With the advent of cheap digital technologies anyone can buy a Digital SLR or a handycam and film themselves or a colleague talking about a product or service. In this blog I’m going to briefly explain the pit falls of amateur video and show the advantages of professional video.

Pre-production/Scripting – So one of the first things to sort out is what you want the video to say/show, this seems obvious but it’s amazing how many people will just pick up a camera and start shooting with no thought or direction, the best videos are well thought out before any production work begins. The script or questions are also very important as this is the story of the video, if you are producing a video in-house you can be too close to the subject and having an outside team can help include information which you may over look. A professional film crew will also be able to probe deeper into certain questions because the interviewer will have a clear idea of the entire video in their head. The other important

Locations – The filming location can have a huge impact on the final look and feel of the video. A lot of amateur videos don’t tend to have nice backdrops to the interviews, things such as light, noise and the background itself are overlooked which can all add up to one ugly shot. Professional crews are used to this and their job is to make something look and sound good, I will explore more parts of this later on the blog.

Performance – A lot of amateur videos have the tendency to sound forced or jump around from one topic to the next and then back again. This is because the person performing may not have done it before and they may be feeling nervous, a professional production company know what advice to give and what to do to make the person feel comfortable. Even something as simple as explaining how the process will work can make a huge difference in how someone comes across.

Choosing the correct equipment – Using the correct equipment is a very important part of video production and it directly relates to how the final video will look and sound as there is only so much you can do in the editing or post-production stage. The most recurring fault in amateur videos is the microphone as the sound tends to be very distant and proper lights aren’t used. When a professional crew set up for an interview they use proper professional lights and 9 times out of 10 will turn off all the ‘house’ lights as they tend to cause more harm than good. In order to get the detail required, to make the shot look balanced and portray any emotion good lighting is imperative. The sound is 50% of the production and it is always overlooked, it you use the microphone on the camera the video will instantly shout amateur and it can be hard to listen to. A lapel microphone or a shotgun microphone should be used so you get clear and present sound which is easy to listen to.

Framing Up – Once you have prepared the interviewee and decided on a location you need to decide on the framing (how the shot looks). For example, amateur videos will usually have the interviewee in the middle of frame talking off to one side or sometimes looking above the camera at the person operating it, no, all this looks ugly and unbalanced. A good interview is when the interviewee is placed on one side of the frame and then talks to an interviewer sitting to the side of the camera on the opposite side. Obviously there are exceptions to this but this is the most popular. A professional cinematographer or camera operator can take one look at the location and know what will look best, its what we do!

When filming ‘cutaways’ (shots which aren’t the interviews) it is important to take your time over them and film more than you think you need. We have edited amateur footage before and it can be the hardest job to make it work properly, this is because amateurs film something so quickly before moving the camera to the next shot that it creates a very quick shot and therefore no pacing can be put into the video, it also means that sometimes the shot can’t be used because it is too quick to see what it going on. Another fault with amateur footage which comes down to equipment choice is when the footage is very shaky and out of focus, time must be taken over every shot no matter how quick the final shot may be.

White balance is another area where amateur videos have an issue. I won’t go into it now as it’s a huge subject but take it from me, it’s a very important step in producing a good video.

Editing – The editing process is where the project comes alive, it takes a lot of skill to piece the story/message together and to create a flow which sounds natural. Editing suites are so expansive now-a-days that it takes time to learn everything they can do. When putting a video together a lot of the time less is more, a recurring feature of amateur videos is to throw everything at it. It is important to work out the style of the piece early on and know when to stop, otherwise it can look like a mess and distract the viewer from the important message. In a well edited and put together video you shouldn’t be able to see a lot of the processes that the editor did.

Colour Correction – Depending how the footage was shot will have a heavy bearing on how much work is involved here. As I have mentioned before, a well put together video should be seamless and colour, light and shade have a lot to do with this. Colour correction can also dramatically change the emotion of a video so it’s important to have a good understanding of this before trying to tackle it.

Music – This can have a huge impact on the final feel of the video. If a piece of music is just randomly put under a video edit it can be detrimental, music must be selected so it matches the feel and tempo of a video and if parts of the music can be tied in with the edit points then it will appear to be as one with the video.

Compression, encoding and the Web – The final part of a production is to export the video in the correct format for its intended use. There are so many formats and file types available now it can get quite confusing to someone who doesn’t understand it all. If you have put loads of work in to a video it can instantly be ruined if you export it in the wrong format. The most common is getting the aspect ratio wrong, most video is shot is widescreen these days, there is nothing wrong this and it’s a great frame shape to work with but when a widescreen video is uploaded to YouTube with the wrong settings and it is displayed as 4:3 it looks terrible and everything is squashed. The other pit-fall is something called data-rates, this is basically the amount of information you allow the video to hold, a lot of people will try to get the video file size as small as possible but this causes the video to loose quality, if you have put lots of time into the video then this would be disappointing, don’t be afraid to make the file size bigger if it needs to be, internet connections can cope in this day and age!

This is a fairly quick overview of some of the issues I find with amateur videos, I could go into a lot more depth but I expect you wouldn’t have time to read it all so why not leave it up to the professionals! If you have any questions or are looking to get a video produced please give Will or Andy a call on 01273 911345.