Besides playing the ukulele, I've also worked for PBS Television for close to 19 years. I've been involved in countless hours of broadcast TV production, both in front of, and behind the camera. So when it comes to the ukulele and video production, I have a few ideas that I hope you'll find helpful when you shoot your next web video. So let's dig in.
Ditch the Webcam
Web cams are great for general purpose video but not so great for instructional videos like ukulele tutorials. There’s nothing worse than watching someone looking down into a web cam. (especially from a standing position)
Instead, use a smart phone, DSLR, or a dedicated HD video camera. This way, you can easily control the height of your camera and take advantage of the increased picture quality as well. And while you’re at it, go online and buy an inexpensive tripod. Your videos will thank you for it.
Smart phones, and all consumer grade video cameras, require a lot of light in order to produce a decent quality picture. Lack of light is why many instructional videos look so grainy. The cure for this is to pick up a couple lights that are specifically made for video production. You can get one online with a stand for about 30 bucks. At the very least, round up a few extra lamps from around the house and dump as much light into the scene as possible. We want to see you and what you are doing.
3. Framing – Put Your Face in the Shot
I’ve watched way too many instructional videos with a person playing a ukulele, but no head. It’s a bit odd to hear a voice with no face unless it’s a close-up of your uke for a couple of seconds. So… be sure to frame yourself in the shot so we can see your face. It’ll be much more interesting for the viewer, I promise. And while we’re on the subject of framing, make sure your camera/picture is in a horizontal orientation. That’s commonly referred to as a 16 X 9 aspect ratio. So if you’re using a smartphone to record your video, make sure it’s situated in a horizontal position rather than vertical.
4. Keep the Background Simple
It’s very common to shoot an instructional video wherever you typically play your instrument or in front of your computer in the case of a webcam. (See tip # 1). The problem here is that it’s rarely conducive to good video. If possible, find a spot in your house that you can remove all of the clutter and make the background as simple as possible. A simple, single color wall is often a good way to put the focus on your content rather than all of the stuff in the background. If you have a spare room in your house you can set up a semi-permanent place to shoot your videos.
5. Do It More Than Once
I’ve spent a lot of time in front of a camera in my 19 years working for PBS. Unless it’s live television, we ALWAYS do it more than once. Multiple takes gives you to opportunity to fine tune what you’re doing. It also gives you the chance to edit out the bad stuff, leaving only the good stuff. In this day and age, almost everyone has access to simple video editing software. So take the time and effort to make it look like you cared enough to get it right. Plus… you’ll get a lot more “views” if your content looks polished and intentional.
6. Put Your Script in Plain Sight
I often use a teleprompter to help me with what I’m supposed to be saying. Most people don’t have that luxury. However… the best place to put text or lyrics is right below the camera. Nothing is more awkward than having to look right or left of the camera. And it’s painfully obvious to the audience. And make the text big enough that you don’t have to struggle to read it. That’s also obvious to viewers.
7. Practice BEFORE You Start Shooting
I can’t stress this enough. Practice before you start shooting your video. When Kenny and I shot our PBS special last March, we spent several days practicing what we would be doing in front of the camera. You may not have that kind of time for every 3 minute video but, it’ll be worth some extra effort to at least spend a few minutes working on your presentation before you start rolling.
8. Put the Chords On the Screen
Even if you don’t intend for your video to be instructional, viewers want to know what you’re playing without having to figure out what your fingers are doing. You’ll gain a ton of extra views and followers by doing so.
9. Build a Donut
This one can take some time to do but it goes a long way to making your work look more polished and easily recognizable. This is often referred to as a “donut.” It’s simply a short little piece of video that goes at the beginning and end of every video you post. It should be around 3 to 5 seconds long, have a logo, and a short piece of music that viewers will easily recognize as they watch more and more of your videos. The intro should also be different than the outro. For the outro you could have a Voice Over that goes something like this… “thanks for watching my video and please subscribe to Bill Smith Ukulele Videos. Aloha!”
10. Tune it Up
This one should go without saying but… I’ve watched (or started to watch) way too many videos that the host didn’t even bother to tune their instrument. I may have watched the whole thing had the uke been in tune. I’ve been a practicing musician long enough that my brain can’t stand listening to an out of tune instrument. So… do whatever you need to do to get that thing in tune. If that means investing in a better uke so it stays in tune… do it. No one will take you seriously if you play an out of tune ukulele.
So that’s my 10 Ways to Improve Your Next Video. I hope it gives you a couple of ideas to help make your next video just a little bit better.
Aloha and have a great 2018!