Sunday 20 November 2011

Making your own video: 10 points I found useful

Returning from a networking meeting, I wanted to make a quick video. You can see the result below. What I found was that “quick” took a bit longer than I had blithely assumed – about an hours work for the 1 minute video. Here are the ten steps for successfully making a simple video yourself.

1. Planning your story

No matter how long or short, how impromptu or meticulously thought through, you need to plan the story your video is going to tell. This affects all other nine following points. If you are going to be the one recorded, plan it out briefly in paper.

Rehearse your story repeatedly, in your mind or out loud– it is amazing how blank your mind goes in front of a camera! Preparation helps

My planning was:

Key message: I should have included video in my networking introduction (subtitle: video is something that I can and do do on other occasions)

Overall story is reaction to a networking meeting I had just attended
  • Mention host
  • Mention location
  • Sunrise
  • Conversations – business, tattoos, fish, book, glass ceiling
  • Key point – being made aware that I should include video in my communication
  • Thanks for the insight
  • End
2. Choosing a video camera

Many cameras can now also record video at HD quality (720px or even 1080px wide), so this is less of an issue for first experiments. I recommend having a play with what you have at hand first. Then, if you want to make more demanding videos, you will have a better idea of what to look for in a more dedicated device.

My decision was actually made for me in that the resolution of my pocket camera's video is too low (320px), the battery on my hand held video-camera had run out  - that only left the HD video-cam on the desktop!

3. Lighting

To give a good picture, a video camera needs lots of light, more so than a stills camera. Lighting also impacts on the appearance of you or your subject. Ironically bright sunlight on a face causes a lot of glare; if your subject has its back to the sun then it is likely to be in deep shade relative to a brightly lit background. So a bright day with your subject out of the direct sun and a not too brightly lit background is preferable.

I was fortunate in that there is a window high up behind my PC which let in enough light on my face for filming.

4. Microphone

I learnt very early on that the microphone and how it is used is critical for a video. Primarily, because it not only picks up the sound you want but all other background noise. Outside recordings really suffer from this. So, the closer you can get to your microphone to the sound you want to record the better. Even in a radio studio for example, I found the mike literally thrust right into my face during interviews. This means that the near sounds drown out those further away.

So if you can, have a separate microphone that either plugs into your video-camera or records sound independently so you can add it to the video later.

In this instance I used the video-cam microphone about a meter from me. A good sound system will pick out the noise of a loudly ticking clock and the fans of the computer in the video above.

5. Location

Because video is visual, where you film is important, even if it is a backdrop. Make sure that it is a relevant location to your film. My intention had been to record either as I was walking or standing in the nearby country park on the way back from the meeting I talk about.

The rationale was that if I recorded whilst taking the path through the village, I would have had noisy traffic drowning out my voice and anyway, the country park gave a pleasanter environment.

Not having a camera with me and then finding that the two outdoor cameras were unavailable put paid to that idea.

I therefore settled for an office recording.

6. Background

Once you have a generally suitable location in terms of atmosphere and low noise background, look at what is in the background of any scene you are going to record. I've used a Railway crossing, the River Cam, picturesque St Ives from the river to deliberately set up a particular atmosphere.

Try recording a few short clips of your scene before deciding on a final location and background and you will soon see how dramatically you can influence the look of your video. If you can control the background, say with a screen, by choosing a neutral wall etc., great!

Whilst my office background is OK when having a friendly Skype conversation, it is too distracting (code for untidy).  I therefore used a large sheet of white paper to create a neutral background.

7. Recording

Once everything is in place, hit the record button and do a trial. If you are happy, go on to record the actual video, bearing the following things in mind.

Make sure there is a spare second on the video before the action starts and again that there is a bit of extra recording beyond the end of your story. This helps later with editing. Remember to save the clips in a format that your video editor (see editing below) can open,

Make several takes of the same video. I think I made 5 recordings before I had the one that I wanted.

For longer films, split the recording into several shorter recorded scenes. It makes life much easier as some parts of a story just seem to fall into place whilst others seem to need more work. By having several scenes, you can do work in stages. These are then stitched together later.

8. Editing

Basic video editors are available for free, with Windows Movie Maker being a good example. They allow you to upload your raw video recordings and tidy them up. You can determine where the real start and end of a video is. If you recorded several scenes, you can arrange them together the way you want. You can also add additional titles, effects and sounds.

This is where you turn your raw video into a proper little film.

Save your final video in a format that is acceptable for whatever video service you want to use.

9. Publishing

Most people set up an account with YouTube and upload their videos there, I do. It is an easy way to start and share.

To do this you need:

  • Your video file  in a format accepted by YouTube -see
  • A reasonably fast internet connection
  • A YouTube account (go to
  • Time – video files are large and take a while to upload, depending on how large they are and how fast your connection is.
  • Relevant information about your video, its title and how you would describe and categorise it.

The uploaded video is then processed further by YouTube. This again takes time. Be patient.

My short video uploaded in about 2 minutes and took a further 2 minutes to process by YouTube. With previous 10 minute videos it took up to an hour to upload and the same amount of time again to process by YouTube before it was live.

10. Publicising

Once your video is up on the web, copy the link to it and send it to all who you think might be interested. I used Twitter and e-mail to let people know about mine.

One of the most fascinating things is which of your videos generate traffic and which do not. For example, my English video “Five Memorable Key Steps to Ensure a Good Presentation” has 8000+ hits, yet the German version "Fünf Tipps zur Perfekten Rede"  has now gone over 12000!


You can make your own videos quite simply. Using the ten points above, you can ensure that you make a video that you are happy with, whether it is a video-blog report on the fly or a finely crafted film production!

Go out and make a video!

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