My Top Video Tips

In this video I share several of my top tips for improving the quality of your video, without getting better equipment.

These are fundamental techniques that people have been using for decades.

Watch the video below…

I hope these tips are helpful to you!

Video Transcript

Welcome to the webinar on the topic of better video without better equipment. This is going to be fun because this whole webinar all the content here today is going to be all about getting better results from your video without necessarily investing in better equipment. So it’s all technique and tips and that kind of stuff. It’s gonna be fun, and I’ve got a lot to share with you.

Alright, so this is me if you don’t know me, I’m Izzy Hyman. I’m the producer behind Izzy Video I also work full time on Paperclipping. I’m the video producer there. It’s a scrapbooking video series that my wife and I have and that’s the vast majority of the video production I do these days is on Paperclipping. And of course I also do a lot for Izzy Video.

Anyway so by the way, this photo is from probably three or four years ago now when I was on the set of a short film that I was producing called “Within”, and that’s shooting with my AF 100 camera and a cine lens that I rented from a local rental shop. Anyway and by the way, it’s it’s attached to a Steadicam, I was doing a lot of steady cam operation on that set. A lot of fun. If you have never done that before. Highly recommended. It’s a lot of fun.

But we’re not we’re going to move away from equipment now for the rest of this. This is how this is going to work today. The total duration of this webinar should be about 40 minutes long. The presentation portion I have planned to be about 30 minutes, the QA should be about 10 minutes or so. And then if you have questions at any time throughout this webinar, go ahead and type them in the questions box. There’s going to be a questions box on your screen. It should be there already if you’re watching this live and you can enter your questions there but keep in mind that I most likely won’t see your questions till the very end when we get to the Q&A section because the area of the panel that shows the questions I can’t see while I’m showing you slides. So anyway, so add the questions there as you think of them and then I’ll get to the end and we can spend some time going through and filling in the gaps that need to be filled in. Okay.

Alright, so my goal for this webinar is to help you pick up some new tips and techniques which you can use to improve the videos you make all without having to increase your equipment costs or anything like that.

The overarching the overarching idea here is that there are different ways to shoot and edit the same action or events, there are different ways to do it. Some techniques tend to yield better results than other techniques. Okay, so we’re going to talk about sort of best practices sort of things, maybe not best practices, but great practices or better practices or something like that. And I’ll just share with you some different things. And we’re also going to watch some demo clips and things like that should be I hopefully, hopefully, I mean, some of this stuff may be items that you’re already familiar with. But hopefully by the end of this, you will have walked away with at least a couple new things that you can start implementing in your videos. That’ll take them to the next level if you want to make it more, you know, better, more better if you want to make them better and more along the lines of what you’re trying to accomplish.

Okay, so first of all, I want to watch a sample video clip. But as you watch it, I want you to think to yourself, this is the same action shot two different ways. And then which do you like better? A or B, right? A is going to be one way to shoot it. B is going to be another way to shoot it.

How would you describe the difference between a and b? I would say that B has more energy. I think it’s more interesting. It’s more visual. It’s more powerful. It’s more fun. You might be able to think of some additional adjectives to describe B versus A. B is definitely not a perfect video by any means. But it’s an improvement over A using just a handful of techniques can make the same action you know, keep in mind that was the same action, getting on a motorcycle riding away, same action, except B was a lot more interesting to watch.

Okay. So one of the things that you can do that can increase the quality of your video is to deal with extremes, and especially when it comes to extreme camera angles and heights. So the general rule of thumb is you want to avoid normal camera height, you want to choose a low or high angle or something like that. Now in this video, what I did is in video A I just have the camera on a tripod at normal tripod height, which is basically like kind of write about, you know, the upper portion of your back or something like that. That’s how high it is. That’s why when we’re we’re looking at this frame in the upper left hand corner here, we’re looking basically, you know, normal person height, right? There’s nothing interesting about that. However, in the second clip, we put the camera down on the ground or closer to the ground. So it’s a low camera height and it’s angled up and it makes the motorcycle look more interesting. You know, it’s more interesting shot. Low angle shots for me and my eye, I love them. I think they’re super interesting. I do them so frequently, even in my casual informal video, I’ll just show you some frames from some different video clips that I’ve shot recently.

And, for example, in this upper left hand corner, I just set the camera – I just literally set it down on a table. This the table that my daughter Trinity is reading on right now we’re at the library. And, you know, I just set it on the table and it makes that shot so much more interesting. In the upper right hand corner, I set the camera on the floor. You know, my son Blake was trying on some shoes, I set the video camera on the floor, hit record, and that’s the shot that I got. And I think it’s interesting. I love the way it kind of have this foreground element of the surface that the cameras sitting on.

And then in the bottom left hand corner, I’ve got the camera once against sitting on the table. And then in the bottom right hand corner once against sitting on a table. So you can see there’s a common thing here. I set the camera down on stuff, I set it on a counter, I set it on a table, I set it on the floor, I’ll set it down on a surface somewhere and capture a low angle. Now I call these table shots, low angles anyway, because the cameras are set down on a, you know, low surface, even though it’s a table which is higher than the ground. But I’m just giving you some ideas. So one of the things you can do to make shots more interesting visually, is to shoot from a low angle.

And you can also do high angle I don’t have I didn’t include high angle type shots here. But if you put the camera up, think about this. Think about when you were were a kid and you’d climb a tree and think about how, or you climb up on the roof of your house or something like that. And you look down and think about how interesting things look from just a few feet higher than where you normally are. Just a few feet. You don’t even have to go that much higher in order to look at the world in a new way, and it becomes more interesting. And the same thing when you’re a child and you’d lay down on the ground lay on your belly and you look around. And things are more interesting to look right into the grass. For example, you’re outside laying on your belly, and you’re looking right into the grass and things look so interesting.

And so low angle shots, and high angle shots give us a chance to see things in a way that we don’t normally see things. Which is why it’s so often a mistake just to hold the camera at normal height at normal camera height and just shoot from that angle. And it’s more interesting. Now, do you always do low angle shots for every shot? No. Do you always do high angle shots? No, you don’t do that. You mix it up, but you use these types of shots to add variety to your video. Okay. All right. So that’s that point.

Another thing that you can do is look for diagonal lines. And what I mean by diagonal lines is look in your image. So look in your frame and look for diagonal lines and if there aren’t some then you can change the angle. You can move the camera to add diagonal lines, I’ll show you what I mean. So here in the A frame, you can see that the lines, the dominant lines in the frame go like this, right? They’re angled a little bit, but not very much, mostly they’re just kind of flat lines. But in the bottom right frame, just by moving the camera over at a different angle then the dominant lines become a lot more diagonal.

And when you have these diagonal lines like this in your frame, it adds a lot more energy to the frame. It gives the frame more perceived depth, even though we really are still looking at a two dimensional frame. All you have to do is have those diagonal lines there that kind of, you know, lead out to a vanishing point type of thing. And it’s going to add more depth to your image. Does every shot need to be like this? No, of course not. And I’m not going to say that over and over again. But my point is that a lot of times you can make shots more interesting by just changing a few things, and this diagonal line idea is definitely one of them.

So for example, if we go to this frame you can see this is just another video clip. And you can see that we’ve got diagonal lines here, you’ve got the diagonal lines of the the top edge of the grass there and the lines in the walls, and they are all kind of angling down to a vanishing point that’s outside the frame, but it gives the frame more energy. A lot of times if you just move to a three quarter angle, instead of being straight on directly facing something, or straight on from the side. If you can just kind of move somewhere between straight on from the front and straight on from the side. If you get to like a 45 degree angle, a lot of times you can, you know, get a more interesting shot just by kind of shooting from the side a little bit more. Another thing you’ll notice about this frame is the camera is pretty low to the ground. The grass is pretty close to it. So we’re shooting, I’m shooting a low angle shot and at an angle to give it some diagonal lines there. We’re going to come back to this a similar frame here in a little bit.

Hopefully these concepts are making sense and I really want to emphasize that these are things that you can do, no matter what camera you’re using. I mean, you could be shooting video with a smartphone a lot of times and do the same types of techniques.

Okay, another thing you can do is think “story”. And what I mean is think beginning, middle, end. And so when you’re shooting, when you’re shooting video, and if you’re thinking story, you want to include all of the elements beginning, middle and end.

In this clip, it was a very simple, it was a very simple story, you know, the beginning is approaching the motorcycle, the middle is backing up, and then the end is me driving away. That’s me, by the way on the motorcycle there.

And so, you know, it’s a very simple story. It’s not an incredibly advanced story. There’s nothing complex about it. But if you – but there’s the beginning, a middle and an end, and I like to illustrate this with simple stories, because – because if you do it with simple stories, then it helps more easily identify where – like the elements that are missing from more complex stories. So if you practice – and you know I talk about Small Story videos all the time. If you practice with these smaller stories, the more simple stories, then it helps you with your storytelling capabilities. Okay, so this is just a beginning, middle, end here. And then I have a video clip I want to share with you that illustrates beginning middle end.

Alright, have a great day at school.

Good luck today. Love you.

Hello, Aiden. Hi, how are you? Good. You have a good day at school. Yeah, did you? I had a great day. Thank you.

Why did I show you that very simple clip. This is just a casual video that I shot about, you know, sort of a day in the life type of video. And part of my routine is dropping Aiden off at school, picking him up later when he’s done with school. And you can see that that was a story that was a very simple story. Dropping him off is the beginning. Text, just titles just text right in the middle, seven hours later, that was the middle. And then the end was him getting back into the car. Hey, how was your day, right?

Now imagine that same video clip, that very simple story without the seven hours later, he just gets out of the car, and then it cuts to him getting back into the car again, the middle would be missing and it’d be really strange. or seven hours later, followed by the end, right. So if you if you don’t have the beginning, the middle and the end, then it feels like something’s missing because something is missing. Part of the story is missing.

Okay, now, one of the general rules of thumb is that you’re very frequently going to have at least three different shots. The beginning shot, the middle shot, and the end shot – at least three. Sometimes in fact, it probably most of the time. In reality, you’re going to have multiple shots that make up the middle for sure. Sometimes multiple shots that make up the beginning, multiple shots that make up the end, but there – but you’re always going to have beginning middle end when you’re telling a story.

Okay, so that illustrates that. And that’s something if you include those types of things, people will feel like when they’re watching your videos, they’re just following along with the story. They’re just following along with what’s going on. It helps engage your viewers more.

Okay, another thing you can do is cut out action, or cut on action, or both. And when I say cut out action, I mean like, for example, you don’t include all of the action, you’ll notice that when, in the video clip of the motorcycle, I showed you in A, there was – in A, I just walk up, and I get on the motorcycle, and I back away and it’s all done in one – one video clip with no cuts, nothing like that.

In B we cut, we cut – let’s see – twice, we cut two different times because we use three different shots. So in the first shot, you see me approaching the bike. The second shot we cut to be more straight on. And then I start backing up and then in the third shot, we cut and your just – and I’m just driving away. So there are cuts there, we’re cutting out action you don’t need to see. We’re changing to a different angle. And we’re re-displaying and now the obvious question here is, how did you shoot this? Did you use multiple cameras? Well, in this case with this video clip, we just did the same action multiple times move the – use one camera, moved it to different camera angles and shot the same action.

Okay, so then we cut on the actions. And by the way, when you cut on an action, you’ll notice there’s the part where where I’m approaching the bike, and then I reached my foot up to kick the kickstand, and then right as I’m doing that, it cuts to where I’m kicking the kickstand at a different angle, and so that it helps hide that cut – that’s called cutting on action. And if you’re dealing with a video, a series of videos or or several different basically angles on the same action, then you can do that type of thing. You can cut on the action to switch to a different angle that helps hide that cut, makes it more invisible to your viewer and that’s, you know – just watch any movie or TV, and you’ll see that frequently they cut on action.

If you cut without having it be on the action, without having to be some sort of action that they’re cutting on, then the cut shows up a lot better. In fact, it sometimes it’s like, very obvious, the cut is super obvious. And that’s something that you can do actually is do what’s called a jump cut. In fact, I think we live right now in the age of jump cuts. It used to be that I would say pretty much stay away from jump cuts, because people did it by accident, usually, but if you do them right, if you do them on purpose, then it’s actually a very great stylistic device that you can use. And YouTube is definitely full of jump cuts. I mean, there are jump cuts, it’s the style, it’s a it’s sort of like a YouTube style. If somebody is talking to the camera, they’ll cut cut, cut, cut, cut, and it will be just tons of jump cuts, going you know, the cut out the spaces in the talking or whatever and it totally works and viewers are used to that now. Whereas it might have been kind of – it might have been kind of – you know, a tool to get your attention to much in the past now I don’t, I think sometimes people don’t even notice it as much, because it’s so common. So jump cuts are something that you can use. In fact, I’ve got a, a demonstration.

That was just an example of jump cuts. And you know, it’s it’s great for montage if you have a part of your longer video that includes a montage, a sequence, you know, of video images, you can use jump cuts like that, but like I said, people even use them when they’re talking directly to the camera, you can totally use jump cuts intentionally on purpose. And, you know, it’s not as, it’s not as surprising as it used to be in the past, because it’s so common. And the good news is that they’re very easy to do. Okay, so those are examples of jump cuts.

Another thing that you can do to make your videos more interesting is emphasize short shots. Include in your final video edit just short segments, four to six seconds because the human eye, the human brain, I guess, we get kind of bored these days, especially in the age of the internet, we get kind of bored, we like to see new things. And so if you just move the camera, if you just cut and go to a different angle, that’s something new. If you cut and go to a different location, that’s something new and so you’re always presenting to your viewers something new to see. And that’s going to help hold their attention more.

Now in order to use a four to six second clip. In the field, you’re probably shooting 10 second clips, you know, you’re setting the camera up hitting record shooting for 10 seconds, and then hitting stop roughly. So if you’re always making sure that you get 10 seconds, sometimes people will just record two or three seconds of video and then later it’s really hard to use that footage in your final edit because there’s not enough content there to really use it. So you know, try to – try to let it roll for 10 seconds. 10 seconds can feel like an eternity when you’re shooting, especially if you’re just you know, hit record and you’re waiting. I don’t know, sometimes it feels like a long time. But go ahead and get that 10 seconds of footage so that later on, you can use four to six seconds in your final edit.

This is a good strategy I like to – I like to recommend, and that is to think of your setups when you’re setting up your camera. Think of them as moving photos. So, you know, arrange the frame as if you’re taking a photo, but you hit record, and you’re capturing movement, and you’re capturing speaking and you’re capturing sound, right? So if you’re thinking of it, like a photo, you compose like a photo, hit record and capture the motion too, then you think, Oh, I want I want to get an interesting frame. Right? And if you’re thinking from the perspective of I want to take an interesting photo, and it just happens to include motion, sometimes that helps you get better imagery, to capture better imagery. So you can think of them as photos, moving photos, photos with motion, and then you want to have an emphasis on variety.

So here are some clips from the video that I used in my Final Cut Pro X training several years ago when I released it, and you can see that we really, I mean, if you just take these individual frames, you can see there’s a variety and you can see that these are basically set up like photos, like we’re taking photos, except there happens to be movement in the frames, right? And there’s quite a bit of variety. We have extreme close ups, close ups, talking head shots, shallow depth of field shots, aerial shots, I mean, quite a bit of variety there just in these nine different frames. Okay, so a variety. Still – think still photos almost except with motion, so I’m taking photos except with emotion and sound. Okay.

One of the other things that I think people need to do more just based on the videos that – that I see not only on YouTube, but also every once a while. quite frequently people will send me videos, and I don’t have time to watch all the videos that people send me but but I do try to watch at least a little bit of each one. And I’m surprised how many videos just don’t have enough faces, close ups of faces. If you watch TV, a lot of the shots are close ups of faces, even in movies, a lot of shots are close ups and faces. And more videos, humans, people, we love to look at faces. We love faces. And especially we love to see people’s eyes because that tells so much emotion, which is one of the reasons why good lighting is so important just to go off on a tangent here a little bit. But if you’re the face of the person that you’re shooting is lit in such a way that you can’t see the whites of their eyes. If you can’t see their eyes, then it’s going to be hard to really know what’s going on with them in terms of their expression and the nonverbal communication and that sort of thing. So we need to be able to see their eyes. So shoot close ups and shoot in and make sure that we can see their eyes, if possible, unless you’re doing it on purpose where you can’t see their eyes.

So here’s a couple still frames from video clips. You can see obviously, with Aiden here on the left, you can definitely see his face – his faces. I mean, obviously I’m his father and so I think his face is super interesting for me to look at, but faces period are interesting for humans to look at, it’s built into us. So include faces, if you’re going out and shooting video. And you just for example, let’s say you’re camping and you just want to get some footage of the forest, if you can, get somebody in there, in there with along with the forest. So it’ll make the shot more interesting automatically to have a person in there and especially if we can see their face. And then here on the right side, I include this still frame because you can’t – This is my wife, Noell, and you can’t even see her whole face because she’s hiding behind the menu there a little bit. But it’s still it makes it more interesting. The fact that we can see even just part of her face and the fact that we can see her eyes kind of, right? It’s just just more interesting, I think. Anyway.

Alrighty. The next tip that I want to share with you is to fill the frame with your subject. So once again, I’m using the same frame here from Aden. And you can see that his face basically fills the frame. I mean, in fact, it’s so much so that his hair if you look at the top, the top of his hair isn’t even in the frame. Because, you know, what am I emphasizing, you know, whatever you feel the frame with that is what you’re emphasizing. And I really want to emphasize his face, I was basically taking a moving portrait photo of Aden here with this. And so, you know, I’m just shooting this video clip of Aden, I fill the frame with his face. And that goes for anything, if you’re shooting a product, fill the frame with the product, if you’re shooting any kind of subject, whatever the subject is of your frame, and if you can’t figure out what the subject is of your frame, then you should rearrange the frame so that it there is a clear subject of the frame. And that’ll make it more interesting, right. Okay, so I want to give you another example of not filling the frame. So here’s an example. This is just a stock photo. I didn’t take this this isn’t this a screen grab for any of my photos. But I think it does a good job of illustrating what happens if you don’t fill the frame. I mean, the subject – I think the subject of this photo isn’t necessarily the lady in the photo. I think the subject is the environment because there’s so much of the environment showing up. I think that’s really what this frame is all about. It would be totally composed differently. If I really wanted her to be the subject if I was the photographer, which I wasn’t, but if I was the photographer taking this, then I would do in a totally different way. I’d get in really close if I wanted her to be the topic, but if I want the environment, the wall, you know the environment itself to be the topic, then I would shoot it wide like this. Whatever you fill the frame with, that’s what the subject is.

All right. Another great tip. Remember, I promised you more than a dozen and we’re delivering this. And another great tip is to capture depth in your image. Include a foreground element, a mid-ground element and a background element in your frame when you’re shooting video. So you’ll notice the foreground element here is the edge of a tree. That’s a very common thing. If you watch a TV show or movie, a lot of times establishing shots or the wide shot that they start a scene with. A lot of times the camera will emerge from behind some foreground element, a wall, a tree, a car, a counter, or a bar, something where it’s blocking the frame, the camera moves out from behind that foreground element to reveal something else that’s in the mid ground.

And the mid ground in this case is Aiden in this frame, and then a background element, which is the flowers, the wall behind him. But keep in mind with a foreground element, a mid ground element, which is my main subject here and background elements, then what happens is this 2d image now has a perception of depth. So it’s just a flat screen that we’re looking at this on, but there’s a little bit of perceived depth in there because of the foreground elements. So now, this is one of those things that really you train yourself on, you, you intentionally go out like, maybe you just pick this topic and you say for the next week, I’m going to go out and take photos. I’m going to shoot video where I’m intentionally focusing on foreground elements. I’m including foreground elements in my shots. And so you’re looking for opportunities to have foreground elements because you literally have to train yourself with this, you have to train yourself.

Sometimes you might be looking at a video clip and going, man, this is kind of boring. And I don’t know why. Almost always one of the things that you could do to make things more interesting is to have some sort of a foreground element in there, maybe just around the edge of the frame. And it’ll just give it additional depth. And so that gives it additional visual interest. But it’s one of those, it’s a great thing to practice, because it’s a habit that you build, so that when you’re out there shooting, you’re thinking, you know, I’m going to go look for foreground element or this item would make a good foreground element. You look for those opportunities. Trees are very common one to use outside.

Or another tip is to capture people working, capture your subjects working, go over their shoulder, it’s always a good idea. If somebody is doing something, shoot over their shoulder to show what they’re doing. It’s kind of like, it’s kind of like you’re standing behind them looking over their shoulder and watching what they’re doing. And that is something people love to see. Viewers love to see people doing things, right? And so if they’re working if they’re working with – in this case Aiden’s using his Rubik’s Cube, but if they’re working with pottery, if they’re doing some sort of construction or woodworking, or if they’re making a meal, or if they’re doing any kind of crafting or whatever, anything, if somebody is doing something with their hands, then it’s, it’s very frequently a good idea to get behind them, shoot over their shoulder and show what they’re doing. And another thing that you can do is you can go in for an extreme closeup. Now this frame is not an extreme close up, this is just your – an over the shoulder type shot. But if you go in for an extreme close up, then you can see up close what somebody’s doing. And that’s a great shot to include in the mix.

So capture them working, look for opportunities, if somebody’s picking a plant, if they’re gardening, if they’re you know, working on a car, whatever, look for an opportunity to shoot over their shoulder, and you’ll have a great shot that you can possibly use in your video edit later. Another thing you can do is actually reverse it, capture the opposite point of view. So instead of shooting over the shoulder, this time, I’m shooting up from the table where the Rubik’s cube is, and Aiden is looking down at it. So it’s sort of like a turnaround, right what they call a turnaround where you shoot the opposite point of view. And, and that can be an interesting shot too, especially because the item that they’re working on is right there in the foreground. It is a very strong foreground element there, Aiden’s hands with the Rubik’s Cube strong. And I – in fact, I ended up using this shot as the opening shot in the video that I ended up making from the footage that I shot of Aden with the Rubik’s Cube, because I think it’s a nice strong opening shot – the close up, the emphasis on the Rubik’s Cube, and it shows the concentration on Aiden’s face as he’s – as he’s working on it. And this is just a still frame from a video clip, all these images are still frames. Okay, so capture the opposite point of view. That can be a really good idea as well.

Okay, and then while you’re out there shooting, another tip is to look for interesting opening and closing shots. be thinking what – you know – what would – out of all these shots that I’m getting today, what would be a good opening shot for the video that I make out of this. What would be a good closing shot, think of the opening shot as something that’s going to immediately capture the viewers attention, and you know and make an impact on and make a good first draw a strong first impression on them. And then the closing shot is what you leave them with. It’s what they walk away thinking about or it hopefully it’s something that they kind of lingers with them. Not a lot to say about this just look for opening and good strong opening and closing shots. A lot of times these end up being wide shots that show the environment but not always.

Okay, another thing is to include natural sound. Somebody not too long ago sent me a woodworking video where it was all this interesting. It was a it was interesting visuals it was amazingly interesting visuals. But the problem with watching this video was that there was no sound of the woodworking what happened it was a montage, just a sequence of video images where all the sound of the work itself was eliminated. And instead there was just music playing in the background. It was a nice song. It was pretty music but you know music I think a video should be able to work without music most of the time and so unless it’s a music video of course but but you know err on the side of including the natural sounds of the environment I want to hear it I feel more distance between me and the video. Like if I’m watching woodworking I want to hear woodworking as I’m watching it because that’s interesting sounds, you know, the sanding and the sawing and the scraping and then pounding and all this. These are interesting sounds. Now it could be that that shooter was out there and didn’t have a microphone with them or something like that. But pretty much every camera at least minimum has a built in microphone. And so you know, capture the sound, err on the side of capturing the sound and then later on, you can make the choice not to use it if you want, but err on the side of capturing it. And if you use that sound, there’s the natural sound of the environment that’s called natural sound or “nat sound” is the short, you know, short term for that in video production, and we like to hear imagery – we like to hear imagery as much as we like almost as much as we’d like to see imagery.

I know people like me, I’m really, I’m an audio person. I love good audio. And I miss good audio if I’m just watching a woodworking video with absolutely no, no sounds of the woodworking. It was, to me it was just like painfully obvious that that should have been there. Anyway. All right.

Another tip is to make sure you have sufficient light, and a great tip is just to put somebody up against the window. So here for this video clip, Aiden, we were looking out at the rain, it was raining outside and I said Aiden go stand right there at the corner and he stood there on the corner and window light. Everybody knows this. It seems like window light is just beautiful light. I like the lighting here on this. This is a video frame. It could be a photo but it’s not. It’s a video frame. And it’s well lit because we’re just I’ve just placed Aiden standing facing the window a little bit. He’s tilted his body his face is kind of towards the window even though he’s looking at me at the camera. If you could see the rest of this video clip by the way, you would see that he actually made a series of faces so this is like the one frame where he wasn’t making a face.

All right. Another thing you can do is add narration to help move your story along. I’ve talked a lot about narration in the past. But narration can help bridge the gap, it can provide a transition as you go from, for example, you can narrate a little bit and then go to an interview clip that helps support your point. And then you could go to natural sound that shows what the work is, it’s being done, for example, and then you can go back to narration and back to sound bites and interviews and just go back and forth. And it gives you something to listen to. More videos, not all videos, but more videos need narration. In fact, almost all of the videos that people send me for me to watch I like the one thing that’s almost universally true is I watched that video and I think that could really have benefited from some narration. Because I don’t know, I don’t know the answer to these questions who, what, when, where and why. Sometimes people put text on the screen, but I still have lots of questions who, what, when, where and why. Right. The narration helps that. It also kind of helps lead the story along and it feels less montage. A montage can be a good thing, but a story is even better and narration helps tell the story.

Another thing is to consider avoiding transitions. When you feel yourself being drawn to a cross dissolve, don’t use it, try not using it consider just having transitions at the very beginning and the end of your video just to fade in. Then we watch the video and then it fades out and those are the only two transitions try to tell make a whole video without – without using any kinds of transitions or fades or cross dissolves except at the very beginning and at the very end and that can help you improve your videos. I watched a video was it yesterday or the day before I watched a video that somebody sent me the watch the first couple minutes of it and in the you know my my my takeaway from this video was that just just too many dissolves like everything dissolved into something else. It was just you know, every few seconds actually there was a dissolve when straight cuts would have been fantastic. straight cut means no transitions.

And then finally and this is my last tip for you, before we go to Q&A. But finally, and this is an important one to me, does the video pass the eyes closed test? If you close your eyes and play the video, does the video still make sense? Can you still follow it? Do you generally have an idea of what’s going on? And I’m not going to have you watch this video right now, because I’ve been showing it a lot in webinars lately, but the Aiden’s cube video, I think it does a pretty good job of passing the eyes closed test. If you watch the video with your eyes closed, and that’s a challenge I have for you to do after the webinar’s over. Take the two minutes to watch that video. It’s only two minutes long. Except don’t watch it just listen to it. Just put headphones on listen to it or just without headphones on. Just close your eyes, hit play close your eyes and see if the video still makes sense. Generally makes sense to you. And if it does, then it passes the “eyes closed” test. Anyway, so if you – if this is something that you challenge yourself to do with your own videos, where one of the steps that you take and you won’t have to do this eventually but maybe when you’re first getting started, play the video, close your eyes. See if it still makes sense. If it if it still does, then that’s a pretty good indication that you’ve done a nice job of communicating the information that you need to communicate in the video. Alright, so does it pass the eyes closed test?

And that’s it. So now we’ll go on to the Q&A section and I also have a handout for you.

20 thoughts on “My Top Video Tips

  1. Thank you for the video about tips. I have three comments:

    1) The first example adds music in shoot B. A better comparison would have been achieved if music had not been added.

    2) I think jump cuts should be called “junk cuts”. They’re horrible, almost always, because they destroy continuity.

    3) I wish that the editors who make trailers would follow your advice to avoid transitions. It seems that trailer using dissolve to black are nearly 50% black.

    1. Thanks for the comment, John!

      Yes, the music is another difference. I couldn’t resist using it for that example. :) Hopefully the other differences were significant enough for the comparison.

      Regarding jump cuts. Lots of folks don’t like jump cuts either. You’re definitely not alone. In the past I didn’t love them, but they’ve really grown on me.

      YouTube is so full of them, I think the current generation is quite accustomed to them. And there’s no arguing with their efficiency. All the “talking head” videos on YouTube are sped up significantly because they use jump cuts.

      Anyway, thanks for sharing your thoughts!

      1. I think that one of the first mainstream movies to creatively use jump cuts is A HARD DAYS NIGHT. That film broke a lot of rules, but it shows creative use of a style that influenced music video – which the film was in its own way – and eventually – YouTube. But, like any technique, too much, too poorly used: boring.

    2. John,

      I agree about the tendency to depend on transitions. I edited a 1 hour documentary for a producer-director friend of mine who insisted on cuts only thoughout the whole project. I was skeptical at first, but learned quickly that by controlling the duration of a shot, the viewer was ready for the scene to move on and a cut was welcome. However, I was able to insert one dramatic dissolve about 50 minutes in to introduce the “last act”, dissolving from a birthday party dinner scene inside the sailboat, to a gorgeous sunrise long shot of the boat, sails full, the next morning. OK change of time and location merited the dissolve. I won that one, but learned a great lesson about the power of simple cuts.

  2. Regarding thinking as photos with movement — so true. Let the subject provide the action, not the camera. So many amateurs feel they HAVE to pan or tilt or zoom instead of allowing the subject matter provided the movement, even if minimal. Just watch CBS SUNDAY MORNING nature shots of a close up of bugs moving, wildflowers shifting in the wind, cows grazing, or a creek flowing. All these shot with a stable camera.

  3. Lots of good tips for storytelling, with simple easy to understand examples. I’ll definitely keep these tips in mind for my videos. I am addicted to dissolves in my wildlife videos, I’ve considered them all but essential for working with wild talent. It’s hard enough to get any shot, let alone one where you can match motion. I will try. Thanks

  4. Thnx Izzy for your info and lesson.
    Surely the A and B film gives me a big change of filming.
    You’re always very clear on explaining things. So even I :) can understand.

  5. When you were talking about “moving photos” I immediately thought of the John Huston movie “The Quiet Man” with John Wayne. It is like a series of paintings of Ireland come to life.

  6. Your tips were very helpful. Specially using the hard cut between clips. I realized I was overusing them. The remaining tips were a real refresher to improve the shots and editing.
    Thank you Izzy.

  7. Late to the party here. I do not like your “acceptance” of jump cuts. Just because it’s on YouTube doesn’t mean it’s good. (Talk about self evident.) Next thing, you’ll be pushing vertical video, because it’s all over YouTube.

    Yes, a jump cut can serve a purpose and can be effective, but should only be used if it serves the story, and never be used out of ignorance or because you are too lazy to come up with a better plan (or too lazy to shoot b-roll). Your examples work because of the nature of the piece (and one of the cuts isn’t even a jump cut).

    Anyway, editing decisions should always support the message, and serve the viewer.

    OK, off my soap box. I like your presentation otherwise.

    1. I totally agree that just because it’s on YouTube doesn’t make it good. :)

      Your comment sparked some additional thoughts on jump cuts…

      I suspect that the popularity of jump cuts on YouTube makes them more palatable for many people, and personally I’ve found that I’ve grown to like them because I’ve seen them so much. When I first saw them used so much on YouTube, I found them annoying. Then I got used to them. Now sometimes I don’t even notice them because I’m so accustomed to them.

      It reminds me of how the MTV style of super quick cuts became so popular in the early MTV days.

      I want to be clear that I’m not suggesting we all start adding more jump cuts to our videos (or start shooting more vertical videos), but I think it depends on the types of videos we’re making. There are certainly plenty of production budgets devoted to vertical video (on Snapchat, Facebook, etc.).

      Anyway, thanks for the great comment! :)

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