2 tips for professional #highered video by Mike Richwalsky from JCU

January 6th, 2011 Karine Joly 6 Comments

Like a Pro Webinar SeriesVideo is a lot of work.

As Susan Evans, director of Creative Services at William & Mary College, noted in a blog post earlier this week, great video isn’t as easy to produce as it looks.

Susan has even decided to wait to get a videographer on her team before doing another video. [CORRECTION: looks like I misunderstood Susan’s conclusions as she mentioned in this comment, that she and her team will keep doing it]

I don’t, and won’t ever, do video […]
Lights, camera, action? Just shoot me.

Yet, you (or your team) might be asked to shoot a “quick” video.

So if you don’t want to shoot yourself (Susan, seriously, don’t), it doesn’t hurt to learn a few tips and tricks from a pro – at least until you get your dedicated videographer (Budget? What budget? ;-)

That’s why I asked Mike Richwalsky from John Carroll University (who used to work at Allegheny College) to share what he has learned for the past 10 years while working on many campus videos.

Mike will present a webinar about professional campus videos that is part of our upcoming series Professional Photos, Videos and Live Streaming 101 (Jan 18-20, 2011)

Mike – who anyway can’t say no to me – was also kind enough to answer the following questions about campus videos.

1) How long have you been doing video?

I’ve been doing video in various forms for nearly 10 years, whether it was commercials at an ad agency to short and long form videos in higher ed.

2) Why does it make sense to incorporate video in higher ed content?

I think that video is an important part of a college or university’s marketing arsenal. It gives us the opportunity to really *show* our campuses, people, and tell our stories very effectively. I think video is also a medium that crosses many demographics, and its something that everyone from older alums to prospective students can access and get something out of.

3) In your opinion, what is the top reason for poor quality when it comes to video?

I think there’s a few reasons for poor quality. First, I think its lack of planning. If the extent of your pre-production is grabbing the camera on the way out the door, you’re not going to get great video. Spend some time planning not just where and who you’re going to shoot, but *why* you’re shooting something. What is the story you’re trying to tell? Thinking that through will really make a difference in the quality. Second, I think many videos struggle because of the lack of good equipment. I think videos being put out under the name of the institution should be as high quality as possible. You can get a good HD setup for under $1,000, including audio. We picked up a Canon DSLR this summer for $800 and have been shooting great looking video on it (1080p, 24fps) ever since.

4) You will share many professional tips and tricks during your webinar, but can you give us 2 to 3 don’ts to assure professional videos?

  • Don’t make your video too long

    There’s no magic formula, but a video that goes on 5 or 6 minutes will rarely get watched all the way to the end. I asked in a blog post what people found to be the right length of time for a video, and 37% of respondents said 2 minutes. Basically, the shorter the better.

  • Don’t rely on your camera’s built in microphone

    Nothing gets me to click off a video faster than bad audio. If you aren’t using some sort of microphone when you’re interviewing someone on camera, stop what you’re doing and get one. Many cameras have inputs that take an external mic, and it makes all the difference in the world for your video. Lavaliere mics, a fancy term for a clip on mic that someone wears, are inexpensive and will give you great sound.

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6 Responses

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by bloghighed. bloghighed said: New post: College Web Editor – 2 tips for professional #highered video by Mike Richwalsky from JCU http://bit.ly/frxKP3 […]

  2. Just a quick correction. Yes, producing video is harder than it looks. But, Creative Services @ William & Mary will continue to produce video pieces even without a dedicated videography position. That’s what I meant with my statement, “I decided that no self-respecting creative services team should say, “we don’t do video.” … A few among us have the interest, the talent, and most importantly, the enthusiasm to tackle video.”

    I’m sure there are many in the higher ed community who will continue to rely on sites, webinars and other professional development opportunities offered by organizations like yours. Thanks for being a super resource for us.

  3. Todd says:

    I strongly disagree with the answer given for #3. And yes, I totally understand it’s just an opinion. So I’d like to share mine.

    Perhaps my definition of quality differs. But as I see it, not everyone needs a road map to find their destination. Planning can be great, but it can also be extremely restrictive. Going off script can often lead to a better product. Grabbing a cheap Flip camera and walking campus can be more magical than a killer storyboard and a $1000 camera.

    My answer to the question would be: “The top reason for poor quality video is having a passionless person behind the camera and a novice attempting to edit it all together. Have fun, capture the moments, and stitch them together in a way that tells your story and makes the viewer crave more.”

  4. I especially agree with shortened length and the microphone reliability as well. We do both DIY and more polished videos depending on purpose. For example, something like Homecoming, we grab our Flip and shoot to get the ambiance and smiling alumni faces. For something that supports a program or our brand, we engage professional videoagraphers. But, both approaches have worked for us in terms of hits on the videos. Thanks for the tips!

  5. Patric Lane says:

    Remember: “To video or not to video, that is the question …” And the answer is sometimes “not to video.”

    As @koci said on Twitter this week: What is the most important thing about multimedia? Answer: http://bit.ly/9qlEg

    One way to interpret this is that if the subject doesn’t suit the medium, forget it, don’t make one. Do your part to save the world from the ever increasing numbers of mediocre videos with low view counts :)

    Regardless, here’s a useful tip: if you do have a good video, boost the chances that people will find it by making sure your metadata (tags, title, etc) are good. YouTube has tips on this topic on their blog: http://bit.ly/g5nwEI

    Regards, Patric Lane

  6. Geoff Birmingham says:

    Mike’s suggestion about getting good sound is 100% on target. Sometimes our clients want to shoot themselves and then get us to edit. “No problem,” we say, “Just make sure you go to Radio Shack and get yourself an inexpensive external mic to plug into your camera.”

    I also think Todd’s suggestion to avoid scripts makes sense – more authenticity. But going to the other extreme by grabbing a camera and hunting for magical moments would make me a little nervous. I’d be concerned about: 1. wasting a lot of time trying to find the moments; and 2. ending up with a lot of footage to wade through in order to craft something good.

    Finally, I’d be very curious to know why Susan’s experience was so challenging. It would be dishonest of me to say that producing video doesn’t require an investment of time, but it should never be arduous and painful. With a producer who helps in the planning, and who shares a well-defined production process, the path to completion should be head-ache free.

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