Online marketers are creating more video content than ever. Whether it’s for a video blog post, webinar, online course, or interview, the “talking head” video has become one of the most popular formats. They’re easy to produce, effective, and familiar but consider a few common mistakes you’ll want to avoid when creating your next one.
1. Reading from a script
“If you’re reading off of a script from your computer or a teleprompter, people can tell,” says Jill Schiefelbein, business communication expert and author of Dynamic Communication: 27 Strategies to Grow, Lead, and Manage Your Business.
Instead, she says, use an outline. “Write down the main points you want to cover, and glance at each main point before you start talking. It’s okay to look at a sheet of paper and transition.”
2. Shooting in front of a window or in low light
There are two classic video lighting errors, says Steve Stockman, author of How to Shoot Video That Doesn’t Suck.
The first, Stockman says, is shooting a person indoors during the day, in front of a window. “The camera, doing its job, finds the brightest light and automatically decides that’s normal,” he says. “The house across the street looks amazing, but the people in front of the window become silhouettes.” Fixing the problem is as simple as moving so that the window is illuminating your subject from behind the camera.
The second error, Stockman says, is shooting in overly low light. “Video shot with inadequate light fades into a kind of grayish, grainy mess,” he says. “If you’re indoors, the easiest solution is to turn on all the lights. If you can’t add light, try turning your subject toward whatever light there is and move closer.”
3. Placing the camera too far from your subject
When in doubt, place your camera closer to your subject. This creates a greater sense of intimacy and helps to remove distractions in the background of your shot.
“The vast majority of talking heads are medium-close-ups, the same as you would see in a still picture portrait,” says Lorraine Grula, freelance video producer and creator of Video Production Tips.
“The bottom of the shot cuts off in mid-chest, maybe mid-stomach, and there is just a touch of head room,” she says. “Sometimes you want to add other images in editing, perhaps graphics like a name, location or logo.”
4. Using the same static shot the entire time
An easy way to add interest and context to your video is to intercut short video clips called B-roll.
“Shooting and incorporating B-roll brings a talking head video to life,” says Bill Golden, senior video producer at San Francisco content marketing firm Tendo Communications.
“B-roll not only makes a video more interesting to watch, it adds a compelling visual element to your story,” he says. “Even if it’s simply depicting your on-camera talent in a meeting or at a whiteboard, B-roll goes a long way toward enhancing both your subject and your message.”
Golden says that other ways to add interest to your videos include using two cameras to capture different angles, varying your depth of field and incorporating shots with tilting or panning.
5. Using the camera’s built-in microphone
While your camera’s built-in microphone is OK, it’s almost impossible to get close enough for it to capture your voice without lots of background noise.
If your camera has a ‘mic in’ jack, the easiest thing to do is to use an inexpensive lavalier mic like the Audio-Technica ATR-3350iS. A lav mic will allow you to capture your subject’s voice from just a few inches away improving volume and reducing background noise. You can also use this mic with many iPhone and Android devices making it very versatile.
“If you shoot video in your home or office, you can simply set up a computer with a USB mic to record audio separately while you shoot the video,” says Ken Theriot, creator of Home Brew Audio. “When you’re ready to edit and produce your video, just import the USB audio track into your video editing program.”
“If you zoom in, it’s a pretty easy matter to visually sync the USB audio with the camcorder audio track by lining up the peaks and valleys in the waveforms,” Theriot says. “Just nudge the USB audio left or right on its track until you get it right. At that point, just mute or delete the camcorder audio, and voila! – you are left with good audio and good video.”
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Talking head videos are terrible. They’re useless for information, because the content is rarely aided by a talking head. Also, nobody cares about the talking head. They care about the information, or the how-to. If you simply must do a talking head video, get to the point immediately and starting giving value ASAP. Use graphics, bullet points, or… even better… SHOW and don’t tell.