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Viral Video Production Guidelines

More and more large companies are turning to viral video by posting clips on YouTube and other sites to increase brand awareness and to promote themselves, but what really works? In some cases the quality of the video is so poor that message gets lost in the distraction of the medium. Some posted videos have segments that are under or over exposed, out of focus, unsteady, badly composed, have terrible audio or have other technical errors.

Sure, technical errors aren’t a very big deal for most of the material on sites like YouTube, but eliminating these errors dramatically improves a video’s chances of success. Also, these errors can send the wrong message about a company’s commitment to quality. If a company is willing to make compromises when creating something they post for the world will see, what does that say about the quality of the material they manufacture or the services they provide?

We recommend hiring pros like us – what a surprise – to help you create video you want to go viral with. We have more and better gear, we know all the quality controls, all the tricks and all the problem solving techniques to achieve ideal results that let your audience focus on the message rather than be distracted by technical errors and production quality compromises. However, producing a quality viral video without hiring pros is definitely within anyone’s reach. We’ve created some general guidelines that you might find useful if you’re considering creating something viral on your own. 

1.  Have something to say. YouTube is full of videos that don’t tell the viewer anything more than, “look, we got a camera.” Before recording anything identify the message you’re trying to communicate and condense it down to a single sentence. When shooting, refer back to that sentence regularly.

2.  Use a tripod. Yes, there is plenty of handheld video out there that looks just fine, but video looks more professional if shot from the stable perch of a tripod. This is especially true for video to be posted on the web. Stable footage shot from a tripod compresses better, streams better and looks clearer because it makes fewer demands on the playback system. If you have to shoot hand-held, keep the lens zoom set to wide to better conceal camera shake.

3.  Lay off the zoom. This is a big one. It is really tempting to zoom while shooting, but rarely does it add anything to the effectiveness of the video. Most feature films don’t contain a single zoom, not one. When a zoom does happen, it is usually out of necessity rather than a creative choice. Zoom to adjust the shot, then start recording.

4.  Use a microphone. The audio is at least as important as the video, and the on-camera mic just isn't good enough for someone speaking on camera. Buy a cheap lavaliere (tie-pin type) or shotgun microphone and use it every time someone is speaking in your production.

5.  Light your subject. Use additional lights, reflectors or windows to make sure your subject is at least as brightly lit as the background (ideally the subject should be a little brighter). Also make sure that overhead lights aren’t creating dark shadows in the eye sockets.

6.  Be brief. The longer your video is the less likely your audience is to watch it. Consider how much information can be delivered in a well produced 30 second commercial. Virtually every story ever delivered on the TV news magazine, 60 Minutes is eight minutes long.

7.  Consult with a pro. Once you’ve finished your viral masterpiece, a pro can still help optimize the look of your video before you let the world see it. At Texas Pictures we can take a finished video and apply color and contrast adjustments, sharpness improvements, compression tweaks and other enhancements that will improve the impact of a video.

If you're still not quite confident that you'll achieve the results you're looking for, give us a call and we'll be happy to talk with you about your plans and help you find the best way to create what you're looking for.

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