Is it really that bad?
Yes, for many producers and content creators, it really is that bad. The good thing is, your video production can get better. As an outdoor producer that produces content for major outdoor tv shows, web shows, and various hunting companies, I get media content sent my way all the time for review.
Guys want me to critique and analyze their work on a daily basis, and I enjoy doing it..not all of it…but some of it. Time after time, I am sent a video someone shot and produced for themselves or for a brand they plan to post in hopes of getting paid or getting a sponsorship.
Most of them are the same thing. A group of “cool” shots put to some nice music. That is it. There is not a whole lot more than that. When they do have some talking in their video, it is not produced or polished.
There are always several key elements missing in the videos and the majority of what is missing is what and how it was shot in the field.
With that said, here’s a look at 5 reasons your videos suck, with insight as to how you can make them better in the days ahead.
1. You Don't Know Your Camera Settings
The first reason is you do not know how to properly run your camera with the right settings. Turning the camera on and flipping the mode to AUTO is not the way to get the best image or video. When you turn your video camera or DSLR to the AUTO setting, the internal sensors on the camera are making all the critical exposure, focus and ISO settings for you, and trust me when I tell you they are not doing the best job.
The camera is going to want everything in focus and everything to be exposed for the brightest light in the frame and that adds up to a terrible image. Learning how to run the camera in the “M” mode (Manual Function) is going to give you the latitude to create the look and feel that you want.
It’s going to let you draw the viewers eyes to exactly what you want them to see. It’s going to let you expose your subject and not the background.
These things are super important in the grand scheme of video and image production. Learning how to run the camera manually is for sure harder than auto but its the single greatest step to improving the footage you are shooting.
2. You Fail to Properly Frame Your Subject
The second thing I think most guys are missing the mark on is framing. A lot of guys simply do not understand how to frame things in the camera. What is framing? Framing is how the subject of your video or image appears in the frame of the camera. In the screen, if you will.
Framing of people and animals is something that is going to be a glaring difference in someone who knows what they are doing with a camera vs. someone who doesn’t. I can watch the first 15 seconds of someone’s video and tell you if they know what they are doing or not just based on framing.
Framing is the easiest thing to learn and improve simply because you can learn it from watching just about anything on TV nowadays. Next time you are watching a good network TV show or Netflix, pay attention to where the people are on the screen.
Pay attention to where their head is in reference to the top of the screen. 90% of the time you frame a person with the top of the frame at the top of their head with very little wasted space above their head.
This is called “headroom.” We also don’t put that person in the middle of the frame, they get shifted to either the left or right third of the frame (rule of thirds) depending on which direction their shoulders are turned. If they are turning into the right of the frame we frame them on the right side of the frame and vice versa. This is a general rule.
If you have ever listened to my podcast, Redneck Tech Podcast, you have heard me say, “Wide, Medium, and Tight.” This is how we frame. When we get shots we want to get them with as many angles and focal lengths as possible, so I always preach getting each shot wide, medium and tight. This is a creative way to work on framing and telling a good story
3. You Fail to Tell the Story
The third reason your videos suck is because you aren’t getting any talking (dialogue) in your videos as you tell the story. Dialogue is what helps push the story along and gives valuable information to the viewer. The easiest way to get better at this is to talk to the camera as much as you can. If you are filming someone else, prompt them to talk every chance you get.
This is going to do so many different things to help you when you get to editing. Its going to give you options on how you want to tell the story. It is going to help you speed up or slow down the story. Its going to inform the editor of what is happening if he or she wasn’t there on the shoot.
It is also going to give information to the viewer, which is the goal. When getting dialogue, it doesn’t always have to be talking to the camera and answering a question. It can be funny snippets, it can be sound bytes, and it can be monologues. It can honestly be whatever it needs to be to help tell the story.
Once you get in the habit of getting a lot of talking, the next thing you need to do is produce that talking. What do I mean by, produce the talking? As a producer, not a cameraman, you are going to guide and coach conversations and talking in a way that is conducive to editing and on camera.
When you are behind the camera and you ask someone a question, “How long have you been hunting,” and the answer you get is, “20 years,” then how are we going to be able to use that talking without using our voice in the video asking the questions?
You would need to have the subject answer the question with the questions. The answer you would need would be “I have been hunting for about 20 years.” That is a line that gives all the information needed to the viewer in a way that gives us an answer but also lets us know what question was asked. Producing dialogue is something that takes a lot of practice, but you will get the hang of it, and it will be worth it.
4. You Need Better Audio
Another thing that makes your videos suck is you aren’t getting good audio or paying attention to what audio you are getting. This is something that is incredibly important. Bad audio to me is as bad as bad video. The crazy thing is, bad audio is an easy fix. You simply must monitor it during the hunt.
Make sure you are wearing earbuds or headphones when you are running your camera so you know what kind of sound you are getting when recording. Pay attention to background noise and what is happening around you.
Record a sample clip then play it back and listen to it and make sure it sounds okay before you keep going. A really easy way to improve this is to add lav mics, commonly known as wireless mics, to your arsenal. This is going to really help clean up those terrible internal mics most cameras have.
5. Producing vs. Hunting
The last thing that makes your videos suck is that you are more worried about hunting than you are about getting good content. This is going to be a hard pill for some of you to swallow, but this is the main reason the video you just shot and are trying to edit sucks really bad.
As a content creator you have to make a decision. That decision is, “Do I want to create well produced good looking content, or am I going to go hunting and get what I can get?” If your answer is that you want well produced content, than you are going to have to make some serious sacrifices.
Hunting time will suffer. The amount of animals you kill will suffer. The amount of sleep you get will suffer. Worse yet, the amount of time and money it will take is going to increase. However, when the decision is made to create good content, that has to be the main focus. You are now there on the hunt to do a job not to just kill an animal.
If you want your videos to stand out, the first and last thing you think about needs to be production value, story telling, lighting, dialogue, framing and exposure.
If going hunting with a camera is all you are going to commit to then plan on having sub par video.
I have been doing this for a living for 9 years now and I love to hunt just as much as the next guy, but I have to be a producer first and a hunter second when I am filming.
For many, this will be the hardest part of the process as you get deeper into creating content, but it will make the biggest impact. Go to the woods with a plan and a purpose. Stick to that plan, and I promise you will be happy with the result.
If you want to learn more about outdoor content creation, please contact me via social media or listen to the Redneck Tech Podcast on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts.