Three Simple Ways to Make Your Videos More Professional
PUT THE CAMERA ON A TRIPOD. Shaky handheld videos work well if you are looking for a Paranormal Activity scary movie look, but otherwise wobbly pictures look amateurish. Always put the camera on a tripod, and if your camera doesn't have a tripod mount improvise one with duct tape, elastic bands or whatever you have; once I made an improvised tripod adapter for a Blackberry using some Meccano parts from my son's toybox. You don't need a fancy video tripod with a pan and tilt head. Most of the time all you need is a compact lightweight tripod that lets you shoot fixed camera shots. Unless you are a video pro you are probably better sticking to simple fixed shots anyway.
USE AN EXTERNAL MICROPHONE. People will forgive grainy, blurry, wobbly video but they will not tolerate bad audio, always the hallmark of an amateur production. When you use a microphone built into a camera you pick up mostly the sounds near the camera -- background noise, echos and so on -- and very little of whatever you really wanted to hear. A directional mike on the camera will help, but the best solution is to plug in an external microphone and place it as close as you can to the person you are recording. An inexpensive lapel microphone will pick up the voice of a speaker very clearly and minimize the background noises and room echo. This means that when you buy a camera you have to make sure there is a microphone input. If there isn't one don't buy it.
GET AS MUCH LIGHT AS YOU CAN. Modern cameras will work in very low light conditions but they do not work very well. As light levels go down the graininess of the picture goes up and the color saturation goes down.Get as much light as you can on the subject and the quality of the image will improve enormously. Unless you have some video lights you should shoot internal shots near a large window or under a skylight, or better still take someone outside to record an interview. That's why you often see people on TV being interviewed in the street in front of their office building. Without a professional lighting setup that is the easiest way to get the best possible quality. If you are shooting outdoors avoid direct sunlight. Cloudy sky or light in the shadow works best.
Get these three basics right and your videos will immediately start to look and sound more professional and about as good as you can get with basic equipment. Once you have that solid foundation you can successfully build on it to take your video production to higher levels, but that's a story for another post.
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