Video has become a top communication tool across digital channels, scoring the highest engagement rates compared to other types of social media posts. LinkedIn, for example, says that video content is shared 20 times more often than any other content format.1 Videos can significantly boost your personal brand and add a sense of authenticity to your digital footprint.

However, not all videos deliver those results. With a myriad of different videos for people to consume — YouTube just recently registered two billion user logins in one month2 — pretty much everyone knows a bad clip when they see one.

Reel in your audience with high-quality video

I asked our associate and video expert Paul Traynor to share his top tips to help elevate your video production.

Rebecca: What’s your biggest observation about the popularity of personal videos?

Paul: Even when they can’t quite put a finger on why, your audience will recognize a poor-quality video. Most audiences aren’t expected a professionally produced masterpiece, but there are some easy steps people can take to make sure that video quality doesn’t detract from the message you want to deliver. Put more simply, if you’re shooting your video in the basement next to a boiler, people can tell.

Rebecca: If you could only give someone a single tip on how to improve the quality of their videos, what would it be?

Paul:Believe it or not, the most important detail in a video is sound. It’s one of the most underestimated elements in creating personal videos, but it has a huge impact on the viewer experience.

Rebecca: How can people improve their sound quality without professional equipment?

Paul: You don’t need to spend a lot of money to have good audio, but it helps to have an extra piece or two of low-cost equipment. My advice is to invest in a good external microphone: either a USB-connected device or a self-recording lavaliere microphone that clips to your shirt. That way, even when you’re filming with your smartphone, you can position the camera to capture the best frame and still have the mic close enough to capture your voice clearly. Otherwise, your smartphone mic will be too far away, and it will pick up excess background noise.

Tip #1: Invest in an external microphone

The placement of the mic is also important, so make sure the distance is about the same at all times. If you’re moving around the room, then a lavaliere mic is a better option.

Rebecca: There’s a tonne of advice on tech blogs about the best lights for personal videos. How complicated is it to get the lighting just right, and how much does it matter?

Paul: Effective lighting is the second critical aspect of a good video production. It’s a lot like sound, in the sense that people don’t notice great lighting, but they do notice when the lighting is poor. It’s worth taking the time to optimize it as much as you can because it sets the mood of the video and affects the overall impression you leave

Most people just rely on their regular top light or ceiling light, but that tends to cast a shadow with sharp edges. Instead, videographers apply the gold standard known as the “three-point lighting theory”:

  • the key light, which is the primary light source
  • the fill light, which comes from either the left or the right and provides texture
  • the backlight or top light, which provides depth

Tip #2: Apply the three-point lighting theory

A small set of lights you can place on your desk or on the floor is another affordable investment that makes a huge difference in personal video production. Just a note of caution when using ring lights for anyone who wears eyeglasses – be careful where you place the light because it can reflect in your glasses. That can be more distracting than the problem you’re trying to solve.

Rebecca: The explosion of remote work has many of us working in locations that weren’t designed to be an office. Some people use fancy backgrounds, from exotic beaches to Minecraft screens, to mask what’s really behind them. How well do these work for video?

Paul: Virtual backgrounds create awkward edges around the speaker, which can reduce the impact of your video. Instead, I suggest that people use a real background, even if you need to move a few things around. Having a bookshelf, a nice painting, a lamp, or another decorative element in the background adds a great personal dimension, and they’re all better than just a plain white wall.

Tip #3: Use a real background

A window is also a good choice, except on bright sunny days, because of the hard shadows that creates. For a window background, a cloudy day is your best friend for filming because it provides a diffused light, which is perfect for creating a soft lighting effect.

Rebecca: Everyone wants to put their best face forward on video, but not everyone is comfortable in front of a camera. Can you share some tricks people can use to look and sound more natural?

Paul: That’s a great question, and it’s something I spend a lot of time coaching people on. My key tip here is that posture defines the energy of the speaker. People typically slouch when they sit in a normal chair, which radiates a low energy level. Instead, when my team shoots videos, we use high stools with no back to help people maintain an upright position and better posture.

The next detail to watch for is the frame of the video, which is basically how much of you fills the screen. Ideally, you want to have your head and shoulders in the frame, like a three-quarters headshot. It’s best to identify the lower line somewhere at the middle of the person’s torso and the upper one just above the head.

Tip #4: Adjust the details

Finally, your eye level should be natural, which is why the speaker has to look straight at the camera. Some people use a teleprompter that sits right above the camera line, but if they read the entire script, it shows. The best way to sound natural is to be familiar with the topic, and simply talk about it while looking straight at the camera (and rarely looking at your notes).

Add authenticity to your social media presence

Producing professional-looking videos doesn’t need to be expensive or complicated. You can create simple videos that showcase your ideas, expertise or educational content with a smartphone in your home office. However, if you’d like to level-up your social media presence with professional help, reach out to the Mercer-MacKay team. We’d love to discuss how we can make social media work for you.

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