As we have previously discussed in our Video Editing Tips blog, video is the world’s favourite means of absorbing information, the obvious exception being blogs written by me (source). But it doesn’t take much to get videos completely wrong, especially on B2B projects with a smaller budget.
Whether it’s talking heads, a simple animation, or a compilation of stock footage, there are a few factors worth considering to ensure a smooth development with minimal problems.
That’s why we at Dusted (mostly me) have crafted this blog specifically for those of you looking to generate videos with small crews on limited budgets. We’ve got some experience with producing this kind of content, so we know what production tips will ensure the best return on investment (hint: it’s not necessarily all about cats).
Talking head videos
One of the most popular methods of communicating a message with video is the talking head video. Try to put the image of disembodied faces floating around out of your mind; they are simply interviews with key people who can communicate a point with authority. Simple enough, but it’s the simple stuff that’s essential to get right.
- What are they wearing?
It’s not just about the words that come out of their mouth. Everything that happens on screen has an emotional association and this includes the subject’s wardrobe. Before you’ve started filming, you should have an idea of your target audience and the impression you want to give. The attire must communicate the attitude of the company. Ideally, have the subject wear what they would usually wear to work (they may wish to dress up for the occasion, but that won’t offer an honest portrayal).
Also, bear in mind that certain clothing designs (anything with close, repeating patterns or thin lines) will cause the camera have a hissy-fit and display a distorted image.
- Where are you shooting?
Again, everything that can be seen on screen is offering the viewers information. Choose a location that will display a backdrop representative of the business and the message. Morris dancers in the background might send mixed messages. Likewise, meeting rooms in a company office are an easy way to suggest you’re introducing the company as a whole, not just whoever is speaking.
Make sure that you aren’t using the exact same background for different interviewees – it can make cuts between them quite jarring – and don’t leave the background completely plain unless tedium is part of the company message. If you can, try to get some depth between the subject and the background. Some depth of field will not only make the shot easier on the eyes but also opens up some interesting lighting options for the backdrop.
Lastly, try to position your subject somewhere for the best natural light (if your filming equipment is light on, err, lights). If the light seems to be coming from one direction, perhaps you could invest in a reflector to bounce some of that light back onto the subject.
- Take ‘General Views’
General Views (GVs, also known as B-roll) are quite simply those generic shots that you can use to cut away from the talking head. As interesting as their dialogue is bound to be, it’s not easy to sit and watch someone sitting and talking. It’s hard enough to listen to your boss at meetings, amirite?
So, ask your camera operator to get out there into the company and get some general shots of the environment and work culture that you can use in cut-aways, and it can make your video feel like it has more momentum. If your production has the budget, you could also set up a second camera, ideally on a dolly, so you can maintain a fast-paced edit by cutting between shots of the interviewee.
- Take notes
The camera will display a timecode. Ideally, you should log the timecode at the start and beginning of every take and note what the shot was like and what happened. This will greatly speed things up in the edit, which should reduce your costs.
Hearing ‘animation’ might conjure up scenes of The Simpsons or Family Guy, where costs can be up to several thousand pounds every minute. But there are affordable options that can do just as good a job for your B2B video, such as motion graphic design. These folk can turn your graphics into eye-catching animations and are significantly better value. But there are some things you should know…
- Write the script FIRST
One important factor in animation is timing. Once the animation is perfected, messing with the timing can be tricky, so it’s best the animators have the script (ideally a recording of the voice-over) to arrange their composition around. From the writer’s perspective, it’s also much more difficult to arrange a script, which will need to have very specific messaging, around an already completed animation. For everyone’s sake, write the script first, OK?
- A storyboard is super helpful
Storyboards help you visualise the journey of the video before you’ve put all the money into developing it. It’s easy enough to develop a storyboard. Depending on your budget, you could get a storyboard artist (probably not necessary for a minimalistic animation) or just a storyboard template (here’s one I found in 15 seconds on Google) and doodle it yourself. Just make sure you’ve written in a brief explanation of what’s happening under each frame to help the animator understand what’s going on.
- Be open to design ideas
You might have a great idea for what the animation should look like, but be open to ideas from your animator. They probably know animation better than you, so their input is valuable. Naturally, there are some things you won’t want to change, such as a colour theme in line with your brand, but keep your mind open to new directions.
A popular B2B animation style is 2D infographic animation, but there are dozens to choose from.
Stock footage video
Possibly the most cost-efficient way of developing a B2B video is to use stock footage from sites such as iStock or Shutterstock. Here you can pick from a huge selection of professional stock footage from all over the world. There are also so many sunset shots available it’s difficult to believe there are any camera operators left in the world with intact retina.
- Get proxy (placeholder) files first
This might go without saying, but just in case – don’t buy all the footage you like and then try to edit with it! It’s pretty safe to assume that you won’t use all the footage from your first edit. That’s why stock footage sites will allow you to download a proxy version of the clip, that can be replaced with the paid-for, high-quality original once you have finalised the edit.
- Don’t be afraid to mess with the clips
They might look all pristine and pretty, but that doesn’t mean your stock footage can’t be touched up. In fact, minor colour corrections will likely make the clips flow together nicely, since they could come from all over the world, and be shot with different cameras. Adobe editing systems, for instance, allow you to add an adjustment layer to the edit, to which you can add effects such as tinting the colour slightly orange (for warmth) or blue (for a cooler image). It will even out the warm and cool tones from the different clips.
This is where having a professional will come in handy – understanding codecs and video files is a complicated business that changes all the time. Essentially, because all the footage comes from different sources, it will have different file types (or codecs). When it comes to editing, it’s easier for the editing software to work with files that are all the same codec and frame rate. You can transcode all the footage quite simply using a free application called MPEG Streamclip, using their ‘Batch List’. I don’t recommend adjusting frame sizes in a batch, however – that can be done in the edit to avoid distorting the aspect ratio.
In doing this, you make editing easier and smoother because the computer doesn’t need to render the clips in the timeline. Hooray!
Those are our top tips for low-budget video production. Did we miss anything out that’s way more important? Tell us how silly we are on Twitter and Facebook. If you’d be interested in discussing a video project with us we’d be glad to hear from you – just head over to our contact page.