5 Steps to Creating High-Quality Videos that Convert

Let’s dig right into producing your first awesome video blog post with my five-step, foolproof process for creating and marketing high-quality online videos. Once you get started, you’ll find this process to be much simpler and more fun than you might have thought. The skills you’ll pick up by going through these steps will stay with you for the rest of your career.

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STEP 1: SELECT THE RIGHT TOOLS

Many small business owners assume that getting set up with the tools and equipment required for making videos will cost thousands of dollars. But advancements in technology have granted us access to professional-level filming and editing tools at a fraction of this cost. In fact, you can acquire a complete “starter kit” with everything you need for less than $500. And you may even already have several of the required items.

VIDEO CAMERA

The first item you’ll need is a video camera. While you can create great videos without a camera (see “screen-capture videos” below), I’m assuming that at least some of your video content will include you or another person in them, and for this you do need a camera.

  1. Webcams: If your videos will be less visual and more focused on you reporting on or delivering information in front of the camera, you may need to look no further than a high-quality HD webcam. In fact, many PCs and Macs have great cameras built in.
    • RESOURCE: The Logitech c920 Webcam: There are dozens of great webcams available for under $100, but I recommend the Logitech C920 Webcam, which costs around $90. This is truly a “plug and play” camera, and it’s used by many video bloggers.
  2. iPhone: Many folks are surprised to learn that the iPhone can create high-quality videos. With its eight-megapixel iSight camera, the iPhone can record great video in HD (1080p) at up to thirty frames per second. Most of us wouldn’t expect to create high-quality videos with a mobile phone because most handheld-shot movies are “shaky,” with poor lighting, composition, and audio. But when you use a tripod, microphone and neutral “backdrop,” the iPhone’s camera becomes a professional movie-making machine!
    • RESOURCE: Great Online Course for Making Online Video with the iPhone: iPhone Video Hero is a great online course that costs $97. This video course demonstrates how to make video using the iPhone from start to finish, all in a very straightforward, step-by-step process.
  3. Mini HD Cameras: Small, pocket-sized video cameras (“mini HDs”) have become all the rage. Virtually every camera manufacturer makes some version of mini HD, ranging from $100 to $400, and they all do the same thing. I encourage you to read reviews and select a camera that fits your personal requirements, style, and budget. However, the pocket HD camera you choose must shoot in 1080p (refers to high definition screen resolution) and have an external microphone (mic) jack.
    • RESOURCE: The Kodak Zi8 Pocket Video Camera: The Kodak Zi8 Pocket Video Camera shoots amazing high-quality video in HD, works very well with external microphones, and even has a built-in USB jack for easy movie uploading. The price ranges from $100 to $400, depending on whether you buy a new or used model. Although Kodak recently stopped making Zi8s, they are still easy to find online.
  4. Digital SLR Cameras: If you’re ready for network-quality, high-definition Web video, a DSLR camera is for you. These cameras are top of the line for online video creation, costing from $500 to $2,000 or more. While DSLRs might take a bit longer to master based on the greater functionality, the payoff will be worth it because of the much higher quality results that can be achieved. The main differences between DSLR and Mini HD cameras are the available lens, lighting, and filtering settings. If you’ve ever seen a video where the subject is in focus while the background is “blurred,” you can bet the video was shot with DSLR.
    • RESOURCE: The Canon 60D Is a Video Blogger’s Dream Come True: If you are leaning more toward “indie filmmaker” and less toward “complete video newbie,” I recommend the Canon 60D, a very powerful and extremely popular camera used by video bloggers everywhere. This camera costs around $1,000, depending on the configuration and where you buy it.

MICROPHONE

One of the secrets of creating great Web video is audio. In fact, I would rather publish a fair quality video with great sound than a super-crispy HD video with poor sound quality. Many Web videos are made without consideration for audio, using “built-in” microphones, resulting in audio that sounds distant, and is hard to hear and full of background noise. Creating excellent audio tracks, however, only requires one inexpensive tool: a lapel microphone. Lapel microphones are cheap, starting at $15, are dependable, and do a great job of capturing crisp, professional-sounding audio.

  • For video cameras: Audio-Technica ATR-3350 Lavalier Omnidirectional Condenser Microphone is very inexpensive ($22), with an extra-long cord to accommodate any type of camera setup. I recommend you buy two to three, as they’re cheap backups.
  • Computer audio: If you’re recording via a webcam or doing screen recordings, my favorite microphone is the Blue Snowball USB Microphone. At under $70, this is a very high-quality computer microphone that can capture voice and even musical instruments with very high range and clarity. It’s important to note that the Blue Snowball uses a USB input so be sure your Mac or PC has one.

LIGHTING

Many new video makers make the mistake of placing too much focus on the camera and not enough on the composition of the video itself. With the right lighting, requiring as little as two strong lights positioned at forty-five degrees from the video subject, an iPhone or webcam-filmed video can look spectacular. By the same token, the best DLSR camera in existence would produce poor quality footage in the absence of decent lighting.

  • Key light: This is the main light. It is usually the strongest and has the greatest influence on the look of the scene. It is placed to one side of the camera/subject so that this side is well lit and the other side has some shadow.
  • Fill light: This is the secondary light and is placed on the opposite side of the key light. It is used to fill the shadows created by the key. The fill should usually be softer and less bright than the key, so to achieve this, move the light further away or use some natural sunlight if available. You might also want to set the fill light to more of a flood than the key.
  • Back light: The back light is placed behind the subject and lights it from the rear. Rather than providing direct lighting, its purpose is to provide definition and subtle highlights around the subject’s outlines. This helps separate the subject from the background and provide a three-dimensional look.

EDITING SOFTWARE

Once you start creating videos, you’ll need video editing software to help you edit your videos. There are several simple-to-use and inexpensive solutions like ScreenFlow (Mac) and Camtasia Studio (PC) that can also be used to create videos without a camera. You’ve seen online videos of content being covered without a live human being on film, such as software demos, webinars, or online training sessions, and perhaps a voiceover recording of a PowerPoint presentation. These “screen recording” videos are very popular and easy to create. We’ll cover tips on creating screen recordings in this chapter, but for now, let’s choose the right software application for the job:

  • For Macs: ScreenFlow is a great software tool that I and many other online marketing and video content creators use. Screenflow is very easy to use for editing and creating screencast video with a few simple clicks of the mouse. At around $90, this is an extremely affordable application as well.
  • For PCs: The video editing and creation program of choice is Camtasia Studio. This program works like Screenflow in that you can edit camera-produced movies and create screen capture movies as well. The price is similar, at $100. While Camtasia offers a Mac version of their software, I prefer Screenflow.

ONLINE PRESENTATION SOFTWARE

If you’ve ever had to endure a long, boring slideshow presentation, the word “PowerPoint” might send you into a boredom-induced coma. Most people use PowerPoint the wrong way, creating dozens of boring, unengaging slides and reading through them doing their best Ben Stein impression from beginning to end. But using PowerPoint or Keynote to create awesome Web video is simple: create a quick presentation covering your topic of choice, including engaging graphics, photos, and text, and record yourself talking through the content using ScreenFlow or Camtasia. Use one of the following presentation tools to create videos in “voice and presentation” format:

  • Keynote is Apple’s answer to PowerPoint. For $19.95, this software is a “must-have” for any Mac-based video creator. While Keynote shares many of the same functions and features with PowerPoint, the ease of use and ability to create stunning graphics and slides with little technical knowledge make this my software of choice.
  • PowerPoint is available for around $129 for Mac and PC and does a great job of facilitating the creation of slides used in screen recording-based video. You may already have PowerPoint installed on your machine, an added bonus if you’re getting started with video on a tight budget.

BACKDROPS 

If the location you intend to use for filming video doesn’t provide a “neutral” background such as a white or gray wall, you might benefit from purchasing a cheap but effective portable backdrop.

  • Fotodiox 5x7BW 5-Feet x 7-Feet Collapsible 2-in-1 Background Backdrop PanelThis cheap, lightweight, and effective panel  is perfect for those looking for a great way to improve composition for a very small cost ($49).
  • Whiteboard: While not typically thought of as a video-related tool, the whiteboard is among the most important tools in my video production arsenal. Many times, you’ll want to draw while you talk, adding valuable visual content to your video. Instead of spending dozens of hours trying to add text and graphics in post-production, just use a whiteboard and draw yourself silly. A whiteboard can also double as a nice clean backdrop. Purchase one large enough to cover the whole filming area of the camera, and avoid showing the borders or other distracting background elements (see figure below).

STEP 2: OUTLINE YOUR CONTENT

Before you hit the “record” button and start revealing your best-kept business secrets to your audience, you need to know what to say. By creating a well-organized outline of your content, you’ll find it much easier to discuss your topic on video, coming across much smoother and more polished than you will trying to “wing it” and talk through a topic without an outline.

All you need to do to create your video outline with these 6 elements:

  1. Headline: The title of your video (on your blog and YouTube)
  2. Introduction: States the problem to your audience
  3. Body: Lists your talking points in bullet format
  4. Supporting graphic: N/A unless you add graphics to your video later
  5. Summary: quick wrap-up that builds social proof and lists additional resources
  6. Call to action: Include your offer with the URL or phone number viewers should be directed to

STEP 3: PRODUCE YOUR VIDEO

There are two ways to create a video: with a camera (live action) or without (screen recordings). First, let’s cover the live action format. The following tips will help save time and ensure you’re producing the highest quality videos possible:

Live-Action Video Best Practices: Aside from lighting and ensuring you’re using a neutral, solid background, there are a few more tips for ensuring your videos stand out like no other:

  • Create good composition: : The rule of thirds: “a ‘rule of thumb’ or guideline which applies to the process of composing visual images such as paintings, photographs and designs.[1] The guideline proposes that an image should be imagined as divided into nine equal parts by two equally-spaced horizontal lines and two equally-spaced vertical lines, and that important compositional elements should be placed along these lines or their intersections.[2] Proponents of the technique claim that aligning a subject with these points creates more tension, energy and interest in the composition than simply centering the subject would,” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rule_of_thirds). This is a time-tested rule for the composition of subjects within a frame or photo that is used by painters, photographers, and filmmakers. The gist of the rule of thirds is that placing your subject within one third of the frame creates tension and contrast, making the image more interesting.
  • Choose clothing carefully: Wear solid colors that contrast with the background and avoid busy stripes and graphics on your clothing.
  • Do a test run first: Nothing is more frustrating than creating your online video masterpiece, only to download it to your computer and find out the microphone was off or that the camera shot cut off half of your head. Take the time to do a quick test run by filming ten to twenty seconds of video and then checking the lighting, composition, and audio.
  • Record in 1080p or 720P: Regardless of which camera you use, you should ensure that you are recording in one of these two HD formats. A good rule of thumb is to shoot the footage in the highest possible quality and then worry about size and compression later.
  • Keep it short: When asked how long a video should be, I usually respond, “as long as the viewers stay engaged.” Some videos might need to be eight to ten minutes in length in order to cover the topic properly. However, with rare exceptions, you should generally aim to create two- to five-minute videos. If you have a complex issue to cover, break the content into smaller chunks.
  • Remember pace, tone, and mood: It’s important to maintain a fast, fun pace and tone in your videos as opposed to droning, slow, and monotone. Remember, engagement is key and no one wants to be bored to death, no matter how valuable your subject matter is. Smile and convey a positive, high-energy tone and pace.
  • Get right to it: A lot of video bloggers use lengthy “intros” with extended scenes of graphics and music. Don’t do this—get right to the point. Use your content template and tell them what you’ll cover, cover it, and close with a call to action.
  • Use the first take: If you’re a perfectionist like me, this will be a particularly hard pill to swallow. If you stop and re-record your videos every time you blink, stutter, or say “uh” between thoughts, you’ll never actually launch a video. Use the first take, edit and publish your video, and move on to the next one. Believe it or not, your natural, comfortable speaking voice is more engaging and trustworthy than a “perfect,” newscaster shtick. After all, when a customer walks into your place of business, you don’t get a second take. Keep it real and conversational and pretend you’re speaking to one person.

STEP 4: EDIT YOUR VIDEO

Once you’ve finished recording your video, the next step is to edit your video, making it ready for uploading and syndication. For video blogs, the editing process should be simple and straightforward, with the goal of “getting in and out” as quickly and painlessly as possible. This “light editing” should involve little more than adjusting the intro and outro of your video, balancing sound, and ensuring the video is “encoded” or compressed into the best format (size and quality) for Web-based consumption.

To start editing a video, open up your video editing tool of choice and import the video file from your computer or camera. In some cases, you may be able to skip the editing process altogether, simply uploading video from your phone, camera, or computer right onto YouTube, Facebook, or another website, but I recommend you take the time to follow the four primary steps below:

  1. Trim intro and outro: To make your videos look much more professional, trim off the first few seconds at the beginning and end of your videos, when you’re turning on the camera, clearing your throat, or singing scales to get warmed up. ScreenFlow and Camtasia allow you to easily “trim” your videos to remove these unwanted pieces.
  2. Balance audio: Even when using a lapel or computer microphone, your video might contain uneven or imbalanced audio. Even worse, you may notice background noise. Take the time to adjust the audio track for your video using your software’s simple audio editing controls.
  3. Add images and text: Once you’re comfortable with the basic functions of your editing software, you may want to add images and text to your videos. The addition of logos, title banners, or even calls to action such as a Web address or phone number can really make your videos look and perform better (see following figure).
  4. Encoding: Encoding is ensuring a video is in its best format for consumption on the Web. It’s important for your videos to be playable on most devices in high-quality, preferably HD, format.

The problem that most video producers who aren’t tech-savvy make is not ensuring that videos are exported in the proper size and format. Since our video files pass through two or more separate tools before making it to our blog or YouTube Channel, we need to maintain consistency and ensure the final product is of the quality that we desire.

Most video editing tools now have “preset” compression settings that do all the work for you. Just make sure the resolution of your video is at least 1280 x 720 (HD). This will ensure that your video plays on most devices in high-quality format.

RESOURCE: Vimeo’s Guide to Video Compression

Vimeo has a great guide for encoding video using just about every popular video editing application.

Once you’ve edited and encoded your video, save it to your desktop or location of your choice and you’ll be ready to publish your video for all the world to see!

STEP 5: PUBLISH YOUR VIDEO

Although many CMS systems allow you to upload videos directly, doing so requires you to host the large, space-consuming video file on your server, causing potential performance and bandwith issues. The better bet is to simply upload the video to Youtube, let them host the video, and embed it on your site.

How to Upload Your Video to YouTube

Uploading videos to YouTube requires that you follow a specific strategy for best results:

  1. Log in to Youtube.
  2. Click the “Upload” button.
  3. Select the file you want to upload.
  4. Perform the video SEO steps below.

Believe it or not, optimizing video content for online visibility is an art unto itself. Many geeks like VSEO (video search engine optimization). However, there’s a short list of things you can easily do to gain 90 percent of the SEO benefits from your video files—even if you’re not particularly a tech geek.

Many folks skip SEO steps when uploading videos. This usually results in lackluster performance in terms of visibility, traffic, and conversions. Video SEO is all about doing what it takes to ensure the largest possible number of your audience finds your videos. A part of this will be syndicating your video, but the SEO process starts on YouTube, right where your videos are uploaded.

While uploading your videos, follow these steps for video SEO:

  • Title: Use the specific keywords this content is intended to target, while still factoring in compelling copy.
  • Description: The description is simply a long-form text area used to describe the contents of the video. I recommend the following format when creating video descriptions:
    • Website: URL of the landing page you want visitors to go to
    • Phone number: used to generate calls and help Google match the video with your business
    • Physical address: your full business address, exactly as it’s listed on your website and local business directories
    • Main copy: a unique description of the video content (do not paste from your website or other source), including your target keywords and a call to action
  • Category: Select the best category for your video, usually the simple category of “How-to & Style,” as the options are fairly limited.
  • Tags: Use your target search terms and location-based terms (e.g., “Boston Property Management”). One trick with tags is to search for YouTube videos that outrank yours for the same topic and keywords, then use the same tags they are using.
  • Localizing: One of the most helpful yet lesser-known tools YouTube offers is the “Video Location” field. Using this feature attaches a specific location to your video—a good thing if your target audience is within a specific geographic area. To access this feature, click on “Advanced Settings” from the video editing screen (Figure 89 below).
  • Adding a transcript: As you can imagine, YouTube has a hard time extracting the content from video files (although this is rapidly changing). In order to get the most out of your YouTube videos, YouTube allows you to upload a transcript of your video. Doing so not only helps with SEO by adding Googlebot-friendly text to your video, it also helps make your content available to people with disabilities via closed-captioning. To add a transcript to your video, navigate to “captions” in the top navigation bar and click on “Upload caption file or transcript” (see Figure 90 below).

RESOURCE: Save Tons of Time Using Video Transcription Services

Creating a text transcript for each of your videos is essential not only for uploading on YouTube, but also for your blog and online marketing program in general. There are several extremely affordable and high-quality video transcription services on the Web:

  • Speechpad is a popular site offering video transcription for $1.00 per word
  • Fiverr is a community of folks who will do just about anything for $5.00. I have found a few great sources for video transcription, my favorite of which you can find HERE

How to Add YouTube Videos to Your Site

To add a video to your website, copy the embed code from YouTube and paste it into the body of a blog post following the simple steps outlined below:

  • From the video page on YouTube, click on the “share” button, followed by the “embed” button.
  • Select the size you want the video to be on your site and copy the embed code provided.
  • Open a new or existing blog post. From the edit screen, be sure you’re viewing the editor in HTML format.
  • Next, paste the embed code into the body area and hit “publish.” Your video should be live on your blog.
  • Now all you need to do is add the text transcript and optimize your blog.

Add the Text Transcript to Your Site

The last step in publishing your video blog post is adding a transcript to your site. This will go a long way in helping search engines and visitors find and consume your content more easily. Once you have the text transcript created, paste it under the video on your blog post and shazam! You have a live video blog, without ever writing a word!

BLOG SUMMARY

Online video is the new frontier of content marketing, second to none in its ability to reach and engage your target audience online. Online video is quickly becoming a core component of savvy small business owners’ content marketing strategies. If you act now and get over the “hum” of the learning curve and learn to make simple video blogs, you’ll gain a distinct advantage over your less forward-thinking competitors.

Video marketing requires more than simply uploading a video blog to your website or YouTube channel. For maximum results, you must apply the STAND OUT Content Marketing strategy to your videos, following a clearly defined process, syndicating, recycling, and measuring the results of every video you create.

Have fun, be yourself, and get seen everywhere!

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