Professional Video Production

Different types of videos need different approaches. I want to tell you about how we go about producing how-to videos. This is the kind of video that shows the viewer a process – something that has a beginning, middle and end. Examples of this kind of video might be building something, such as flat-pack furniture, or using a product to do something, like cook a meal.

Why are how-to videos different?

How-to videos are instructions and need to be particularly clear and easy to understand. For this reason we always suggest shooting the process twice – once with a ‘wide’ showing all the action and once up close showing the detail. There are several reasons for doing this. Firstly, it allows the viewer to see as much of the process as possible as if you only shoot something ‘wide’ you often lose some of the small, fiddly parts of the process. Secondly, it lets us elegantly edit out any mistakes or long, repetitive movements so that the finished video looks professional and is easy to follow. Lastly, you can’t shoot the close and wide at the same time or you will have the camera operator always in the shot, which can be very distracting for the viewer.

What if you can’t shoot twice?

If you really can’t shoot the process twice for whatever reason you do have some options. First of all you can try and shoot it in one-take with no mistakes. This is a tough one, but not impossible. If you do need to edit out mistakes, however, you can use ‘transitions’ such as a fade to black. Sometimes transitions can work really well and look so good you want to include them, but too many can be a distraction and make the video hard to follow. Another possibility is to shoot it using two cameras at the same distance from the action (so you don’t get camera kit and operators in the shot), but at a different angle. You will still miss out on the extra details from a close or a wide, but you will be able to neatly edit out mistakes. The one option we do not recommend is using ‘jump’ cuts where you just cut out the bit you don’t want and don’t cut to another angle or use a transition. This is very difficult for the viewer to watch comfortably and they may well end up quite confused.

Telling it right

Something else you should think about when making a how-to video is how you give the viewer any extra information. One way is for the person demonstrating the process to act as a presenter talking to the viewer. Alternatively, you can use a voiceover recorded separately or use text and graphics on the screen. Any of these options can be very effective and which one you choose entirely depends upon the tone you are aiming for.

Getting it right

Shooting a how-to video can be complicated, but if you watch out for the following it should be fairly straight-forward:
– Shoot it twice – once wide and once close
– Watch out for continuity and make sure you do everything the same both times as far as possible
– Shoot the process in order if you can
– Prepare everything you think you will need to demonstrate the process and have it all to hand
– Note down a rough ‘script’ of all the parts of the process so nothing gets missed
– If you make a mistake, make sure you stop and start again from the place where it started to go wrong. You can cut out the mistake later and use the other angle.
– Think about how you want to offer any extra information – presenter, voiceover or graphics and text.
– Remember to keep it as short and to the point as possible. You don’t need to include someone tightening a bolt or whisking eggs in real time. Show your viewer how it’s done and then move on to the next stage.


You might like to read our previous post on Video Engagement.

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