Wednesday, February 21, 2018

How To Fix Vertical Video Footage


“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.


This is how the footage will look.


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.

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!

Documentary Video Interview: How to Respond to the Answers

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So far I’ve covered 2 more guidelines in getting a good documentary interview: preparing and directing the person you are interviewing and asking the right questions. The 3rd and last guideline in my series on shooting documentary style interviews involves how you respond to what the interviewee is saying. Responding to the questions and getting a powerful interview requires you to listen and be engaged in what the person is saying.

You may be nervous too but it is important to put that aside and be focused and engaged in the interview and not just be the person who is reading the questions aloud and waiting for the answer to end to ask the next one. Keep in mind that it’s easy to “tune out” while you wait for him or her to finish so you can move on to your next question without you really listening to what is being said. When that happens, important followup questions may not be asked. Make sure you are having a 2 way conversation.

If the interviewer is not on camera, it is important that person keeps quiet when the other person is talking. You don’t want there to be other sound in the background. (Watch out for the “hmmmm”, “Oh right..”) It’s good for the interviewer to nod, and make gentle facial expressions, just have him or her stay silent. NOTE: If you or the interviewer are part of the story and the camera has both of you in the shot, then responding as you would in a normal conversation is okay and makes sense.

But whatever you do, don’t interrupt and talk over the person. I feel one of the worst things you can do as an interviewer is take over the interview yourself. I really hate those “news” shows where they do that. I really want to hear what the person has to say. The more they talk – the better interview you’ll get. While it’s important to converse, being rude and interrupting isn’t valuable to your audience.

Make sure you refer to those follow up questions you came up with when you were preparing your questions. You should have come up with 2 or 3 possible followup questions to ask, depending on the answer. This really helps if the conversation is dragging and/or you’re not really getting what you want from the interviewee.

Before you ask your questions, think how you can phrase them in a way that will allow the interviewee to expand. For example, asking the person, “Why are you so passionate about this [subject]?” is good but rephrasing it like this, “What are the three top reasons we need to learn about this [subject]?” will probably result in a more powerful and well thought out answer. This may take more time and require retakes, but it will be so worth it in the end.

Seek to understand what your interviewee is saying. While you want to understand the topic or what’s happening, like what did this person do and why is it important to share, it is much more interesting, both for you as the interviewer and your audience to know why does this person do what they do, and how. Study some professional interviewers like Oprah or Barbara Walters. You’ll notice that they ask questions to learn not just the what but also the how and why of the person or process. They know that to fully understand everything, their audience will be more engaged and interested.

You want emotion to come through. The best way to do this is to wait until the person finishes his or her response to ask another question. Also don’t stop filming when the interview is “over” – some of the best stuff happens if you continue with the conversation. This is especially important when you have someone who is nervous and never got quite comfortable with the interview. Here’s a trick: When you’re done with your official questions, say “OK, that’s the end of the interview” but make sure the camera continues to roll. Psychologically, the person no longer feels the “pressure” of the interview and may loosen up. This may be when you’ll get the best stuff.

Most of all, don’t forget who you are conducting this interview for. Your audience. Enlightening your audience should be your number one priority. You want to get answers that are meaningful from the person you’re interviewing that will serve those who will consume that content.

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