How To Shoot Your Own Corporate Video
Profits have been squeezed, expenses need to be held down but nevertheless, your company really needs a fresh video. Why not build-it-yourself? You might have a video editing program on your house personal computer; your own DSLR camera shoots HD video – what the heck is stopping you? The following are some guidelines to take into consideration in making a corporate video.
Start by asking yourself some questions: Why do you need a video? What do you want it to achieve? What problem is it trying to solve? Will the audience need to see it (like an induction or training video) or must it grab their attention and keep them watching? How long should it be? Then you need to map out the content, a simple story board might be helpful but just headings will probably do. The important thing is to think through the whole project before you start. If you are asking colleagues to appear in the video will they look natural? Very few people can talk to a camera without looking stiff and ‘wooden’. And if they are going to try to read from a cue sheet next to the camera (or even an Autocue), they will need to be very talented indeed to pull it off. A much safer approach is to ask questions, off camera, without giving your subjects any notice. That way they won’t have time to become nervous and when people talk ‘ad lib’ they are usually much more believable than when they have ‘learned their lines’. The camera is a very effective lie detector. Remember those awful party political broadcasts? And politicians are good at lying!
Not long ago there was a big difference between a professional video camera and a domestic one. The technical quality of the consumer camera was vastly inferior to the professional version, which only a trained but there are dozens of pro and semi-pro cameras which are sufficiently “user friendly” for any competent amateur to master. And even the true consumer cameras deliver picture quality which is more than adequate for many corporate purposes, especially if YouTube is the intended means of distribution.
Then there is the DSLR stills camera mentioned above. This can produce excellent picture quality with the “feature film” look created by its small depth of focus. But there are often problems: no proper sound, short recording times, all manner of artefacts that have been sorted out in “real” video cameras. However, the DSLR might be an option, particularly if sync sound is not required.
So what are the minimum requirements for the camera you will use?
- It should be capable of operating in manual mode for focus, white balance and exposure. The auto function will be fine in most situations but you need to be able to override it if necessary.
- It must have a good colour viewfinder (either flip out or eyepiece ) so you can properly monitor what you are recording.
- It must have at least one external mic. socket, unless you are using a separate audio recorder.
- Whether it is a tapeless camera (using SD cards or similar) or a tape format make sure it is compatible with whatever editing system you are going to use.
All semi-professional video cameras come with a zoom lens. This is useful for framing the shot but beware the temptation to zoom while shooting. A professional cameraman will rarely zoom during a shot (except for a particular effect) and nothing singles out the amateur more than the giddy in-out motion of an over used zoom. The same applies to pans. Panning with a moving object is fine (if done smoothly) but panning across a landscape requires skill if it is to be pleasing. Better to stick to a series of well framed static shots with the camera mounted on a tripod. Hand held shots should be confined to wide angle (fully zoomed out) use when filming people who are moving about or when it is impossible to get a tripod into the right position. Don’t try to hand-hold a camera when zoomed in unless you have a very steady grip or can brace the camera against something. The steady-shot feature of modern cameras is useful but not invincible.
If your corporate video includes someone talking and you want to hear what they’re saying, you will need a separate microphone. Most built in camera mics are good for sound effects and someone talking within 18 inches of the lens but for anything else one or more plug in microphones will be needed. The simplest type is a clip on tie mic. but a reporters’ hand mic might be appropriate or even a highly directional boom mike (the type with the hairy coat) but these need very careful placement to get the best results. The camera you are using should have two XLR mic. inputs (this is standard on most prosumer cameras of the type you will probably need to hire) so you will be able to use up to two microphones without requiring a mixer. These can be hired along with the camera and the type you hire will depend on what you are going to film. For most purposes the auto level setting will work well but the camera’s audio levels may first need to be adjusted for the output of the mic. you are using. You should also check that each channel is set to record in mono (not 1 – 2, which puts the sound from channel 1 onto 2 as well). All these settings will be found in the camera’s menu and once set up and tested should not give any trouble. It is important to monitor the sound through headphones but simple iPhone type earpieces will do. A common error is not to switch the audio input from internal (the built in mic.) to external. You carefully plug in an external mic but use the camera mic by mistake!
Cameras are so sensitive now it is usually quality of light, not quantity you should be concerned about. Probably the best advice is to use available light. A white reflector (a piece of polystyrene, or large white card) can be very useful to fill in shadows. If your subject is sitting near a window you may need to fill in the dark side of their face with the reflector. Often ceiling lighting can result in dark eye sockets and a reflector held below and just out of view can make a big difference. Do check the lighting in the viewfinder and make sure the colour balance looks right, too. Auto colour balance will usually be OK but it can be thrown by a stray light source. Similarly, auto exposure might be ok, especially if you are moving about a lot, but beware of bright objects upsetting the exposure – check the viewfinder. (If the viewfinder is adjustable for brightness and contrast make sure those are set to normal first.)