Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
August 27, 2010 1:28 PM

Online Video Can Kill Your Credibility

The majority of independent online video content being created is mostly unwatchable.

I'm usually not that critical of online video (and, I'm the first to admit that I am guilty of creating some of this unwatchable content as well), but as the Internet matures, grows and brings in new audiences - specifically those interested in the more professional/business aspects of the channels and platforms - something has got to give. Do I mind when someone I know and admire just riffs off of their built-in laptop video camera? Well, it depends on who that person is and how relevant the content is. Do I ever think that the content adds to their credibility? Hardly ever. Sadly.

Video production is a beast unto itself.

A great way to get your feet wet in upping the quality of your online video production would be to pick up Steve Garfield's recently released business book, Get Seen - Online Video Secrets To Building Your Business. There are a handful of things anyone can do to up their online video production. Regardless of whether or not you like the whole "shaky cam" thing, it's important to acknowledge that quality video is hard to produce. It requires a mix of skill sets and it takes some time to get good at it (and a whole lot longer to be great at it). The challenge is that the tools to create those quality videos have become super cheap, so when those two clash, we get hit with a smorgasbord of unwatchable content that can often diminish someone's credibility in market without them even knowing it.

Here are 8 ways to produce online video that will not kill your credibility (from someone who knows nothing about it):

  1. Audio balance. Whenever there is more than one person speaking, please ensure that everyone's level is equal prior to publishing your final piece. All too often, I have to watch the video and work my volume control like I'm doing a final mix on Pink Floyd's The Dark Side Of The Moon.
  2. Microphones. Skype headsets, external mics, etc... all sound hollow and tinny. While ambient noise can be interesting, in video these very cheap mics really do make the production come off as unprofessional. Figure out what works best (clips-ons, booms, whatever), but if it's impossible to enjoy the content from an audio standpoint, the addition of video will not improve the experience.
  3. Eye contact. It's hard and awkward to speak into a camera. That's why great broadcasters make the money that they do. Take some media training or do some pre-publishing practice runs. Letting your eyes wander, not looking into the camera or not being one hundred percent comfortable makes the viewer uncomfortable too. I'd love to say that online video is not mass media broadcasting, but the public has been trained, so we're not going to change the world at this point.
  4. Speak. Way too many "ummms" and "ahhhs." It takes practice not to stammer and stumble over words. Don't just read off of cue cards and don't try to improvise either. Find a healthy balance by writing out a script, but knowing how to speak it instead of just reading it.
  5. Backgrounds. Do you really think that recording in your basement with a broken bookshelf in the background or cat pee stains on the couch is screaming, "hire me!"? Find a nice/neutral looking background to record.
  6. Lighting. There's a reason television and movie studios spend so much time and energy on lighting. While you may not be able/want to produce your video in such a sterile environment, pay attention to lighting, shade and reflections. A well-lit video can make the experience go from ho-hum to holy-wow!
  7. Shifting. If you're sitting down, sit still. The amount of shifting, rocking back and forth or moving up and down to adjust your position is not only highly annoying, it comes off as highly amateur.
  8. Edit. Think about how you can better edit your final product. Keep the information tight and be ferocious with what makes it to the final cut. The audience will thank you for not wasting their time or letting the content wander too far off of topic.

I'm no expert.

I don't produce videos (personally). I'm just an avid viewer and lover of content and information. With that, I tend to be fairly forgiving of a lot of the video sins that are committed because I appreciate that people don't have a lot of time, budget and skill to make their content broadcast-worthy. Most other professionals won't be as kind and forgiving as I am. The expectation - from a professional perspective - is that everything you publish helps elevate your credibility (even if it's just a little bit) with each new piece of content.

Great online video is like great art: It's almost impossible to define, but you know it when you see it. What are you seeing?

By Mitch Joel