YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE A WORLD-FAMOUS DIRECTOR TO SHOOT GREAT VIDEOS, BUT WE ASKED ONE FOR ADVICE ANYWAY
If you haven’t yet added videos to your marketing mix, you might want to start. Video drives traffic to your site, boosts sales and leads to fewer support calls. What’s more, 88 percent of businesses say video gives them a positive ROI. Think video costs too much or that you won’t be able to produce quality videos in house? We did, too. So, we asked world-famous photographer and director Michael Grecco for pointers. A former photojournalist, Grecco has published several best-selling photography books, and his clients include Steven Spielberg, Will Smith, Robert Duvall, Martin Scorsese, Janet Jackson, Mel Brooks, Lucy Liu, Morgan Freeman, Jet Li, Joaquin Phoenix and others. In other words, the man knows his stuff. Luckily for us, he’s happy to share his knowledge.
Connecticut Innovations: Thanks for talking with us, Michael. We know you’re busy, and so are our readers, so we’ll get right to it: Is it possible for a cash-strapped startup to produce high-quality videos?
Michael Grecco: Yes! If you need video and you have some budget, you can hire a cameraperson for a day for between three hundred and five hundred dollars. During that time, you should be able to shoot 10 videos. Decide what you need, group them, shoot them together and then have the professional you hired do the cuts. Cuts for 10 videos should run you another fifteen hundred to two thousand dollars.
CI: What if you want to shoot the video yourself? Is it possible to capture high-quality video on a smartphone?
MG: Yes. In fact, I’m a big fan of the iPhone 11; it has great video capabilities. If you decide to shoot video on a smartphone, you have two choices: Put the phone on a tripod or have a partner hold the phone. The latter option is better, since the person who’s holding the phone can start the recording when you’re ready and stop when you’re done, which means there’s no need for you to go back later to edit out the start or the tail.
CI: What about orientation?
MG: Horizontal wins. Facebook and other platforms require horizontal, so why not use that space.
CI: Your peers call you a master of lighting, and you’ve written books on the subject. Can you give us some pointers?
MG: Consider what people need to see in the background. Unless you’re a beauty blogger, there should be content. If the video is for manufacturing or sales, think about your content first. Then lighting. You don’t want any straight overhead light, especially at noon, because you’ll wind up with people who appear to have black eye sockets. The same goes for an office shot. As far as light source, I don’t recommend having it on your camera unless you’re walking around. Your best bet is to go online and buy LED video lights. Lume Cube has nice panel lights. Put them on a light stand so they’re off camera, and angle them so that the light source is 45 degrees to the subject off to left or right, and one-and-a-half feet higher than the subject, aimed at his or her face. Don’t put your light source at your subject’s feet, because the person will appear ghostly.
CI: What about audio?
MG: You can rely on your iPhone microphone if the phone is close enough to what you want to record. If the action is far away, like across the street, you’re never going to get good audio. You can get a separate microphone to record audio, but then you’re in a whole different ball game, because you’ll need a clapper and someone to clap it. [A clapper board, like the one pictured at right, helps you synch audio to video when the two have been recorded separately.]
Zoom has a great product for recording audio. You can get a wireless or wired lavalier. Hook it up, and if it’s wired, run it up the inside of your subject’s shirt. Or, you could get a shotgun mic/boom, which, since it takes noise from a small space, you’ll need to put above your subject. Don’t put it below, because there’s less noise down there, plus perhaps carpet, which will absorb sound.
CI: What video editing software do you recommend?
MG: It all depends on the time you want to put into it. iMovie from Apple is easy to learn, entry-level software. Adobe Premiere Pro is a professional video editor that takes a while to master.
CI: What tools should cash-strapped startups invest in?
MG: You can invest a lot of money, or you can keep it simple. Video equipment costs have come down a lot. You can invest in a Zoom mic, like we talked about earlier, but you need an extra human to operate it. If you have two extra humans, get a boom mic. Now you’re a pro.
Get the Lume Cube light—the panel light. Don’t get the little one, which is good for, like, hiding in a car dashboard and shooting there, but it won’t go beyond two feet. You’ll lose power. There’s something called the inverse square of light [which describes light’s intensity at different distances from its source]. If you move from one to two feet, light intensity doesn’t cut in half, it is quartered. Light scatters.
If you have some money, and you think you’re going to produce video regularly, invest in a Sony camera. You can purchase a Sony A7S, which is more of a video camera, for about two thousand dollars. If you’re doing stills, product shots and headshots, the new Sony A7R Mark IV is killer. It’s a beautiful, high-end camera that costs around four thousand dollars. If you think you might buy a Zoom mic and you’re recording sound, just get the Sony.
CI: What are the biggest mistakes amateurs make when shooting video?
MG: Amateurs never consider sound. In fact, sound is a failure of many movies and documentaries. It needs to be considered.
CI: Any final thoughts before we let you get back to work?
MG: Shooting video isn’t magic, it’s common sense. Look at professional videos you admire. [Find Michael’s here.] Yours should look and sound like those.