Whether You’re Making YouTube Videos or Sending a Whatsapp Message: the Basics of Making Videos Apply.
When I was growing up making YouTube videos or making videos of any kind was science fiction. It was something rich people did. My creative expression depended on crayons, old newspapers, and empty cigarette cartons that I found in the trash. (Yo, I turned these cartons into aaaamazing looking buildings! True that.)
Then I moved to the US with my family and got upgraded to construction paper, pipe cleaners, feathers, and googly eyes. (OMG …glitter!)
While these accouterments are still available (fewer cigarette cartons thankfully) the toolbox for creative work has majorly expanded.
Today making videos is a primary form of self expression and communication.
Whether it’s YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, your video reply to a tweet or a Whatsapp message: video is how we show ourselves.
So when my sister pulled out her phone to record her 3-year-old give a speech and didn’t turn off the AC, I lost my cool. (Yeah, puns… sue me…) So without further ado:
8 most important tips to making videos:
If your YouTube video is a “talkie”
The key difference between homemade YouTube videos and professional ones is the sound quality.
If you’re ready to spend a few hundred bucks on a professional sound recorder, skip this part. But if you’re just recording your 3-year-old his reply to Kathy Valentino’s tweet about canceling a concert due to covid, then here’s what I recommend:
Tip #1 – Turn the Air conditioner off! Yes, the fan too.
You think it’s quiet but it’s not. The difference between a video created with and without the AC or fan on, is the difference between a video you can follow and one that sounds like it’s in a wind tunnel.
You don’t need to go overkill and shut off your fridge and what not. (A professional sound recorder will shut your fridge off but without a professional microphone, anything beyond shutting off AC’s and fans is overkills.)
The dog barking, the baby yelping, these will only add charm and authenticity. So don’t concern yourself with that. Concern yourself only with constant hums of electronics that you’re not noticing. These sounds are loud but continuous so it’s easy to forget that they’re there.
Goes without saying: TV’s, radios, other people’s YouTube videos – shut them all off too. These go in the category of on-going electronic noise that you’re used to tuning out so you don’t notice it, but they sure as hell will ruin your video.
Tip #2 – Add captions or subtitles to your youtube video
When you’re ready to upload your video, I recommend using a website called Rev.com to create accurate captions or subtitles quickly and inexpensively. (I’m not affiliated; it’s a personal recommendation.)
You want to create captions so people don’t strain to follow what’s being said. Also, many of your viewers might watch it in a setting where they can’t have the volume on their device on (hello browsing instagram at 2AM while your partner is sleeping…) So captions could be the difference between someone watching or moving on to the next thing.
If your YouTube Video Requires Filming Something (it might not!)
Second to sound (yes, second!) the biggest factor that makes some YouTube videos look homemade and others look profesh is the lighting.
Now I say “IF” your video requires filming because you can create an awesome videos with stills and titles. But I digress.
If you are going to film something, lighting is something to think about. I’m not saying you should do anything about it, I’m only encouraging you to think about it.
Since I promised that this list would take 8 minute to read and fewer minutes to implement, let’s skip over three-point lighting and temperatures. Just know two things:
Tip #3 – Natural light is your best friend
Windows are your favorite light source. Day time is your favorite time. And filming outside is even better light-wise, but not better sound-wise. So pick your battles…
If you’re outside, overcast days are king because the clouds keep the light flat, even and defused (beauty shots!) Early in the day or later in the day is better than middle of the day when the sun is right above you casting harsh shadow.
Tip #4 – Avoid backlighting your subject
If you stand between the window and the camera, you’ll be “backlit.” You will look like a silhouette. But if the camera is between you and the window: boom.
The window is your light source so you want it to face you and let all that light splash you all over your face.
Think of the window as your audience. You don’t want it behind you!
Now when I say “window” I also mean lamps. Put a lamp behind you and you’ll look like a shadow. Put it in front of you and we’ll see the expressive details of your awesome face.
EDITING YOUR YOUTUBE VIDEO
Tip #5 – Unedited videos have a charm to them (if they’re short)
Sure, you can trim the beginning and end to clean it up. And sure, you can use video editing apps on your phone or knock yourself out with Premiere Pro and get down with the fancy cutting.
But honestly, unless there’s a really long preamble before you get to the good stuff, I think the unedited home video has a beauty to it. I really like that final moment of a selfie video when the person reaches for the “stop record” button. Love that.
Tip #6 – Music Can make any video look expensive
For real. If the music is amazing, the video looks amazing, feels amazing, does amazing things! Amazing! 😉
You can literally film a pair of dirty socks on the floor, and if you’re playing a Beethoven symphony over the image, you’re like, a serious filmmaker.
Do one of these over a cat doing something adorable and you’re going viral baby.
If you’re using music that you don’t have permission to use: Facebook will share it without sound. That might be fine (hello captions!) but be aware that this will happen.
YouTube will let you know that you don’t have permission to use the music and then carry on and host it anyway. (Just heads up that if you let them, they’ll still put up ads and make money off your video, but they won’t send you money due to music not being licensed. I know you’re shocked to hear that YouTube rules are more about their profits than about intellectual copyrights… What?!)
You can google “free music” or some version of that and find stuff that’s free or near-free, or you can ditch the music idea since you’re making a homemade video. I mean, maybe Beethoven over dirty socks is overkill and you whistling Twinkle Twinkle is more fitting? That tune is public domain by the way. Then again, so is Beethoven.
All that is to say:
Enjoy the charm of homemade video
Tip #7 – Don’t try to make a homemade Youtube video something it’s not.
Have fun and don’t sweat it: Shoot perpendicular; settle for crappy sound; let the messy house show; fine if Aunt Sally walks through your shot (grrrr!) Embrace and enjoy the look and feel of a homemade video. Don’t force it to be something it just isn’t.
Tip #8 – Follow the fun.
The key to home videos, like the key to all things creative, is to follow the fun.
If it’d be fun for you to move the pile of dirty clothes out of the frame and play with where the plants go behind you – go for it! If that’s just a chore, then the dirty clothes stay. Just hit the record button and enjoy the authenticity of your set.
If it’d be fun to film that video again, this time sans Aunt Sally, go for it! If it feels like a drag, then Aunt Sally stays.
Follow the fun and it will lead you to your best work whether you’re making videos or looking for a fitness program. Last week I promised my members an article on writing great dialogue. But when I woke up this morning, I felt like writing this one. I knew better than to second guess and interrupt a creative flow.
So how’s that for an example – this article is a product of my “follow the fun” principle 😉
Now before I end off with the dare of the century, lemme invite you to access the free trainings and resources that I send my members regularly: Request your free membership and access complimentary trainings for writers and filmmakers.
If you’re promoting a business, a project, an organization: videos that have a homemade look get more views because they don’t look like ads.
There are multi-million-dollar companies and beyond who go out of their way to make their ads look like homemade videos for that reason. It’s a look.
So there you go. Crayons, newspapers, empty cigarette cartons, or whatever you can find around you – work with that.
When you feel ready to step it up a notch and create your first movie movie, with a budget of $4 or less, check out my article on: How to Make Movies with $4 Or Less.
Feeling gutsy…? Leave a comment below with a link to your own homemade YouTube video.
Alternatively, if you must, share a link to a homemade video you’ve always really liked and think others will too.
One of my favorite homemade videos (we all have so many, don’t we!) is this one of Suveer Nagdev explaining the importance of art.
And you can find my own homemade videos in the article I mention above about making the $4 movie.
A simple video, like any work of art, can transform society
To Suveer’s point above, it’s thanks to this new medium, the homemade video, that entire movements were built: Black Lives Matter, Climate Justice, a new wave of Women’s Liberation. Many of us have said repeatedly: the targeting of people of African heritage is not new. Everyone having a phone camera is new.
It would benefit us to become literate in making videos, and to exercise judgement about when it’s time to be a perfectionist and when it’s time to just hit: RECORD.
Join my free membership to receive courtesy trainings for screenwriters and filmmakers.