Video is an effective and important marketing tool. Video traffic accounts from more than 80% of all internet traffic and it has become easier and more accessible for people to create videos about almost any topic.
I’ve written before about the tools needed to greatly improve audio for live-streaming when using your phone as the camera and broadcast device. But that setup is aimed primarily at musicians and performers looking to provide a richer experience for audiences tuning in via social media.
What about business owners or freelancers trying to create video content to enhance their marketing? How can you make yourself stand out without breaking the bank?
If you are just getting started with video as a marketing tool, you might feel overwhelmed by the options available and your relative lack of resources or knowledge. Don’t sweat it! No one expects you to create the next box office blockbuster.
Quality video doesn’t mean lots of production time and expense. It means creating video content with clear audio, decent visuals, and information that your audience finds valuable.
All of that can be accomplished with a small investment in equipment and a bit of planning.
As has often been said, the best camera is the one you have with you. If you have a smartphone in your pocket that is less than 3 years old, there is a pretty good chance you have the only camera you need to get started. The advice I usually give budget-minded video creators is “if you aren’t willing to spend more on a camera than you did for your phone, just stick with the phone”.
So if your last iPhone set you back $800 and you don’t want to budget at least that much for a new camera (and lenses, accessories, chargers, memory cards, etc), you should stick with the camera you already have. Your phone.
If you are willing to invest the time to learn about cameras and do some bargain hunting, you can find some really quality video cameras for under $300. But once you add in the cost of extra batteries, carrying bags, assorted accessories and the time needed to learn how to use it correctly you will probably find it not worth your time.
So let’s start with your phone. You can always upgrade later if you outgrow it.
Much more important than the camera is the sound. Everyone understands what a smartphone video looks like and most folks won’t hold it against you. But if they can’t understand your message, making the video was worse than pointless.
So the first area to improve is audio. Luckily this can be done for a very reasonable amount. The easiest to use microphone is a lavalier mic built specifically for use with smartphones. The BOYA BY-M1 is a great choice for around $20. It comes with a long cord so you can get a little distance between yourself and the camera and it is easy to hook up and use.
The improvement in the quality of your voice will be noticeable. Taking your video up several notches and making sure that the audience can clearly understand what’s being said, even if there is some background noise.
The best light is sunlight. If you can shoot in a quiet location outdoors or near a window, your lighting will be good enough. Unfortunately, that is not always possible. If you’ve ever seen a video shot in a room with no windows using only fluorescent lights or a desk lamp, you already know that it can make a person look tired, sick, older than they are, and just generally uninspiring.
Improving your video lighting is relatively straight forward on almost any budget. If you will be positioned near the camera, a basic ring light for less than $50 can provide even lighting and reduce unwanted shadows. Many of these come with a phone holder built into the stand, solving the positioning issue as well.
If you would like a little more space in your video and you want to be a bit further from the camera, there are some good basic 2 and 3 light kits for $100 – $150. These will help you give proper lighting to a small room.
Where should the camera be and how should it be steadied. First, let’s throw out option one. The camera should not be held in someone’s hand (unless that someone is a professional videographer). Handheld camera shots are best left to action movies and reality TV series.
This includes the use of selfie-sticks. If you are creating marketing videos, your camera should not be moving around. You are not trying to impress your audience with your amazing camera work. You are trying to get them to focus on your message.
If you are trying to create a video that will tell your marketing story, the camera needs to be stationary so folks don’t get distracted by your attempts at filming the next Bourne movie.
An inexpensive tripod placed on a flat surface will give you a steady, repeatable shot that you won’t have to worry about.
Set Up Your Shot
So you’ve got your gear and you’re ready to start filming. Now what?
The first step is to find a good location. It should be relatively quiet (ideally without traffic noises or air conditioning sounds) and isolated enough that family members, co-workers, or pedestrians won’t be a distraction.
You should be able to position yourself far enough from the camera that at least your head, neck, and upper arms can appear in shot. Try not to stand with your back close to a wall or other object. Give yourself at least as much free space behind you as there is between you and the camera.
As mentioned above, natural light is always preferable. If you can film outside on a sunny day, try to find a location that is shaded and position yourself facing the source of sunlight. For example, standing in a garage with the door open and facing the door. If you are indoors, face a window that is not in direct sunlight.
If natural light isn’t available, you can set up one of the options mentioned above. With a ring light, you will need to stay within arms reach of the light to get the desired effect. If you are using a light kit you should configure it in a 2-point or 3-point lighting set up.
Take a little extra time to make sure your microphone is attached comfortably and not interfering with the image at all. A lavalier should be run under your clothes and clipped out of the way so that it doesn’t distract from the content of the video.
Make a test run
Once everything is set up, spend a few minutes doing a test run to make sure that everything is working correctly and that the video looks and sounds as expected.
Using video for marketing your business or services may seem like something that requires a studio, expensive equipment, and lots of technical expertise. But it is very possible to get started with basic videos that tell your story effectively and get your message to a wider audience by spending just a little bit of money and taking advantage of resources that you already have.