Five Tips on Directing DIY Tutorials

by Beata Dumaplin.

Dont know how to do something? Confused by the high tech lingo in your instruction manual? No problem! Nowadays, we just grab our nearest internet capable device, plug in our favorite search engine and click the go button. You will find links to dozens of different sites, lists and columns of instructions, but if you need a visual guide, youre going to be looking for a video.

One of the most searched videos on the internet, other than viral videos of kittens, are DIY tutorials. As a director of these How To videos, it is your job to not only give accurate information, but to teach as well. You need to create a productive learning environment for your viewers and that means you need to take out the distractions. Here are some tips that will help you make a smooth video that is educational and easy on the eyes.

Tip 1: Spend your time wisely. Your time as a director is precious, your actors time is precious, you may be paying for equipment, actors and crew, so time is also money. When you have a script for your Talent, give them homework, expect them to have the piece memorized when they arrive on set. They are professionals, they can handle it. It will mean fewer takes for both of you and it will mean an easier time in the editing room.

Tip 2: Speak slowly. When directing your Talent, make sure they speak slowly and annunciate. The audience of your DIY video may not know all of the terms and steps, so taking it slowly will allow them to follow along, take notes and learn by example. It is important to always think about the novice viewer. If they dont understand, they wont watch.

Tip 3: Eliminate distractions. We, as humans, are hardwired to recognize patterns. Anything that repeats itself can be distracting and at the end of the day, will distract your viewers from the true purpose of your film. Here are some DOs and DONTs for on the set. If you havent mapped out your set, try starting here. DONT USE a swivel chair. No matter how good your actor is, it is almost impossible not to wiggle back and forth in those things.DO USE a stationary chair that promotes good posture. This will be more flattering for the Talent and less distracting for the viewers. DONT USE your hands too much. Although its visually pleasing to use hand motions to demonstrated or emphasize, if used too much it can be distracting. Remember, humans and patterns. Dont let them fall into acting hands where they constantly move their hands out and back in for every other sentence. You dont want your viewers watching a pair of hands when they should be listening to the words. DO USE Your directing skill. Give them something to do with their hands. Have them hold something, or motion to a specific object or post production graphic. Use the actors urge to move to your advantage, the less they do on their own, the less likely they will fall into pattern.

Tip 4: Dont be afraid to have fun. It may be too hot in the studio or too cold on location, but everyone is in the same boat so there is no point in being a directorzilla. Try and keep the atmosphere up beat and light hearted. The less stress that your cast and crew feel, the more willing and efficiently they will work together. It may take a little longer, but the results will be worth it.

Tip 5: Cut and Paste. You may want to have your actors doing or making something in your DIY videos. It is a very effective way to teach your viewers and visual prompts will help them understand what you have been trying to tell them. However, instead of having your Talent say and then do (e.g. this is how we fold a paper airplane and then follow their line with the action) shoot your video in two parts, A-roll and B-roll. In the A-roll your actors can talk freely through the entire script, then shoot the video of the Talent actually doing all of the steps. You can edit it in postproduction and it will be easier then taking several takes of the scene if your Talent has trouble with doing part of the video.

These are just a few tips that we have collected through time and experience. Whether you have a cast and crew or you are a one man band, keeping these tips in mind will help you stay on track and keep your DIY video looking fresh. Remember: stay calm, think things through and pay attention to details. Have fun making your videos and your viewers will enjoy them too.

Jennifer O'Rourke
Jennifer O'Rourke
Jennifer O’Rourke is an Emmy award-winning videographer & editor.

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