One of my friends asked me about my videos the other day. He wanted to know if they were easy to make and how much I planned them in advance. Anyone who knows me will know that I don’t plan anything in advance but I thought it might be interesting to show readers just how I put together a video.
I did a video a while ago as part of a beta testing programme I was asked to take part in. The testing was for a new update over on Animoto.com which is an online video editing site. The new addition was the facility to add a voice recording to a video which I had actually advocated quite a few times on their Facebook forum page. The video I decided to make stemmed from a blog post about writing poetry and it was called Idea, Inspiration and Effort. Those three things were what I thought was required to produce a poem and to be fair they could be applied to anything, a poem, an essay, a blog post, a novel or indeed, a video.
Everything of course starts with an idea. What shall I write about or what can I make a video about? For me I tend to shoot all sorts of video and then only later start to think about how I can put it together and use it in a finished product. For the video mentioned above over on Animoto I chose a template from their fairly wide range and then it was just a matter of adding in the stock photos or video and then the graphics. Animoto provides stock photos which I do use regularly but if possible, I always try to use photos I have taken myself. For instance, I needed a sunset shot for this video and I knew that I had a shot of a sunset taken in Greece on the island of Kalymnos so I uploaded that.
Of course, for a video like that, not much actual filming was required but normally, filming is the first step in any video. One way to prepare for a shoot is to make story boards. They are used extensively in the cinema and I’ve seen documentaries showing wonderful story boards from films like Citizen Kane to Aliens. They are simply drawings that look like comic strips showing the visual look of each different scene. Good for films using actors but not much use for documentaries or short films, well at least, not in my opinion. I tend to film first and then plan later how to use my recorded video. Others might think story boards a great help.
Reviewing the footage.
A short video like the one above is pretty easy but for my most recent video, a compilation of GoPro video shot mostly through the windscreen of my motorhome, well that was a little harder. I had a rough idea what I wanted so the next step was just to review all my footage. That involved hours and hours of going through a lot of video, a great deal of which was not very inspiring. Many times, I had left my GoPro running when I should have shut it down. Other times I pressed record at some wonderful area of French countryside, only to find that the resulting video wasn’t so wonderful.
The Rough Cut
After reviewing everything, I dropped all the better shots into my video editor and the result was a video lasting well over an hour. My big mistake on a lot of our French trips is not shooting much additional video. I may have recorded us arriving at a spectacular lake but then I hadn’t taken the camera and shot around the lake. We’d take a trek around a lovely French village and again I didn’t shoot anything in the village. However, having visited France so many times I went back over all my older video looking for interesting things.
In 2020 we parked by the river Seine one day and I had filmed the ferry going across to the other side and a huge ship chugging serenely past. I had not used that footage in previous videos so I added that into the editor. On a number of occasions, I’ve tried to shoot things that motorhomers have to deal with as routine, things like emptying the toilet and the waste water and topping up the drinking water and so on, so I added a number of clips showing all those processes.
In Rouen a few years ago we were following the directions from the Google lady on Google maps when we found ourselves heading into a tunnel which I realised we weren’t going to fit under. Luckily there was an escape road and we were able to exit but when we passed the area again this year, I recorded us travelling past and so I was able to talk about the experience.
The Final Cut
Less is more has always been my video adage so I trimmed out more and more video until I was left with some short story blocks or chapters: Travelling through the channel tunnel, heading on south through France with a quick look at where we stopped in 2020 by the Seine. Going through Rouen and avoiding the low tunnel. Various camping sites. Maintaining the motorhome and emptying the waste. A final stop and a barbecue and then returning to home via the ferry.
The next step was to put together the narration. Sometimes I write a narration and then tweak the video to fit the text. On this occasion I decided to do something I’d done before which was to jot down a few notes and then just narrate the voice-over as I watched the video. I actually did it quite a few times. The first and second versions had a lot of ums and ahs but by the third time I finally felt I had something reasonable. My voice-over was more confident than the first two tries and by then I pretty much knew what to say without my notes.
Next I add the sound effects. Now you might think there wouldn’t be much need for sound effects on a video like this, however there were a couple. On a sequence where I showed the outdoor laundrettes which abound outside supermarkets in France, I had combined some still shots with video so I added some washing machine sounds to cover that and on another sequence, I had slowed down a wobbly shot of a microlight flying overhead. The soundtrack was distorted at the slow speed so I added the sound of a light aircraft which was similar to the sound of the microlight.
Where do I get the sound effects? Well Liz bought me one of those sound effect CDs a few years ago but sometimes I head for a site called Zapsplat to download some free sounds.
Just to finish I think it’s important to watch the final product from beginning to end and just look for things that could be tidied up. I added a sequence showing an antique telephone during a bit on the voice-over where I talk about telephones. There were still some superfluous scenes shot through the windscreen which were either boring or too long so I trimmed those down.
Titles and Credits
The final thing is to add the titles and credits. Now being an old-fashioned film maker, I’ve always liked good intros on films. These days in the world of YouTube and TikTok, those long title sequences are not recommended. While I’m trying to get my video started with a few titles and introductions, the viewer has already clicked on to another video so these days the advice is to make those titles and credits short and sweet.
What sort of video editor do I use?
Well I actually like the professional version of the Microsoft Windows Video Editor. It’s pretty simple to use and I always make my rough cut with it. If I want to play with the soundtrack I then take the video over to Power Director where you can do some more complex edits.
Uploading to Social Media
Once you have made a video you want people to see it so it’s only natural to upload to the internet. YouTube is the obvious choice. How do you get people to watch it though? Tricky question and to be fair, I don’t really know the answer. I upload my videos and link them to various other sites. I have quite a few pages on this site here at WordPress where I showcase my videos or use them directly within a post. I also link them to Reddit, Facebook, Twitter and other places that I feel are appropriate. For instance there is a Manchester community on Reddit so I’ll link my Manchester themed videos there. I link my poetry videos to either the Reddit poetry community or to my Writeoutloud poetry page. Over on Facebook there is an amateur video page where video producers showcase their work and chat about it.
One of my big mistakes is uploading to YouTube too early. Once I’ve finished a project, I’ll continue to fiddle with it and start to wish I had uploaded version 7 rather than version 1. A good video site though less popular than YouTube is Vimeo and the good thing about their site is that it’s possible to replace your video with an updated version without losing your stats and comments. Such a pity that feature isn’t possible on YouTube.
Just as I finished this post, I clicked on a video that came up in my YouTube feed. It was about Ridley Scott and the making of Alien. Scott did something special with Alien, he took what could have been a mediocre monster movie and made it into something special. He brought some great designers and a strong cast into the project, made his case to the producers for a bigger budget and ended up with an outstanding film. Preparation and design was the key to that film and preparation and design are important even in small projects like yours, mine and a thousand others you will see on Youtube.
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