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Do-It-Yourself Video?

A video producer explores the limits of DIY and the absolute importance of b-roll.

I never argue that all video must be professionally made. In many cases, creating your own video is in fact the best approach. But all of us also know that self-produced business videos can look … well, self-produced. Frequently they suffer from some combination of poor audio, awkward camera angles, unflattering lighting or odd settings (interviewees in cluttered offices or against a blank wall).

Many of these problems, however, can be easily avoided. So as you consider embarking upon a video project, you need to consider two things. First, should your video have a professional look or will a well-made, do-it-yourself video suffice? And second, if you are leaning towards the DIY approach, do you have the capabilities to do it well?

Think clearly about your market.

What are your clients’ or prospective clients’ expectations in terms of their viewing experience? What do they associate with you and your brand? Will you be able to deliver video that fulfills those expectations?

Knowing what will resonate with your audience is key. If you sell consulting services to CEOs of mid- and large-size companies, your home office interview may not position you as an established, credible voice. But if you sell technology solutions to CTOs of smaller firms, then an informal, even campy video may be just right. (Remember, however, that “informal” and “campy” do not mean you can get away with poor quality sound and inadequate lighting. Bad lighting and sound makes video difficult to watch, and chances are good that your audience just won’t hang on for long.)

Define your purpose.

Is your goal to share information (as in a webinar) or is your purpose to create something more promotional in nature? If you’re trying to share information, self-producing might be a good option as long as you are able to capture audio well. Also, if your video will have a limited shelf life and limited audience, then self-producing is probably your better bet.

On the other hand, if you are interested in producing a promotional video about your company that will include multiple interviews, locations and a more complex storyline, then a professional can help you capture just the right brand experience for your audience.

Be honest about your capability and comfort level.

Many people think that if they have the equipment and staff to capture the footage in production, they’re all set. But a good video also depends on a solid messaging strategy in pre-production and expert storytelling in post-production.

Ask yourself: Do you have the comfort level to prepare for and conduct client interviews? If you are seeking client testimonials or case study material, will you be able to get the filming done properly the first time? If not, are you at risk of having to go back to your clients another time (or is that not even an option)?

Self-producers have a tendency to capture a lot of material and throw it up on their websites, without paying much attention to honing their message. Once you have all the footage recorded, will you be able to edit it to be compelling and concise?

Think of where your money and time are best invested. Should your staff be spending the time to learn how to create video effectively or would their time be better spent on some other business-generating activity?

If you can’t decide, do both.

Creating video professionally or on one’s own doesn’t have to be an either-or scenario. If you decide to film on your own, you may want to engage a professional to guide you on how to get the best outcome. I’ve seen a hybrid approach work well: A client brings us to record activities and interviews at a special, one-time event such as an annual meeting. (You don’t get a do-over for a one-time event.) Then the client shoots b-roll (see sidebar p.15) or supplemental footage independently. Finally, they bring us in to edit the collection of videos and various clips for a website and for a social media plan. There is plenty of room for a collaborative approach with your producer throughout the production process.

If you do decide to hire professional help, be sure to explain to your producer the look and feel you want. Do you want a news-style, man-on-the-street approach or a staged production? We often ask our clients to share examples of videos that they like and dislike to understand what they hope to achieve.