If it’s one thing I’ve learned in my 15 plus years in the television and video world, bad habits and video mistakes are easy to come by. To make things worse, bad habits are hard to reverse. For example, editing without mastering keyboard shortcuts especially for experienced content producers is time consuming. For newbies, logging in camera time without understanding some basics is the start of bad habits. Adam Westbrook listed 10 very common video mistakes in his October 24, 2011 post titled “10 common video storytelling mistakes (and how to avoid them).” I’ve reinforced a couple of obvious ones that have always stood atop of my don’t do list. I’ve added some others not so obvious, all simple video mistakes you should avoid as a beginner.
Here are 15 Common Video Mistakes You Should Avoid As A Beginner
1) Ignoring Audio. I’ll say it again “bad video will slow your production down. Bad audio will derail it all together.” Bad video can be color corrected or pushed through filters to compensate. Unless you have the skills of a guy named Stephen Arnold from Nashville, audio that is overblown or swallowed by background noise is most of the time not correctable. Invest in a Rode Shotgun VideoMic for DSLR users that cuts through the audio clutter or decently priced Lavalier microphones for pinpoint recording. Audio ignorance is one of the easiest video mistakes you can commit.
2) Over Thinking Shots. Don’t all of a sudden think you’re the next great James Cameron with a ton of options with a deep budget to blow through. Keep an open mind but don’t miss out on a needed scene because of second guessing. Get what you need and move on. A great post on exactly this.
3) Staying Close-Minded – On the flip side, letting your script be the end all is close minded. Be open to suggestions or ideas from colleagues and situations that serve as healthy alternatives. Embrace spontaneous creative revelations. Don’t be afraid to fail. The high cost of being close minded? You become rigid and will stop evolving as a storyteller.
4) Trying To Be Spielberg. The greatest director of our era once said “I think the toughest thing for a director to do is to know what he wants. It’s not how to get what you want, it’s knowing what you want.” Mastering a craft takes time. Repetition and consistent practice are the best remedies for inexperience. We’re going to need a bigger boat!
5) Ignoring Your Background. Too much emphasis is often placed on your foreground when in fact your background is just as important. Watch out for the sun and blown out video. Lookout for the guy in the corner of your viewfinder who’s cropped out at the chin and be aware of that little kid who’s unknowingly about to walk into your shot. Nothing worse than discovering these video mistakes long after you’ve wrapped up your shoot.
6) Not Trusting Simplicity. You know my stance, “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”
7) No DSLR Love. DSLRs are revolutionizing the way we shoot video. You get what you pay for, the ability to toggle between still and HD video. Nothing has been more groundbreaking and with a 50MM lens, you’ll turn heads. The good thing is that you don’t have to bet the bank to cash in some effective storytelling via a DSLR. Check out this great ongoing thread on DSLR and video shooting capability. I personally am very happy with the Sony A55 or the Canon 7D as viable prosumer cameras. Just as long you shoot in short bursts to avoid overheating, the Sony A55 rivals the Canon7D in quality.
9) Talking Like A Robot. Humanize the idea, story and subject and you’ll have a greater chance to connect with your viewers. Don’t forget plenty of examples that embraces emotion. After all, people will remember you not by what you said but by how you made them feel. Robots have the opposite effect.
10) Ignoring Distribution. What’s the use of compelling storytelling if your audience can’t find you. Understand SEO101 from pros like Jenny Munn. Let Google and YouTube do the heavy lifting once your video is optimized with keywords and easy to find descriptions.
11) Forgetting A Call To Action. Not everything you produce is a sell. But if it is, get your audience thinking about an action that positions them one step closer to what you’re selling. Tease what’s coming up next if you’re producing a series or more than one episode.
12) Out Of Style. Speaking with multiple voices or different styles that doesn’t match the subject, thing or idea you’re trying to sell is brand confusion. A piece about a cool widget should be fun, social and with tempo. A :60 intro video for a divorce attorney probably swings towards the other end of the spectrum.
13) Not Understanding Your Audience. Always ask yourself these three things: A) Will your video makes emotional sense? B) Will it be interesting to someone who’s stumbling upon your video for the first time? C) Is it worth sharing to others?
14) Forgetting Cover Footage. No one enjoys two minutes of a talking head. Grab essential video that supports your story and showcases your growing skill set as a budding content producer. Working with variety is pleasing to the eyes.
15) Working Solo. Don’t get me wrong. Producing quality pieces can be had with just one person. I’ve done plenty of those. Collaboration however opens up plenty of ideas and can serve as a invaluable visual checks and balances. Plus, who really wants to carry all that equipment by themselves?
Please give me your thoughts on my 15 Common Video Mistakes You Should Avoid As A Beginner. Are you committing some of these thus hindering your progress and quality? Or are you so good that these video mistakes are so yesterday? If that’s the case, I’m sure Spielberg would be proud.