Everyone is producing video these days, but much of it goes unwatched. Dull talking heads, boring messages, long details on company history, etc - all turn-offs. There are some splendid video companies around who will do a professional job for you, but their fees may be outwith the budget of small companies. So here's a six-step guide to making a short video that won't break the bank.
1) Equipment. You'll need three basic items: A video camera, a tripod and a microphone. Most people own or have access to a video camera (if you have to buy one, that's an extra one-off cost of course). Most importantly, it should have an input for an external microphone (most video cameras do not). Your tripod should be stable and have the ability to swivel (pan) smoothly. You should be able to buy a decent one for under $100. The microphone is important. Look for a wireless set-up with both a lapel and hand-held mike. Again, a budget of under $100 should do. Don't forget the batteries.
2) Storyboard. This is a crucial step. Simply draw a series of boxes, and plan the shots that you need to tell your story. The first and last boxes will be title and credits. The second shot is often an external "establishing shot" top show where you are. The others in between can include a mix of pieces to camera, voice-over and interviews. If you are moving around a location, remember to show how you get from one place to another (include shots of leaving one place and arriving at another). Don't touch the camera until the storyboard is agreed.
3. Rehearsal. Walk through each of the clips, on location, to rehearse your dialogue. There's no need to work to a precise script. In fact it's better if you don't, since you will be trying to remember lines and not concentrating on the message. A couple of rehearsals will be enough.
4. Filming. Using your storyboard as a guide, film each of the shots, with each clip being no more than 15 to 20 seconds. Playback the clips in-camera to make sure you are happy with them, and note which clip is the "keeper". This will make it much easier at the edit stage.
5. Editing. For YouTube use, it's perfectly OK to edit with the free software already on your computer (iMovie on the Mac, Windows Movie Maker on the PC). Don't use fancy effects. A simple cut from one clip to the next is fine (just like on the TV news). Overlay clips of people for a few seconds with their name and position, so they don't need to identify themselves. Add a "sting" (a short music clip) to the start and end if you wish. Use a site like www.stock20.com to acquire low-cost royalty-free music. If you use music throughout the video, keep the level low when people speak. Save your video and check it thoroughly before uploading, since re-editing is easy, but uploading takes time.
6. Uploading. The obvious place to put your video is YouTube, but there are many other video-sharing sites, most of them free. Use a service like www.tubemogul.com to submit to several sites from one upload. Remember to include plenty of tags and keywords so your video can be found easily.
You'll learn more as you make more videos. It's easy to get started. Here's an example of a video created from scratch by Beverly Babb at the National Speakers Association (NSA) in Tempe, Arizona. The whole process, from buying the kit, to learning how to shoot and edit, to uploading the video, took less than 24 hours.
OK, I'm in it, so I'm biased, but I'm very impressed. Now it's your turn...