Friday, October 3, 2014

Creating Videos for your Extension Program

Creating videos to share is a fun thing to do. It might also be useful for your work, either to educate your clients or market your program. The videos you create can be posted on-line, burned to DVD to distribute, or shown to an audience at an event. Here are a few tips on how to shoot and edit.

[At the bottom I've linked to my YouTube channel where you can view some videos I've created. In fact, you may want to go there first to decide if reading what I have to say on the topic is really worth your time.]

This post does NOT cover the details of using specific image editing software. I have used both iMovie for Mac, as well as Windows Movie Maker. While the interface is different, they have basically the same functionality, and are targeted to the casual user. I'm sure there are other good options as well. You really just have to get in there and poke around to figure things out. Or I suppose you could actually, like, take a class. Or find an instructional video on-line!

You can now purchase good quality video equipment for a couple hundred bucks or so. Many consumer-grade digital cameras also have video capability, as well as many smart phones. If possible, use a camera with image stabilization technology. That said, it's possible to create effective videos with almost any camera you have access to.

Let me state that I have over ten years experience shooting family vacation videos, which is practically the same as working for the Travel Channel. So you can review these suggestions with the credibility they deserve.

The main thing I keep in mind when I'm shooting is that I want to try to tell a story. I want there to be a clear beginning, a logical progression of events in the middle, and an ending that wraps everything up.

So I start by recording an opening shot. For a vacation video, that could be loading up the car for the trip, or a shot of the map showing our route.

Next, I try to shoot at least a little bit of video of each step along the way. Here we are at the museum, now at the restaurant, then a little at the miniature golf course.

The shots do not need to be very long. Ten seconds for each shot is usually more than enough. You may want to shoot several shots at each "scene" or location.

Moving the camera during the shot can be good, but do it purposefully and slowly. Follow your subject, or pan from left to right to take in a scene or view. But frequent and excessive movement up, down, left and right is distracting and annoying.

Zooming in can also be good, but again, slow and purposeful. Zooming in and out rapidly will be annoying to watch. Zooming in and out rapidly while panning will quadruple the annoyance. Although, if that's your goal...

It is very difficult to hold a camera steady, but do your best. Try resting your arm on a fence or tree or vehicle to brace it, or use a tripod. Again, a camera with image stabilization technology is desirable. You can also add stabilization to a shaky video in the editing software, but it will crop your image, possibly cropping out important components. Better to shoot a stable video from the start.

The microphones built into most cameras are very poor. If dialogue is an important part of the story, the person speaking will need to be very close to the camera (probably less than 5 feet). They will need to speak loudly and clearly. Otherwise, you'll need to use a camera with an audio input and use a separate microphone.

While you are shooting, it's a good idea to shoot some still photography as well. They often make a nice enhancement when added into the final video.

If you are creating a "how-to" project, you may need to put some planning into what shots to take. You might even want an outline or script.

Once you are done shooting, transfer all the clips to your computer via card or cable. Now, open your video editing software and pull all those clips into a new project.

They should load into the software in chronological order, but you can reorder them if needed. Here are the main steps to getting to a finished video:

1. Trim each clip so that it contains only the most important footage - In most of the projects I've created, each clip is no more than a few seconds long (5 to 7 seconds is typical for me).

2. Delete clips that are extraneous or inadequate quality.

3. Add a title slide at the beginning - You may also want a slide with disclaimers, a list of contributors, or the logo of your organization.

4. Add title slides to separate different sections or topics, if desired.

5. Add a "credits" slide at the end, if desired.

6. Add background music (STRONGLY recommended) - Music ties everything together and makes it more watchable. YouTube has a wide selection of free music in their "Video Creation Tools". iMovie also has a selection of music and sound effects built in. They aren't the latest hits, but at least you don't have to worry about violating copyright laws. Besides, the background music is just that, background, and not the main event.

7. Add transitions between clips, if desired - Most editing software gives you the option to make the next clip spin in, or swipe in from the side, or explode from the center. You can do all the transitions alike, vary them, or not use them at all.

8. Sprinkle in some still photos - These can help fill in gaps in the story, as well as add interest.

9. Add captions, as needed - Captions might be helpful to clarify something or add additional details.

10. Add closed captions, as desired or required - If the video contains dialogue, closed captions will make it accessible to those with hearing impairment. Possibly a tedious process, but vital.

There are also a lot of additional tools you can use to enhance your project, like adjusting sound levels, video brightness, color saturation and more.

Once you are done editing, look for the option to save it into a format compatible with your final objective, e.g. posting on-line. A common format is ".mp4". Burning to DVD, if that's desired, will likely require an additional step, and possibly a separate piece of software.

Keep in mind that creating a 5 minute video may require several hours of editing work. Yes, several hours for 5 minutes. Knowing that up front may help you decide which projects are worth your time.

Here's that link to my YouTube channel:

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