A few months ago, my publisher asked me and several other authors to make videos for an event in Dallas, Texas. The plan was to use the 90-second videos on the overhead to showcase the authors and their latest novels.
A 90-second video? About me and my book? How hard could that be? After all, the instructions said not to stress over it. This was to be spontaneous and fun. Just make a video using my smart phone and call it a day. Piece of cake, right?
It took—awhile. A lot of awhiles. In the end, I have to say I know more about what to do and, more importantly, what NOT to do than before. So, without further ado, here is what I learned making this video. These tips aren't in any particular order of importance, because honestly, every step of this process is important. You’re putting yourself out there in front of others, so you don’t want to goof up too much.
First, prepare your script and make sure it matches the requested length of your video, if that’s an issue. Memorize it. (If you can wing it, you're way ahead of the game!) Remembering my script was the hardest part for me. I’d get half-way through and go blank or say the wrong thing. Notes and video cameras just don’t work well together, you know.
While you’re practicing, if you’re going to be recording at home, find a spot where you feel comfortable. Decide if you’re going to sit or stand. You might even have to organize (aka—clean) the space. But before you do that, record a few trial runs. Your ideal spot might not be so ideal for lighting.
Due to some pull-your-hair-out-scream-in-frustration technical difficulties that I’ll get to later, I ended up recording late at night, then having to start over the next morning. Take 15. The lighting was all wrong because I’d chosen a room with lots of windows. The night version had soft light and the day time had much brighter, harsher light. So, even though I had some good clips from the night before, I couldn't use them. I had to start completely over. In hindsight, a spot in the den where the light wasn’t affected as much by day/night would have been a better choice if you have to record on multiple days/nights.
You'll also notice that the night recording would have been much better as far as glare is concerned. But I was out of time. Lesson learned thinking this would be a 90 second job. :)
|Still of a clip made at night.|
|Still of a clip recorded in the early morning.|
Decide what you’re going to wear. If you end up like me and have to start over the next day, you’ll want to wear the same outfit if you’re going to splice your recording together.
Do you have any pets or children? Are they prone to bark, yowl, howl, or interrupt? My dog started barking around Take 27.
Is your A/C or Heat on? If so, turn it OFF. My recording was in August, and it’s hot in Mississippi in August, but the A/C would kick in and not only could you hear it, you could see a slight dimming of the overhead lights every time it came on…something I’d never noticed, but was noticeable on the video. Minor, but something that bugged me. Crank the heat up (or the A/C down), then turn it off when you get ready to record. Take 34.
Don’t forget to mute your phones and computers. Nothing is more frustrating than to be rocking along and almost to the end of your video to hear “ding” from your computer. Take 50. Sigh.
Adults who live with you are a little harder to anticipate. My husband came home during one take, then asked what I was doing (Take 59). Then he decided to watch Bonanza (Take 65). I’m not sure he realized that noise—ANY NOISE—was forbidden. If there’s no way to keep children, pets, and significant others out of the video, then just plan to incorporate them in. I’m sure I was too focused on trying to be pristine and perfect. Yes, I’m sure of it. But I was having a hard enough time remembering my script without stopping mid-sentence to announce, “Oh, that’s just the dog taking the wheels off the UPS truck. Now, where was I?”
Even if you’re used to speaking gigs, being recorded--or recording yourself--is different, and it’s a learned skill. I’m not an accomplished speaker, but I get by. I don’t get nervous, but when speaking, we’ve always been taught to pan the room, looking around at the audience. So, it took a lot of practice to get out of that habit for the recording. Do you have a habit of adjusting your glasses, scratching your nose, or your ear? Maybe rolling your eyes? :) Do some practice runs and see what your tics are. It’s okay to act natural, but scratching your cheek 10 times becomes noticeable after about the third time.
Figure out the best angle for the camera and where you need to look. On a smart phone, you look at the screen, I think we’re all pretty comfortable with that. But on a digital recorder with a view finder, it’s a bit trickier. Remember those technical difficulties? I had to switch to the recorder on my digital camera because my iPhone was suddenly full and no amount of deleting or uploading to the cloud or even upgrading to more cloud storage gave me more space. My camera was different to my phone and I had to learn where to look all over again. Oy vey!
Basically, everything I’ve told you is common sense, and most of you can probably do this type thing with your hands tied behind your back, but I’ve never been comfortable in front of a video camera or on stage. Drama? Not my thing. I’m too much of a stickler for delivering the lines exactly as they’re written, and if I don’t get my “cue”, I’m totally lost. All in all, my biggest issue was getting all tongue-tied in my script. I think if I could have gotten that part down pat, things would have gone much faster. But at my age, I’m not sure memorizing a script is going to happen at this point.
Which leads to the next tip. Don’t try to print the script and paste it behind the camera. Just don’t. The eyes jumping from the camera to the script and back is extremely nerve-wracking. Trust me on this one.
So, what else did I learn? Lots!
For instance, if you have trouble remembering your 90 second spiel, don’t keep starting over every time you mess up. Just stop, take a deep breath, scream, frown at the camera, stick out your tongue, whatever you feel like, then smile, hold it for several seconds, then pick up at a point before you goofed up and keep going. You can delete and splice sections together later.
I figured out how to merge clips together and it was about that time that I realized that if I’d made the recording from different angles … ie. NOT looking straight at the camera, I could have included some stills of the book cover and covered those "splices" a bit better. An aha moment somewhere around Take 89.
And, last, another tactic is to completely be yourself. Don’t worry about the gaffs. I could have recorded snippets of my house, my dog, the cows in the pasture, a few of me writing or cooking or walking across the pasture with the dog, and then dubbed (note to self: learn how to dub...) over that with the “spiel”. That would have been more entertaining and not as cardboard-cookie-cutter bland. But sometimes we have to try something before we realize what works and what doesn’t.
Was I able to apply everything I learned to the video I was working on? No. I wasted my time with my head stuck in the sand. But I have some ideas on how to make a better video next time. And as with just about anything, practice makes … uh… better. Obviously, I need more practice. I’ll see y’all again some time after Take 201.
We all start at different places in speaking, being interviewed for radio and TV spots, and even recording ourselves or being recorded by others. Hopefully, some of you started out a lot farther down the path than I did, so I’d love for you to share tips of your recording experiences.
Yes, yes, I know you all want to see the final recording. It's not pretty, so don't say I didn't warn you.
Okay, here's a blooper, by request. You can tell I get off-track about 3 seconds into this clip. Then it goes downhill from there. At one point, I almost turn the camera off, but decide to take a deep breath, SMILE, and keep going. This is also after my iPhone had failed me, AND my digital camera was shutting off at the 30 second mark. That's when the clip just ends. Honestly, on the outside, I look very calm and collected, but on the inside, I am coming UNGLUED.
Also, this is a good example of the difference in the lighting. This clip was made at night while the full video was made during the day.
This is probably the point at which I screamed, stomped around and cried a few tears. Thank goodness that part was off camera. Drama worthy of a soap opera!
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