Making your videos POP!

Making your videos POP!

Okay Samurai’s Top Editing Tips & a SXSW-inspired Scavenger Hunt.

I believe that in our current modern digital culture, videos are one of the best ways for us to communicate. They help us inform, inspire, and entertain like no other medium can.

But how do you get your message across in a short amount of time and find the right balance of entertainment vs. information? How should you plan before you shoot to capture the best possible material to work with?

At my session today at SXSW’s Adobe Creative Camp, I’m sharing about my experience working with video and what I have found to work well: why choose video, how to pack a lot of visual punch in a short amount of time, and how to give your work a strong platform for performing well on social media.  If you’re not at SXSW, don’t worry— my top 10 video creation tips are below.

Now, ready to put your learnings to the test? From SXSW or beyond, join in a video scavenger hunt that incorporates some of my go-to methods along with Austin-inspired items to find! Details below – including surprises for a lucky few participants!

10 Quick Video Creation Tips

#1: Cut & Edit Ruthlessly

In the age of Vine, Instagram & animated GIFs, people’s attention spans seem shorter than ever. If you start with a 15 second shot of someone talking, you’re going to lose half your audience before you even get to 10 seconds. I actually do tests and watch people watch my videos, and observe when they look away.

YouTube also has metrics for viewer drop-off. I study these with each video I release, seeing where the majority of people left and trying to figure out how to improve it for my next video.

Not to say everything has to be a barrage of quick 1 second clips – you have to have a sense of pacing and balance – but one of the most common issues with amateur video is holding a boring shot for too long. If you are inclined to hold shots for a long time before cutting to something else, try making each clip in your sequence 5 seconds or less, just to see what it does for the pace of your video. Play around and mix up the lengths of clips based on their content & focus, and how you want them to interact with your soundtrack, if you have one.

#2: Overlay B-Roll.

B-roll is the video footage that demonstrates what someone is talking about in an interview, or gives more context to the action or voice over. “B-roll” is a generic term that can refer to any number of things: it might include the surrounding environment, action, hand gestures, panoramic shots, or close ups. The name hails from a multi camera set up for interviews, where Camera A is capturing the main action or speaker, and Camera B is capturing secondary visual information that can be cut in. So B-roll is the stuff that Camera B was rolling on.

B-roll can make a huge difference in the wow-factor of your video, and is a great way to cover up edits in an interview. Take your Premiere Clip project into Premiere Pro, then separate your audio track from your video so you can overlay B-roll footage.

#3: Have a Rough Plan

Even rough story cards are better than nothing, and even documentaries & cinema verite have a plan before going into production.

Think about the story you want to tell before you go shoot it. Having a plan for what you are going to capture will result in more interesting composition and a variety of shot types. This doesn’t mean that you are beholden to only shoot the things you storyboarded, but it does mean that you won’t forget to shoot a key scene or get a certain piece of dialog.

#4: Tweak the Sound

Bad audio = amateur.

It might not be the first thing that comes to mind, but audio is a key part of visual storytelling, and sound can be highly distracting when it isn’t right.

Adding a soundtrack will generate the mood you want to create in your video, so choose wisely, and make sure that the diegetic sound (the stuff that is captured by the camera during the shoot) is playing nicely with your soundtrack.

Premiere Clip has some great tools to help you make your mobile videos sound great. Play around with the Smart Volume & Auto Mix sliders in your project so that you understand what they do. If you’re doing your editing on the desktop, try using the hard limit filter in Audition to boost your levels.

VIDEO | Audio Controls in Premiere Clip

#5: Add a Look

There are people in Hollywood whose whole job is to work on the color of a film. Even just a few minor adjustments to highlights, shadows and saturation can have an enormous visual payoff and make your video feel more engaging and vibrant. It also helps make your video feel like one coherent piece, and can create a mood or sense of emotion.

The default pro looks in Premiere Clip make this incredibly easy – I tend to use “Cinema” or “Punch” the most. In Premiere Pro & After Effects I’ll usually fool around with Curves and Hue/Saturation at a minimum.

#6: Stop Using Canned Titles!

You know what I mean – the overused fonts with the cheesy animated effects you find in many editing apps. If this is the first thing I see in a video, it’s an immediate turnoff.

VIDEO | Bad Canned Titles Example

Why not be more creative with your titles, tying into your videos’ themes more? For a trip to Tahoe, why not write TAHOE out of sticks on the ground and film that? In the past I’ve used chalk on a sidewalk, permanent marker on a cocktail napkin, magnetic letter, an Adobe Sketch project on an iPad, and Legos. Get creative!

VIDEO | Creative Titles Example

#7: Use Establishing Shots

You know on TV sitcoms where they show the house exterior with a short musical theme before getting to the inside shot? It usually just lasts a couple of seconds, but it serves an important purpose – setting the scene for the story they’re about to dive into.

So don’t just jump straight into to a talking head or action shot – show a relevant environment first and help ease your viewers into your story. I even do this for vacation videos – a New York skyline, a Kauai beach panorama, and so on.

#8: Always Tell A Story

A friend of mine was working on a video walkthrough for a flight dynamics application for satellite ground systems. So really complex stuff. He sent me an early version and it was a little slow and dry; just a rundown of each feature, with very little connecting them together.

My suggestion was to frame it with a story instead. Have a narrative take a user through a fictional scenario, where this guy has a series of satellites he’s managing and scheduling. That narrative thread helped tie everything together and create a real world example of someone using the software instead of a list of bullet points. It added some life and momentum to everything.

We might forget individual details, but we remember stories. It’s one of the most proven ways to structure a compelling video.

#9: Always Have A Call To Action (CTA)

You’ve made a video that really connects with someone – so don’t lose them when the credits roll. Is there a website or Facebook/Twitter page you want them to visit? Other videos you want them to see? Always give interested viewers a clear next step, not just a “The End” screen.

Popular YouTubers do this really well, using YouTube’s annotations to create clickable links to other videos or subscribing to their channel (although these don’t work on mobile – yet). I always end my videos with a simple website URL, as well as including it in the video description.

#10: Learn from the Masters

Once you start to develop an eye for video, you start getting inspired by every other video, show, video game cut scene or movie you see. I learned so much just trying to emulate things I saw others doing, like: “Oh, that’s cool!” when someone is speaking and the person they’re talking to is out of focus in the foreground. Or mixing in a slow-motion shot right before the soundtrack goes to the chorus to give it a little more impact. I experiment a lot with techniques I’ve admired elsewhere. If you have kids or pets, congratulations – you’ve got great test subjects.

Look, 95.6% of people just shoot at arm’s length without thinking about these sort of things. Once you begin to develop a vocabulary of diverse techniques, your videos will really start to stand out from the norm and feel more professional.

Alright, now on to the game!

#sxscavenger: A SXSW inspired Scavenger Hunt

Calling all scavengers to the hunt – from SXSW & beyond!

Take a cue from my session at SXSW and join a #MadeWithClip video Scavenger Hunt! If you made it to my Creative Camp session, here’s a chance to apply your learning. If you’re tuning in from afar, you can grab the crib notes above with my Top 10 Quick Editing tips.

How to play:

In a short Premiere Clip video, find the items and shot types listed below. Get creative! If you don’t have easy access to one of the items below, see what you can do on the fly!

Share your video on social media using #sxscavenger by noon on Thursday, March 19, to have your video featured in the March 20th SPOTLIGHT.

Surprises are in store for a lucky few, so share your #sxscavenger video today!

Items to find:

1. Wacky sunglasses

2. A guitar

3. Something orange


1, 2, 3, 4… 18: Find a unicycle, bicycle, pedicab, low rider or Mack truck.

5. Hack a household item to create a tripod…

… Such as a book, coffee cup, or pair of binder clips. Be sure to shoot a short clip that reveals what you used!

BONUS ITEMS: A person w/colorful hair, Graffiti/Mural Art, Anything BBQ related

Now, add a soundtrack, add a Look, edit ruthlessly, and share on social with #sxscavenger hunt!

Image credits: Mustache sunglasses image via Mike Mozart. Reflector image via Lali Masriera. Dawn with birds image via Jenny Downing. Unicycle image via Antonis Lamnatos. Mack truck image via marksontok. Used with Creative Commons licensing

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