Last week we discussed why adding multimedia to your blogging mix is a good idea, and we looked at three relatively low-tech methods for doing so. This week we’ll explore two more advanced methods, the screencast post and the video post.
The Screencast Post is technically a video post. However, instead of using a camera to record a person or an event, the screencast uses software to record what is showing on your computer’s desktop. Similarly, you can create an audio track for your screencast using the same tools that you’d use for a podcast. Remember our slide deck post from last week? Well, a screencast would allow you to capture video as you scroll through your slide deck. If you couple that with an audio track, the result is an animated slide deck presentation.
A screencast can record anything that’s visible on your desktop, not just slide decks. When I created this Good Writing screencast for my website, I recorded myself typing the words you see appearing in the video. Then I added a typing sound effect, which I downloaded from the Internet.
More examples are the educational screencasts put out by Khan Academy. Conceived as 10-minute classroom lectures, the screencasts reproduce a blackboard. We can see the teacher “writing” information on the board—all through the technology of screencasts.
The great thing about screencasts is that you can have the advantages of video without any of the headaches. You don’t have to worry about buying equipment, learning how to operate a camera, recording audio, setting up lights, or editing. There are many simple and affordable tools for creating screencasts. The one I used to create Good Writing is Jing. The Internet is also full of tutorials. Seek and ye shall find a convenient way to produce your screencasts!
The Video Post Now we finally come to the most technically advanced of all of our methods, the video post. Nothing beats a video post for letting your personality come through and creating connection with your viewers. But to do the job well, you’ll need to consider production values.
The casual approach: Depending on your goals or the circumstances, a quick, casual video shot with a cell phone might be just the ticket. Maybe you’re at an event or traveling and you want to share an experience with your readers. Go ahead and grab your cell phone and shoot a short 2-minute video. There’s something to be said for the immediacy of being in the thick of things, and an impromptu video can do a great job capturing that. Just make sure to keep it visual. Any important audio information that you want to deliver over video should be kept to a bare minimum.
Below is an example of a casual video that I shot during the online launch party for my web series My Bitchy Witchy Paris Vacation. On the day of the launch, cast, crew, and fans gathered in a Parisian café to help us celebrate, and we streamed the launch live over the Internet. While the live party was going on in the background, I was playing hostess to our online fans. If you were a fan who couldn’t be at the launch, these videos would make you feel like you were right there with us.
Note that I’m wearing headphones to better capture the audio, and I made up for technical glitches with the video recording in post-production by adding title cards to help viewers follow along. This video was filmed with the webcam in my MacBook laptop, so really nothing fancy. But the low-tech quality was nevertheless fitting for the situation and engaging for our target audience!
The more polished look: Let’s say however that you’re aiming for a different vibe—less artsy and in-the-moment and more polished and timeless. Well, then you need to increase your production values. But this doesn’t have to be very complicated. You can still use your webcam and either your computer’s internal microphone or a head set if that’s all you have, but make sure to set your video in a quiet, well-lighted room to cut down on any visual distractions or noise. Think through your presentation and practice a few times. Take your time shooting, and repeat as often as necessary. As you get better at video posts, you can increase your technical skills and add effects if you want.
Below are two different videos discussing…you guessed it…why you should use video. The first one is a simple presentation by Derek Halpern of SocialTriggers.com. It’s just Derek and a whiteboard:
The other is a fancier integration of video layers and some special effects by the company Hunting With Pixels:
Both work. They each have a consistent and deliberate style, and they get their information across in an effective way. Again, depending on your needs, your personal taste, and your goals, you can opt for the simple, clean, do-it-yourself approach, or you can hire someone to either help you or teach you how to produce a slicker, more polished look.
Tips For Successful Video Posts
In conclusion, here’s a short list of tips to help you create better videos:
- If you’re a beginner, remember that your first videos don’t have to be very sophisticated at all. Your webcam, a basic audio capture tool, and a basic editing program are all that you need to get started.
- If you’re still nervous or if you want to up your game, consider working with someone who knows how to create engaging video content, at least until you get the hang of it.
- Keep your videos simple. Limit them to one idea per video. Break down complex processes into shorter tutorials, and cover just one step per video.
- Keep your videos short. Remember, text can be skimmed, but video and audio are harder to fast forward.
- Think through your text and your talking points, and make sure to rehearse.
- But don’t rehearse so much that you take all the life out of your video! People want to see the real you.
- Pay attention to production values, even in the simplest of videos. Make sure the production values you’re using match the image you want to project.
- Give proper credit to anyone who helped you create the video. This includes properly quoting and acknowledging your sources.
That completes our series on the types of blog posts available to you. As you can see, there’s lots to choose from. Some you’ll take to right away, others won’t make any sense for your blog. That’s perfectly normal! Use what works for you and ignore the rest. And let us know how you’re faring, OK?
Next week, we’ll cover how to manage the comments section of your blog.