You want your video to be great so you type into the Google search bar “How can I make my video look more like a film?” and results appear, going on and on down the page in a way that reminds you of the long credits at the end of the movie and you get discouraged, because you’ve read those before, and they have not been illuminating. What’s a best boy?
You click a few of the links and learn a few things about frame rates and color grading and how to slap black bars at the top and bottom of the frame to give the appearance of widescreen cinema. Fine. But that’s not really a start, that’s more of a finish.
All you really want to know is how to make videos that will make your CEO look good, your company stand out, your products shine. A video that looks professional. That pops on social media. That looks like a million bucks but was made on a smartphone. Is that too much to ask?
It’s not. But you have to reframe the question. Stop asking how to make your videos look like film and start asking how to make your videos like a filmmaker.
You’ll find there is no single answer to that one, either, but at least now you are down the path of process, best practices and proven techniques that anyone from the marketing department to the maintenance crew can follow.
Here are a few to get you started.
Use a tripod
Set up your shot and lock it down. Don’t move, or pan, or zoom. Leave it alone until the scene is over. Need a different angle? Set up somewhere else and shoot the scene again. Repeat as necessary.
Use a real microphone. Again, these are available at any electronics store. Doesn’t have to be high end to get the job done. But you’ll need something more than what that little one on the back of your phone can handle. Put the mic on a stand, just out of the shot. Or have someone hold it above. Lapel mics are also available. Use something. Bad audio will ruin a good video.
You could spend thousands of dollars on these, or just grab a lamp. A Chinese paper lantern with a bulb inside works great. Hang it somewhere near your subject for soft light. For now, anything will do. Don’t overthink it. Use what is at hand, but use something to light your star. It’s your job to make them look good. Or, shoot outside. The sun is the best light. A cloudy day’s filtered light is even better.
Use your head
This is the most important tip. If you want to shoot like a filmmaker, you first have to think like one. That starts with story. Find one for every project. Your CEO wants you to shoot his elevator pitch and put it online? Great idea. Give it a storyline. Shoot it in an actual elevator. Have him make the pitch to a “stranger” you’ve cast. Then to another “stranger” you’ve cast. Make it appear as if he is riding the elevator all day long giving the pitch to people. That’s kind of funny and a little humor goes a long way.
Look, we’ve only just touched the surface here. That tiny lens on the back of your phone can record the world around you in high-resolution widescreen. The possibilities are only limited by your imagination. Sure, sometimes your big idea calls for a big production, and you’ll need a director and a budget. But with practice and planning you can get professional results on a shoestring using the tools that are already at your fingertips.