Making videos for your author blog

— 13 Comments

Everyone says we have to include video on our blogs these days, but how do we do it? Not only do we have to be author, publisher, marketing manager and general dogsbody, but apparently Martin Scorsese and Gwyneth Paltrow too!

In this post, I’ll talk you through a short video I just made for my blog (my first!), to show you what I learned and give you some ideas for getting started yourself. Please also share your video production ideas and experiences with us all, in the comments. Let’s help each other!

The backstory

I’ve been avoiding the whole video thing for more than a year. At a seminar on author marketing by Joanna Penn, she urged us to start making video for our blogs, and I got all inspired. I knew I should do it, but I just kept putting it back in the Too Hard basket. What makes this even sillier is that I have worked as a television reporter and producer back in the day, so you would think I’d have no excuse. But it’s quite a different matter when you’ve got to do your own camera work and editing, let me tell you!!

The book: For several months, I’ve been working with Ian ‘Watto’ Watson on his first book: EVERY BLOKE’S A CHAMPION… EVEN YOU! Ian is a truck-driver trainer and speaker who founded Shed Happens and travels Australia motivating men. When he received the proof copy of his book from Lightning Source, it’s an understatement to say that Ian was excited.

A light bulb went on over my head.

Why not record Ian’s excitement about the book in his hand, and make a short video from it? It only needed to be a minute or two. At least it would get me started.

This is the video, so you can watch it first. (He even says some nice things about me. *blushes*)

Then I’ll walk you step by step through how I did it and what I learned in the process.

And then, please comment with your own experiences of making video, and share techniques and things you have learned that will help us all to leave our fears behind and start making videos!

The title: What does it feel like to publish a book?

If the video doesn’t play for some reason, view it on this link: youtu.be/obZ3ghdE2kY

We shot the video in 5-10 minutes, because Ian has the gift of the gab and could talk in wet cement! If it was me doing the talking, we’d have needed a few more “takes”! (Ahem, quite a few more takes…) We also didn’t fuss around much with how we set it up. The object of the exercise was just to get it done and stop fretting about it.

I’ll list the things I did, what I learned, and how you might be able to apply it to your situation.

1. Camera

I used the camera on my iPhone 4S.

I’ve got various cameras including a Canon DSLR that makes omigosh-gorgeous video, and produces HD files the size of the Battlestar Galactica. I might use a better camera later, but for now I’ll stick with the iPhone.

Why?

  • Small file size. Easier to edit (computer doesn’t crash so much), faster to upload to the web, easier for people to watch without their internet connection grinding to a halt.
  • The lower resolution doesn’t really matter for web videos, because people view them in a small size anyway. If I was making television or cinema, it would matter. But I’m not.
  • I work on Mac so I knew the iPhone and iMovie would speak sweetly to one another, without even having to test them. (I’ve tried to import video to my computer from my little Panasonic camera. Odd format. Nightmare.)
  • No mucking around hunting out cables from the infestation at the back of the desk drawer, or trying to figure out how to convert formats, just dock the phone and transfer.
  • It was EASY! Easy is important when you’re having trouble getting started with something.

Tips for you from my experience:

  • If you’re having trouble getting started, just use the camera you’ve got, or the easiest one you’ve got. You can always get a fancier one later when you’ve got into the groove.
  • Make sure it shoots formats that easily import into the video editing software on your computer. Do a test run first. If it’s not behaving, google the name of your camera and the name of your operating system (eg Windows 7) until you find some advice that works.

2. Microphone

I just used the one in the iPhone.

It was fine, although I decided to boost the audio a little when I edited it in iMovie. I’ll position it a bit closer to the person who is speaking, next time.

Tips for you:

  • Just use the microphone in the camera at first and see how you go.
  • Get the camera as close as you can to the person onscreen, for the best sound (within reason of course, we don’t want Nostril TV ;-)).
  • Beware that if you are behind the camera, don’t have your face too close, or the sound of your breathing might come out on the audio! (this happened to us at one stage in the process)
  • If you are shooting an interview where you are asking the questions on the video, your questions might sound twice as loud as the interviewees answers because you are closer to the camera! So experiment with standing back a little.

3. Tripod

I didn’t use a tripod, because at that time I didn’t have one that fit my iPhone.

I do now. I went online the next day and bought one for next to nothing — a mini tripod with bendy legs that I can attach to a post or a tree branch or a piece of furniture. I’ll use the tripod next time. The camera shake was annoying, although it got a bit steadier when I held my arms out firmly in front of me.

Tips for you:

  • Use a tripod if you can, to avoid too much shaking.
  • If you can’t use a tripod, hold your arms out strongly in front of you to keep them steady, and not too close to you or your breathing might be audible!
  • Start recording and get yourself steady before you ask the person to start talking, otherwise you end up with very wobbly bits like I did!

4. Setting

I chose somewhere outdoors so there’d be plenty of light, but in the shade so we wouldn’t get harsh shadows. I didn’t worry too much about fancy scenery behind Ian, because he was holding the book in his hand, and that was enough. In any case, we were going for a relaxed look, nothing too contrived.

Tips for you:

  • Soft light makes most people look better.
  • Harsh light coming directly down from overhead makes people look haggard.
  • Reflected light bouncing up from underneath can make someone look like those ghost stories you used to tell at school camp, with the flashlight/torch held under your chin. ;-)
  • The sunlight behind me was bright and made Ian squint, so see if you can get a location that doesn’t have that problem.
  • Indoors is fine too if your camera can handle the light levels. The building we were in didn’t have any suitable backdrops.

5. Editing

I edited the video in iMovie09. (There are more recent versions, but I haven’t bothered to update it as yet.) All Macs have iMovie. If you are on Windows and your computer is not too ancient, it probably has some kind of video editing software already on it.

  • I made the title slides in Photoshop at a size of 960 x 540 pixels. I found this size recommendation somewhere or other on the web. It seems to have worked OK.
  • The beginning of the video was so wobbly it looked like Blowfly Cam, so I grabbed some photos to put over the top as cutaway images. I enjoyed this so much I just kept on going and put lots of photos over the whole thing! :-D
  • The zoomy-panning thing on the photos is called the “Ken Burns effect“. I had no idea who Ken Burns might be or why he was affected in such a way, but I sure did like the way it looks! ;-) (I’ve since googled it and good old Wikipedia has an article on it.)
  • For the intro and outro, I used a little music sting that came with iMovie.
  • I boosted the sound a little, because the camera was probably just a bit too far away from Ian. I’ll stand closer next time (while avoiding Nostril TV, as mentioned in Point 2. above!)

Tips for you:

  • Have a go with whatever video editing software you already have on your computer, or else google “free video editing software” and see what you come up with. I don’t think it’s wise to spend much on this sort of thing until we know what we’re doing, and how much of it we are going to do.
  • You can make title slides in whatever photo editing software you have. If you make it a video dimension like 960 x 540 pixels, the top and bottom or sides won’t get cut off.
  • Adding some photos over the top, or even some cutaway video of whatever you are talking about, makes it more visual and gets away from the “talking heads” thing. But if you are making a longer video — a 20 minute interview for example — you will spend a lot more time editing if you do this. A LOT more time. So it’s probably a good idea to experiment and yet stay sensible about it. You could just add a couple of extra shots here and there where they really add to the meaning of what you are talking about.

I spent four or five hours editing this, which may sound a lot for one minute of finished video! This was because:

  • I didn’t know what I was doing, so I had to keep looking up the help to find out how to do things in iMovie.
  • I used a bazillion photos as cutaways, and it took extra time to do that, because I had to find them, import them into iPhoto, then import them into iMovie, then fiddle with them a bit more… You get the idea!
  • I was having FUN! (a whole new world of procrastination… ;-))

I expect I will do it a lot faster next time, and even faster the time after that.

6. Uploading and embedding

I uploaded the video to YouTube and then embedded it in my blog.

  • I exported medium size (640 x 360), because I didn’t want the file to be too huge, but I think I’ll go a bit higher quality next time, because YouTube crunches it down anyway, and the edges of the images are a bit fuzzy, especially on Ian’s face. So I’ll experiment with 960 x 540 next time. There is also HD after that if I’m still not happy.
  • I have a video channel on YouTube set up about a year ago in a fit of wild optimism. See it here. That’s where I uploaded it to, rather than direct to my website, because apparently it’s good for search engines etc if we are on YouTube.
  • Under the video, I clicked on the “Share” button and then the “Embed” button, which gave me a little window with a heap of code in it.
  • I copied that code and pasted it into my blog post as HTML. (In WordPress, you find the HTML tab just above the text box thingy.)
  • Then as a backup, because the embedded video players don’t always work, I added a second link to the video on my YouTube channel below the embedded version.

So, that was my process. I’m sure I’ll get better at it! I hope my “trials and errors” might help you get started too! :-)

Since I made this video, Joanna Penn (of www.thecreativepenn.com) drew my attention to iPhone Video Hero. It’s fantastic! Made by a guy who works in television, and showing how to control exposure and focus (things I didn’t even realise my iPhone could do) and how to light videos with lights I already have at home so that everyone looks their best. It’s also suitable for iPad and iPod touch. Expect some better looking videos from me in the future! ;-)

Other articles on how to use video:

Have you made videos for your blog yet? How did you do it?

Please let us know your tips, and what you learned. Include a link to a video you have made if appropriate, to illustrate the points you are making.

Feel free to ask questions too. If I can’t answer them, especially as regards editing in Windows, I hope there’ll be another commenter who can!

Please share this post via your social networks so we get more input from others about their video experience.

Let’s help each other make blog videos!

An exciting announcement!

For the past year or two, my editing services have been closed to all except writers who come by personal recommendation. But I’ve now decided to open a limited number of slots in my schedule for Manuscript Evaluation Packages. As an “opening special”, if you confirm your booking by October 31, 2014, you’ll save $200! 

Click here for details.



All articles are © Belinda Pollard. You may quote a short excerpt with a link back to this website, but written permission is required for any other usage. Thanks for respecting my hard work! :-)

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links on this blog are “affiliate links". This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission, which helps me keep this site running, and buy kibble for the Small Blue Dog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and I'm honest about their ups and downs.



Want more articles like this one?
Subscribe to my blog and get my free ebook Should I Self-Publish? 

Happy writing! ~ Belinda

Belinda Pollard

Posts Twitter

Belinda Pollard is a Writer, Editor and Publishing Consultant based in Brisbane Australia.

13 responses to Making videos for your author blog

  1. Brilliant, no nonsense , practical advice, which makes me think I could do this – thanks so much Belinda! I’ve been think about making an “author type video – very similar to this one – for ages, so this is very helpful. I also want to do a book trailer for the new book and I think a lot of what you suggest here would also work for a trailer – would you agree?

    • Yes, Marianne, you CAN do it!! I need to move on from this and make the next one of course, which will be more planned and probably contain Moi. (crickey, better do my hair) ;-)

      And I think some of the editing techniques would be especially suitable for a book trailer. I have a book trailer in my mind for my thriller POISON BAY which is mostly spooky music and wilderness images and the odd text overlay. Who knows if what I finally make is anything like that? But at least I have an idea in my head. :-)

  2. Cool. This is a great how-to. I haven’t created any videos for my blog yet, mostly because I can’t think of any really good content, but perhaps it’s time to start brainstorming!

    • Glad it’s useful, Denise. :-)

      I’m glad I had a heap of opportunities intersecting in that one moment, to push me over the line to finally doing something. Not just Ian’s book arriving, but the fact that I only got my iPhone a month ago (after years of being smartphone-resistant), and an insanely hectic six months finally easing up a bit, so that I had the headspace to even consider it.

  3. Belinda, thanks for the tips! Very tempting to create videos for blog but not today. Must write.-Jillian

  4. Wow. I made a complilation video of a zumba road show I did. Mixed together all the different instructors dancing to different songs and put a samba sound track over the top.
    It had never crossed my mind to do an author video until I read this, but now I will definitely give it a go.
    Thanks for all the tips.
    I’ll let you know if I succeed ( only prob… I have watching myself on film.
    Tracy

    • * oops should have said hate,
      Don’t you just love predictive text

      • Hi Tracy, I figured it out, I’ve had to interpret predictive text a lot! ;-) (the other day I asked a client if he was “registered for gay”, when it was supposed to be “registered for GST” (goods and services tax). Bit of a difference there!

        And I know what you mean about watching yourself on film. It was a lot easier for me to do one for Ian than to stick myself in front of the camera. It’s not just that I’d talk gibberish, it’s that I’ve been having a bad hair day since 1994. :-D I read a great post by someone a few months ago about making author videos, and it said: “You look how you look. Get over it.” Good advice I guess! ;-)

  5. Belinda

    Even though this post is over a year old it is still relevant and spot on the money. I’ve been meaning to start making videos for ages but have kept putting it off because I just felt there was too many steps and things I just didn’t know.

    I’ve been playing around with my iPhone for the last 10 years and I think I can do it!

    Thanks for the kick in the butt. I’m off to make some videos now!

    • Ian, I’m working on some videos myself at the moment, for an e-course I’m developing. It’s intimidating getting started on all the technicalities, but also fun.

      I’m a big fan of my iPhone and also of iPhone Video Hero at ivideohero.com/dap/a/?a=893 Makes such a difference to lighting etc, using in many cases things I already had at home.

      Come back and leave us a link in a new comment when you’ve posted one of your new videos, so we can see it and encourage you! :-)

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. Sunday Summary: Novella Writing and This Week’s Mash-Up of Awesomeness | Denise D. Young - October 15, 2012

    [...] interview with author Rosanna Leo covers everything from writer’s block to hometowns. Check out Belinda Pollard’s  tutorial on how to create videos for your author blog. I got teary-eyed reading this post on Female Heroines [...]

  2. Should you appear in your book trailer? | Writing and Self Publishing Tips - May 6, 2013

    [...] Making videos for your author blog [...]

Leave a Reply

*

Text formatting is available via select HTML.

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>