YouTubeVideo can be an effective tool to get a message across, if used properly.

While many videos have fallen foul of the “point and shoot” philosophy of filming, here are a few tips to help you make your video stand out. Whether you are a business looking to promote your services or a professional video director, the simple key to success is to put time and effort into your productions.

1) Tell a story

A vital part of producing a great video is structure. Every video needs a backbone, even if it is advertising a product. The same principles of narrative filmmaking apply to corporate films: it should have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Without a structured story it is simply a jumbled collection of video clips that people will find difficult to watch.

Make sure to write the video beforehand. You may not necessarily be writing dialogue, but a story through which to guide the audience. For example, if you are filming a corporate video, try interviewing a subject to use as a framework.

Plan the questions carefully beforehand so you have an idea of how the video will come together when it is finished.

2) Remember the lights

Shooting great video is not as simple as just hitting ‘record’. Consider how the subject will be lit and work to make sure it is the best footage it can possibly be. If you have the resources, it is worth investing in a decent lighting kit that includes a key light, back light and fill light.

If not, try to shoot in a well-lit area with lots of natural light that will make your videos clear and sharp. When shooting outdoors, keep the sun behind you. The lack of good lighting is one of several major things that will make a bad production, and this is usually simply due to ignorance of the medium.

3) Use your ears

Another big sign of a bad video is poor sound quality. All too often, people get caught up with choosing the best camera and making the visuals look great, but forget video is as much about sound as picture. It is worth investing in an external microphone or lavaliere mic.

Good sound will make a production excellent, but bad sound will ruin it. Remember to use a decent pair of headphones to measure the sound you are recording and make any adjustments. Keep the audio in mind when scouting for locations, as again, preparation is key.

4) Composition

Take the time to line up your subject and get the most interesting shot you can. The rule of thirds applies to video just as much as painting, so it is worth familiarising yourself with it. Imagine the frame is divided into nine squares. Where the lines intersect are generally the most interesting parts, so try to put your subject along these. Placing the subject in the very centre of the frame tends to be boring, and is an easy mistake to make.

5) Don’t forget the tripod

Using a handheld camera can be great, but you don’t want every video to be like something from a Bourne film.

Using a tripod will help you to frame your shots and keep the video stable so the audience does not get disoriented. Your tripod can also reach places you can’t, as well as keep the shot steady on uneven ground. It is an invaluable part of your video toolbox, so make the most of it!

6) Movement is key

As great as your tripod is to keep things steady, moving the camera can inject a feeling of life into your videos, making them more dynamic. Learn to pan, tilt and zoom, but do not overuse them. Much like with shaky handheld footage, it is unsettling for the audience if the video is moving quickly and constantly.

Pan slowly, using the tripod for stability. On more expensive productions, it may be worth investing in a steadicam or a dolly to get a smooth tracking motion, which is great when following your subject.

Practice before the shoot, and watch other videos to get a sense of when a particular movement is suitable at a particular time.

7) Don’t be afraid to ask

Communication is vital when making a video.

If you are shooting a commercial or corporate film, make sure the rest of the team are aware of what you envision for the end product. Even if you are filming something natural for a factual piece, do not be afraid to ask if you want to film something again. The worst that can happen is the subject says no.

Of course, try your best to shoot as much of the footage you need as possible, especially when the shoot is unscripted. But everyone is on board for the sake of the video, so communicate what you need and don’t be shy.

8) Shoot, shoot, shoot!

A common error when filming video is to “snapshoot”, or record just a few seconds at a time. Do not be afraid to keep the camera rolling, especially on today’s digital cameras that do not record to expensive film. You are better off with too much footage at the end than not enough, and it makes things much easier in the editing room.

When filming a live show or following a subject, you never know what kind of spur-of-the-moment things you’ll want to shoot, so be prepared to get that coverage!

9) Be prepared

This brings me on to my next point – be prepared!

Nothing is worse than being under-equipped at a shoot, or missing some really great shots because you were busy changing the settings or hunting for a specific lens. Plan your shoot carefully. Make sure to visit the locations beforehand, prepare a script, and get ready for unpredictable things such as bad weather.

To help, here’s a checklist of essential equipment:

  • Camcorder
  • Charged batteries
  • AC power supply
  • Microphone batteries
  • Microphones
  • Lens cap
  • Cables
  • Lens cleaning cloth
  • Headphones
  • White-balance cloth
  • Script
  • Tripod
  • Lens filters
  • Plastic bags
  • Gaffa tape
  • Scissors
  • Pen and paper

10) Have fun!

Most importantly of all, have fun!

Look for new and interesting ways to shoot your video and keep your audience interested. Communicate with your team to keep the shoot relaxed and friendly. If you have fun making the film, there’s a good chance your audience will have fun watching it!