For quick and small projects, the free and low-cost Web video services are surprisingly flexible and robust for your video needs.
Ten years ago, streaming video was low-quality, hard to produce, and expensive to deliver. Today it’s easy to produce with inexpensive equipment and can be delivered to your online viewers by free or low-cost Web video distribution services. Or you can deliver broadcast-quality, high-definition live productions if you have a substantial budget. And even a “substantial” live production budget is a lot less today than it was in 2002.
Live Streaming vs. Progressive Downloading
Live streaming is real time, and needs one connection from the streaming server to the Internet for each viewer. Progressive delivery shoots data packets out over the Internet that are reassembled by the client — or viewing — computer back into a coherent video. Hardly anyone does true “live streaming” any more. If you have a webcam and two computers, you can set up a chat between your two computers using Skype, Yahoo Messenger or Google Hangout and see for yourself that there’s a noticeable lag between your “live” self and your “chat” self. The lag is caused by your image and voice getting broken down into data packets, sent through the various wires and fiber optic lines and routers and other equipment between the send and receiving ends, and getting assembled back into a viewable video. In real life, though, this lag is no problem because hardly anybody looks at the live event and watches the streaming video rendition of it at the same time.
There’s one last question about video chat: “Will it scale?” The answer is, “President Obama did a Google Hangout chat without any technical problems even though 228,100 people submitted 133,158 questions and cast 1,630,112 votes for which questions he should answer, and over 540,000 people watched the video after the fact.
Google Hangout isn’t only for Presidents. You can easily set up your own Google+ Brand Page and host your own Google Hangouts. In fact, here are five hangout ideas meant for retailers, that are also useful for everyone from kindergarten teachers to college instructors to choir leaders.
Chat as Streaming Video
Don’t forget Skype as a chat and videoconferencing tool. Skype video is great for bringing meetings to people who can’t make it onsite. It is good for corporate training — it will even let you share a view of your monitor — and is passable for sharing music, although Skype sound quality is not spectacular. Even better, if you add a $99 program called VodBurner or $60 Debut (which is often available for as low as $29.99) you can record your chat conversation and share it later with people whose schedules kept them away from your live presentation. And this is when you can get into some serious viewer numbers, because people are getting in the habit of watching TV and video when they want to, rather than on your schedule.
Hiring an Online Video Producer
For more robust video creation efforts, like those used for marketing efforts, unless you plan to do at least several online videos every month, it’s probably best to hire an independent producer to make your videos. You can always choose to buy equipment, software, and possibly training for in-house production later, while if you make that front-end investment first, and later turn to an outside production house, you have just wasted the money you spent gearing up to make your own videos.
There are three ways to find a qualified video producer. The easiest is to contact TurnHere or another experienced national production house. They have pre-screened videographers all over the country and will assign one to you. They also have a large collection of royalty-free background music that is legal to use in your video. (Unless you pay a huge fee, you cannot use your favorite Rolling Stones or Katy Perry tune. Sorry.) TurnHere also does quality control after the fact; they will not send you video that isn’t up to their standards, and will pay for a reshoot if one is necessary to make you a high-quality video.
The second way to find a video producer is through referral from fellow members of your local Chamber of Commerce or other business organization. You can also look at local business websites, and see if they have video on them that you like. The same goes for local TV commercials. If a local online video or TV spot catches your eye, call the business running it and ask who made it for them. This is more time-consuming than calling a company such as TurnHere, but you might save a little money and get a little more personal attention than you would from a national operation.
The third way to find a video producer is through Craigslist, which is frequented by many people in arts-oriented businesses. The “tv/film/video/radio jobs” and “crew gigs” sections are where you want to post your request, which should say all applicants must have online video samples for you to look at.
Sadly, a lot of the samples you’ll see will be awful; there are no licensing procedures for people who want to go into the video business, as there are for barbers and professional engineers. But invariably, among the dross there will be a few people whose work makes you say to yourself, “I really like that.” And those are the people you call, after which you negotiate price, who writes the scripts (if you use scripts; sometimes it’s better to extemporize), and whether you will need to hire actors or musicians.
The more complex the production, the higher the cost will be. However, as a general rule, with video — as with website design — the simpler the better, especially with your early attempts. And, again like website design, there may be little correlation between price and quality. Some of the best video producers can charge less than inept ones because they are rapid, efficient workers, which their less skilled colleagues usually are not.
If you look at films and TV shows with a critical eye you will notice that scene transitions and other video effects are often much simpler than in many amateur-made videos. A smart video producer, asked about what kind of special effects he can use when making your video, may say, “Let’s assume that my software can do every shooting-star, blur, whirl, and other fancy effect you ever saw in a video. But let’s not use any of them. Instead, let’s work on making what happens in front of the camera the main focus.”
When making sales or training videos, content is king. You should not bore your audience with your (no doubt handsome or beautiful) “talking head” going on and on, but should use intelligent B-roll to transform a “tell” video into a “show and tell” video that has much greater impact than one of somebody doing nothing but talking to your audience.
Most Important, Have Fun
A big problem with people who are not professional actors or TV personalities is that they tend to look more solemn on camera than in real life. Unless your material demands serious faces at all times, smiles make your videos more appealing. So smile. And keep the mood on your set (which may just be an office or conference room) as light as possible.
Making a movie is great work, even if it’s just a one-minute online video promoting your new product. And if you are working with live steaming video, the only things that separate you from the people who make Dancing with the Stars and American Idol are budget and audience size. In all other ways you are doing the same things they are.
So smile! And enjoy your video work. Your enjoyment will show in the finished product, which will make it more effective than if you and your cast members (who might be your fellow employees) have gloom-clouds hanging over your heads.
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