With the explosion of the Podcast comes a new way of video sharing: vidcasting. In this first of three parts, we’ll look at how you, too, can now be a broadcaster and launch your own vidcast.
Perhaps 10 years ago you had a techno-savvy friend who asked you for your email address; chagrined, you admitted you didn’t have one yet. Five years ago, you still hadn’t gotten around to putting up a personal Web page. And now your e-trendy friend is cajoling you to start video sharing, showcasing all the cool stuff you do.
Whether you call them vidcasts, video podcasts, vlogs, video sharing or something else, episodic video shows are quickly becoming an important form of content delivery. And while they are not quite as ubiquitous as personal Web sites, individuals and small businesses have found that video sharing can help them to develop a dedicated community of viewers by providing specialized content.
In this and the next two issues, we are going to review everything you need to know to plan, produce, edit, and distribution for video sharing. In this first article we’ll tackle the critically important planning phase, covering five key areas: assessment, format, quality, frequency and length, and cost. In each of these areas we’ll prompt you to ask yourself important questions, so have a pen and paper handy (yes, a computer works too) to jot down your answers. At the end of this three-part series, you should have a working outline for your video sharing/ vidcast endevours.
Video Sharing Assessment: Is a Vidcast Right for You?
If you simply have a few thoughts you’d like to share with the world, then just set up a webcam, don a silly hat, and fire off a soliloquy or two and be done with it. If, on the other hand, you have special skills, products or information that would be best delivered in small chunks over the course of many weeks, months or even years, then maybe a vidcast is best for video sharing. Do you have a hobby, sport or interest that you have trained your camcorder on that warrants methodic unveiling? Are you an educator who would like to share your knowledge with a wider audience? Do you think there is a group of people who are interested in what you have to offer? And how important is it for you to develop a community of regular viewers?
Ask yourself these questions and don’t be daunted by thinking small. In fact, you should. Developing and distributing niche content is precisely what video sharing can do for you better than just about any other form of content distribution. Unless you’re banking on an early retirement from selling lots of advertising, you don’t necessarily need thousands of people to make your video sharing successful.
So is a video sharing right for you? Well, if there’s even a little “maybe” in your response, then read on!
Video Sharing Format
Your audience, delivery environment and content largely determine the format of your video sharing.
Who is your audience? Will they be about your age or will they be much younger or older? Do they have or are they aspiring to acquire the same level of knowledge you have about your subject? You may not know right away, but you should have in mind a very particular audience. This awareness is critical to shaping the look and feel of your video sharing subject matter.
If you’ve poked around the net much, you’ve no doubt noticed that the general look of most video sharing is markedly less formal than the 6:00 news. In fact, they can be everything from pseudo-slick to downright grungy. And don’t think grunge can’t work. Diggnation has been one of the most popular video sharing entities to date with little more than a dumpy couch in a living room and clothes that have never seen an iron…and perhaps even a washing machine. This underscores how having compelling information presented by knowledgeable and witty talent can overcome even the most pedestrian settings.
How will you prepare your content for video sharing? Will you be providing mostly information or will there be a dash of entertainment? Will it require research or are you already able to talk for a sustained period of time on your topic? Will you memorize, refer to notes on paper, or use a Teleprompter? While not really a classic Teleprompter that allows you to look directly into the lens, software such as that used by Adobe’s recently acquired Vlog It allows users a very intuitive and reasonably priced method of reading a scrolling script.
How will you deliver your message? Will you do this through the classic “talking head” or will you also use demonstrations, additional video and still images or even illustrations? Will you be the host or will there be others to serve as “on-camera talent?” What about interviews on your set, in the field, or over the phone?
Video Sharing Quality
There are three main areas you in which could invest time and money to increase the quality of your video sharing. In approximate order of importance they are: content development, lighting and set design, and equipment.
Fortunately, for the success of your video sharing endeavors, the most important area is also the least expensive. Just about everybody’s got a camcorder; many have pretty decent ones. What they often lack is a compelling reason to turn it on. Spend the majority of your time gathering information and your thoughts, and you’ll already be well ahead of a large number of current video sharing “producers.” Good preparation and an outline should not stifle your delivery or make your video sharing content stiff… just the opposite. It should provide you with the freedom to be casual and informative, with a structure that will prevent you from rambling.
If you need to invest in anything, it’s likely your lighting. If you’ve been using hardware store lighting fixtures until now, this might be the time to replace them with real lighting instruments. A large softbox or fluoropan for your main light, a focusable rim light or two, and some spotlights with barndoors for the background, positioned correctly, will give your video sharing content a professional feel.
Your set is probably the biggest factor in determining the “look” of your video sharing content. It can also be one of the most time-consuming and costly. Is a battered couch all you need or are you conjuring up blueprints that require planning commission approval? Starting simply is always a good idea, but if you want to start with some pizzazz on a budget, consider a virtual set. If your shot will be static and not too wide, a simple chroma-key set may be just right. We’ll talk more about set design and virtual sets in our next issue.
As with set design, we’ll get into discussing equipment in more detail in part two, Producing Your Vidcast, but for now, if you have a camcorder you are happy with for general videography, there’s no need to upgrade just for your video sharing content. If, on the other hand, you’re looking for a feeble rationalization… sure, a better camcorder will translate into better images online.
Frequency and Length for Video Sharing
How often you produce your video sharing content has a lot to do with its popularity. Not only will your viewers come to look forward to your next installment, but it seems evident that several of the leading RSS aggregators, like iTunes and FireAnt, use frequency as a factor in ranking. We have found that a weekly show will rank higher than one that is less frequent. Releasing on the same day each week, while not critical, may also have an impact on ranking.
Length is certainly determined by your subject matter, your capacity to sustain its delivery and your intended audience’s attention span. However, another factor to account for in this planning stage is web server bandwidth. A few of the early vidcasts got quickly swamped with viewers that rang up hefty bandwidth fees. We’re talking many thousands of dollars. So while it may be a welcome “problem,” it’s a good idea to check with your current Web host provider what charges may apply if you go over your monthly bandwidth allocation.
The last step in planning is to estimate how much your new video sharing venture will cost you. Review your answers to the questions above and tally everything you’ll likely need to get started. Don’t forget to allow for costs of props and perhaps some extra hard drive or optical media storage. If you’ve been trying to answer these questions as you read along, you’re probably beginning to see how much there is to consider in planning for your first video sharing experience. But don’t let this dissuade you from learning first-hand what works for you. It still can be as simple as turning a camcorder on yourself and talking about your passion.
If your video sharing is starting to take shape, be sure to check our next issue where we’ll dig into the details of production and follow with distribution.
Contributing editor Brian Peterson is a video production consultant, trainer, and lecturer.
Vidcasts to watch for ideas
- Videomaker Presents (of course)
- Podcast Salad
- Buzz Out Loud