Promotional videos are one of the top forms of online mass communication that you can benefit from using. Fortunately, with the ubiquity of the Internet these days, promotional videos are easier than ever to create and distribute! All businesses, small and large, are jumping on board to get their start with online video – consumers demand it!
I am a video producer and I have written this in-depth guide to make video easy to understand for anyone – by the end, you too will understand what goes into making a promotional video, and how to make one that will do a great job of promoting your business or organization to the world.
The results are clear: while some companies put their in-house marketing teams on the job to produce fantastic promotional videos, those who are new to video production can often struggle with understanding where to focus their energy.
This is no surprise; video production appears complicated at first glance, but by following specific steps, it can be done easily, effectively, and efficiently.
With this how-to guide, you will learn an overview of how to make a good promotional video, either by Doing It Yourself (DIY) or by hiring an outside production company that specializes in creating amazing videos.
But hey, this is just an introduction: if you still have questions, just ask me using the comments below and I will personally answer you! And even if I don’t know the answer to your specific question, I’ll suggest somewhere else you can go to find an answer that works.
Getting back to the guide, the material here is written from personal experience – these are the same methods I use in my very own video production business.
Full Disclosure: Online video has high expectations; a good video can do wonders for a business or organization, but a poorly-made video will often do more harm than good to a business and brand. Audiences judge an organization on it’s marketing efforts, and a poorly made video reflects poorly on a business. Ensure you read and understand the concepts of production value and strategy covered here before you begin filming your own video. Or, if you are concerned about quality, I suggest you hire a professional video production company, as the value is well worth the upfront expense.
Okay, now let us get you started on making your own promotional video!
The 5 Steps: How to Make a Promotional Video
Step 1: Strategic Planning:
Identifying purpose and strategic goals to the story.
You’ll want to consider the goals of your video: create a creative brief, and story outline; consider the goals, genre, and audience of your video; work out a script, story board, and budget.
Step 2: Pre-Production:
Planning the technical aspects to creating and filming the video.
Once you’ve determined your strategic goals, it’s time to flesh out how you’re going to achieve them and develop a concrete plan for how to produce the video from a technical standpoint.
Step 3: Production:
Filming your Promotional Video.
Now that you’ve got a plan, it’s time to put it into action. Here’s where you actually visit the location with your crew, get your interview subjects ready, setup the camera, lights and audio equipment and film your promotional video.
Step 4: Post-Production:
Editing your Promotional Video.
Now that you’ve shot the video, it’s time to import the clips, edit them together with editing app, add music and graphics and fine-tuning the visuals and sound.
Step 5: Distribution & Marketing:
Distributing and sharing your Promotional Video.
Once you’ve got your video nice and polished through editing, you’ll need to distribute and promote the video through the media, search-engine optimization (SEO), and sharing.
These are the five broad stages that professional video marketers use. One key difference to note here is that non-professional video producers tend to only focus on steps 2-4, the production stages, to the neglect of steps 1 and 5. Professional video marketers, on the other hand, spend time planning the grander vision in step 1, and then implement that vision in step 5, the distribution phase. In my experience, all 5 step are critical when creating and implementing your promotional video for it to achieve the highest possible level of success.
I wrote this in-depth guide as a basis to my live instruction sessions, so the information here is accurate and detailed – which explains why this article is a top search result on Google!
In this guide, I reference real world examples of various promotional videos I’ve created: I’ve directed and produced music videos, a viral video on YouTube, and many promotional videos for businesses. All the while, I’ll be teaching you about the process.
But enough about my experience – let’s get back to you, and how you are going to make your promotional video…
Contents of the Guide: Good Promotional Video
Promotional Video Marketing has traditionally been a specialized field. Because you’re interested in learning how to make a promotional video, you will learn the basics for all areas of promotional video production and distribution:
- Choosing a Camera: Which camera to choose, depending on your budget
- Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Options: Whether to hire a company, or to do it yourself (DIY)
- Strategy: How to draft a video marketing strategy that really works
- Script Writing: How to easily write a script that works on camera
- Video Production: Video editing techniques, color-correction and more
- Editing: Learning how to use the right app to easily edit video properly
- Audio Production: How to record good sound on set and add narration afterwards
- Online Distribution: YouTube, marketing and how to get your video seen online
Video Production Gear
For many, video gear part is the most fun – here are the highlights that will be covered later:
- Video Lenses: 3 DSLR video lens types needed for success
- Video Tripods: The 3 types you need, and top recommendations
- Video Lights: Why use lighting, and how to light a video studio setup
There’s lots of grounds to cover – and perhaps later you should jump ahead to the parts that interest you most and read those sections first – but not yet! If you want to succeed with any video project for business, it is absolutely vital that you must first do a little reflection and have a strategy in place. Please read this next part carefully, as it’s crucial to achieving maximum success.
Step 1. Planning: Choosing the Goals for your Promotional Video
Planning how your promotional video will perform it’s magic is the first step to successful video creation. In the planning process, using tools and tricks of the trade, you discover what your video will need to actually do in order to be a success before you distribute, edit or even begin filming! Picking who you will talk to is the first step.
Know Your Audience
Time to start! This guide will take you through the top 5 points of how to make a promotional video, and then follow up with resources, expert advice, and interviews from personal seasoned professionals covering more specific questions!
Let’s start; here are the top solutions all in one article that will help make your video work:
How do you know your audience will actually click play on the video? Use a creative brief to find out what makes them take action.
A creative brief asks a series of questions with the aim of discovering the target audience, their wants and needs, and how best to motivate action.
Here, use the successful creative brief format I’ve used with my video production clients since I started my video production business. Use this for any project you start for yourself or your own video clients:
Creative Brief Promotional Video Questions:
- The Purpose: What is my main core objective? Pick just one primary goal!
- Single Thought: What is my main core message? Identify the key takeaway idea or action
- Target Viewers! Who is my primary target audience? Age? Sex? Interests? Income?
- Reach Your Audience: Where might I reach this audience? YouTube? TV Ads? Facebook Video? Video Podcasts?
- Call to Action: What is the single action you need to make?
To get started, download a template for a creative brief here. Answering this brief’s questions will get you started.
Hands down, these are the most important ideas to begin with, period. I cannot stress this enough – answer these questions, and you’re well on your way.
These are just core concepts, many more are covered in the newsletters with other experts and their articles on Reel Marketer. As tools such as quality cameras and Tripods are highly affordable these days, you must make sure the message itself is actionable. Pick one core message– be as specific as possible. (e.g. Non Profit – ask your target audience to donate).
Only when you’re certain of your target audience and what they need to be compelled to act should you move ahead with your video. Bear in mind, promotional videos are unique in that they have a persuasive goal – by the end of the video, the viewer should feel compelled to a course of action or think differently about a topic. If your particular video has no persuasive goal at all, and is only being used to inform or educate, an educational video may be of better fit.
Choose Your Video Style
Now that you are aware that identifying who you’ll be speaking to, and what the message will be is half the battle, it’s now time to choose the how.
The style says a lot; this is a case where the ‘medium is the message’, so have fun with it.
You can be serious, or light hearted – both can work at different times, even for the same brand, providing the message fits the tone.
Be sure to take a look at YouTube for other videos that have a tone or feeling that you wish to convey, and borrow those styling cues.
Promotional Video Style Elements
- Tone: Lighthearted or Serious?
- People & Speech: ‘Talking Head’ Interview style or Professional Actor?
- Production Quality: Highly Polished Studio or Set, or, more shoot on On-Location?
- Scripted or Unscripted: Candid Q&A or Scripted and rehearsed questions?
- Video Quality: Often called “production value”. Various visual and technical attributes affect how the target viewers perceive a video’s tone.
Production value and attributes that affect quality are covered in great detail later on.
Step 2. Pre-Production: Establishing the Story, the Tools and Methods to Make the Video
Choosing a Promotional Video Genre
The genre of the video sets the tone and direct message about your idea, offering and business. Working with a creative person involved assists as a resourceful person can often connect abstract ideas more easily and help you make something that engages the viewer.
Tried and True Promotional Video Genres:
- Testimonial Videos: Interviews with people about their needs and how their expectations were met.
- Narrated Video: A female or male narrator‘s voice talks over the video, informing and educating.
- Company Spokesperson: Have your spokesperson do a ‘talking head’ video where they speak to the camera about the product or service offerings.
- Professional Actors: Actors ‘play out’ scenarios, or talk to the camera about the benefits.
- Explainer Videos: Combination of narration along with very simple animations to explain a message. “Whiteboard” videos are another alternative.
Each variety of video says a lot about the your intent and the service – choosing the right mix of elements is important for your video so that your viewer doesn’t get mixed messages.
Genre and style will also affect budget – the least expensive video uses no graphics or music, and just candid interviews, but typically has a lower impact than a video with higher production value. Does this all make sense so far? If you have any questions, post them here!
Production Value: Creating Better Video
Investing in higher production value helps a video be more persuasive.
A more polished production will make the best of all the tools; high quality camera work, professional lighting, narration, professional recorded audio, great music, great B-Roll footage and tight editing!
As an example, here’s a promotional video I created that has all of the production qualities above:
The processes that went into creation of this promotional video are entirely teachable; the production steps, equipment and creative processes will be explained.
So what attributes affect the perception of higher-end production?
Production Value: Imagery and Visuals
- Animated: Animated custom graphics, or simple “ken burns effect” photo graphics?
- Lenses: Will it be heavy on graphics and animation, and if so how will this affect your budget
- Graphics: Will it be heavy on graphics and animation, and if so how will this affect your budget?
These choices will largely flow from a study of the creative brief questions from above. Additionally, If you’re working with a promotional video company, be sure to consider these options with them – hold them accountable!
Production Value: Voice, Sound and Music
- Recorded On-Location Sound: Were external microphones used when recording the audio interviews on set? Was a boom mic used, or lapel microphones? Were the audio volume levels balanced with a mixer when recorded?
- Music: Royalty Free Background Music, Music, or no music at all?
Consult a professional if you’re unsure how to approach these questions, or ask your questions here.
How to Properly Invest in Yourself & Production
Viewers won’t accept low quality video – if you create poor looking video, your competitor will have an answer – higher quality is the answer.
“Thanks to the iPhone … now 4K or UHD is available for every non-governmental-organization employee, every high-school or film student, every marketer in a company, and every self-employed business owner. (Article: 4 Huge Reasons why 4K Video on iPhone is Great for DIY Marketers)
YouTube has moved to 4K and HD and so have expectations. Thankfully, 4K is easy to attain now – all iPhones shoot high quality video now.
Why Production Value and Quality Matters
Production quality is important. Consumers only accept higher and higher quality continually driving expectations up higher. Twitter and Facebook users won’t bother with a low quality video and audio any longer.
Remember: your promotional video represents your company much like a sales person, except the video can’t make up it excuses on the spot, it will have to stand up on it’s own! If a video can’t make the cut in the real world along side other high-end videos, count it as a lost investment.
Investing thousands into video production only to have the video a loss is a scary proposition. This fact reminds producers that they continually need to be aware of changing trends and standards to remain current.
Video Equipment: Essential Video and Audio Gear
Using video gear is exciting – these pieces of technology are the tools used to take an idea from concept to reality. Video production is enjoyable and creative, part art, part science. Some basic pieces are needed for a video to be made:
- Camera (iPhone, DSLR, or Video Camera)
- Computer (iMac, MacBook Pro, or even iPhone/iPad)
- Tripod (many tripod options)
- Microphone (Wired or Wireless)
- Headphones (over-ear with muffs to avoid background noise)
Video Cameras for Video Production
Modern cameras will do great HD (1080P) video or 4K (2160P) – the standards in modern video. Beyond camera resolution, your choice really comes down to price. All the cameras below film in 1080P HD, with the highest budget offerings filming in 4K. (note: many smart phones now film in 4K too – the iPhone 6s and newer film in 4K)
|iPhone 7 & 6S film high-quality 4K and is a video production studio in your hand with apps. While iPad and iPod Touch are great for HD video, iPhone has best image.||The Canon VIXIA is simple and cheap with a built-in lens. The Canon Rebel T5 offers lens interchangeability, but is more complex to learn.||Both Panasonic Cameras film in 4K (Ultra-High Definition). The Lumix GH4 has interchangeable lenses like a DSLR. The X1000 has a built-in lens and will be easier to use.|
It’s also important to choose a camera that you can plug a microphone into, as audio is just as important as video (see microphone options below). All the camera options listed have audio input jacks.
Computers for Video Production Editing
The iMac or the MacBook Pro are great choices! If any computer can edit video these days, why spend more for a higher end model? The Mac Pro is the highest end model, but the iMac is nearly as fast, and has a built in screen, and less expensive – excellent computer.
|Use the iMovie app on the iOS device ( iPhone | iPad | iPod Touch ) you filmed on. Edit with iMovie App for iOS device – no need for a computer!
||A portable, yet fully capable workstation, the ‘Pro’ line of Mac Books offer power and storage. Get an external USB hard drive for the video files.
||A high-end desktop computer with performance to rival the higher end Mac Pro. iMac has excellent power and value for the price.|
Fewer limitations with speed and storage make a difference, especially with video post-production, which is inherently a very processor-intensive task for a computer and uses a lot of storage space.
Tripods for Video Production
What you should look for in a tripod is its ability to pan left-right and tilt up-down smoothly. The quality of the tripod is usually the distinguishing factor.
|The Manfrotto Compact Action tripod offers basic adjustment. Be sure to get a smartphone or tablet mount if shooting with those devices. Not useful to pan or tilt with though.||This is a portable, high quality tripod. It will work with smartphones and high-end production cameras. Very smooth pans and tilts. Great bag too!||This is a high-quality, heavy duty tripod. It can handle a light-weight “backpacker crane” jib system! Included spreader with the legs also supports more weight.|
The Manfrotto is the budget model and it’s recommended to not go lower than this. Your video’s quality will likely suffer with anything less.
Microphones for Video Production
There are two options for external microphones for video production, a lavalier microphone (that clips onto the on-screen subject being recorded) and a directional ‘shot-gun’ microphone, which picks up the sound from whatever it is being pointed at.
|The SmartLav+ is a quality wired lavalier clip-on microphone that works perfectly with an iOS device without needing an adapter.||The Polsen OLM-10 wired lavalier microphone offers great audio with no noise feedback. If used with smartphone, needs an adapter.
||This Sennheiser lavaier is a wireless microphone set. The EW 112-P G3 is more expensive because due to it’s very high quality and being a two-part kit.|
The purpose of all microphones is to be really good at picking up sound – a microphone will always need to be plugged into a video camera (or audio recorder) for the audio to be recorded.
Lighting Options for Video Production
While on-camera lights common and inexpensive, they are best for documentary-style videos, not for professional looking promotional and advertising videos.
The above pieces of equipment are borrowed from the ‘What Video Equipment Do I Need for Any Budget Level’ guide. The article does a side-by-side comparison of low budget, medium budget and high budget gear (click here to see it).
If this is your first promotional vide, and you’re looking to get a sense of how all the parts fit together, the ‘Low Budget’ gear list is an excellent place to start.
However, if you already have some experience, or you are looking to jump-in and start with the proper gear a professional would use, you might look at the ‘Medium Budget’ or even the ‘High Budget’ items listed too.
Video Equipment: Additional Support Gear
- On-Camera Light (clips onto the camera and shines on people being interviewed)
- External Audio Recorder (Can be used to record better sound than the camera does)
- Headphones (to be able to listen to on-set recording)
You might also like:
- Zoom H4N 2 Channel Portable Audio Recorder
- Handheld Stabilized 4K Camera DJI OSMO 4K Camera
- Steadicam Smoothee for iPhone and GoPro
- Mic Adapter ECM with Audio Output
- iMovie for iOS
- Final Cut Pro for Mac OS X
- 2TB Seagate External USB 3.0 Hard Drive
5 Key Roles for Necessary for Successful Video Production
During video production, each of these roles is important when creating. In a small production, such as a one-man company, that one person will perform all of the tasks, but this doesn’t diminish each role’s importance.
As you read through this list, envision yourself in each role to feel a sense of the role.
A. The Director: The Visionary and Story Teller.
This is who we think of when we think of the ‘hollywood’ director. This person understands vision that knows what the story is to tell, the best genre and methods to conveying that message. The director ensures that the emotions that will convey action are present and get across to the end viewer – which is why in theory this is the most important role!
B. The Producer: The Organizer and Butt-Kicker
The producer ensures all the elements for the production are procured and readied:
The creative brief, a well defined script and story, perhaps a storyboard, a production checklist, set or location scouting, research, the gear, the crew, and a distribution strategy for when and how the video is released and shown.
The producer is the hub of the production.
They’re responsible for all the planning that needs to take place to start the ball rolling, get the video shot, and get it done as planned – on budget!
C. Visuals Professional. Lighting and Camera Operation
Quality camera, high-definition and 4K resolution, lighting, good composition, well-groomed interviewers or actors, broadcast graphic design, animation and color correction. The camera operator or director of photography controls elements that define the quality of the video’s visuals.
Investing in a top quality video will impress your clients, just as a low quality video will damage your reputation. Either way you will make an impression – make sure you are making the right one.
D. Audio Technician. Well Recorded & Mixed Sound.
Sound is more important than I can possible stress with written words. Put simply: Sound is more important than the moving image.
This goes for all processes regarding sound: recording voices on set, editing sound clips, and includes music, narration and sound effects. Viewers often accept mediocre visuals, but people will simply not tolerate poor sound. Both are important, but don’t risk shooting a video without a dedicated microphone and the knowledge of how to calibrate it properly.
E. Post-Production Technician. The Editor.
Video production in the end is a technical job. Production requires the right gear, used in the right manner to get to the goal result.
The video producer knows what to look for to get the video to all fit together and may be the most important to you, the director understands how the story or message will be told.
The audio and video technician(s) handle the image, sound and editing, capturing the video and sound and putting it all together as the director and producer planned – with the creative brief and producer guiding the process, of course.
These 5 roles can be performed by a handful of people, or often just one person, but breaking down the roles often increases the quality. In larger productions, such as a multiple-day commercial promotional shoot, a team of people will be tasked with these responsibilities.
4. Being Practical: The Big Choice when Producing Video
Now for the fun part!
With your video strategy complete, and goals readied, it’s time to get the promotional video actually made!
As covered earlier, a promotional video requires planning and preparation before the production starts. As many businesses investing in buying DSLR video cameras and production gear to start making videos in-house, these same businesses are beginning to realize how much work is actually spent in production.
Video productions require a lot of aspects to be lined up and ready to go; a location (or locations) reserved for shooting, a camera and camera operator, audio equipment and the technical know-how to use it, tripod and other camera support gear, lighting options (either reflectors or electric lights) and a spokesperson, interviewee or actor to be in front of the camera! Whew.. it sounds complicated, but doesn’t have to be.
But where do you come in?
You have two main options here:
Self-Produce Video vs. Hire a Video Producer
This decision is important, and the implications may not be immediately apparent.
Video production isn’t cheap and costs money, and DIY (do it yourself) is far from free.
The two choices are you either hire a video production company to create a video, or you spend the time to learn how to do it. Do It Yourself (DIY) or go and hire a Pro – either way, there is a cost attached.
Paying out of pocket up front for an experienced video producer’s guidance and discernment to create a good video for you that is successful is the simpler of the two, by far. Alternatively, you can spend time buying books, reading and learning as you go, in addition to buying the equipment and software required – without guaranteed results – which may costs a lot more in the long run if the video does damage.
Before you post your question below how this is, allow me to explain each…
Pros and Cons of Do it Yourself (DIY)
There are pros and cons to making a video. First and foremost, creating video is a fun, fulfilling learning experience, and if you plenty of time, the quality of the result is entirely up to you! It’s also a challenge that no one expects – it’s likely 3-4 times more difficult than what you imagine if you care about quality.
- Pros: Excellent learning experience and challenge. Not paying upfront cost.
- Cons: Costs money to buy learning products and books, purchasing equipment and spending the time to create the video. Quality is lower, results not guaranteed. Hidden costs galore!
Pros and Cons of Hiring Professional Producers
Hiring a pro isn’t a sure-bet of a great video, but it’s definitely the closest thing. With your creative brief in hand, seek out video producers and look at their portfolio to get a sense of their quality, client-type and results. Then meet up and chat costs. Working with a professional is a lot of fun too – you still are the ‘director’ in a sense, it’s your video after all!
- Pros: Top-notch quality, timely, predictable ROI. Turnkey ability to “work out of the box”. No hidden costs. Predictable cost = value equation.
- Cons: Will cost a lump sum, usually half up front, half on completion.
So which is for you? DIY or Pro?
Here is a question that can assist you in deciding which route to take: will you be making lots of these videos, or is this the big one that’ll represent your brand for years to come?
My advice: If you’re doing just one full-on video, go pro. If you plan to make many videos over the course of the next 5 years, and are a person with a great deal of grit and determination and enjoy a challenge, learn the skill.
Choose your own adventure…
Adventure A: Choosing to Work With a Video Pro
Investing in a professional with assure a video is done right.
Created with the most modern technologies which assures it will remain usable for 5-10 years for all platforms, including television and mobile.
A video made by a professional will last years. It’ll save you time – you won’t have to bear the stresses of learning all the technical and marketing ‘communication’ elements that go into production – and you will make money spending your time elsewhere to offset the cost.
Seriously, consider that the cost of the production will be shared across the years it’s used as well.
Break down the total cost by a factor of 10 or 5, and there’s your cost per year. Then compare these yearly costs to the cost of creating a new video each year by yourself – suddenly, the cost of a hiring a professional “to do it right” is pretty affordable!
Treat your investment in video as a business expense, and you’re thinking with the right frame of mind.
There is a lot more to producing a quality promotional video than simply setting up a camera and pressing record. Use of proper lighting, audio recordings, post-production editing, graphics and animation, music… altogether these things will add up to a nightmare if you don’t have an experienced producer. A professional will be faster and more effective than you and will produce a good, ready to go product.
How much you spend on a professional? I’ll get more into this later on – first, what about the alternative, going the ‘road less travelled’ route…
Adventure B: Choosing to Learn Video and Do-It-Yourself!
Making the choice to learn video production and do it yourself is a very rewarding experience. Just look at the popularity of self-created videos online now! Many companies are choosing to make videos in-house today, and the number will grow until most companies that do in-house marketing will have video production abilities.
I personally made the choice to learn video, and found it very valuable. When I began, I like anyone else, knew nothing about the process at all. How did I learn?
I read the manual for a Hi-8 camera, and played with the settings, learning what knob did what. Then I made videos with friends, and saw there was quite a difference between Hollywood and TV productions and our ‘films’.
I learnt that sound was important, so I began plugging a microphone and cable into the camera “news TV” interview style, and recording that people that way. Then, I figured out lighting was actually something that was planned and designed for.
Since I was still shooting Hi-8 video tape, computer “non-linear” editing wasn’t an option – not till the year 2000 and I got an iMac with FireWire (for plugging in new digital video cameras) and iMovie!
Then it all took off from there – with audio and lighting and now editing, the world changed, and the rest is history – the tools are cheaper and more abundant now than they were then. Today, an iPod Touch is an entire production studio in the palm of you hand.
Video is so incredible, and so rewarding. And now video is both profitable and easy to understand!
Learning How to Make Video is Fun
If this is a choice you’d like to make, it’s more economical than it’s ever been, and the learning tools, video marketing books and expert resources are better than ever before too!
And promotional videos can be made cheaply too – no reason to break the bank for your first video!
You can purchase all the equipment yourself off a reputable company such as B&H Vide: buying a tripod kit such as a Manfrotto Fluid Head Tripod with Ball Levelling Head , a simple camera such as the iPod Touch, get an editing app such as the venerable iMovie or Final Cut Pro and simple lighting kit…
By the way, don’t knock iMovie, it’s how I got my humble start in video production the year 2000 – iMovie is a veteran video-editing app, it’s been around for quite a while now! And iMovie it’s as powerful as ever today!
Step 3. Production: Filming Your Promo Video
Essential Stages of a Video Production
First, let’s look at the 3 stages that a basic video producer uses. We’ve touched on these earlier:
- Pre-Production. Preparing for the technical aspects to filming the video.
- Production. The actual day or days of filming the promotional video.
- Post-Production. Editing and fine-tuning the visuals and sound.
Just the technical stages of video creation, nothing fancy.
However, you are going beyond just making a video – you are a video marketer!
This video has got to actually work beyond just pretty visuals and sound – this video has to attain your goals.
Goals you strategized and identified with your creative brief.
So, when video marketing, pre-production takes on an additional stage called video marketing strategy, and there’s an additional stage after post-production there is a online distribution or marketing stage.
In Part 1 of How to Make a Promotional Video, I already covered the Stage 1: Video Marketing Strategy earlier – we’ve talked about promotional video genre, the goals, the video style, and your single message in the creative brief! If you answer those questions, you’ll have completed.
We’ve even touched on Stage 2: Pre-Production a bit too, but let’s get more in deeper..
This is the preparation phase – planning out everything you need, getting it all assembled and tested. Meeting all the key people and contacts, and sorting out if they’re ready for the production, answering any questions they have.
Preparation is truly everything – it’s not a fun day when you arrive to set and find out you’re missing that one $10 cable that connects the microphone to the camera, without which there will be no audio, the lead actor also forgot his copy of the script, everyone is waiting in the cold outside to begin, storm clouds are brewing, it’s a weekend, and the store is closed, and this is the only day that everyone has available…
Location Scouting & Set Preparation:
Checking out set and/or interview locations, b-roll shots, spotting sun/shade areas, lighting concerns, human foot traffic, brands or signs in the shot, background noise/sound concerns, weather influences. Will the location require a legal permit or insurance that you’ll have to get well in advance?
The size of the crew depends on the size of the production, it’s style, where it’s shot, and the important aspects. A small crew would be one person doing it all – camera, audio while directing the on-camera person and keeping on top of production! A larger crew can feature a dedicated director (who looks after the actors/interviewees), an assistant director (who actually makes sure things happen correctly and runs the set), a camera operator, a location-sound technician, a director of photography or gaffer (in charge of lighting), a makeup artist and various production assistants (helpers). Nowadays, an onsite crew of 2-3 people is the most typical for the average online video.
Script Writing, Q&A Finalizations:
Writing and finalization of the script, read through (for accuracy), script variations prepared, questions for Q&A listed, live Q&A questions tested.
Production Lists & Schedule:
Listing of cameras, lights, electrical, sound and audio, transportation and production support equipment, pickup/rental dates/times, budget concerns, insurance needs, legal release, contingency backups and backups of backups, contact numbers and names, backups of backups, on-set food and drink preparations, testing all equipment prior to shoot date (super important to test the gear!)
Meeting & Prepping Interviewees or Actors:
Meeting interviewees and going over questions or concerns, wardrobe choices, expectations, preparation requirements, script/questions rehearsal read through, getting contact numbers, personal schedules, allergy or special requirements lists, etc.
Thorough pre-production can alleviate situations like what I described above –all veteran video producers have dealt with similar situations, and having the foresight to bring warm coffees and tea to warm spirits, extra copies of scripts and spare cables of all sorts would be an adequate remedy in this case!
If this is your first time, take the time to visit the locations you want to shoot at with the people you’ll be working with and rehearse, perhaps with your smartphone camera, and watch back at home and see how it looks and sounds! Testing really helps.
This is the fun day – the excitement that’s built up is released – it’s time to shoot the video! This is the step that most newbies think they should start with – just shoot the damn thing – but as you can see, it’s the third stage of six!
Good thing for you, you’ve prepared yourself with your video marketing strategy homework and pre-production planning. These stages will be pretty similar for each shoot – again, the smaller the production, the fewer the steps or people, so scale back in your mind if need be.
The following depicts a small-to-medium sized promotional video production with 2-5 production personnel (including yourself) and 3-5 on-camera people.
The Production of a Promotional Video:
Morning of: Arrive On Location
Let us assume you’re not shooting at your home or place of work – plan to arrive on location early. Either drop off all the gear you can the day before (making sure it’s secure from theft) or pack it up so that it’s ready to go. Fuel up – literally for the vehicles, and be sure that YOU have eaten a solid meal – and leave with the expectation to arrive an hour or two early. Yes, you need to be there before anyone else as this is your show and it’s up to you make sure everything is in order! Un pack and ready as much as the gear you can – make sure you keep everything within sight so that nothing is stolen. Predict future needs of the set and crew as best as possible.
Checklists: Set Up and Safety Procedures
Next to arrive is the crew that’ll be helping you. Hand out checklist copies of scripts, contacts and equipment to them, and recap the plan for the day. Cover all safety concerns; check that everyone has cellphones and/or radios, and their working. You brought a first aid kit – make sure it’s ready and available, and that everyone knows who knows first aid just in case. Have those responsible for equipment informs everyone else helping how to safety use the equipment (i.e. light stands used only with sandbags, and powered cables and generators coupled with GFCIs) – and what shouldn’t be touched at all – for instance, expensive, heavy film-lights!
The Talent: Meet with Interviewees and/or Actors
While the location setup is happening, and the crew is busily at work, the on-camera interviewees and/or actors will arrive. Meet with them away from the set, go over any last minute questions or concerns, and then take them on a tour of the set. If there’s time, rehearse with them their roles, and help them relax. Again, predict needs.
Check 1-2-3. Audio Levels and Recording Tests
Audio makes or breaks a production. The only way to know of if it’ll work is to test, and test early. You or your audio technician will have tested the gear the night before, and you’ve both already visited the location in pre-production to make sure it’s ‘sound’, but it’s time to test and playback again. Does the feed from the microphones work clearly? Does the playback work? Are the batteries in the microphone and recorder unit fresh? Does the camera’s feed work too? Are the levels good, or is there clipping? Is there any background noise? Check, check, check.
Lighting. Indoor/Outdoor, Setup & Control
Light isn’t made equal. If it’s outside, is the sky clear, or is it overcast? Either situation will offer it’s own challenges. Sharp direct sunlight creates harsh shadows on people’s faces creating dark eyes, and under nose and chin shadows. Overcast can make everything look flat, but better exposed and less harsh. Indoors, keep away from windows if you’re using inside light – outdoor sunlight and indoor lights have a different ‘color temperature’. ‘Daylight’ looks very blue when side by side with ‘Tungsten’ or indoor light. The best bet is to stick to one light temperature – shoot either inside or outside, don’t shoot from inside with a person in front of an outside-facing window.
The Lens. Camera & Tripod Setup & Operation
My favorite aspect of video production is the image – a beautiful shot conveys so much. Make sure the camera is charged fully, and the tripod’s legs are rock-solid before you attach the two together. Make sure the camera is level, and that it’s settings are tuned for the current location (white balance, exposure, gain and video-quality and frame-rate settings all play a role). Make sure the tripod pans and tilts well, and try a few recording and playback tests. Ensure the audio coming through on the microphones is set and working!
Action! Recording the Video
Here we go! Follow the plan. The first few takes will take the longest – see them as production tests. Give it a go, until the kinks get sorted out, and flow begins. Use the shot lists, the script, and the production timeline as a guide – hold these sheets with you, and refer to them always. Keep track of time, and the weather. Have fun!
Step 4. Post-Production: Editing, Sound & Graphics
Putting it all together in the edit. This is post-production, the “after production” phase.
They say there are always three versions of each production; the first is the one you imagine or plan for, the second is the one you actually shoot, and the third is the one you put together in the post-production edit.
While the final product may not be exactly what the director imagined in their mind, the message should hold up and come through loud and clear in the edit:
The Stages of Post-Production
- Importing Footage & Conversion
- Backing up of the Raw Footage
- Editing video footage into a draft
- Reviewing Draft Edit with Client
- Adding music and/or supportive sound effects
- Adding titles and graphics
- Color & Exposure Correction
- Proper Export & Video Online Upload
The Best Video Editing Apps: Premiere & Final Cut
The two most popular editing apps for promo video editing are Adobe’s Premiere Pro and Apple Final Cut Pro. iMovie will also deliver great results, but it’s not seen as a ‘professional’ app due to limited amount of fancy features. Both Final Cut Pro and Adobe Premiere Pro are popular and respected choices, and for good reason – they work well, they offer powerful options, and they each deliver consistent results. Either choice will get you to the finish line, both on time.
Adobe Premiere Pro (available for Windows and macOS)
Adobe Premiere Pro is an excellent video editing app for video creators, ranging from professional and intermediate. Regarded as a pro-level app, if you use Microsoft Windows, this is the application choice for you – powerful, well supported, diverse feature set, and a tried-and-true editing interface.
Final Cut Pro X (available for macOS)
Final Cut Pro is an excellent application for macOS users. Essentially iMovie’s big-brother, Final Cut Pro X (FCP X) is a powerful modern editing app. Similar to Adobe Premiere Pro, many high-end films and videos have been edited with FCP X. You can’t go wrong with this application.
iMovie (available for macOS and iOS)
iMovie is a basic, yet well-featured, editing application. Excellent for beginner video creators, iMovie is straight-forward for a user to learn the basics of editing allowing a person to quickly and efficiently be able to use the app’s tools and to get straight into the editing immediately. You won’t be overwhelmed with it’s simplicity – and any skills you’ve learnt with iMovie can be transferred to future editing apps when you’re ready, such as Final Cut Pro and Premiere Pro.
Which Editing App is Right For You?
Your question is, which editing app is right for you and your project?
If you’re a newbie: iMovie (must have an iOS or macOS device)
Why? iMovie is the fastest and most efficient way to get a video edited and completed; very fast to learn, and the application will deliver the basic tools to get the job done.
If you use a Windows PC: Premiere Pro
Why? There is no Final Cut Pro or iMovie for Windows – Adobe Premiere Pro is your best bet! Adobe Premiere Pro will give you the tools to use to develop your skills from now into the future.
If you’re a Mac user: Final Cut Pro or Adobe Premiere Pro
Why? Both Final Cut and Premiere Pro are professional applications – they’ll provide great options for video creators and you can’t go wrong with either one.
Step 5. Distribution and Marketing Success
Once your video is complete, it’s time to distribute this promotional video and spread the word! Viral Video Marketing can be the most effective means of impressing your clients, so it does little good to let your video disappear into your blog.
Upload and embed your video on YouTube (and vicariously Google), and video podcast it on iTunes, use RSS video feeds to spread it around, and send it to all your contacts using Twitter, Facebook and email campaigns. The more impressions your video gets, the easier it will be for search engines to pick it up:
Uploading a Promotional Video to YouTube
Step 1: Go to YouTube in your web browser: www.youtube.com
Step 2: Login using your Google account. (Create a new account if you need)
Step 3: Click ‘Upload’ button, at top right of the page
Step 4: Click ‘Select files to upload’. The page will change, and a ‘Processing’ bar will show the video uploading
Step 5: The video file will begin uploading. A progress will show the upload, depending on the file size the video, a timer will show an estimate for the amount of time the upload will take.
Step 6: Begin by typing into the text boxes information about the video; title, description. A title should make logical sense and use concise, regular language, but in a 140 or fewer characters. The description can be a lengthier explanation.
Step 7: Tags (keywords) can be one word each that are associated with the topic.
Choosing Where Video Appears: The default is ‘Public’ – your video will be available to be seen by anyone viewing your public YouTube page’s channel, or searching for it. ‘Unlisted’ will allow people who have the direct URL only, and ‘Private’ is only for you to be able to view when you login to your own YouTube account.
Optional Step: Advanced Settings are available – not needed, but you can enhance your video here if you wish.
Step 8: Once the video’s progress bar is complete and you have filled in the information you want, click the ‘Publish’ to make the video now available to be viewed.
Step 9: The page will refresh – you can ‘Share’ or ‘Embed’ or ‘Email’ the video from this page. The three options in greater detail:
Share – You see a website link for the video you can copy and paste to send to people, or click on your desired social media platform (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) if you wish to share it there on your feed.
Embed – You can copy the code snippet and place it in your website to embed the video. You can define the size dimensions of the video using controls.
Email – Fill in a person’s e-mail address and a message to have a link of the video sent to them.
With some proper online marketing, your video could be the first thing people see when they search for your industry in Google – this is key.
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