How to use green screen videos to expand your reach
Many vloggers are fascinated by the possibilities represented by the editing technique known as Chroma Key — also known as green screen. I make use of it occasionally. It has its downsides and can be tricky to pull off. But still, it's pretty dang cool.
This video gives you seven tips for using the green screen technique effectively. If you really like the technique, here are four extra pro tips. (That's not to say that I'm a pro in this realm — far from it.)
Nature's Perfect Studio
Like many people who make lots of videos, I have a roomful of LED lights, stands, softboxes—all the necessary stuff to create good lighting conditions indoors. But frequently I find myself leaving all that stuff untouched in the corner as I head out the door with camcorder, tripod and audio recorder in hand to take advantage of nature's perfect studio.
The sun provides all the light you could possibly use and more. But you can't just pick out a sunny spot and start shooting. In fact, that's the worst thing you could do. Bright sunlight means harsh shadows, jarring contrast between light spots and dark spots, and squinty eyes. Your best bet is to shoot on a cloudy day when the sun's light is diffused like a giant softbox. If you must shoot on a sunny day, pick a location in the shade—or bring your own shade in the form of a black or white umbrella (a colored umbrella will give your subject the same tint). And try to avoid having a bright background because it may make the subject look dark in the video.
There are challenges to shooting outdoors. You're not in the controlled environment that you can create in a studio. Ambient noise, people or traffic moving through the shot, and even curious onlookers can cause you to shoot more takes than you would like. And an overcast day creates a "flat light," meaning you can't create subtle depth by lighting one side of the face more intensely than the other. But I don't really consider any of those to be real problems, especially when you consider the time you save in setup and breakdown. And when you sit down to edit your footage, you'll find that the diffused light of the sun has created a naturally pleasing scene that requires little if any improvement.
Watch this video I made sitting on the beach during a recent vacation for an example of diffused sunlight.
Your Own Personal Teleprompter
It’s not easy to perform naturally on-camera while at the same time keeping your remarks interesting, brief and concise. A teleprompter can help you accomplish all those things — that is, if you have the right combination of tools and use them correctly.
We’ve all seen the teleprompters used by politicians as they give speeches, and you’re no doubt aware that television news anchors use them as well. Those systems are elaborate and expensive and require a second person to operate, but you can replicate the essentials yourself for about $300. It takes three pieces of equipment.
First is an iPad or other tablet with a teleprompter app. My app (iCue) costs $4.99 on the App Store; there are plenty of other choices ranging from free to $30 or more. (Note that the $300 cost estimate in the previous paragraph assumes you already own a tablet. If you don’t, well…...uh, dude… seriously.)
Next comes the teleprompter itself. Mine is the Ultra Light 12 iPad Pro ($499) made by Prompter People, but there’s a nifty new prompter made by Glide Gear that you can pick ip for $198 on Amazon. The most important part is the special "beam-splitter" glass which acts as a one-way mirror, reflecting the text on one side while allowing the camera to see through it on the other.
The third piece of equipment is a Bluetooth foot pedal such as the AirTurn Duo ($99). You use this to control the speed of the text as it scrolls in the app. This is vital because otherwise the prompter app will scroll at a constant fixed speed which can make you sound like a robot.
Presidents and news anchors utilize an unseen helper on a remote computer controlling the text speed, slowing and accelerating it to match the speaker. The foot pedal performs the same function. You simply sync it to the prompter app; then you can start and stop the text just by tapping the pedal with your unseen foot.
This makes all the difference in the world. Speak at your normal speed. Slow down, speed up, pause as you naturally would. Your tapping foot controls the prompter so you can focus on delivering your message. Controlling the pedal can be a bit awkward at first, but you’ll get the hang of it, and before long it becomes second nature — sort of like using the brake pedal on a car.
Check out this week’s video for a demonstration of the whole system in action.
Improve the Sound Quality of Your Videos: We Compare 7 Options
If you want good quality audio for your online videos, you should NOT be using the built-in microphone on your camcorder or webcam. Here’s why:
There are two components that combine to create the audio portion of your videos: (a) the microphone and (b) the digital sound processor. In order to get good audio, the mic and sound processor need to be able to capture and effectively process a full spectrum of sound. Unfortunately, because of necessary compromises in the design and manufacturing of most camcorders, they’re just not up to the task.
The makers of consumer camcorders — and even “prosumer” camcorders, which are a step up from consumer quality but not quite professional grade — generally aim for the best quality video they can put into the smallest package at the most attractive price point. This means the mic and sound card suffer.
The good news is that you can get great audio quality with just a little extra work and expense — and it’s SOOO worth it. It’s called “second audio:” while you record your video, you simultaneously record the audio track using a separate (better) microphone plugged in to a separate (better) digital audio recorder. You end up with two audio tracks: the first recorded by the camcorder and the second audio (get it?) recorded by the separate mic/recorder rig.
Unless you’ve done something terribly wrong, (which is definitely possible when you’re learning), the second audio will sound much better than the camcorder’s onboard version. The second audio file is imported and synchronized with the original audio during the editing process, after which the original audio is discarded. Voilà! You now have high quality audio to match the quality of your video.
It’s not really possible to demonstrate this in a text-based blog post, so, be sure to watch (and listen to) the video. In it, I compare seven possible configurations for second audio. I bet you can hear the differences. It will change the way you look at — and listen to — audio.
Who Will Watch Your Videos? (Hint: Wrong Question)
You may be reluctant to embrace video, for several reasons. Perhaps you’re new to the medium and don’t know where to start. Maybe the technical aspects baffle you, or you wonder how you’ll come across on-camera. And if you actually do make a video, will anyone even watch it?
The question you should be asking is: “Who do I WANT to see my videos, and what do I want to tell them?”
To quote the great philosopher Yoda, “Clear your mind of questions.” You’re in the planning business, right? So start with a plan, just like you do for your clients. The question you should be asking is: “Who do I WANT to see my videos, and what do I want to tell them?” Once you know the answer, you can focus on making your first videos and getting them in front of your target audience.
Case in point: For five years, I produced a video every week and emailed it to clients and friends via a Monday morning newsletter. The goal was to get about 100 clients to watch the video. If that happened, it meant that I had communicated something meaningful to 100 of the most important people in my life. If other people saw it—and sometimes thousands did—well, that was just a bonus.
Since first being posted to YouTube in May of 2013, this video has been watched by viewers in 151 countries.
But the most important viewers were the 100 or so clients who watched it within the first week.
Clients would often tell me that one of my recent videos had given them an important insight or helped them understand something better. Some even reported that they had their morning coffee with me every single Monday. How valuable is that?
Here's the salient point: It’s probable that plenty of folks outside your target audience will view your video content; in fact, the non-targeted viewers may well outnumber your targeted viewers by a wide margin. But while a high view count might make you feel good, those extra viewers will not help your business in any way. Don’t be distracted by them; they should have no effect whatsoever on how you think or what you do. As long as the people who should see your videos do see them, you shouldn’t care who else does.
The converse is also true: Do not feel discouraged if a video receives a relatively small number of views. If those views come from people who are important to you and your business, then that video has been successful.
Here’s a little data for you: To date I have posted over 300 videos to my YouTube channel, some 75 of which are currently available for public viewing. Those 75 videos have about 98,000 total views in 200 countries, and the channel has 405 subscribers, with new subscribers signing up every week.
So what do those stats mean? Not a dang thing. My goal is—and your goal probably should be—to communicate in a meaningful way with a relatively small group of clients and prospects. If you use your CRM and email system effectively, they will confirm that your goal is being met. Anything beyond that is completely irrelevant—it’s just noise.
YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook: Where to Post Your Videos?
Regardless of how long you've been producing videos, you may wonder where you should post them. It’s a good question, and my personal answer has been evolving over the last several years.
The first options that may come to mind are YouTube and Vimeo. Personally, I use them both, because each has its strengths and weaknesses. But Facebook has become a real contender, and it deserves consideration as well.
YouTube is the 800-pound gorilla, the video outlet for the masses. With 1.3 billion users, it’s the second largest search engine on the internet, behind only Google, which owns it and favors it in its own searches. 300 hours of video content is uploaded to YouTube every minute, and its reach is truly global: I am baffled to report that my modest little videos have been seen by viewers in over 100 countries.
But YouTube’s amazing reach is also its downside. Have you noticed that at the end of a YouTube video, the player presents nine suggestions of other videos you might enjoy? That may be fine for the viewer but not so good for you as the source of the video — those suggestions might well point your viewer toward competitors. That happens to me a lot, and it irritates the heck out of me.
Vimeo, on the other hand, doesn’t do that. When a viewer finishes watching one of my Vimeo videos, they also get suggestions for further viewing — but instead of pointing visitors away from my content, it makes recommendations from among my other videos. Other advantages of Vimeo: It has a clean interface, the viewing experience is better (at least to me), and you can brand your videos with your business’ logo.
Downsides for Vimeo: The potential audience is smaller, which is okay if you're just interested in getting your content in front of targeted viewers. And while YouTube is free and unlimited for everyone, Vimeo’s free version limits the amount of video content you can upload in a given month. Unlocking additional features requires a “Plus” membership ($60/year) or “Pro” membership ($200/year).
The third option is Facebook — and it may not be what you’re thinking. It's common practice to share YouTube and Vimeo videos on Facebook, but it also has a feature that allows you to upload a video file directly to your Facebook page, where it becomes an integrated part of the Facebook ecosystem. Here’s why that’s important:
Any time a Facebook visitor scrolls past your video post, the video starts playing automatically; the visitor has no choice but to start watching. The viewer must click on the audio button to hear the sound and thus get the full impact, but that’s a relatively easy lift: enabling the sound on a video that’s already playing is less of a commitment than clicking “play” to start the whole thing from scratch. And many videos can be effective without any audio at all (there are some neat editing tricks that can help in this regard).
Facebook has several advantages over both YouTube and Vimeo. The autoplay feature is a biggie: something in our human nature prevents us from scrolling past a video that has already started playing. What’s more, a Facebook video goes straight to your target's feed. Your target audience is probably already on Facebook, so they couldn’t miss your video if they tried. Plus, some of your viewers will share your video with their friends. You get all of this for free, but if you want to spend a few bucks, you can “boost” your video, using Facebook’s extensive database and sophisticated algorithms to put your content in front of a highly targeted group of viewers who don’t yet know you.
I'm assuming you already have a Facebook presence with a goodly number of friends and/or followers. And depending on the compliance regime at their firm, financial advisors may face a challenge getting permission to use this form of distribution. But more and more firms are learning how to utilize Facebook and other social media in a compliance-friendly way, so it's definitely worth a look.
Let’s close with a simple (non-financial) example. A few weeks ago our little town held its annual children’s festival known as Super Saturday. I made a 94-second video of the festivities (naturally) and posted it to YouTube, Vimeo and Facebook. I did no special promotion, just put it on my YouTube and Vimeo channels and Facebook page. (For reference, my YouTube channel is well established with 397 subscribers, I have 907 Facebook friends, and my Vimeo channel is barely two months old.)
Which outlet do you think generated the most views? Facebook, by a mile. Current view tally: Facebook 1,436, YouTube 53, and Vimeo 0. But I chose the Vimeo version to embed on my website as part of this blog post. Vimeo is hands-down the best option for embedding; we’ll talk about why in a future post.
I gave my dog Riley a bath last weekend. And just for the heck of it, I made it into a video.
You might not expect a dog bath video to garner much interest. But I posted it three days ago, and it already has 946 views. This should raise three questions in your mind:
Answer to Question 1:
946 views is a teensy-weensy number in the big scheme of things. Lady Gaga's video for her song "Applause" has over 280 million views on YouTube alone. A guy with the internet name of PewDiePie regularly gets between 5 and 7 million views for his rambling, disjointed, manic videos in which he watches other people's videos or Googles himself: lots of foul language, virtually no redeeming features, but millions of views.
That's not the way it works for most of us – which is fine, because our video goals are probably not the same as those of Gaga or PewDiePie. For many of us, a few quality views spells success.
If you're in the financial planning business like I was, the purpose of your videos is to communicate with clients and show prospects that you're trustworthy and knowledgeable. If 100 people see your video—especially if those people are clients or prospective clients—that can be a very good number indeed, because it can contribute to new or retained business. So yeah, 946 views in three days' time is actually pretty good.
Answer to Question 2:
I posted the video in three places: my YouTube Channel, my Vimeo Channel, and my Facebook page. As of this writing the respective view counts are: YouTube: 29, Vimeo: 0, Facebook: 917. Interesting, right?
Does that mean you should forget YouTube and Vimeo and post only to Facebook? Absolutely not. We'll talk about the relative merits of those three major distribution channels in a future post, but for now, just know that there are very valid reasons for using them all.
Answer to Question 3:
Not only is it okay to show yourself bathing your dog, it is desirable and meritorious – especially if you're a financial advisor managing millions or even billions of client assets. A casual, non-business video humanizes you to the people who count on you, and it binds you closer to them. Case in point: I barely speak at all in Riley's video, yet I challenge you to not like and respect me a just a bit more after you've watched it.