Shooting a how-to video isn’t rocket science – and you don’t need fancy video equipment or post-production software to do it. Let’s go over some of the basics on how you can shoot your how-to video properly.
Background And LightingYou don’t need a fancy set for your video. The main draw is the information you’re providing – everything else is just extra.
- Put a simple backdrop behind your table or wherever you’re working – a simple bedsheet is enough. You can invest in a green screen later.
- Keep to a neutral shade for your backdrop – a beige or light brown is a good all-purpose color. White tends to get “blown-out” by lighting unless you have an expensive camera/light setup.
- Invest in at least two moderately bright lamps, and place them opposite of each other, facing the demonstration area at a 45-degree angle. This will provide even lighting, and reduce shadows.
AudioAudio is also important. Even the most informative video is useless if your voice is crackling or popping, or too quiet to be heard due to a poor microphone. Here are some good rules of thumb for your audio setup.
- Buy an external microphone. Seriously. Don’t use your on-camera audio. The cheapest $15 wired microphone from your local big-box electronics store will give you audio a hundred times better than an on-camera microphone. So buy one. Seriously.
- Set your mic near your work-table or other site where the shooting is taking place. You want it to be close enough to pick up your voice, but it shouldn’t be visible in the shot.
- An external microphone also lets you do voice-over work post-production, if necessary.
ShootingYour shooting style depends on your resources – if you have two people operating cameras, things will be easier, but you can easily make a great video with just one camera.
- For two-camera shooting, make sure you’ve designated your cameras correctly, and your operators know what they’re doing. Camera A will take the primary shots and will have the microphone connected, while Camera B will film cutaways and closeups, recording audio to help you sync up the footage with your voice-over later.
- For one camera shooting, begin by running through the entire video with the camera on a tripod, filming everything that you do throughout the video. Once you’ve done that, you can go back through with a cameraman and film your closeups and cutaways.
Closeups and CutawaysAlmost all how-to videos require close-ups and cutaways. These shots help show required materials, demonstrate important techniques, and give viewers a good idea of what, exactly, is going on in your how-to video.
- Shoot cutaways after you’ve finished the main footage – you’ll know exactly what shot to for and isolate.
- Don’t move the main camera while filming, whether using a one-camera or two-camera setup. If you do, editing will make the video look strange – instead of a consistent shot, the main view will jump around after each cutaway or zoom shot.
- Ensure that the video has continuity – though you’re filming close-ups separately, they’ll still be edited into the video seamlessly. Don’t switch a wrench from your left to right hand in a close-up if it was in your left hand during the main shot, etc.
- Edit in your close-ups in the appropriate place in the video – and do it right when the action is taking place. If you start attaching a piece of wood to a model rocket in your main video, you should switch to the close-up right when you start to attach it. This allows for a fluid, intuitive viewing experience.
Add Graphics In Post-ProductionYou don’t need a ton of fancy graphics – but having some basic instructions, examples, and information written out is certainly helpful, and easy enough for anyone with access to a computer and basic filmmaking tools.
- Start with an opening, and keep it consistent. Every single video you make should have the same basic opening, even if it’s as basic as black type over a white background.
- Do the same at the end – a closing graphic with information about you and your website helps engage your audience, and keep the feeling of your videos consistent.
- Don’t get fancy. You don’t need to spin your text around, use fancy animations, or anything like that. A basic fade-in is plenty, and the text should be easily visible – white text with a black border is the best on every background.
- Leave your text or graphic up long enough that it can be read twice – this will allow quick readers to digest it easily, and give slower readers enough time to understand it.
- Bullet points are useful for presenting large amounts of information without overloading your viewer. Tool lists, part lists, next steps during a particular process, and so on.
- Keep it simple. Your viewers are there for information. Don’t use loud backgrounds, hard-to-read text, or fancy animations. They are distracting, and can even be seen as unprofessional.