Viewing time: 4 min. 37 sec.
The Write Question is a weekly video podcast about writing that I started in 2017 and that ran, more or less weekly, until April 2022. This is a republication of issue #58, with advice about making video for a website. The post first ran on May 25/18.
Welcome to The Write Question, I’m Daphne Gray-Grant and I’m Duncan Watts-Grant.
Today we’re talking about making video for your website.
We have a question from reader Sue Sullivan who is based in Christchurch, New Zealand. Here’s what she’s asked.
“I have a method for second-language learners. In 20 years, I’ve never finished My Book on the subject. But I recently discovered that I need to show the students at work and then talk about it. I want to videotape it and I’m excited by that prospect. But the process of visual presentation is very different from writing. Do you have any tips?”
Thanks for the question, Sue. I feel as though I’m offering advice on slightly false pretenses because I’m such a newbie to this business. And that’s why I asked Duncan to join me. Aside from being my son, he’s also works professionally in video production.
When Daphne asked for my help to start producing a weekly video, I was thrilled at the opportunity to be able to develop a regular project.
And my first piece of advice to anyone doing the same is to make sure you get enough help. I do pay Duncan but he’s kind enough to give me a family discount. If you’re looking to produce video content on the less expensive side, you can always try to find a student with video expertise at your local university or film school.
But never forget, that the expression ‘you get what you pay for’ is more than just an aphorism.
When we were starting out these videos, we worked closely to establish a style. But that’s a lot more than just how the videos look.
I write a script each week, and Duncan helps prepare that script for filming. I have a pretty bad memory so I don’t try to memorize it. Instead, I deliver one or two sentences at a time.
It takes time to get used to delivering a script like this. When we started, it would take us an hour to record a five-minute video. Now, we have it down to about 15 minutes.
I make plenty of mistakes along the way, but the benefit of working the way I do is that we can cut out the error.
Another way to film, which requires less editing would be to turn on the camera and start talking. If take this route, you don’t need any editing at all. We don’t particularly like that look of that approach, but many people are absolutely fine with it.
Once you’ve figured out the how, then you need to determine the where. The ideal location is a place where you have control over light and sound. Paradoxically, this means a space with no natural light.
Take a look at the room and you can see how there’s nothing in here that will make a lot of noise and the window is covered with a black-out blind.
The standing lights weren’t expensive (they cost about $15 apiece) but they need to be put in the right positions:
The goal with using these lights is to create even soft lighting across the subjects (that’s us). If you’re confused about how to do this, there are plenty of great tutorials on 3-point lighting. We’ll include one in the description.
All told, here’s the equipment you’ll need:
- A digital camera
- A tripod
- A microphone
- An audio recorder (if you can’t plug your microphone directly into your camera.)
If you hire a producer, they should be able to arrive with all of this stuff in hand. But if you’re willing and able to invest in this equipment yourself, you’ll save yourself a lot of money in the long-run. A basic package will cost you about $2000
One other issue I’ll mention that I found surprisingly daunting was figuring out what to wear. I am not a clotheshorse, which had me worried. A friend of mine suggested that I wear what she called a “uniform,” meaning the same thing every week. I adapted her idea by wearing basic black and then dressing it up with a scarf, colourful jewelry and different pairs of glasses. I also wear makeup, which I almost never do in real life. I had one of my daughters show me how to apply it!
Making videos isn’t easy. It’s a fair bit of work and an ongoing expense. But it’s a great way to engage with your audience, and mandatory if you’re hoping to get noticed on social media.
If your people need to see and hear what you do, a book won’t let you achieve that goal.
Finally, let’s wrap up with a quote from American director and filmmaker David Lowery: “Filmmaking is an eminently scalable act. No matter how big or how small, there’s joys and stresses that will all scale themselves magnificently to fit the production.”
Our videos are small, and yours may be as well, Sue. But the concept of filmmaking can adapt to whatever size project you want to tackle.
Just approach it with the same attention to detail that you would apply to your writing.