3 Ways to Make Your Videos Better (Without Breaking the Bank!)

You can make your videos better by playing around with hundreds of different things. You can work with different camera angles and change the sound settings in your camera, for example. That type of stuff doesn’t involve spending a dime. Which is awesome. But it hits a certain point where you can only do so much.  You honestly have to spend money if you want to get to that “next step.” And when you’re working with video, it can be extremely intimidating when prosumer cameras are selling for 5,000 dollars, lenses can be 12,000 bucks, etc. But today, let’s not worry about money. Because you can dramatically increase the quality of your production by investing in these 3 tools, which are all pretty cheap.

1. A Glidecam

When you’re trying to film handheld with a DSLR camera (or any camera for that matter) you know how shaky the footage can come out. So you’ve probably invested in a tripod, which is good for a lot of instances, but after all, you’re limited to pans and still shots. What happens when you need a quick moving shot that’s running alongside somebody? Or you need a shot that starts on the floor and goes up vertically? You used to have to invest in a dolly, slider, camera crane, etc. And all that good stuff would cost a ton of money. The Glidecam gives you the power to get all different types of shots in one system, and it can often be found for under 250 bucks.

Here’s what the GlideCam looks like in action:

2. Buy a Super 8 Camera

Super 8mm movie cameras were most popular in the 1960’s and 70’s. They were very basic. And they gave you an old, dusty looking picture with basic color. You can usually find a decent one on eBay for as low as $30. Then you just buy the film and get it transferred so you can work with it on your computer. That can get a little bit costly, so just make sure you’re only shooting Super 8 when you really want to use it in a video. And simply put, don’t overuse it. So you might be thinking…how on earth would that make my video better? When used correctly, these cameras bring about an incredible sense of nostalgia to any video. It’s really a feel that’s unmatched.

This video was filmed entirely on Super 8. And it only came out a few years ago.

Toro Y Moi “Still Sound” {Official Video} from Steve Daniels on Vimeo.

The video below is mostly filmed with modern day equipment, but is edited to look and feel similar to an 8mm camera. There are shots in there that could even be filmed with an 8mm camera.

BIGBEAR x 1000 from 1000 on Vimeo.

3. Get a Color Grading Application

Cameras are designed to give you a good image coming straight out of the camera. But if you want a great, unique, and interesting image that gives your video a mood, you need to change your camera settings for a flatter, duller image that’s easier to color grade it in post. Many people prefer to use the color grading tools right in their editing system, but others prefer to use an application like Magic Bullet or VSCO to make the process easier.

Here’s an example of the power of Magic Bullet:

ROME. from Jeremy Janin on Vimeo.

The problem? It’s $399. Which in the grand scheme of things isn’t terrible, but we’re trying not to break the bank here. Let me introduce VSCO for film. It goes for usually $100 or less.


Life in Ventura. VSCO Film 03 from 5 Mile Films on Vimeo.

What are your inexpensive tips and tricks for making your videos better?

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4 Tips for Making Your Video Go Viral

Everyone wants to make a viral video. This is a fact. Just think about how great it would be — millions of views, some local/international fame, and people who want to meet you. And then when the video’s hype has died down, you get two choices. Either keep pumping out videos and hope you rise to stardom, or just kick back and let people remember your awesome achievement. Pretty good gig in my opinion — just one problem. There’s no exact way to make a viral video. If there was, everyone would be doing it. You could follow every single thing I’m about to tell you, and your video still might not go viral. But the truth is, viral videos often have a lot of things in common, and that’s what I’d like to share with you.

Length & Title Choice

Videos that go viral usually have very similar lengths and titles. The title has to be something that’s going to stick in a person’s head. This is pretty simple. If you have a hilarious video of your friend singing, you don’t want to name it “Funny Singing.” “How to Sing Like A Champ” would be a lot more memorable. And for the length, the shorter the better. Keeping your video under 2 minutes and 30 seconds is usually a good idea, although going a little bit over might not hurt. There are always exceptions to this rule, too. An exciting, shocking, micro-documentary could be 10 minutes long and go viral. But that’s more about content, which we’ll discuss next.

As a tip, try to get the audience intrigued in the first few seconds. With the help of apps like Vine nowadays, attention spans for video are getting shorter and shorter.

Emotional Connections

Simply put, people have to connect with the video content on an emotional level. Humor often works best, but you can also create a video that’s romantic, nostalgic, unbelievable, “so true”, etc. Or awkward, which is where I point out my favorite YouTube channel, LAHWF. Andrew Hales, the man behind the famous YouTube channel, got his start by creating a viral prank video that was painfully awkward and funny at the same time. And people could put themselves in his shoes. Here it is:

To this day, Andrew creates (mostly awkward) prank videos that connect with people. You often leave his videos with the “I could see that happening to myself” mentality. His newest viral video, however, hits people with a touch of happiness:

Celebrity Influence

Another way videos go viral is with the help of celebrities, or what I like to call “half-celebrities” (people that are famous in their own industry.) If you’re lucky enough to feature someone famous in your video, you’re increasing your viral chances ten-fold. But what I’m mostly talking about here is celebrity video sharing. If you can get people in power to share your video, you’re in luck. Pull some strings and talk to who you can. And share your video all over the place — which is what we’ll talk about last.

Promotion & Marketing

Once you thing you’ve got a great video, it’s time to promote and market it. Don’t be shy! You have to believe the material is truly fantastic. That’s how you’ll know you know it has a shot at going viral. Get the video posted on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ a few times. Don’t drop the video every hour, but spread it out casually. Talk to your friends and get them to post it too. Then use the power of online message boards. Post your video to large online communities. Definitely don’t forget Reddit, aka “the front page of the internet.” So many viral become viral because they’re posted there. Then, sit back and hope the video will snowball.

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Making Your Videos More Creative

In a world that’s over-saturated with videos, everybody is trying to find that way to stand out.  Creative filming and editing can make or break your video!  With practice and time, you can make your videos more creative.

First and foremost, tons of people are switching to DSLR cameras to film nowadays.  So if you don’t have one, I highly suggest getting one.  It’ll make your videos more creative right off the bat, and you can get a good camera with a lens or two for 600 – 800 dollars.  Using DSLR professionally for video is still in that awkward stage.  You’ll be showing up to a shoot with what looks like just a photo camera, yet it can produce powerful, vibrant video.  And a lot of people will think you’re taking photographs.  But that’s not anyone’s fault.  DSLR footage is awesome to work with because it provides the option for a shallow depth of field.  That means you can only focus on certain subjects (if you choose!)  Those videos with a nice blurry background and a clear subject are the work of DSLR cameras/lenses.  It’s fun to play around with depth of field and see what you like.
Also for creativity, be sure to mix your video with all different types of shots.  I’m talking close up pans, far away stills, low angles, etc.  DSLR video really packs a punch, and you will have to buy multiple lenses and keep switching them depending on the look you’re going for.  I’m not going to lie, using a traditional video camera is a lot easier.  But we’re after creativity here, right?  You can’t get that with a regular camcorder.

Editing is equally as important as filming.  Often times you’ll notice a video has great cinematography, but the editing lacks.  Or vice versa.  It always impresses me to see crazy good filming AND editing.  It really shows off a skilled videographer.  In editing, remember that it’s almost ALWAYS about keeping the watcher entertained, and NOT about the length.  If your final video ends up being shorter than you thought, your watcher will probably thank you.  Did you know the average attention span in 2012 was eight seconds?  Short and sweet is probably the way to go, as long as you’re not sacrificing good content.

But what about editing techniques?  Quick cuts, constant movement, and good music will do a lot for a video that’s supposed to be fast paced.  For slower videos, multiple angles and effects are important.  You can look into downloading free/legal film burns to add flavor and color.  Or you can get an 8mm or 16mm film camera and try to create them yourself.  You can also download free light leaks, or you can try a technique called lens whacking when you’re filming.  That will make your video dreamy and give it a feel like you’re really there.

And after you do all of that, your choice of where to put your video is very important.  For most videos that have a truly cinematic/artsy/fun feel, you’ll want to use Vimeo.  The Vimeo community is much more focused around professional video production than Vimeo.  The Vimeo help forums are extremely helpful, as well as their messaging system for contacting fellow cinematographers.  Video comments are clean and respectable 99% of the time, and you’ll sometimes get good advice without asking.  One of the biggest issues people have with Vimeo is that it’s smaller audience can lead to much fewer views.  While often true, it isn’t always.  A truly cinematic video can get more views on Vimeo.

Both of these (exact same) videos were published by the same filmmaker/company on YouTube and Vimeo, and the Vimeo one has about double the number of views:

Hopefully you found these tips interesting and helpful.  For creative video, it’s all about practice and developing your own style.  A lot of cinematic choices aren’t right or wrong, they’re simply up to the videographer.

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