Video By Trial and Error By Non-Experts
Video marketing is hot right now, and has always been a powerful way to communicate your message. Most of us need to go beyond Instagram stories at some point if we haven’t already. Maybe you’re launching a product or an online course and you need to speak to your audience directly. Or maybe you’re making how-to videos to attract your ideal audience.
Before you continue reading, understand that this post is for those who don’t have a large budget to hire video professionals. We are not video professionals, but my husband Jim was previously a part-time professional (still) photographer, so he has a little knowledge and some pro equipment. We certainly aren’t suggesting this is the best way to produce video. This post is a summary of our trial-and-error process to make a decent video. Ultimately we did get a pretty good result.
This post is for you if:
- You’re not a video professional
- You have access to a decent DSLR
- You do not have a professional video camera
- You’re not a video editing expert
- You need to produce more video content.
It’s not for you if:
- You are proficient with Adobe Premiere
- You own a Mac Pro and a video editing studio
- People hire you to shoot, edit, or produce video
Setup 1: MacBook Pro Camera
We don’t have a video camera other than our phones. We do have a Nikon D7000 DSLR camera. I had suggested we try to record with the Nikon, but Jim reminded me we had no way to capture sound.
We first decided to just use my MacBook pro to record the video with QuickTime and my Blue Snowball USB microphone.
The laptop is sitting atop one of my storage bins and an unused refrigerator shelf. That’s because any female knows that you want the camera angle to be downward, not upward. Try it with your phone and you’ll see what I mean if you don’t already.
As you can see, we have serious lighting issues in my office. There are two windows, which sounds great, but our house faces east, so the sunlight is pretty blinding until about noon. Enter Jim and his fancy photog lighting. That umbrella thing is a reflector that helps soften the light.
I learned a long time ago that if you’re going to record video with a message, you need a script. I’m a pretty good extemporaneous speaker, and I need a script, so trust me on the script issue. I wrote my copy in Microsoft Word.
I then downloaded a teleprompter app, aptly named Teleprompter. They have a free version, but for $12 you can get Premium, which allows you to import your script. I did spring for that because I plan to do quite a bit more video in the future. The app worked perfectly – I imported my Word doc, set the speed and we were ready to go. I’d advise you to practice a few times before you record if you’ve never used a teleprompter. It didn’t take me long to get the hang of it though.
How to Control Timing
One of my favorite resources for writing any sort of speech or presentation is a website called SpeechinMinutes.com. It tells you how many words you need for the length of talk you want. Since I wanted to stay right at three minutes, this was a huge help. For the record, the video is 2:25 long, and my script was 408 words.
How to Set Up for Video Recording
For the first take, Jim held up my iPad/Teleprompter just above the Mac camera. This did not work well — I looked weird when I glanced up at the prompter. We re-recorded with the prompter just to the left of the camera, which worked much better.
Here’s where Jim’s brand of ingenuity becomes useful. He used large binder clips to secure the iPad in the case and hung the case on the Mac, so that the text falls immediately to the left of the camera. This worked great and was much more natural looking than the other solutions.
If you’re like me and not accustomed to being on camera, it will take you several tries to get it right. We broke it up into paragraphs, so that we didn’t have to record everything again when I flubbed a line (which I did many times). Leave a pretty good pause before you start recording again to make it easy to edit.
How it Worked
- Pretty easy setup. Just one reflector
- Video is already on Mac, so it’s quick to review
- Good camera angle with storage bin/ refrigerator shelf setup
- Really only one, but it’s an important one. The video quality was pretty poor. The resolution was 1280 x 720, but it was blurry when enlarged, and I wanted to be able to embed it full screen if needed.
Setup 2: iPhone
This was quick. While Jim was setting up, I did a test video on my phone. While the quality was good, it wasn’t any better than Setup 1 with the Mac, so we abandoned this method fast.
At this point we realized that if we were to get anything decent we’d have to use the Nikon. To solve the microphone problem, we ordered a (wired) lavalier mic from Amazon for $19.99.
Setup 3: Nikon and Lavalier Microphone
Here you see the camera on the tripod, and this large reflector panel. We changed the angle because my office isn’t huge (it’s our former living room, hence the piano) and it was the best fit for everything.
He caught me eating a cracker right before we started shooting, I decided standing gave me more energy than sitting. He raised the tripod a little above my head to give me the downward angle.
This was our most successful method – much better quality. Here’s the finished product. It’s nowhere near perfect, but it works. I did have a couple of stumbles, but I was so tired of this script that we agreed we probably wouldn’t be able to improve on it.
I hope this has been somewhat helpful to those who lack professional video equipment. Sometimes you have to be creative when your video camera budget is, well, $0.
If you need ultra high-quality video, there are rental stores for photographic equipment. Jim rented a professional camera and for a presentation I gave at a conference this past August and the results were stellar.
What We Used
- Nikon D7000 DSLR (or any DSLR of your choice)
- Photographic umbrella and light — you could also do this with a white sheet or screen and a shop light
- MacBook Pro or other computer with a built-in camera
- Blue Snowball USB microphone*
- Binder clips
- IPad with Teleprompter app installed
- Storage bin and unused refrigerator shelf 🙂
- Lavalier Microphone, MAONO AU100 Hands Free Clip-on Lapel Mic with Omnidirectional Condenser*
*Affiliate links. I will make a small amount of money if you purchase the product via this link.