How to Easily Make Professional Looking Videos
You can have as detailed a plan as you like though and it won’t be successful if you don’t have amazing videos to back it up.
This is really what success on YouTube is (of course) all about – delivering quality entertainment or information in a way that people will find engaging and that looks high quality.
Making your videos look premium in terms of the production value is crucial right from the offset. Not only will this help to make your videos instantly much more successful and far more likely to get watched, shared and liked – but it will also help you to boost the reputation of your brand.
Think of these videos like ambassadors representing your business: are you proud to associate yourself with them? Do they do a good job of showing what your company is capable of at its best? If not, then look into ways that you can start improving the production values.
Creating a Professional Looking Video Without a Camera
If you want to make a highly professional looking vlog or documentary style video – even an advert – then chances are that you’re going to need a high-quality HD camera, a good eye for composing your shots, great editing software etc.
In other words, this is no mean feat and will likely involve a fair amount of skill and investment (we’ll get to this in a moment).
The good news though, is that if you’re making a video that you hope to use on a landing page, or that you just want to explain what your business is about, you actually don’t have to set foot in front of the camera.
In fact, even if you want to make some types of vlog, you don’t necessarily need to step in front of the camera.
If you cast your mind back to the last time you were on a landing page that was trying to sell an e-book or a similar product, you may recall that it probably used a video that was essentially just a man or a woman reading out a script explaining how they learned the ‘one secret trick to great abs’.
Likewise, if you’ve visited a small company’s home page, you may have seen a video that used a whiteboard animation, or perhaps a cartoon with a voiceover.
Some informational videos on YouTube talking you through how to use a computer only show what’s happening on the screen with no shot of the person narrating and some entertainment vlogs are a combination of images, animations, and people talking.
A good example of the latter is Mr. Sunday Movies. Mr. Sunday Movies has an entertaining YouTube channel where he reviews films and talks about news, rumors, gossip, and facts revolving around the industry.
His videos are highly popular but you never actually see him – only still images that he’s found online that highlight the points he’s making, often to comic effect.
Likewise, another good example is the excellent ‘ASAP Science’. This channel explains everything from the effect drugs have on the brain, to the incredible communication abilities of plants.
Throughout it all, you again never see any footage from a camera – only cartoons and sketches that back up and illustrate the points being made.
So in other words, if you’re unconfident about how you’re going to go about creating your video, you don’t have to make something so ambitious – just record the audio and then find something else you can use to hold your viewers’ attention.
Your options then are:
Some videos on YouTube are nothing more than podcasts with a single still image showing. This isn’t particularly effective and you’ll struggle to make such a video go viral but if you’re genuinely hilarious or fascinating and the title is gripping enough, you can still generate something of a following.
Better is to use a slideshow of images that you can use to illustrate your points either for additional explanation or for comic relief. Either way, this is actually one of the very easiest types of content to make because you likely already have all the necessary software on your computer.
If you have PowerPoint, then all you need to do is save your slideshow as an MPG and record some audio over the top and you have a video ready-made!
Whiteboard animations feature people drawing on a whiteboard in an animated form while you narrate. A similar option is to have some kind of animation with simple illustrations. This is surprisingly easy to make, you just need the right software or the right outsourcing company.
Look on Fiverr and you’ll find there are plenty of ‘gigs’ available from users willing to make whiteboard animations for simple scripts for just $5.
Screen capture software like ‘Screen Recorder’ allows you to record whatever you’re seeing on your computer screen which is perfect if you want to make a video talking people through the process of installing X software, or making their own Android app.
This is also very useful if you’re selling software or promoting your website and want to demo it on the screen.
How to Create High-Quality Video With a Camera
While you can be surprisingly successful without ever going near a camera though, this still limits you somewhat in terms of what you can do.
If you want to make a moving Kickstarter video, an advert like Tim Ferriss’ or a vlog series where you can promote your personal brand, you’ll likely want to create videos with an HD camera featuring real people.
But how do you go about developing the skills and acquiring the tools necessary to do that? Well, that’s what this section would be for…
You shouldn’t really let your camera hold you back from YouTube success in this day and age. While you might not have the best quality camera in the world, your video will generally be accepted as long as it’s 1080p (HD).
Going as high as 4K is optional but a lot of devices still can’t even display that quality, so it isn’t really necessary. Even most phones these days are capable of HD video, though they tend to struggle with focus. Test your phone’s camera a bit and if it works, consider that a viable choice.
One thing that does matter though is your sound recording equipment. A common mistake is to record in large spacious rooms with poor acoustics and not think that it matters.
Poor sound quality though can be very off-putting for viewers and is a tell-tale sign of an amateur production. Avoid this pitfall by having a camera that can plug into a mic. And if you don’t have that luxury? Just make sure the device is close and that you’re in a room without echoes and without background noise.
Other hardware can also help. Multiple cameras, for instance, can let you set-up multiple shots of the action giving you more options during editing. Likewise, lightboxes and infinite white backgrounds both also make a big difference to the level of professionalism on the show.
Note though that you can mimic the latter two options with a desk lamp angled in the correct direction and a white bedsheet stretched taught across a wall in the background. Another option is to hire a white room which is often possible at libraries and universities.
Take a look on Google! From here, it’s then just a matter of increasing the brightness in your post-production.
The first step to creating great video comes even before the filming. Your ‘pre-production’ stage is what happens before you ever pick up a camera and it’s what will define the video you’re going to make.
The most important things that go at this point are your script and your storyboard. The script is of course what you are going to say while your storyboard will tell you where each shot will go when you’re going to switch camera angles etc.
It may be that you want to create a purposefully ‘rough and ready’ effect and in that case, you may not need the storyboard and it might suffice to just point the camera and start filming.
In most situations though, it can help a great deal to know what you’re going to film ahead of time – particularly if that film is going to feature inserts etc. and if you want it to look highly professional.
The script is just as important. This is what you’re going to say and it’s the job of the script to ensure your video is engaging (normally this means having a narrative thread weave throughout it) and to ensure that it is persuasive (if that’s your objective).
When writing your script, think about the way you naturally talk and the points where you will need to pause. Use shorter sentences and when reading it, try to pause for breath in between each one.
Next comes the filming. Here your aim is to make yourself or whoever is starring in the video look professional, while at the same time keeping the interest and the energy high.
When filming a good rule of thumb is to film more content than you need. In the days of digital cameras there’s no need to worry about ‘wasting’ film but the more footage you capture at this point, the easier it will be later to edit something interesting together.
As mentioned, you want to pause a lot between your sentences to ensure you’re able to catch your breath and to avoid stuttering or stammering. At the same time, you want to pause in general a lot and have quiet moments at the start and end of each take. Again, you’ll be glad you did when it comes to editing.
In terms of you yourself (or the presenter), you should ensure that you look well turned out and professional. The trick here is to look smart, without looking like you’re trying too hard. A common mistake is to turn up to filming in a suit, even though the video is filmed in your back room.
Few things scream ‘amateur’ quite like that. Instead, aim to look smart and attractive without trying too hard. Think trendy and think crisp. Doing your hair well, or wearing the right makeup if you’re a woman, can also make a big difference.
Another big consideration that often gets forgotten at this point is the lighting. The worst case scenario here is that your lighting should be too bright and especially if it’s in front of the camera creating blur or glare.
Think about the way that the light is casting shadows, think about how many light sources you have and think about where you should be standing in relation to natural light sources. This might sound like obvious stuff, but you’d be very surprised how many people forget about it at the expense of their videos.
The ideal situation here is that you create what’s known as ‘Rembrandt lighting’. This means the lighting is on your left and right and lighting just half of your face.
This creates the most dynamic look and is often the most flattering – it’s so-called because this is the type of lighting used in Rembrandt paintings. And those guys knew a thing or two about being artistic!
Think as well about the composition of the shot. Is it clear that you’re the ‘subject’ and is the shot free from other distractions? At the same time, is the shot interesting? Could you change it in some way to make it more artistic or engaging? Creating a sense of depth is often recommended for scenery shots and that means ensuring you have elements in the fore, mid and background.
If you want to create the effect of being just a ‘talking head’ then you might want to get the camera in close and use Macros to blur out the background while bringing the foreground into focus.
This looks very slick and is a great choice if you want an atmospheric background without letting it distract from what you’re saying – use this strategy when filming in the park or with a city backdrop.
Speaking of backdrops, this is also a highly important consideration. When making your video it’s crucial to think of where it will be filmed and how to make this look fitting for the context of the video.
Get this wrong and it can completely undermine an otherwise well-crafted video. If you have an office then this is a good choice that will give you a professional setting that you should be free to use. Alternatively, though, you might choose somewhere in your home to use.
Take a bit of time to prepare a corner of a room and to ensure that it looks the part – that might mean removing some items or choosing a few things to be in the background.
A great way to make your video look more professional is to insert your logo into the background in some way – you can do this by putting it on the screen of a television may be, or by printing it onto a poster and hanging it.
Standing behind a desk can also be a good strategy, as can finding a white wall. You can even make a collage in the corner of the room of related magazine covers or newspaper clippings.
If you take a look at some other vloggers, you’ll find inspiration. Funny how you often don’t notice a good background until you start looking, isn’t it? And note that this is your objective as well – if your backdrop is good, then it should fade away so that it doesn’t get seen. A backdrop that draws attention to itself is failing in its purpose.
The exception is if you’re purposefully going for a more intimate or rough and ready vibe, in which case filming in your house is just fine.
Then just set up your camera/cameras, hit film and go!
Now onto post-production and the editing process. This is the point where you will take all of your different footage and combine it/cut it down in order to create something that looks slick, that has a great energy all the way throughout and that flows naturally without any jarring jumps or cuts.
This is the objective of your editing: to put all the footage together in a way that flows naturally and that never appears to lose the thread.
To accomplish this task, you will need to use editing software and here you have a number of options. Option one is to use the premium and very well regarded Adobe Premier and After Effects.
Both these pieces of software are available as part of the Adobe Creative Cloud suit. While the former is used for cutting your footage and sticking it back together, the latter is what you use to add the fanciest effects that will make it really stand out. This software is excellent but it is unfortunately very expensive.
Alternatively, another very well regarded piece of software is Sony Vegas Pro. Again, this is a highly expensive option though.
For something cheaper, you have two free options. One is to use the editor built into YouTube. This runs right inside your browser meaning that there’s no need for installation. Microsoft Movie Maker is another free choice, which often comes preloaded on computers with Windows.
Obviously, both these choices lack the more advanced features present in premium software but they’re nevertheless suitable for basic editing and putting something together.
When you start the process, keep in mind that you want to maintain a high ‘energy’. This means that you want to avoid lingering shots or long cuts and instead want to keep the camera moving.
If you have an action shot of someone punching someone else and then turning to run, try to cut as much of the footage away as you can while still showing what’s happening. You might find that you don’t even need to show the impact – our brain fills in the blanks – and the result will be a shot that looks far more dynamic.
You can also maintain higher energy by switching between camera angles. Often in professionally filmed videos, talking heads will be shown from multiple angles so that it feels like there’s movement in the shot. This also gives the illusion of higher production values because it suggests you have more than one person in the room filming.
When switching between shots or between angles though, make sure that you don’t lose any frames. This means that the position you start on should be the exact same as the position you end on – otherwise your subject will look like they suddenly teleported or started moving robotically. This can be jarring and take you right out of the moment.
It’s for this same reason that you also shouldn’t switch between two angles that are two similar to each other and you shouldn’t cut two of the same shots together without some kind of transition in between.
The exception to this rule is again for more ‘homemade’ looking videos. Here it’s okay to transition between two similar shots and to skip frames as long as it’s done in such a way that is stylistic or that perhaps is used for comic effect. This is called a ‘jump cut’ and it’s a legitimate technique when used correctly.
Otherwise, you want to use transitions to change between two similar shots. These basically represent time passing or the subject changing and usually involve a fancy animation.
Note that this is your one opportunity to use transition animations – if you use them all over the place it can again look very amateurish as though you got over excited with your new editing software (it’s the equivalent of using Comic Sans when you get a new Word Processor).
A few additional touches can also make your videos look more professional in post-production. One is to add your logo in one of the corners of the screen. This has the added benefit of reinforcing that connection and helping to create more brand visibility.
Similarly, you might also want to add a video opener which is a short animation that goes (unsurprisingly) at the very start of your video (or after a brief introduction). This should be consistent across your videos and works almost like ‘opening credits’.
Note that YouTube now offers the ability to automatically add openers to your videos even if you haven’t created them in your editing software.
Music is additionally a great asset but as long as you keep it relatively quiet. You need to be careful to ensure that your music is something you have the rights to though and that means it should either be made for you, or it should be acquired on a royalty-free website.
In the best case scenario, you would know someone in a band who would be grateful for the exposure. Failing that though, you can just outsource the process and there are a number of gigs on Fiverr and elsewhere that you can get this kind of work.
Make sure you get the sound levels right when using music through – good music can really elevate your content but if you get this wrong it can end up just being distracting.
Lastly, consider adding some ‘bottom thirds’. This is an industry term for the captions that appear on the bottom portion of the screen, normally to introduce segments or to explain what’s coming up.
This can help to narrate your content while giving it a more professional vibe but make sure that you look into using a custom font for this.