the pocket commando — a guerilla audio technique for interviews. People often carry multiple devices (phones, tablets, laptops, etc.) that have the ability to record audio. So if the microphone on your phone is 10 feet away from your subject and picking up lots of ambient noise, another device can be placed directly next to your subject (off camera) to capture audio with better clarity.
If your subject is wearing a shirt with a breast pocket, you can use it to hold a smartphone just to record the audio. Then use your editing software to match up the audio file from the second device.
Video has an important and growing role in any modern marketing strategy. With these four tips you can create professional-quality videos that help you build engaging and memorable brand experiences. And if you're looking for ways to take better still photography, check out these 14 tips for taking better marketing photos with your smartphone camera.
Note: This article was originally published in November 2012 and has been updated to include additional information and examples.