First, this is not a how-to on videos. I’m not very good at making them. I am very good at watching them, however. And after a lot of video watching, I’d like to give some unasked-for suggestions for anyone who may be making a video. These suggestions are largely for those of you who do how-to art videos. Demos of your favorite project. But it works just as well for cooking, home repairs or building.
1. Start with the most important thing to your viewer: the finished product. Show your completed piece, both as close ups and as a fill-the-screen of the entire piece. Tell your audience what you are going to show on the video.
Great start: “In the next 12 minutes, I’m going to demo how to use alcohol inks to create an abstract painting on Yupo.”
Weak start: “Thank you for tuning in to segment 845 of ‘Me and My Studio,’ which I put up once a week on Tuesdays. Today we are going to have so much fun, even if you have never done this before. You don’t need to be an expert to enjoy this video . . .” [Paraphrased from an actual video. I didn’t watch long enough to know what her art or project was.]
2. Do not start with your bio, your background in art, or a detailed pan of your studio. If your viewers don’t hear what you are going to do in 10 seconds, they will move on. You will get a lot of hits, but no results.
3. Have all your materials gathered before you start. If you had to dig through a box of supplies to find the thing you needed, edit it out later. Your audience is in a hurry because everyone is in a hurry, all the time. Watching you search for that special color is not as fun for the viewer as it is for you.
4. It’s OK if you don’t talk. In fact, it’s great. Yes, you should explain your techniques. Yes, you should talk about product names. But you do not need to fill every second with chatter. Particularly if it is random chatter, about a class you might teach, or the weather. Keep your private thoughts to yourself. It might be most useful to film in silence, then edit, then add the audio track.
5. Practice before you push “video.” Don’t skip that step. The ease of making a video lulls you into thinking that learning as you do it is fine with your audience. It is not. Of course, everyone makes mistakes. Of course, you will make small mistakes. But people who are watching a technique video do not want to hear, “Oh, this didn’t work. OK, well, I have another piece here and we’ll just start over.”
6. Put the blooper reel at the end, or make it a separate video. That way, we can laugh with you.
7. Master some video editing software. Learn how to cut out scenes that don’t advance the project. It’s easy to say something you didn’t mean to say, or something that can mean what you didn’t intend. Editing out saves you embarrassment. Show beginning, middle, and end pieces. Focus on important details. Learn how to create transitions from one step to another. An unedited video is an unfinished video.
8. Place the camera so your audience sees the artwork. While they love to see your hair, smile, lipstick color, and outfit, it’s really not part of the technique. Show your face at the end, when you wrap it up. If you don’t have a lot of professional equipment, take still photos of important techniques or close-ups of details. Edit them in at the right place.
9. You don’t have to use music. Spend your time on getting the lighting right. Yes, it’s nice to have appropriate music. But your favorite song is probably under copyright, and doesn’t match the technique anyway. Lighting can make a video look professional or ruin it. Use enough light on your project.
10. Put it in writing. Not everyone is a visual learner. Putting captions under the steps for readers is a big plus. And add a way to contact you at the end of the video, so people can ask questions and maybe even for permission.
Common sense precaution: If you want to keep a technique of your private, don’t make a video or talk about it on social media. Once you show someone how to do your favorite project, they will do it, teach it, write about it.
—Quinn McDonald has watched a lot of videos lately. She will never get that time back.