- General Best Practices
Internet video streaming and downloads is predicted to increase to over 80% of all consumer Internet traffic by 2019. (That’s this year!) Has your school prepared for the increased demand for short, easily-consumed video content?
For most schools, the answer is “no.” According to some preliminary results from our Inbound Marketing Benchmark Survey, 28 percent of school marketers have not made a significant investment of time or resources in video thus far for a variety of reasons including budget, time, and experience. Another 8 percent have not used video at all.
However, producing high-quality marketing videos for your school website doesn’t have to be a challenge, or even expensive. But it definitely needs to be a priority! Ninety percent of consumers say videos help them make a purchase. Another 68 percent of people say they prefer to learn about a new product or service through video — while only 15 percent prefer to learn via reading.
We know that producing great video content can seem daunting at first, so we’ve prepared some important considerations and video marketing tips to help you meet the growing demand for video marketing, some of which we regularly use in our own videos.
For even more production and video marketing tips, download our FREE School Video Marketing eBook!
1) Plan your video based on your available equipment
It’s always a good idea to take stock of your available equipment before you start filming, since that directly impacts the final result.
The best place to start is with your phone. Yes, most modern phones are fully loaded with enough technology to record high-quality video. For example, check out the trailer for Tangerine. This 2015 film was shot using three iPhone 5s. Or, watch the trailer for Unsane. Steven Soderbergh shot this 2018 film entirely on an iPhone 7 Plus.
Granted, these are professional productions with a large crew and other professional equipment, but these examples show that your current phone is more than capable for the job with the right combination of patience, practice, know-how and skill.
But that doesn’t mean you can just point your phone at your subject and hit record. No, you’re going to have to adjust some settings, and maybe even buy some equipment and download an app. Still, the total cost for this option is easier to digest for your business manager than a new digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) camera, or something even more expensive.
Let’s assume for the time being that you just want use your phone and nothing else. Great! You can still capture amazing footage. All it takes is a few camera adjustments.
For iPhone users, head into your Settings app, then scroll down to the Camera tab. For those with phones other than an iPhone, you’ll find settings similar to the ones outlined below in your phone’s camera settings. It’s harder to provide screenshot examples since the settings menus aren’t as standardized as the menus are across all of the various iPhones.
First, tap the button to the right of Grid to enable the grid overlay; this will be invaluable for framing shots (more on this shortly).
Next, select Record Video. You’ll be presented with a list of resolutions and frame rates. I’d recommend sticking with the 4K options. File sizes will be larger than the 1080p and 720p options, but you want sharp and clear video. You can always export your video into a lower 1080p resolution using video editing software.
That leaves you with three choices. For web content, we recommend sticking with 4K at 30 fps (frames per second). Most videos you see online are played in 30 fps. If you want to achieve a more cinematic look, perhaps for videos not going online, try 4K at 24 fps.
Techsmith has a great blog all about the history and differences of the common frame rate formats. The simplest explanation is that adding additional frames to each second of video creates a smoother and more realistic depiction of movement.
In their video example, the spaceship moves smoothly across the screen at 60 fps while the lower frame rate examples introduce an increasing amount of stuttering since there are fewer frames per second available to replicate natural, smooth movement. The spaceship in the 15 fps example practically jumps across the screen.
24 fps became the cinematic norm early in the 20th century since it was the minimal amount of frames per second needed to create the illusion of smooth moving pictures.
Television later popularized the 30 fps format since the additional frames per second created a smoother image and gave television a valuable tech advantage in the battle to capture America’s free time. The percentage of the US population that went the the movies on a weekly basis dropped to an all time low following the popularization of affordable television in the late 1950s to early 1960s, and has never recovered.
Internet video largely stuck with the 30 fps format due to the precedent set by television. However, the more practical reason was that the video files were smaller than the higher frame rate options that were starting to become available. Remember how long it took to download images in the 90s? Imagine trying to download a longer 60 fps video with the same connection. It could have taken literally days.
4K at 60 fps will produce a significantly larger file. This option is best for recording footage with a lot of movement, such as sporting events. Higher frame rates produce a much smoother video, making it easier to follow action like people running or a ball being thrown.
Whatever you choose, stick with the same frame rate throughout the video. Switching back and forth is incredibly distracting and a sure-fire way to make your viewers nauseous.
You’ll also find an option to Lock Camera if you have a newer iPhone with two cameras. Enable this option to prevent your phone from randomly alternating between your phone’s two cameras while you’re recording.
If you plan on capturing slow motion footage, navigate to the Record Slo-mo tab. Here you can choose between 1080p HD at 120 fps or 240 fps. The 240 fps option will produce a larger file with a significantly slower slow motion effect. 120 fps will be suitable for most sports-related events, but feel free to experiment with each.
One final adjustment is found in the Formats tab. High Efficiency reduces file size while Most Compatible saves your videos in the H.264 format, which is the most common format used to import into most editing softwares. The choice is mainly personal preference, but 4K at 60 fps and 1080p at 240 fps requires High Efficiency.
You can produce great-looking video with just these adjustments, but you can further improve the quality with some external equipment. The single most important piece of equipment you should purchase is a tripod. This is true for recording on a phone or DSLR camera.
No one likes watching shaky marketing videos. And if you’re like me, keeping a phone or camera steady in your hands is nearly impossible. Steady footage makes a world of difference and quickly elevates the quality of your videos. Fortunately, you can find a long list of tripods for $30 or less on Amazon. Adjustable-length tripods for DSLR cameras will cost you a bit more.
If you really want to push the limits of what you phone can do, look into an external lens that replicates the look of a DSLR camera. There are plenty of options out there, but I recommend the Moment Wide Lens. The $120 lens captures a wider and higher quality image than your phone’s built-in lens (note that the lens requires an M-series Photo case for an extra $40).
To get the most out of your phone with the least amount of money, I highly recommend the ProMovie Recorder + app. It’s the same app I’ve been using for nearly two years.
The $2.99 app provides so much more control than your default phone camera. You can quickly adjust resolution, audio recording quality, shutter speed, ISO, white balance, focus, and more without leaving the app. It’s my go-to option whenever I don’t have a DSLR camera on hand.
A DSLR camera will almost always produce a better quality image than any phone because DSLR cameras have better lenses and provide more options for controlling exposure, white balance, focus, and recording formats.
Amazon sells a large variety of entry-level DSLRs, most of which cost less than $600. These kits commonly include a variety of lenses, a tripod, external flash, and 64GB SD card. They’re the perfect entry-level cameras for any school and likely will serve you well for five or more years before you should consider an upgrade.
For schools with a larger marketing budget, consider looking into a professional handheld camcorder or video camera from brands like Sony, Panasonic, or Canon. These three brands typically produce a higher-quality image than their competitors for a (relatively) affordable price that can range anywhere from $800 up to around $6,000 or $7,000.
I’ve always been a fan of Sony camcorders, and I recently co-purchased a Sony PXW-Z150 for use on my own films and shorts, but all three brands have incredible options. You can find a limited listing of handheld camcorders from each brand on Amazon, but you’re generally better off checking their individual websites for a wider range of options with more details.
2) Don’t forget that audio is half of every video!
Now that your equipment is taken care of, let’s talk about the unseen element that can ruin or improve any video. It’s your audio! An amazing video is worthless if the audio sounds like it was recorded through a tin can. Remember, audio is half of every video.
The quickest and easiest fix for poor audio is a high-quality lavalier microphone, especially useful for interviews. You’ll need a different lavalier mic if you’re filming with a DSLR camera. Lavalier mics generally cost anywhere from $20 to $100 for higher-end models. You’re always better off spending more money when it comes to mics. You don’t want to skimp on audio.
If you’re going mobile and want to capture audio directly in front of you, consider purchasing a shotgun microphone. These mics generally cost $20 to $200. Likewise, it’s generally better to spend the extra money for a higher quality piece of equipment.
Shotgun mics capture audio in a cone-shaped area directly in front of the mic with a similar range and spread to most shotguns firing buckshot. You’ll capture the highest-quality audio with shotgun mics when you’re close and directly in front of your subject. Audio quality quickly degrades the farther away the subject is and the farther they are on each side of the mic.
You’ll also want to purchase a windscreen for your shotgun mic. These are invaluable for eliminating wind that would otherwise ruin your audio. If you’ve ever filmed on a windy day, or in the middle of a wide-open field or near the ocean, you’ll know how loud wind can capture on your microphone, easily drowning out all other sound.
For most indoor interview or narration recordings, a condenser microphone is another safe bet. These microphones won’t beat lavalier mics most of the time in pure audio quality, but they are a lot more flexible and provide more options.
You can find a plethora of great USB-powered condenser microphones that start around $100. I used the Blue Yeti USB Microphone - Blackout for a number of years before upgrading. These work well for schools on a tight budget, but they produce a sound that is a little metallic and will require some post-production audio adjustments to clean the audio and add more bass, in most cases.
Professional (non-USB-powered) condenser microphones will push the prices towards the several hundred dollar price point, even more for the best of the best. You can also find condenser microphones for most phones.
Like shotgun mics, keep condenser microphones close to your subject. For the best audio quality, keep the tip of the microphone between six to 12 inches away from your mouth or chest. You’ll also want to buy a pop filter to put in front of the microphone to reduce or remove the popping sound commonly found when people say words that begin with Ps or Ts.
If all else fails and your audio needs some cleaning up, most modern editing software includes some form of DeNoise (to remove background audio) and Vocal Enhancer (to improve spoken audio) options under the Audio Effects tab. The names might change depending upon the editing software you use.
However, you shouldn’t rely on your editing software too much. Cleaning your audio with these effects should only be used if needed and as a last resort option as it’s fairly obvious to tell when they’re used, especially if they’re only applied to a handful of clips. You’re much better off reviewing your audio while recording than spending the time addressing the problem after the fact.
The one thing to remember is that art is subjective, even marketing videos. There are certainly objective aspects, such as good or bad audio and lighting, but what one viewer hates another viewer may love. So get creative and experimental with each video. As long as you follow these tips, you should be able to easily produce high-quality videos to keep up with the growing demand for more video content.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
As Finalsite’s Product Marketing Specialist, Andrew writes blogs and creates videos to share information about all the latest and greatest Finalsite products. Andrew has more than 10 years of video production experience and a journalism education from the University of South Carolina. He is excited about bringing his experience and expertise to Finalsite.
- Content Marketing