Sunday, December 4, 2016

How To Fix Vertical Video Footage

Vertical-Video-Shooting

“How do I flip my vertical video?”a client asked me recently after he had used his smartphone and shot his marketing video vertically. “Is there some program out there that will flip my footage to horizontal?” The answer?

You can’t and no there is no special program that I know of that can flip it and change the picture dimensions that would make it look right.  I tried doing that with the photo on the left to show you what I mean.

Vertical-Video-Black

This is how the footage will look.

Vertical-Video-Distorted

If I try to change the dimensions, it becomes distorted.

But there are ways you can “fix” it to fit in a horizontal format.

But before I get in to that, let’s think a bit on why you want to shoot your video in a horizontal position. For me, there are simple biological reasons. Our eyes aligned are side by side making it very natural to scan and watch movement in a horizontal plane. And although I can look up and down, when I watch something shot vertically, it just feels odd as if I’m missing what I should be seeing on each side. We consume media horizontally. TV’s, computer screens, GPS units, movies, to name a few, are made that way.

The good news is that if you are shooting with your video camera, you are probably not going to have to even think about shooting horizontally, they are set up to work that way. You’d have to put your hands in some strange positions to reach the buttons if you were to shoot that way. But the next time you are using your smartphone to shoot video and you find yourself putting your camera in front of you in a vertical position, STOP, and flip it horizontally.

I know everyone is used to holding their phones vertically and it is easier to just start shooting when you’re holding it that way. If you are doing this to quickly record something for your personal use, that’s no big deal. But if you want to add this footage to a marketing video or a video to sell, shooting vertical video smacks of being an amateur and of not paying attention.

If you did shoot something this way with your phone or you want to use footage someone else shot vertically, you can “fix” it in these ways.

  • If you started shooting and then realize you’re shooting vertically, stop filming, flip your phone horizontally and then start over.
  • What if you don’t want to stop and start filming because you want to keep the action or audio going? Flip your phone horizontally as you are filming. You can do a cut away to mask this change in action. Shoot some other scenes that make sense that you can cut away to – in film lingo this is called shooting b-roll. This will be done in the edit process. For example say you are shooting a street performance on a beach boardwalk. You can shoot crowds watching it or the beach, waves, boardwalk, etc. Or take stills and use them as cut away b-roll.

What if you have footage you can’t reshoot or you switched it from vertical to horizontal mid shoot and you need to use the footage you shot vertically? Here are some ideas:

  • Enlarge and crop the video to fill the horizontal space. Here is a short clip of what I mean. This works if your action can be focused on a certain area of the scene. I find that the resolution of my iPhone 6 is so good, I can do this and the video still looks really good. This may not be the case with older phones.
  • Put two clips side by side. Again, you layer them on top of one another on the timeline and move them so they are side by side.
  • Here’s an idea I’ve seen on news channels who want to use footage that people have taken on their phones. Duplicate your clip, layering one on top of the other in the timeline. Enlarge one of the clips and add a blur filter. That clip will be on the bottom of the timeline. Keep the clip on top in it’s original format and do not blur. To make it stand out more, add a border around that clip.

With smartphone videos, we’ll probably see more of an acceptance of vertical video especially in marketing videos but I doubt we’re going to be seeing the horizontal aspect ratio for longer form video changing any time soon. So if you’re shooting with your smartphone, pay attention to what you are doing and shoot it horizontally. But if you don’t, now you have some options on how to make it look like you did it on purpose.

Where Can You Find Free Photographs You Can Use In Your Videos?

Photo Credit: Jessica Gale, MorgueFile

Photo Credit: Jessica Gale, MorgueFile

Do you need some photos for your videos, blog posts, or marketing materials and have a small budget? Here are 2 sites we use that offer large libraries of free royalty-free photos you can use in your projects. [Note that I say “royalty-free”. While there are a lot of photos you can download off the internet, unless you have permission to use them, you shouldn’t. You don’t want to get a copyright claim on a video you have for sale or even one you are using for marketing. Plus it isn’t fair and it’s against the law.] These sites are great to use as they do not restrict your use of the photos besides using them in your own collection for resale, and may require attribution which is easy to do by putting their name either on the photo or in your video credits.

1) MorgueFile

While most of these photos are not shot by professionals, many do look pretty good. Also the library is so large that I almost always find something I can use. Make sure to read the MorgueFile‘s terms of use.

2) Wikimedia Commons

This collection has millions of usable photos and video files, searchable by keyword and category. Most of the images are submitted by individuals and some require attribution. Each photo will have its own terms of use so make sure you read that before downloading and using.

Here are a few more sites that I have heard of but have not personally used:

We also have found many free photos that we can use on one of our favorite stock photo agencies, Dreamstime.com. Even if you don’t find a free one there that you can use, you’ll find that the fees are very reasonable and the library is huge.

What free photo sites have you found? Please comment and share below!

9 Tips for Shooting Instructional Videos That People WANT to Watch

InstructionalVideosMany niches are perfect for successfully producing and selling how-to instructional videos. Not only do these types of videos lend themselves to straight forward shooting, they also target most audience’s sweet spots: giving them information that helps them achieve what they want.

Due to the popularity of this type of video on free sites such as YouTube, it’s easy to get discouraged about making money on the information you are giving them. Because of this, you have to up your game. Ask yourself the following questions. Are your instructional videos shot well? Do they offer detailed original tips, images, b-roll, insights, case studies, or analysis? Or did you just throw your videos together without much forethought, were you sloppy in shooting them or have you only provided regurgitated or vague information in an effort to chase after some hot niche?

So what can you do to produce instructional videos that benefit viewers and your exposure? Here are 9 tips to make sure you get it right.

  1. Give Quality Content – Provide viewers helpful, quality, and detailed information that gives them solutions to their needs and wants. Avoid regurgitating existing content you find on others videos or the Internet. Make your video comfortable to watch and to listen to.  
  1. Get Prepared – Write well-designed, detailed video scripts even if you’ve been instructing and presenting on this topic for a long time. Once you get on camera, it is easy to forget key elements or fumble. If you don’t catch the errors until you are editing, it may be impossible to reshoot. If you are able to reshoot, it will look odd if most of your footage has a different look and sound than the previous shots. It’s tough to make something like that look planned or seamless.
  1. Explain in Detail – This is another good reason to prepare scripts beforehand. Your viewers mainly want the “need to know” details relevant to achieving their needs or wants. Avoid complex industry jargon to make sure your most basic viewers will understand. (Of course this depends on your intended audience.) To set yourself apart and to ensure your unique content is clear, you want to include specific steps, guidelines, precautions and your best tips. This is what will show your authority and expertise.
  1. Instruct Clearly and Patiently – Clearly guide your viewers through each corresponding step so they can follow along without having to revert back to a previous step. Start by telling them what they are going to learn by outlining the fundamental steps you’ll be covering in a sequential order, then go through each step. Finish the video by going over what they learned. Talk clearly and slowly but do put your personality into it so you don’t come across in a dull monotone delivery. If you are going to use a teleprompter, practice with it first so that you won’t look and sound as if you’re reading a script.
  1. Get Them Involved – Provide an exercise or two for them to do on their own. This can be a problem to solve, a fun activity, a survey, or steps to follow to achieve a desired end result. (The National Geographic show Brain Games does this well.) These don’t have to be on camera, in fact, if you offer them on your website, you give your viewer a reason to go there which not only helps your traffic, but is a good showcase for your authority on the subject. Exercises or assignments really help them solidify what you taught and gives them a direction on where to start.
  1. Leave the Fancy Shooting and Editing ALONE – Leave all of that for the movies. Stick to a basic shooting style, especially if your shooting skills aren’t that polished. People want your instructional video to help them, not overwhelm them. Also limit the amount of fancy editing tricks and font types. Your video will end up looking fragmented and amateurish.
  1. Share Yourself – Use your own experience when describing an instructional process. Think about the best ways you would follow through with your plan and be precise in your directions. Separate your ideas from the standard “industry ideas”, so your unique content makes an impact.
  1. Send Them to Your Website – Your instructional video should stand on its own; however, you can entice the reader to visit your website for even more in-depth information in the form of guides, diagrams, other videos, etc. by adding a call-to-action near the end.
  1. Include ReferencesYour original content needs to be unique and the star of the video, but if it’s related and helpful, include other references. The instructions you give can be your own spin on a basic principle and having that backup to reference will give your viewers some assurance of your credibility.

An instructional video’s primary purpose is to educate people in a short and concise way that conveys useful information to support concepts and procedures. Cut and dry technical videos can be incredibly boring for both the viewer and producer. Use the above list to deliver unique instructional content that’s engaging and never leaves your audience hanging.

Now, back to the challenge of standing our from the ever growing library of free videos online. You need to package and promote your video as a professional product that rightly should be paid for. I pay for online guitar lessons all the time, even though there are plenty of free lessons available. The difference is in the way they are marketed, the quality of instruction and the fact that the instructor is a recognized expert. If you emulate this formula it will go a long way to making your products stand out. You can learn a lot more about marketing your video in our book, Shoot To Sell, Make Money Producing Special Interest Videos.

What do you do to make certain your instructional videos are engaging, unique, and assert your credibility? Share your tips in the comments section below!

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