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Shooting for YouTube: Proper Production Values

When you’re producing a video for YouTube, keep in mind that the video will be viewed in a small (320 x 240 pixel) window on the viewer’s computer monitor. It won’t be viewed on a high-definition widescreen TV; it won’t even be viewed on the full computer screen. No, your video has to be compelling when viewed in that small YouTube video window.

What this means is that you don’t need to spend a lot of money on sophisticated video values. Skip the HDTV recording, skip the widescreen aspect ratio, maybe even skip the ultra-expensive lights and makeup. Make your video good enough to be viewed at a 320 x 240 size, and don’t waste your money on production values that won’t be visible to the viewer.

In addition, keep that size in mind when deciding what to shoot. Don’t bother with crowd scenes; all those people will be too tiny to see in the small video window. Instead, compose an image that has maximum impact in the small window. What works best, more often than not, is a large subject against a simple background. That might be nothing more than the speaker full-frame against a light background; it’s a big image with good contrast, which is what you want.

You should, however, spend a few bucks for onscreen graphics. You want a title for your video, appropriate subtitles throughout, and your company’s phone number and website URL. These graphics need to look professional, and be large enough to read in the YouTube video window.

You can shoot a video for YouTube using professional video equipment, a consumer-level video camcorder (shooting in digital video format, of course), or even a computer webcam. Many video blogs are shot with simple webcams, just a person in front of the camera, talking about the subject at hand. You’ll probably want to transfer the video to a computer for editing, of course; any consumer-level video editing program, such as Microsoft’s Windows Movie Maker or Apple’s iMovie, should do the trick.

As to length, YouTube lets you upload videos up to 10 minutes long. If you have a longer video—say, a half-hour seminar on tape—you can simply edit it into several shorter segments. In fact, shorter segments are generally better; I recommend keeping your videos to three minutes or less. Anything longer and you’ll start to bore people and lose viewers. Even if you have a 10-minute video, you might want to edit it into three or four 2- or 3-minute segments. YouTube viewers have a short attention span, and you need to compensate for this.

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