Video: Things I Learned At My First Video Shoot

I recently worked with a videographer to make two videos for a new video marketing service I wanted to start. I’d never really stood in front of a camera before, and thought it would be fun to do. I’m a big fan of online video, as I’ve explained before, but something that drives me nuts is the massive amount of online video that’s of embarrassing quality and I didn’t want to do that. So I hired a professional videographer, rented out a studio, and did a shoot and we ended up with two videos that I’m quite proud of.

Here’s a fun blooper reel I made to showcase some of the fun parts of the shoot:

I’ve never done this before, but I’m a member of a Toastmasters club, so I’m frequently standing up and talking in front of people and figured this would be similar to that. I was both right and wrong. I learned several things throughout this video shoot. We rented some space at a photographer’s studio, I wrote the a script for both videos, and it took us about four hours to tape it all on a Tuesday night. Then Andy (the videographer) and I went home, exhausted around midnight and I waited to see what Andy’s video-editing skills could come up with. I never looked at any of the footage during the shoot, so the finished product was going to be a complete surprise to me.

With this being my first run, I’m proud to say we didn’t make any major mistakes. I did learn a few, small lessons about how I’d do it differently next time. Here are some of the takeaways I had from our initial shoot, in no particular order:

  • Standing in front of a camera and reciting lines is a LOT harder than it looks.
  • The camera sees everything. I had a blemish on my face that I was self-conscious about, so I put some makeup (concealer) on, but in the end, I think the concealer was just as obvious.
  • There’s a lot of downtime during a video shoot.
  • It takes a long time to get set up properly (it took us at least an hour to get the lighting, cameras and microphones ready).
  • Teleprompters don’t work. …at least not for me. My brilliant idea was that I would read the script I wrote off my laptop hiding right under the camera. We tried that at first, but it looked fake, and it was hard for me to minimize the distraction of switching my focus back and forth between the camera and the laptop. Lesson learned: just memorize your lines instead.
  • Writing a good script is REALLY important, and it needs to be ready to go when it’s time to shoot. But no matter how good it is, you’ll pretty much ad-lib when you’re standing in front of the camera, and you’ll leave out 25-30% of the script. You need to be ok with that.
  • Personal habits become very obvious. Example: I learned that I clear my throat a LOT. I never noticed this before. I also stroke my facial hair when I think, and frequently lick my lips. I had never noticed this before either.
  • Once you screw up a line and start laughing, it’s really hard to get serious again and finish the line.
  • The glamorous part of video is the final product. Filming is awkward, reciting lines is hard, and the editing process totally sucks.
  • Editing video footage is EXTREMELY time consuming, and it’s a thankless task. Nobody ever thinks about a film editor when watching a video. Case in point: the video we made about Twitter took ten hours to edit. We ended up with 4:07 minutes that made the final cut. That’s a lot of work for a short clip.
  • With some lines, you’ll just have to say them over, and over, and over again, until you get them right.
  • You can’t be a perfectionist. If you can’t say your line right after the 15th time, you’ve got to give up and move on to something else.
  • The lighting used in a video shoot is really powerful. I stood in front of the lights for several hours and it was overwhelming—they were hot, and very bright in my face.
  • You may have to pose in weird positions for a long time while the videographer tries focusing and shooting from different angles. You’ve got to be comfortable holding a strange pose for a while.
  • When it’s all said and done, the end product is extremely rewarding.
  • Apple Final Cut Pro is an awesome program, and simple enough for me to use without any instructions.
  • You have to be ok with awkward silences. There are a LOT of awkward silences during a video shoot. Don’t try to fill the silence. Just accept that it’s awkward.
  • You HAVE to be judicious when editing footage. No matter how much you like a particular take, it’s got to fit in with the theme and focus. If it doesn’t, you’ve gotta cut it—no matter how long you worked on it or how funny it is.
  • Check your progress before doing the whole shoot. Do a test run for 5-10 minutes, then review what you’ve got. Because I didn’t see the video until it was completely edited, I didn’t realize the little habits and twitches I had until the whole thing was over. If I had checked on everything during the shoot, I could have made adjustments before we’d finished recording all that video.
  • My final observation: Andy Mitchell is a really good videographer. He’s fun to work with, he was very patient with my many takes, and the finished product turned out like I’d hoped.

In conclusion, they were fun to make, and definitely worth doing. I think a lot more companies should use video for marketing. If you’re ever interested in it, let me know. I can hook you up with the right team.

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