Constructing Quality, Compelling Videos

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The pros make the magic of the movies look, well, like magic. But even with today’s easy-to-use video cameras and desktop editing software, it can be tough for aspiring Web video creators to know where to start. A few tricks of the trade, however, go a long way in ensuring a video is entertaining and engaging—helping it get noticed in the world of the Web.

Get Your Head Together

Ultimately, what matters most is your idea—the story you’re telling. Regardless of what genre your video falls into, there’s some central idea you’re trying to communicate to your audience. Before you ever take the lens cap off your camera, think about what that is. Map out the general story arc, script and shot list. Planning ahead will help make your production and editing processes more efficient and, most importantly, it will result in a video that captures your viewers’ attention.

Aim High

As broadband connections improve and videos get streamed in large formats, viewers increasingly expect videos to look good on screen—high quality is key. Three techniques will improve the production value of your video without breaking your budget:

Get the White Right. The type of light you use has a great impact on how your camera reads white objects, with incandescent lights casting a yellow hue and sunlight tinting your white areas blue. A quick fix is to white balance before each shot or when the light changes. Simply focus on a piece of white paper and activate the white balance function on your camera. The camera will now use that white paper as its reference point, and your colors will look natural.

Move it! To capture action shots, you want the camera to smoothly follow your subject’s movements. An easy, inexpensive way to do this is to have someone push you in a rolling office chair or skateboard as you’re filming (on a flat surface, of course).

Go neutral. If you frequently shoot outdoors in strong sunlight, invest in a neutral density filter (available for as little as $50). The filter will automatically reduce the amount of light coming through the lens, without requiring you to change your iris setting. This means you can play around with your aperture to change the depth of field—while still getting ideal light levels.

Rock On

Music helps set the tone for and establish the pace of your video. While you can’t use copyrighted music, of course, there are several easy (and legal) ways to score your videos:

Get a Creative Commons Attribution license. One of the most abundant sources of free music is licensed under Creative Commons, an organization committed to expanding the variety of creative work available for others to use. The attribution license lets other remix, tweak and build upon one’s work even for commercial reasons, as long as they credit the author for the original creation.

Mine the public domain. Music in the public domain has no laws that restrict its use by the public at large, which means that you can reproduce, distribute, modify and remix it freely. One of the most extensive sources of such music is the Internet Archive (, which has thousands of different files for download. You also can produce your own soundtrack using sheet music from songs in the public domain.

Purchase royalty-free music. Royalty-free music isn’t free—but you pay for it only once and can then use it as you like (subject to the specific terms of your license, of course). If you’re willing to invest, there are plenty of places online where you can find and download high-quality, low-cost music for your video.

Cut It Out

The most successful web videos are short—those between 30 seconds and two minutes usually get the best reaction. Being disciplined and discriminating in the editing process can help make your video successful. A story that is focused and quick-paced will keep your viewers’ attention—and keep them coming back for more.

Tell It Like It Is

When you upload your finished video to a Web site, you’ll be asked for a brief description—be accurate and succinct. When asked to categorize your video or provide search tags, choose words that are closely connected to the major themes of your video. Nothing is a bigger turn off to the audience than expecting one thing and getting something totally different.

The world of Web video is an exciting one—an open frontier still in its pioneer days. The opportunity to creatively express yourself in this medium and reach a diverse audience only available via the Internet is compelling. For more tips and tricks and an extensive list of resources for video creators, please visit

Eyal Hertzog co-founded Metacafe, which has more than 25 million unique viewers monthly.