How To Improve Your Videos Overnight

Sep 12, 2017
Boulder, Colorado
When getting shots of you or a spectator, remember this number: 45. The 45 degree angle is great for bringing out the depth of the objects and people on screen. It gives faces more definition and makes you look more alive. As you get better at making videos, you can eventually work on different angles, but get used to this first. I was going to make a joke about how this is the only appropriate time to talk about "shooting a 45," but that's a little bad taste even for me.

If you're cutting together multiple shots, always cut on movement. Whenever possible, try to cut on someone exiting the frame. There are times when it's okay to break these rules, but the sense of when to do that comes largely with experience. The advantage this has over other skills is that it's easy to correct mistakes. The same cannot always be said of, for example, cooking, as my local volunteer fire department will attest.

One last pitfall to avoid is to never point the camera at a window when you're shooting indoors and the sun's coming in. Your camera will try to balance the light out with the unfortunate result every time being that the room will be almost invisibly black while it looks like the sun is going super nova. And while I'm thinking of it, turn off autofocus. Leaving autofocus on is a passive-aggressive way of saying you really hate other people's eyes.

If you find yourself enjoying the process of creative camerawork, look for a copy of this book at the library or local bookstore.

At this point do I really need to remind everyone that your junk should not be at the center of the shot? Are we all on the same page on that one? Because as a straight, adult male I really don't want to see your giggle basket.

4. Don't Try To Get Fancy in Post

I cannot overstate this one. Too many videos these days are loaded with filters, showy transitions, text effects, slow motion and various and sundry other distractions. Trust me, without experience in editing your videos are not going to look like Watchmen, Avatar, or Sucker Punch. They end up coming across more like this:


Get a Post-It note right now, write on it, "LESS IS MORE" and stick it on your monitor or somewhere else really visible in your desk space. The majority of effects filters that come with your editing software are things you'll never use. Ever.

This is especially a problem for videos with a routine set to music. When using a song, take the beat and tempo to mind. Match your pacing with the songs. When you feel the tension building in the music, so should your magic. If you're of a mind, learning to play an instrument would actually be a huge help with this. Being able to identify and articulate how a song was put together makes it way easier to set action to it. You don't need to know how to tell if the musicians are playing this guitar solo in E Mixolydian and this riff in A# major with a I-V-ii-IV progression (again, all real terminology by the way), but just knowing a little will go a long way.

If you have to use music, pick something because you want it, not because you feel like it's expected. Is there a song that you love the meaning of? Try to illustrate that with your performance. Do you like the energy? Get that across in your moves. Believe me, a video that shows a slow elegant card manipulation performance using half a black deck and half a white deck set to Ebony and Ivory by Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney is way better than "dubstep Sybil variations #347." In fact, someone make that video right now. I didn't even realize I wanted to see that until I wrote it down!

5. Rehearse

Here it is. My pet cause. Here's where I get totally honest with you guys. My technical skills could only be described as "adequate," because I can't use my right hand to do anything more complicated than a double lift. I can't even move the third and fourth fingers of my right hand independently, nor can I make a proper fist. That's how left-handed I am. A lot of you guys out there have way better technical chops than I ever will... But it doesn't matter, because you don't rehearse.

Take the time to figure out what you're going to say. Practice saying it. Say it different ways. Say it as you do your moves and imagine how you'll arrange the audience. Be aware of where they'll be and where the camera will be. Last thing you want is your buddy perching the camera on your shoulder like a really obnoxious parrot and catching every sleight because you didn't tell him where to stand.

You also rehearse to work on your timing. For you manipulation artists, this is a big deal. Flow and rhythm are really important to you guys because your routines are so tightly structured and choreographed. Your hands and cards are like the Blue Angels: gracefully flying through impressive formations, but one wrong move and it all comes crashing down in flames.

I've had guys tell me that they're worried that rehearsal will take the spontaneity out of their performance and make it look obviously scripted. But good acting isn't supposed to look like acting. Do it right, and no one will ever know.

So there you have it. Five ways you can start improving your videos immediately. I will now open the floor to questions.

Wow, this was a great read and very informative...I'm brand new in filming youtube videos and to theory11...this is a wonderful start and also the book 5C's I'm ordering that too! Thank you for your time in writing and editing this did good! :)
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