How to make videos

Easier than you think

I’ve written before about why I think videos (among other things) are important — this post is more of a practical guide.

Caveat: I owe everything in this post to Jonny Andrews as he inspired me to make films and taught me all of the below.

TLDR — watch this video

EQUIPMENT

Camera: I’ve always used a Canon70D DSLR with either the stock lens or a 50mm lens (lovely for intimate portraits with blurred backgrounds). I’ve also used smartphones and point-and-shoot cameras, but most agencies/offices I know have a DSLR knocking around.

Microphone: I use a Rode shotgun mic which is key as I’m usually shooting people saying stuff. I’ve seen people use radio-mics effectively (good when shooting out and about). Whatever mic you have, or don’t have, pay attention to the sound as there’s only so much noise reduction you can do in the edit.

Tripod: Good for avoiding constant camera shake and always makes you feel a bit more pro. I always use a Gorilla Pod one as it’s bendy and easy to shove in a bag.

Software: Once you’ve shot your film you sit down at a computer and pull it together. I use Adobe Premiere as it’s what Jonny was using, and if you’re familiar with Photoshop or Illustrator you’ll recognise some of the tools and methods. iMovie is pretty good too, even on iPhone; amazing how much fun you can have just dropping music over video:

Made this on my phone — still makes me laugh.

PROCESS

1. Plan: All the equipment in the world means balls if you don’t have a goal/story. Before you do anything sit down alone or with colleagues and discuss a plan for the film; it doesn’t need to be a script, but some kind of outline will help massively.

2. Admin: Sort all the boring details. You’ll probably need people so book time with them, think about the venue you’ll be shooting in (booking meeting rooms is a good idea for quietness) and allow for more time than you think — it should be a fun process so try not to rush it. Charge batteries, ensure memory cards are clear and clean your teeth.

3. Shoot primary footage: This is the fun part; sitting in front of people and listening to them talk. Put them at ease, explain how they fit into the whole film and reassure them that you’re not looking for them to be slick or uber-professional. Leave the camera rolling when you’re setting up and when they’re chatting naturally. Also, pay attention to the sound — playback bits of footage occasionally and make sure things are working.

4. Shoot secondary footage: Depending on your film, you’ll want some film of things other than talking heads to help add colour to the story and also make it more interesting. Carry your camera to-and-from the location, capture offhand moments and build up a library of stuff. I still love the cake shots in this video:

My best editing work. All shots by Jonny.

5. Editing #1, sorting footage: Get all of the files onto your machine, set up a new movie file and begin sorting through stuff. For a 2 minute film you’ll have anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 hours of footage to ‘scrub’ through, so get comfy and watch everything, cutting out chunks you think will be useful. Initially this will seem daunting, but slowly a narrative will come to mind and you’ll begin putting chunks into various boxes depending on how you work.

6. Editing #2, assembly: Pull the various chunks into a timeline. Have fun with order and overall narrative, and occasionally play back the entire thing (to yourself and colleagues) to see what’s missing. It will be ugly and too long but standing back like this will stop you getting hung up on one part. Start to fine-tune the cuts and spend as much time as you can crafting the film until it hangs together as a whole. I usually start with the primary footage, and then use secondary colour like a signwriter would use shadow, to bring out various elements.

7. Editing #3, titles and sound: Use titles to signpost chunks of footage or to bring out key points. Then start thinking about music: does your video need a soundtrack? Will music help set a particular tone or rhythm? There are hundreds of incredible royalty free tracks on youtube and talented producers on soundcloud so stick some headphones on and go searching until something clicks. Adobe Audition is useful for overall sound quality and can be used to strip out a certain level of background noise — great guide here.

Love the combination of cuts and music on this. Kanye probably approves.

8. Show people: I recommend revealing your work as much as possible throughout the process as everyone will have an opinion. They’ll highlight any weaknesses in narrative, messiness in the sound and also tell you where the film is really working. When the film is ready, depending on whether it’s for a client or other factors, share it as widely as possible. Vimeo, Youtube, Facebook etc — it’s always brilliant getting feedback about something you’ve spent a few days crafting.

So that’s that.

As a parting gift, a film I made ten years ago with a point-and-shoot camera and iMovie. And rapping.

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