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The Poor Man's Guide To Rich Looking Videos

Hey, nice camcorder. And I hear you have a computer, too. Guess you're in the video business! Ah, but it's not that simple. As many would-be photographers can tell you, itís not the gear that defines quality; itís the person using the gear. Oh, you knew that. Okay, what if I were to offer you, say, $5000 to do a history of my life? Would you know what to do? Can you visualize the end result? Or do you just hope that the button marked "Ken Burns Effect" will save your rear-end? Sound cynical? Guilty as charged.

But the proliferation of inexpensive, decent quality video gear has convinced many a consumer they can do their own business videos or wedding videos, and many a prosumer to make the fulltime leap into self-employment. So here's my offer. Read the next five paragraphs or so for my "video school in 5 minutes or less", and you will be one small step closer to telling a compelling story, no matter what that story is. FIVE MINUTE VIDEO SCHOOL. starting now! 1) Create an outline of your project.

What do you envision it to be? Despite all the hype about interactive and non-linear media, storytelling is linear. The human brain wants a logical flow, and when it doesn't get it, it gets distracted. starts daydreaming. zzzzzz. So, even before you start shooting or editing, plot out your story. Let's say that you're doing a video for the engagement party of a couple who are getting married, and you want to tell their life stories. Here's a typical outline: Ancestry Parents wedding Birth of children Children growing up High school or college years Jobs Some recreational high points in their single lives The magic moment--couple meets Couple together Couple gets engaged Reprise of earlier shots (let's audience know its ending) Finale text, logo, "Congratulations" and picture of the happy couple. 2) Acquire the raw material.

We haven't even TOUCHED a camcorder yet. You can't really know how this story will feel and what supplementary shooting you'll need until you know what raw material you'll be working with. Think inside the box. If you look at a yearbook and just take a picture of the yearbook, you've missed the story. Your "stars" are featured in that world. get close-ups of pictures from the book, pepper that with ads of Pepsi, Coke, Hostess Cupcakes, the cast of "Saved by the Bell"-- whatever they were into at that age. Important: check for existing audio or video recording of your stars, not just still pictures. 8mm film, old Betamax tapes, whatever. This can add a treasure trove humor and expression. Plus, vintage audio of voices long gone can bring the crowd to tears.

3) New Section? New Music. Your outline pretty much tells you how often to change the music. Whenever the era or subject changes, use a different piece. It helps us understand the era, it lets us know we can move on in the story from what came before, and it tells us how to feel. In other words, vary the music according to the emotion, and consider your audience. It doesnít all have to be hip-hop or electronica. Something warm and fuzzy is often more appropriate. 4) Ditch the special effects. Transition effects were developed for scene changes, and the most powerful one is still the dissolve. Page turns, circle wipes, shatters, and other "planet of the cheap special effects" stuff will drive an audience to distraction-- away from your story.

You're not the star, your subject or client is. 5) Shoot for the editor. There are basic rules of editing, but what they come down to is this: long shot, medium shot, close-up, cutaway. When you're shooting footage of the happy couple in the rose garden, we want to see the garden, them, their faces, their hands (and a close-up of the wedding ring, and some signage telling us they're in the rose garden. Oh, a close-up or scan of their newspaper wedding announcement is nice, too. Is it time? Put your pencils down. Follow these rues and pass to the next level of video storytelling! Good luck.


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