Your how-to channel, documentary, news report, infomercial, and narrative all tell stories.
You need to realize this. Even if your channel is not narrative-based. Television is an audio/visual medium transmitting information. You should look at this information as a story. Transitioning to this mindset is the first tip on upping your production value.
It will change the way you approach every aspect of your process for the better. Read on to see how!
Know what you’re saying, Script it.
To some, this could either sound obvious or a waste of time. I realize there are folks on both sides of the spectrum. That said, it can make all the difference between sounding/looking amateur or professional.
I implore you to write down what you want to say to your audience. You should look at your video as a story, no matter the length. You want to make sure it has a proper beginning, a perky middle, and a satisfying end.
In other words, a well-planned project will meet the goals you set. And it prevents meandering. Write an outline if you can not justify a full script. Just write it down.
Location/Wardrobe, Look and feel the part.
If filming a documentary on downtown homelessness, try not to dress it up. If filming practically anything else, you can not let it look like your filming a documentary on downtown homelessness. Make sure you look the part your playing on TV.
Pay attention to your set design as well. Adding a bit of interest in your background can add value for free. A plant. Art Poster. Whatever might be appropriate to the story your telling. A taxidermy duck on the wall would work on your hunting channel. Not so much on your vegan one. Be aware of what you put in the frame and make it visually interesting.
Audio, Make them feel what they see.
If you have never heard it before, I am pleased to inform you that sound is 50% of your video. No, that is not a typo. And, no, I did not say it first. That award goes to George Lucas.
If you had a choice of high-end video and low-end audio or vise versa, always go with vise versa. That is high-end audio and low-end video. Granted, going all out is best, but not realistic.
The point is, the most beautiful image will be destroyed with poor audio. Guaranteed. Watch a movie like Citizen Cane or 12 Angry men. You can not get a camera that shoots such a low-resolution today(not easily anyway). They are still a pleasure. Now watch a modern-day blockbuster without sound. I bet you will not finish it.
Wonderful news. High-quality sound can be achieved for a fraction of the price of a high-quality picture. I am talking anywhere from under $60-$200. And it counts for %50 of your finished product. Boost your audio before boosting your video.
Cover your bases, Multiple camera angles.
This is an easy way to boost any production value. It just requires a little thought. The easiest way to do this is to shoot with multiple cameras. That way, you can cut between different angles in one shot. But, if on a budget, you probably only have one camera. Even if you have more than one camera, I would still shoot every scene at least twice. Your editor will thank you. If you do your own editing, you will thank yourself.
The goal here is to create more interest in your final product. I use the word interest here in this post as a synonym for your production value. I do this because of how interrelated these concepts are. By cutting from one angle to another, you are re-stimulating the viewers’ minds. This technique is almost mandatory in this day and age. Thank you, MTV.
Make sure that the angles you are shooting from contrast each other. Moving the camera a foot or two is not going to work. If you only move the camera slightly, it will look jumpy when you edit the two angles together. Not cinematic. You should not jar the audience(unless you are doing horror) but stimulate them.
The angle should be at least 60 degrees different from the other camera angles without going beyond 180 degrees. If you go beyond that, when you edit between the angels, your subject will flip the direction they face on the screen. This will only confuse the audience. Here is more information on the subject matter.
Basic PRO-duction checklist:
- Am I thinking of the story being told?
- Did I script or outline it?
- Does location/wardrobe represent the story?
- Is my audio the best I can make it?
- Do I give the viewers more than one angle to view the scene?
Stay tuned for more posts that build on this subject.
We realize that you are a professional and want your channel to properly represent that. When starting out, you’ll be hard-pressed to have a better foundation than presented here.
If it’s not your first rodeo, this should still be a checklist that gets all of its boxes checked. And I mean, every time. Your channel deserves the best it can be. This will always be based on your production value. Stay tuned for more to grow your PRO-duction checklist. We anticipate seeing you bring great things to the world!