First things first: Great camerawork can’t save a product video that’s poorly thought out.
Before you shoot any videos for your business, make sure you’ve answered the important questions: Why are we making a video? Where will we show it? Who will watch it? What do we want customers to do after they watch it?
Those are just a few of the important questions you need to answer before you begin. But once you’ve done that, there are some tricks and techniques that you can use to ensure that your video comes out looking its best.
Here are a few things I learned shooting more than 300 videos for OFM, a family-run furniture manufacturer and distributor in North Carolina.
1. Storyboard Your Video
I admit that I don’t take time to physically sketch stick figures of chairs and tables, organize and number shots, before every video I produce at OFM. After 300 or so product videos, I pretty much know what I am after during in-studio shoots. However, whenever I leave the studio for a location shoot, or when dealing with model talent who is paid hourly, I always have a list of shots and/or a completed storyboard to refer to. It’s like having a street map as you navigate on foot through downtown Chicago. You can do it without one but I wouldn’t recommend it. Here is a link to download a storyboard template.
Especially for inexperienced videographers or producers, a well thought-out and illustrated storyboard will save you the embarrassment and lost resources of having to re-shoot important scenes that you missed. You don’t have to be an artist to complete one either. Just try your best to draw out a series of the must-have shots. Make reminders to yourself about composition, lens choice, camera settings, etc. I find that having a storyboard takes away much of the anxiety associated with on-location shoots. You will also find that everyone involved with the shoot is more patient when they see you working down a list of shots vs. constantly trying to remember what your next shot will be.
2. Take Advantage of Stabilization
In 1999, “The Blair Witch Project “was released and changed movie-making forever. The camera shook and rolled and dumbed down the entire industry. Then with the emergence of YouTube and the popularity of the viral video, everyone became desensitized to shaky video and to amateur video production. That’s fine for horror films and funny viral clips but when shooting and editing product videos, you have to stabilize those shots. You don’t want to leave anything up to the imagination when try to show all the beautiful aesthetics and great functions of your product.
Use a heavy-duty tripod to capture your basic movements such as panning, tilting and zooming. Raise your production value considerably by using a camera slider to capture steady lateral movements called dolly or truck movements. It was once virtually unaffordable for the average filmmaker to have access to jibs, cranes and steady-cams, but they have all come down in price in the past few years. If used effectively, this equipment can make any production look more like big budget.
3. Fill the Frame
I remember when a mentor explained to me a concept called the Rule Of Thirds. Luckily I had been doing it naturally but as I made the transition to a professional producer I began to realize how important the concept is to obtaining great shots. Assuming you know what it means, I encourage you to fill two thirds of your screen often for close-up shots of your product. This is not a hard rule of course. Just bear in mind that the viewer doesn’t know your product. Your video may be the closest that they get to it before making a buying decision. I like to slowly move along capturing tiny details of the product as if there is nothing to hide. Close-ups build trust. Trust leads to sales.
4. Give It Rhythm
Long before I ever picked up a camera, I produced music. I tend to have a certain rhythm bouncing inside me as I shoot. When I sit down to edit, the cuts seem to fall on the beat without much finagling with the footage. Light music will definitely make a product video more memorable and enjoyable. It is even more effective if you can line up the transitions on and around the beat of the track. It doesn’t hurt to listen to the song you plan to use or other music with a similar tempo prior to or during the shoot. Here is a great place to get some tunes for your videos.
5. Change Speeds
Break up the monotony of your video by throwing in some quick shots timed to transition on beat. I can’t get into music theory here, but if your video transitions are falling on the 1 and 3 of a 4/4 beat, make a few clips transition on the 1,2 and 3. Ok, too technical? Another approach would be to try making the clips transition on the kick drum of the song.
6. Don’t Forget the Hero Shot
We have all seen them, when the camera stops moving and the hero is in the center of the shot looking super cool. This is generally the shot that movie studios use for their posters. Make sure that towards the end of your product video, your product gets a shot like this. It will generally be shot from a lower angle so as to make it appear majestic and larger than life. Make it the only thing in the frame if possible. You want the viewer to have a visceral reaction to this shot. Sometimes adjusting the speed of the shot adds to the drama. Think slow motion.
7. Add a Human Touch
Perhaps the most important element in a product video is a human touch. Having a person in the video adds to the credibility and legitimacy of the product. It also adds scale and allows the viewer to imagine how they would look using the product. A smile by the model means, “You really need this.” Perhaps on-screen talent has narrated the entire video and delivered a killer call-to-action. Just remember, the human brain is hard-wired to connect to other human faces.
As stated at the beginning of this piece, there is much more to producing videos that sell than camera tricks or anything that I have written here. Also, not every video needs or will have all of these suggested elements in them. But with these tips, along with much self-study, trial, error and training, you can shoot videos that keep your viewers interested and engaged.
Nathaniel Ligons is the Digital Marketing Specialist for OFM, a family-run furniture manufacturer and distributor headquartered in North Carolina with distribution centers there and in California, Kansas, Pennsylvania, and Washington state. For more than twenty years, it has provided affordable and quality furniture through a nationwide dealer network, offering the latest concepts and designs for a variety of markets including home and hospitality, businesses and government, and health care and education. Working with manufacturers in Mexico, Taiwan and China, OFM designs furniture to meet the highest industry standards which are sold through a variety of retailers, mail-order catalogs, and online dealers including Staples, Wayfair, Overstock, and National Business Furniture. To learn more about OFM, visit:http://www.ofminc.com