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How to create engaging videos on a low budget




Ai: Hello everyone! We are live and welcome to another live webinar, organized by SEMrush. And today, we are discussing one of my favorite topics, which is how to create engaging videos on a low budget. Joining me live is an amazing group of speakers and panelists. We are all in for a treat. 

Before I get started, I just want to take a few minutes to introduce our amazing panelists and speakers to you guys. My name is Ai, I'm the host of today's show. and I will start with our speaker today, Dominic. Thank you so much for joining us live, Dom.

Dom: Hey! Thank you very much for having me. 

Ai: Awesome. Yeah, welcome. And where are you joining us live from?

Dom: I am just outside Edinburgh, a place called Strathaven in the country. I've got a country office, a country studio.

Ai: Wow, I love this. Dom, let me just do a quick introduction... you are the vlogging guy from domoneill.co.uk. Dom has a Master’s degree in video production and management where you specialize in online and on-demand content. You have over 15+ years working across the EU with major TV productions, live events, companies, online platforms, video stations, making quality video content for global blockbusters and different venues. 

Nowadays, you help businesses use video production in their marketing, sales and online strategy. You will be doing a quick presentation on why we need to use video and share with us some equipment, some gears, some tips that we need to use and implement in order to create engaging videos. I'm going to move on to our panelist Phil. 

Phil Nottingham is a brand marketing strategist at Wistia. Speaks around the globe about video strategy. And you are deeply passionate about creativity in business and have consulted a video strategy for some of the biggest and the smallest brands in the globe, including Red Bull, the Financial Times, Simply Business, Travelex and ThoughtWorks. 

And last, but not least, and I'm going to introduce Ross Tavendale for joining us live and I actually just watched a few of your videos on YouTube, Ross and I love your energy. You are just so amazing.

Ross: Thank you, Ai. That's you and my mother, that makes two viewers.

Ai: You guys should definitely check out his YouTube channel. Very entertaining, educational. Ross is the managing director at Type A Media and you host a very popular show called Canonical Chronicle, which is a weekly SEO news video show and has been viewed by 100,000 people every single month. I'm so honored to have this panel to introduce you guys and let's get started. Dom, it is your stage.

Why You Need to Create Video Content

Dom: It's very difficult to talk about video without talking about why we're creating video. I'm going to take a little bit at the top of the show here, just to kind of go through why you might want to use video. And obviously, video can be done at different levels and different stages and today we're talking about the no budget to low budget end of video.

Why are we creating videos? Well, by 2020, 75% of all mobile data traffic will be video. I mean that is a huge amount of power going to people who are creating videos. That's a huge audience. 

Currently, roughly 59% of executives agree that they'd rather watch a video than choose text to learn about a service. That's people who have money. People who are buyers, people who are calling the shots of B2B. It's very important if you are selling B2B.

Video is extremely important for people who are selling B2C as well. Four times as many customers would rather watch a video about a product than read about it. You've got to bear in mind that these days, people are not necessarily watching or consuming your content on telly while they're sat on a sofa with no distractions. Most people are doing it, maybe up to 80% of your audience will be doing it on a mobile phone. 

Mobile phone is roughly around about 5.5 inches is the average screen on a mobile phone which is quite small. The writing is therefore much smaller. The brain and eye are really clever when you read a signpost, the eye and the brain actually don't read the letters, they just see the shape of the word and can work out what the word is. 

However, if you're looking on a screen, the eye and the brain can't do that, so they have to literally look at every single letter and so you get much more tired much more quickly reading from a screen, so that's why people do not read as much as they used to compared to the written word. The beauty of video is you are literally pushing content out to people in a way that is much easier for people's brains and eyes to deal with.

We want to be putting out quality video content. Quality is always better than quantity, especially if you're wanting to sell. It's all about building trust. And if you are not breeding quality in your videos, it is much harder then for folks to trust.

We are also wanting high value at low cost. You're building, you're creating content on a low budget, you need to follow the Guerilla filmmaking model which is high value, high-quality stuff as low a cost as possible. 

It's all very well making video week for 100 days or video a day for 100 days, but actually you're wanting a much longer time frame. You're wanting more of a series mentality. It’s not a sprint, it's a marathon we're doing and I say, weekly or preferably kind of daily, maybe three days a week is around about the amount of content you're wanting to be putting out there. 

But at the end of the day, it has to be sustainable for you. If you can't sustain three videos a week consistently, then maybe scale back to two until you learn to sustainably do three. That would be my tip.

Tools and Tips to Create Successful Video Content

This is the question I get asked, possibly more than anything else. What tech do we need to get started? You go on Amazon, you go on Alibaba...your mind can be blown with the amount of tech you could fill your house with or your office with to create videos. 

But my advice to anyone starting out is, you need to work out your 'Why'. Why are you making videos? Who you are aiming them for? And what level of video they are expecting? 

You also need to work out how many of your videos need to be more advertorial and how many of them need to be more behind the scenes. And those kinds of things will help you work out what technology you want to buy. 

A smartphone with a camera is a great way to start. I know lots of people who go out and buy DSLR cameras, and then I meet them a month later, I go, "so what have you been filming? And they are like, "Oh, nothing I kept on forgetting my camera." And it's like, "guys, seriously." 

A smartphone with a camera is great because most people will have a smartphone with a camera on them. They can get it out and they can film and edit it and distribute it on the smartphone. Free editing software on the smartphone is awesome. It's really useful to have a little bit of editing. And maybe put in music on that kind of stuff, just put a little title just make it look a bit more professional stand up above everyone else.

Free software: you've got iMovie for the iPhone. And Quik is an amazing bit of software that's for iPhone and it's also for Android. Selfie stick and/or a tripod; lots of selfie sticks now can turn into little tripods. It just means that your hands are free just means your videos look a bit more professional than if they're arm's length kind of videos. 

Again, it's all about making you kind of stand out above the rest in these teeny tiny little changes can make a huge difference to the quality of your videos. The problem with microphones on smartphones is they’re what's known as omnidirectional. 

But before we spend a penny on any microphones, there's free things you can do, which will make the quality of your audio better without spending a penny. Literally without spending a penny. Closing the door, especially if you're in an office, if you've got other people around, you're closing the door and put a sign on the door saying “filming in process” makes a huge difference. That then limits background noise and limits noise spilling from outside but you can also limit the noise spilling from inside. 

We need to try to avoid anything that hums or anywhere that hums. Also if you film in an empty room, you will get echoes and echoes can be quite distracting. To avoid that, we film in rooms that are full of soft things, sofas, curtains, carpets, all that kind of stuff helps to soak in the sound. 

If you are willing to spend a bit of money on microphones, and I definitely recommend that you do, you don't have to spend a huge amount of money. I know people who will happily drop hundreds on microphones but that is their joy and they love what they do. Until you're at that level, around about $100 is a good price for microphone. The ones I've seen for less than $100, the quality is not always great. 

The two options are your Lav mic or your Tie Clip mic. Those are nice and easy to use. And they're great because it gets the microphone much closer to the mouth, but they're not so great in busy locations. Shotgun microphones are really good. They literally look like a shotgun. I've noticed AI you have a studio mic, and those are excellent. 

Don't use the microphone on your laptop especially if it's got a fan because it'll be a poor quality might be omnidirectional and the fan will be closer to the mic than your mouth and therefore a fan will be heard over your mouth and your voice basically. 

Another question now, people are like "Dom does lighting actually matter? Bad lighting adds 50 pounds, bad lighting brings out the bags under your eyes, bad lighting brings out the wrinkles and the wrinkles on your face. Good lighting actually will do you a lot of favors. You can drop hundreds or even thousands of pounds on lighting rigs. But what you really want to do when you're starting out is maximize daylight. 

And try to avoid overexposure. For example, if you're sat in front of a window and it's very, very sunny outside, you will then become in silhouette and the background will be overexposed. 

That's our tech. We've got a camera, smartphone, we may well decide to use some kind of microphone, but actually we film in the quietest space to start off with, we might get away without having one or just using the microphone that comes free with the phone. Then we're using daylight as much as possible and we're making sure we're not having the shadows on our face.

How to Make Your Videos More Engaging

We'll move on now to try to get a bit more engagement out of our video. We're posting them online. We wanted people to engage and comment and create conversations. Ultimately, in my mind, that's what it's all about, creating conversations with people and great ways to do this is to get people in your video literally like we're doing here today. 

Get people in your videos because it takes the pressure off you coming up with all the content, but also everyone else in the video is bringing their audience to the party as well. Everyone else in this video is helping to promote the video.  Either star in other people's podcasts or web videos or get others to start in yours. 

Leverage live events. If you're at a massive live event, do loads of filming there, you'll bump into loads of really, really good people, you'll bump into really influential people who you may not have had access to normally film with them. Make sure you tag, hashtag the event. 

About native content: we should be sharing content directly onto the platform. Back in the day, it was really so super simple. You stick your video up on YouTube, you get the link and then you go into scheduling software and just put the link to YouTube video and all your social media platforms. 

But actually, you can get up to five times more comments and engagement on LinkedIn. For example, if you are posting directly onto the platform; that is literally going into the app and taking the video from your phone and putting it straight on the app itself, that is native content. That is massive. And it makes such a huge difference to comments. 

I see so many people still posting YouTube videos. And I know that so many people aren't going to watch it. It does not autoplay, people have to go out of their way to press play, and it takes you to another site. Always upload direct to the platform. 

Keep your processes simple and sustainable. Every bit of technology, every bit of process you add, you're inviting failure in. I've worked on massive, massive productions where something has gone wrong. And we've traced it back to the fact that a wire wasn't plugged into a bit of technology. The more complexity you have in your processes, the more technology you add to your processes, the more the likelihood of things going wrong. 

Film on your smartphone, edit on your smartphone, distribute on your smartphone. You have one device which you're worrying about, and a handful of bits of software, just keep it simple at the start. Practice makes perfect. And that's me.

B2B & B2C Video Content

Ai: Wow, that's great. Thank you so much. We are going to start a Q&A and Dom and Phil and Ross all of us we are going to answer your questions as many as possible. The first question, "If you can talk about the video content performance in different industries like B2B and B2C? I know you were talking about, 75% of the internet traffic will be video content. But how about in different industries, B2B or B2C, any differences?” 

Ross: I've always had this thing I prefer doing B2B videos. I think it's a touch harder, but you always know who your audience is. Typically with B2C, it's a little bit harder to know who you're not making it for. If it's going to be very product-led, the setup you're going to need is going to be very different. Therefore, I always think that B2B is actually an absolute gift because you know the people you're targeting perfectly. 

Dom: I'm very much like you Ross. I think B2B is very easy to work out kind of who your superstars are? What it is they want? What kind of industries that are in? B2C can often be a bit harder. You also need to look at, if you are happy to see that you actually have customers in your region actually using the app. In Scotland, there's not a huge amount of people, especially in the West Coast of Scotland who are heavily using Instagram.

Phil: I would just add something I think that I think B2C and B2B are converging in a certain level of marketing in terms of targeting who you speak to. In every case, you're speaking to a subset of people, a niche audience or a community. I think video is increasing more effective when it's very targeted for a specific subculture.

B2B is often surrounded by communities and increasingly people are having conversations on WhatsApp. Slack is huge, like Slack is just this enormous B2B Social network that's sprouted from everywhere. And it can be the place to kind of for people to share and discover your brand. I think if you can find a subculture audience to speak to, this is where you're going to find some really interesting opportunities for great kind of video ideas. And that's where I would advise both B2C companies and B2B companies to start looking. 

Hacks for Shooting Better Indoor Videos

Ross: Quite a few people asked if you guys can share more tips regarding shooting our videos indoors. And do we make our own reflectors or use the DIY methods? Any tips? That would be great.

Dom: You really need to look into the Guerilla filmmakers handbook. Guerrilla filmmaking is a way of making films and making videos on a very low budget, you can get fantastic lights for not a huge amount of money on Amazon and eBay, LED lights are really good. 

I have what's known as a halo light that goes around my camera, it means that I can be lit consistently using one light.And it's fully controllable so it can be adapted to my skin tone. Even on big TV shows, we make our own reflectors out of polystyrene boards which are usually used for insulation in walls. 

Phil: Yeah, I would just advise getting some LED panels making them really diffuse with some sort of well even tracing paper or something in front of it will work. Just make it as clean and as soft as you can and just get a high color temperature so something that 5000K is probably where you want to get that nice kind of bright indoor look if you can.

Ross: When it comes to spending cash I would definitely spend a little bit more on lighting and trying really overspend. If you've got any overhead lights switch them off. There's a bunch of, if you go to Homebase or B&Q in the UK. Excuse me, I don't know any hardware stores in the U.S. There's a lot of builders.

Phil: Home Depot.

Ross: Yeah, exactly. I'm sure that you can get them from up here but 20 quid for like a builder's lamp which is like a full on floodlight. That's probably quite a good option to start... doesn't look very pretty. Just get something that's high powered and has got a day lightbulb in it and diffuser.

Dom: Something controllable as well so it can be turned up and down. If you've got too much light or too little light, there's not a huge amount you can do but if it's controllable, it's worth paying that little bit more for controllable lighting.

A Basic Video Equipment Budget

Ai: If someone is just kind of starting out on this journey, so can you give us a price breakdown so people can have an idea especially for those who are kind of like starting off.

Dom: I've got the Halo light which is around about 150 US dollars,  it's around about 120 UK pounds and that came with its own stand. What you can do is you can get an adapter which goes on top of it which means you can then put your camera or your phone straight on to that stand which means you don't necessarily need a second tripod. An adapter is usually around about $20. 

I also bought a Selfie stick, which is also a mini tripod again that's around about $20 for decent one of those. I bought a couple of external microphones the Shotgun microphone for about $100 dollars and a Tie Clip microphone began about $100 so for my traveling kit, which fits into one small bag which going the overheads on the plane is around about 300 not including obviously cost of a smartphone.

Phil: You can really you can build a kit based on any budget. And it's all about kind of working out how to spread it out. The stuff that's actually going to add most value of things like tripods and stabilizers and anything like that, it's probably going to give you more variety and dynamics you can do with your actual camera. Then invest in lights and microphones. 

Ross: I've got a slightly controversial view on the whole skimping on equipment. When I was playing guitar for the first time I bought a really cheap electric guitar and the frets were horrific and it cut me up and it would get out of tune constantly. It made me really not want to play guitar this much and then I upgraded to a decent one that just felt so much considerably easier and the output was better.

Save up, it makes a big difference and also even if after six months it's not happening for you, you still got something that you bought for $4,000...it's probably still worth that. You can get some of your money back. But one of the things we realized during this, we've shot new 78 videos over the last 12 months and as we incrementally increase the quality of equipment, the output, I mean, and it's just my stupid face, but the output quality is considerably better. 

Phil: Yeah, I actually completely agree with that, Ross.

Dom: Yeah. If you buy cheap, you buy twice, cheap stuff will break earlier. And so you need to replace it sooner. It's worth just working out what is the minimum you need to buy and buy the best you can afford of those items.

Best Types of Video Content for Each Platform

Ai: I love those answers. I want to kind of shift our focus a little bit, I see that we have quite a few questions coming up related to your personality and content. Let's start talking about content. There are all sorts of content that we can produce under the big category of Video: teach people how to do something, or traveling, or vlog, or even live streaming shows. 

Phil: YouTube is really a platform that's primarily oral or rather than visual. The stuff that works on YouTube tends to be like lectures, podcasts, a webinar. Facebook and Instagram are inherently visual, in fact, mostly people tend to watch them silently about 95% silent, so you need to kind of operate on the assumption that no one's going to listen to the video, and make sure that it's visually appealing on those channels. 

LinkedIn is kind of a weird one that I'm not quite sure where it's playing right now. But a lot of people are just doing quick kind of, we've got a phone and we're talking into it type thing. But for me, the most impactful and I think where most video marketing is going is longer form. 

Ross: I think playing to the strengths of the talent. Do what you're comfortable with.

Dom: With videos on spaces like Facebook and what have you, you're talking about needing to be over within 40 seconds. And so if you are winging it and fluffing it you'll go over for 40 seconds, people will go off and you'll have not got your call to action, you have not got the reason for that video out in time. Knowing where you're going within the video is really, really important. And you either lead scripted, or you learn to train yourself in your mind to know kind of to start at the end and how to fill the middle.

Ai: I love this. I think you were talking about producing longer-form content, so can someone explain “longer”? How much longer is longer are we talking about an hour? 

Phil: I basically just think of the formats. They've worked on TV and movies for the last hundred years. There's space for 15 minutes segments, there's space for five-minute shots, there's space for half an hour. The length of the video is really not so important. 

It's more than that particular content idea and what length that supports that. I would always just think about it is like form has to follow function and think about the format that you're making and what length best serves that. In some cases, there's an hour and a half, and it can be a long, sort of movie type thing. In some cases, it can be an hour, in some cases, 45 minutes that there's really no right or wrong answer to this.

Dom: The difficulty with long-form is keeping attention. Netflix the BBC, the NBC spend a fortune, keeping people's attention. The average shot length in a Hollywood movie is under four seconds. If you're making a 90 minute movie, every seven and a half minutes, something has to change the move on to the next scene. And every four seconds the shot changes. And that keeps audiences engaged. 

Adding Captions to Videos

Ai: Earlier on we were talking about how sometimes people watch videos on Instagram or LinkedIn or Facebook…in silence...which means captions a very important. If you have any, like good tools or recommendations on subtitles services that we can use, or can share with our live audiences.

Phil: I mean, I just use Wistia for subtitles or and we integrate with Pre-play media. And then Wavetop video is very good for like stripping everything and cutting variants for Instagram and Facebook and that kind of thing.

Ross: Yeah, we use Wistia to do the old transcriptions because I've got a little bit of an accent. We actually burn them into the video themselves. The reason being is you can control the size and the output and the speed, and you can kind of use it as a bit of a branding thing as well so you can get your fonts on there and thinks for that. We use Premiere Pro to just start burn them into the video of themselves. Rev.com and things like that to get the actual transcriptions done but the Wistia service literally just auto-captions things for you. 

Dom: If you have an iPhone and you're going down and kind of this self-shot vlog route, there's a great app called Clips. And it also does the captions for you. You've only got a handful of choices of what kind of font styles but the fonts are very good and actually, apart from possibly the west of Scotland accent it is very, very accurate. 

Tips for Camera-Shy People

Ai: I love this. Yeah, I love all the tools that you guys mentioned. But there are two important questions I want to ask. People ask me all the time 1)  is, “I'm so camera shy. I'm afraid of being in front of the camera. I don't want to look at myself. I'm not used to looking at myself”.

All of you are very experienced videographers. What are some tips or strategies that you can share with our live audience to help people be more comfortable?

Ross: I don't think they're camera shy. I just think they're afraid of being judged negatively. And that's the crux of it.

Ai: Be you.

Dom: Very true. I work with a lot of high-end presenters who've been presenting for years and a lot of presenters especially in the start get over their nerves by creating a character in their mind. And so they are on stage as a character. When you get that in your mind that people are actually they don't actually know you necessarily; they know you as a character, which they've created in their own mind, it’s actually a lot easier. 

I actually don't mind haters. I think it's quite good. Because if you're doing something good, if you're doing something interesting and important, you're groundbreaking, you will attract haters, because you're doing something different, and you're scaring people into making the decision. I'd rather people either love me hate me, then had no opinion on me at all. 

Phil: The only other thing I'd is about sort of technical level is that I think nerves are often very related to breath control. And if you are a good performer, you usually have good command of your breath. And that comes through practice and it comes through experience, but also, just things like yoga really help so I always try and get people to do a bit of a physical warm up something simple, and just controlled breathing and practice that kind of flow and stability. Because if you have the stable breath, you're going to speak clearly you're going to speak slowly and things will go better.

Finding Good Topics for Video Content

Ai: My last question is people always asked me like, what to talk about? I don't know if we have some people also thinking about this right now. They feel like, "Oh, other people are already talking about this. They're so much better like you guys, all of you guys are so awesome. I'm doing what you do. What do I talk about?" For those people who are struggling with ideas or topics or content to discuss, so any tips or tricks, strategies that you can share with those people?

Ross: When it comes to topics, so we're SEO people, ultimately, keyword research is a good place to start for informational stuff. Although typically what we'll do is you'd be surprised how many very basic humans there are in the universe. I wouldn't be too worried to start with something broad. 

Dom: Most of my best training videos have come from a comment in a past video. I've made a video about specific subjects on someone's gone, "Ah Dom, what about this?" And the beauty of that is, it is your audience telling you that they want to know this subject. And so you're not guessing whether or not people want to know it. 

Frequently asked questions via either by email or on Social media. Again, if it's your audience and your customers saying, "We need to know this, we want to know this. We don't know this." And if you can help them with that, then that is a massive but it also means that you have an almost inexhaustible source of content.

Phil: Yeah, I really agree that I think all the best ideas essentially come from an inside is driven by a problem that a customer or a community have. It's all about finding what those core problems are. 

Ai: I love this great insights and great tips. We are just wrapping up here. And for each of you, I want you to share maybe one parting piece of advice regarding creating engaging video.

Closing Thoughts on Creating Engaging Videos

Dom: Really the key is to start conversations. And so if you're wanting to start conversations, you kind of need to ask something in your videos. Your videos need to have a point. And you need to be respectful of your audience's time. 

Phil: My fun tip will be the metrics that you get from YouTube and Facebook Instagram are not very good and they tell you a lie. I would always recommend downloading that information and trying to strip out all of the views that are really just somebody vaguely passing on their phone. Too often that numbers that they tell you, they give you these huge inflated metrics of millions of people watch the video. But in reality, it's millions of bots and millions of people who actually ignored it. Use the really true data that you can get from that platform if you just kind of do the homework to get a clear view. 

Ross: To piggyback off of Phil's thing about analytics, I would say, you're starting to not look at analytics until you have 10 videos live and just get into the flow of creating things and publishing things and then worry about analytics.

Ai: I will just end adding one point for myself. Perfection doesn't exist. And getting started is the key. Action creates clarity and builds confidence and community and momentum. Thank you so much, everyone. 

Dom: Bye.

Ai: Bye.

Ross: See you later.

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