In the age where online reality is replacing actual reality in every facet of our lives, having YOUR face behind YOUR virtual real estate is paramount for people to feel close(er) to you.

This blog post will be your comprehensive guide.

Why Video Blogging?

Video blogging helps you build connections with your viewers like no other blogging format. The close second is perhaps audio.

A case in point is Michael Stelzner. He’s the face behind your favorite business blog SocialMediaExaminer.com, and he used this method to introduce himself and his website to his audience in a very effective way. Have you introduced video content to your personal or business blog? If not, why?

The usual excuses given are “I don’t have the right equipment” or “it takes too much time” or “I’m not entirely sure how the whole process works.”

In this article, I’ll show you the minimal, yet crucial, amount of equipment you’ll need and the quick and dirty way of getting your videos out there in record time.

So let’s get started.

Shooting a Video

#1: Audio

It may seem bizarre to start an article about online video blogs by talking about audio, but “hear” me out. (Pun totally intended).

If the audio sucks, no-one will watch your video. Simple as that. End of story.

Even if video comes out totally terrible, you can still salvage your shoot by turning your video post into an audio post. So how do we make sure audio comes out OK?

Many low-end and certainly mid-level camcorders come with a MIC in port. Buy an external microphone, plug it in and beyond that, all you have to do is make sure your levels are decent and you’re all set.

If you have a camera that doesn’t have a MIC in, you can record the audio on a separate deviceand merge the audio with video in post-production.

Do you know why movie directors use the clapper (a.k.a. clapboard) before starting every scene?

Tip: You can easily sync audio and video in post-production by using your hands to clap a few times to denote the starting points in which audio and video should match up. The audio spikes will be visible in the editing software and can then be synchronized with the video of you clapping.

If you’re forced to use the camera’s built-in microphone, be keenly aware of the following two factors:

  • Environmental—for example, a strong wind if you’re shooting outside and electromagnetic interference or air conditioner noise if shooting inside.
  • Position of subjects—you’ll notice how on-cam MIC mostly picks up the person shooting the video while the subject who is few feet away (or further) is quite low during audio playback.

In other words, be prepared to do some post-production magic to get the audio properly leveled and equalized.

Alternatively, you can look for the magic spot through experimentation that will yield good-enough results with minimal post-production editing.

#2: Lighting

If you’re going to spend money, this is the area where most of your budget should go. If there’s one thing video experts agree on, it’s the paramount importance of proper lighting in shooting a video. In fact, proper lighting is more important than the type of camera you use. Why?

Most modern digital cameras (even cheapos) are quite serviceable and have good-enough resolution for YouTube.

Whenever possible, take advantage of natural light. Make sure the source of the light (usually sun, or if indoors it’s the window) is always behind the camera (or slightly to the side).

Here is some “lighting” terminology you ought to be familiar with before we list the types of lighting equipment you may consider.

Key Light: As its name implies, this is the “main” light. Usually placed to the right of the camera and about 3 feet above the subject’s eye level (thereby emulating downward casting naturally produced by the sun).

Fill Light: This lighting fixture is placed on the other side of the camera and its job is to “fill” the shadow cast produced by the key light.

Back Light: Placed behind the subject. This light is sometimes called “head and shoulders” light because that’s the part of the subject it ought to illuminate.

Light kit options abound, but do keep in mind that entry-level lights—while quite affordable—will only last for few hundred shoots at the most.

Trick: Proper lighting is as much a science as it is an art. Having proper equipment and a zeal for experimentation are paramount. Have fun with it and allow imperfections to slide.

No-one expects Hollywood-style production from your blog. In fact, polished videos reek of corporate subterfuge so much that even content-producers who CAN make a polished video choose not to. You can check out these videos on lighting, they’re free, authoritative and extremely useful.

#3: Camera

What kind of camera will you need to do online video? Well… what kind of camera do you have? I would definitely start there.

No need to run out and buy a new camera if you already have one sitting around your house or office.

I’ve started out with a $75.00 cam I purchased at Rite Aid, then moved on to a $300.00 cam with an external MIC-in, and now mostly shoot with the new Olympus. They all do a fine job. In fact, even a PC cam will do.

Real Life: Most of the videos I make for my Facebook dog-crew on how to use Twitter are done using a PC camera. Why? Because it’s quick and easy. The idea is to get your face out there so that clients and potential customers can see you, hear from you and “feel” like they know you.

Golden rule of sales: People buy from people they know and like.

What to consider when choosing a camera:

Video Format: Some manufacturers save the on-cam video in proprietary formats that require special software to be converted into standard video formats (.mov, .mp4, .avi, etc.). Look for a cam that natively records in the format understood by your video editing software.

Sound: Look for a cam that has an external MIC-in. See the Audio section in the beginning of the article.

Storage: I like cams that use SD cards for storage instead of internal HD. It’s a preference, but SD cards allow for easy transfer between cam and computer (no cable necessary) and I can carry multiple SD cards in case one fills up and I need more space on-the-fly.

Batteries: Some cams can only be charged via a USB or power cable while others allow for replacement batteries that are charged independently. Having a spare battery for extended shoots comes in handy.

Size: The best camera is the one that you’ll actually use. So a small cam (iPhone or Flip Cam) that fits in your pocket and can be used on a moment’s notice may be exactly what you need. Otherwise, be prepared to carry your equipment with you wherever you go.

Beyond these five points, just make sure you can afford the cam and look for one that can be mounted on a tripod in case you need that functionality (most bloggers will at some point).

#4: Screen Capture

Who said you even need a camera to produce your next video post?

You can use software like Camtasia (for PC) and ScreenFlow (for Mac) to capture your computer screen. Combine it with an audio track and you can create visually rich and useful instructions for your viewership.

Tip: I strongly recommend you wear a pair of headphones with a mic while recording the accompanying audio track. This will eliminate the bulk of the ambient noise.

Honorable Mention: Screenr is a Twitter-integrated free online service that allows you to create screen casts. It’s quick and dirty and exactly how I like ‘em.

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