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Recording Professional Voice Overs for Your Videos

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Sound is arguably the most important part of video production. People are willing to put up with a fuzzy image or shaky camera if they really want the information, but if they can’t hear you well, they won’t give you the time of day.

In this video from Videomaker, video production expert Jeremy Votava goes over the ins and outs of recording great voice overs. You can record a voice over yourself if you’re going to try some video scribing or doing a simple screen capture, or you can work with vocal talent to do a voice over. In either case, following Jeremy’s tips will help set you up for sound success.

If you want to learn more about creating, distributing, and monetizing professional videos, check out the web TV and video track at NMX this January!

 

5 Things I Will Never Do Again When Producing a Web Series

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I had a blast making a web series with some of my good friends, and I think it turned out funny and not at all thought provoking, which is exactly what we were going for, so I’m happy about that. It’s called The Next Best Web Series, because it pokes fun at itself and at the process of making a web series.

Speaking of the process of making a web series, if I were to make the NEXT Next Best Web Series (or a second season of it) there are things I would do differently. To put it bluntly, there are at least 5 things I would NEVER do again when producing a web series.

1. Writing the scripts as you go

If you can avoid it, don’t write the scripts for the episodes as you go. In other words, don’t write one episode, organize the shoot, shoot it, edit the episode, and then decide to write another episode…and so on. This is fine if you’re just “shooting from the hip” so to speak, and you’re not sure if this is something you really want to do in your life, but if you made a conscious decision to shoot multiple episodes, or a full season, it’s much better to have all of the scripts ready to go, or at least half of them.

There are two main reason why this is the case:

  • It helps when organizing shooting locations and times in advance, and sometimes you can shoot a few episodes together if they take place at the same location.
  • You WILL discover new jokes, storylines, and big character moments as you write the second, third, and fourth scripts, that you may want to set up in an earlier episode. OR you may set up something in a first episode that you later realize cannot be easily bookended.

Remember, you can always change the script easily, but changing an episode after it’s shot is what the actors and crew  call “something I don’t really want to do.”

2. Long Tarantino-like “clever” word play and tangents

As a writer, and as someone who has many a long conversation with himself in his own head, I like to write long, dare I say witty, dialogue. You know what doesn’t work well in a web series format? Long, dare I say witty dialogue. You need to jam pack so much into a small window, and the most important thing you need to do is tell the story first.

If you’re writing a comedy, the story should be funny, and not just rely on the banter the characters have while going through the story. If the story is funny, then everything will fall into place around it, and this is never truer than with a web series, because everything needs to be staccato dialogue. If you really need a character to blast off, then make sure it’s worth it, and if you don’t have a lot of long winded speeches or long winded pointless dialogue, then these blast off moments will stick out in the way that they should.

3. Complicated, shocking scenes

At the end of our first season of The Next Best Web Series, I wrote three episodes with a very ridiculous premise that involved accidental drug taking, a lemonade stand, a bride-to-be, and a boy band. That might sound funny, and in another world we might have been able to make it work, but it was nowhere near the tone of our other episodes. So just because a scenario is funny, doesn’t mean it’s right for your show. One of the things about making a web series is you feel this freedom to do whatever you want with no restraints on content for the most part. That can really screw you over. Keep in mind, it’s not a sketch comedy show (unless it is) and there’s an ongoing story (unless there isn’t) that you should adhere to. The word “series” in web series suggests some kind of ongoing story line — otherwise it’s just another Youtube video. Oh, and back to the complicated, shocking scenes — your director won’t like it a whole lot, your actors will feel kind of uncomfortable, and you will likely not have the budget or the resources to pull it off. But, you know, details.

4. Many characters in one room all at once in almost every damn scene

Ok, this was not my fault at all. In my web series, I had a COLLECTION of great actors, and the collection grew as the season went on. They all killed their parts and were so ridiculously funny with each other that I found it hard or impossible to leave out anybody or skimp someone on their lines. Never mind when I brought in a couple guest stars who also happened to kill it.

With a web series, because of the nature of the format, you think in real time a lot, and not necessarily in TV time. In other words, you kind of want to get everything done in one room or location over the course of a few minutes, instead of cutting to multiple scenes, with maybe different combinations of characters in each, much like a sitcom would do.

It’s perfectly easy to do this, and it requires the planning ahead and writing the scripts in advance that I just did not do, but it’s also helpful for diving into each character more, which is what I really wish I was able to do. When you get all the characters in one scene, it’s just plain difficult to shoot and not always beneficial to the characters. Much like the stuff about long winded lines, they have their place when executed correctly and not overdone, and the chaos of having so many characters in one spot at one time will be funnier the less you use it.

5. Forcing the hand of the actor through detailed action

This I learned about in a backwards way. My director would often tell me to cut down on the length of the script, and for good reason. Since sometimes I was very in love with everything that I wrote, even though I would find out later that miraculously it wasn’t all golden nuggets, I would cheat and cut down on the action and scene description to reduce pages in the script. It worked brilliantly, except not in the way that I had intended. The scenes when shot were still too long, and the director was very much aware of this. However, with less detailed action for each actor, they somehow came up with their own action…almost as if they were also thinking about their character.

What came from this in my later episodes was a freedom for the actors to react, move, and emote in ways that I never began to think about, and it allowed the director to think freely as well. Obviously if there is something super specific, and it just has to be done, put it down in the script.

I am not an expert by any means, but simply gathered my own thoughts after going through the process. If you want to see what came of it, please check out the episodes for yourself. If you have any thoughts or follow-ups to your experience while producing a web series, please feel free to comment below or reach out to me on Twitter or Facebook.

How to Make a Video Using Video Scribing

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Video scribing (or videoscribing or just plain “scribing”) is a pretty cool technique that I’m seeing more and more often online. With this technique, you draw using a screen capturing program or white board and speed it up to match an audio presentation. It requires a little artistic skill, but it’s a great option if you don’t like to be on camera.

It’s also a great option to use as a pattern interrupt. If all of your videos are just you talking to the camera, things can start to get a little boring. Doing a video that’s a little different in terms of format can spice things up.

I always thought that you had to be some kind of video genius to make a video scribing video, but our friend Pat Flynn from Smart Passive Income breaks down the process in the video tutorial below. It’s not easy, but it is manageable even for video newbies like me!

It you love Pat’s video tutorials as much as I do, make sure to pick up a ticket for NMX where he’ll be presenting Proven Methods to Use Free in Your Business to Get More Traffic, More Subscribers and More Customers. It’s a must see for all bloggers, podcasters, and video/web TV series producers!

Early bird pricing ends September 28th, so don’t delay! You can buy tickets here.

How to Prepare for Your First Recorded Interview

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microphone Blogging allows you to become an authority in your niche, and as you grow in popularity, you may get interview requests. Email interviews are pretty easy. You can go back in and edit your answers until it readers perfectly. Recorded interviews are a completely different game, though. You have to give answers off the cuff, and if you say something silly, you can’t really go back and reword it.

I’m an introvert, so video or podcast interviews make me a little nervous. Okay, a lot nervous! Yet I still jump at the chance to do them because they are fabulous for promoting your blog and getting your name out there. Over the years, I’ve developed a few techniques to help me prepare for interviews so they go as smoothly as possible.

Even if you’re not intimidated by being on camera or recording a podcast with someone, preparing can really help you give a much better interview. If your interviews are scattered and rambling, you’ll be less likely to get invited to do them in the future.

Here are my best tips:

  • Do some research on the person interviewing you.

If you’re the interviewer, you need to do tons of research on the person you’re interviewing in order to ask the right questions. But if you’re the interviewee, you should do some research as well. Get to know the person who will be interviewing you to find out about their style. Will the interview be causal and fun? Will it be more formal? Who have they interviewed in the past? Watch/listen to older interviews when possible so you have a little insight as to what yours will be like.

  • Ask for questions in advance.

You can be best prepared to answer questions when you have some time to think about them. The nature of a recorded interview means that follow-up questions will pop up, but get as many questions as possible in advance.

  • Write down the points you want to cover.

Once you have the questions, go over each one and write down the points you want to cover regarding them. You don’t want to sound scripted, but you also don’t want to forget to mention certain points. It’s easy to get flustered or so excited talking about a certain topic that you forget where you were going with your response. Having a few notes in front of you helps avoid rambling and missed opportunities.

  • Open all links in relevant tabs before the interview.

What are you going to be talking about during the interview? Think about all of the websites, projects, businesses, etc. that you’re going to reference during the interview and have any relevant links open in a new tab. During the interview, it’s easy to forget the name of that cool blogger you wanted to mention or the URL of a certain tool you recommend. Don’t kick yourself for forgetting or being unable to answer follow up questions.

  • Get a good mic.

Bad sound can kill an interview. If the sound quality is poor, people won’t listen to or watch your interview, so having a good mic is important. Luckily, good doesn’t have to mean expensive. If you’re going to do tons of interviews or start your own podcast, go for the highest quality mic you can afford. But if you’re just doing occasional interviews, an inexpensive mic works just fine as long as you don’t sound fuzzy or cut out as you’re giving answers.

  • Make sure you have a secluded, quiet space and a undisturbed block of time set aside for the interview.

Get your kids out of the house for an hour. Shut the windows to block out traffic, dogs, and other noise outside of your control. Turn off your phone. These all seem like simple things, but you’d be amazed how many people don’t do them!

  • Breathe, smile, and speak slowly.

Most people, myself included, have a tendency to speak very quickly when they are nervous. Be conscious of this so you slow down when you’re speaking. It’s okay to say, “Hm…let me think…” and speak slowly if you’re surprised by a follow up question and not sure off the top of your head how to answer it. People don’t need you to rush, and they definitely need to understand you. This is especially important if you have an accent.

If you’re nervous, acknowledge it to yourself and remember that most people won’t notice the little mistakes. You’re being interviewed because you know your stuff and your opinion is respected, so don’t worry too much. You’ll be fine.

After all, if I can do it, anyone can do it!

Turning Your Mission into an Entertaining Web Series

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Constantly I get ideas for videos. Crazy ideas. Funny ideas. Ideas that people have labeled “impossible.” Often they become missions for me to make happen.

In January 2008 I successfully persuaded IKEA to allow me to live and sleep in one of their stores for an entire week. The result was the web series “Mark Lives in IKEA.” It received over 1.8 million views and got IKEA more publicity in the U.S. than in the history of the company.

Another web series, “Mark on AirTran,” featured me staying on a commercial airplane non-stop for a month to get over my fear of flying. I wound up setting a Guinness World Record for most scheduled flights in a month. The airline even put my face on one of their planes, which was quite surreal.

Most recently I launched, “The Bill Murray Show starring Mark Malkoff” on My Damn Channel in which I attempt to get Bill Murray to have dinner with me at my apartment in New York City. It’s a weekly web series that doesn’t end until Bill Murray agrees to have dinner with me at my place.

Here are five tips for turning your mission into a successful web series:

1. Be Authentic

Too many times individuals do videos based on what they “think” will get noticed or be popular. This rarely ever works. My strong advice is to only do work you care deeply about. When content creators do videos on a subject they truly love there’s an authenticity and passion in the work that makes it stand out.

I almost always only pick missions that I’m passionate about. I believe the passion shows up in the work. For a full year I was obsessed that the Apple Store was letting customers to do things that no store would ever allow. Nobodyhad ever fully documented it. “Apple Store Challenge” featured me pulling off outrageous stunts in the Apple Store including me bringing a goat into the store. My genuine
excitement and enthusiasm in the video were evident.

2. Play to your strengths

As web creators we all have different strengths. It’s best to identify what your strengths are and use them to your advantage in your work. One of my main strengths (at least what people tell me) is persistence. I enjoy the challenge of pulling off things that on paper seem nearly impossible to
pull off. The ability to pull off these difficult missions in my videos “171 Starbucks,” “Six Pack Abs Challenge,” “Mark Gets Carried Away,” resulted in me doing a style of video that grabbed attention.

3. Build Momentum

Momentum is huge. Sometimes it’s the little things that slowly build up into something powerful. I had done videos for a long time that while funny didn’t attract media attention or get a huge number of views. Then in July 2007 I released a video called, “171 Starbucks.” It got an enormous about of press coverage. I went on The Today Show, CNN, and Fox News. Jay Leno made a monologue joke about my video.

I used this momentum a few months later when I approached IKEA about “Mark Lives in IKEA.” Luckily IKEA had heard about “171 Starbucks” and were aware of all the media attention surrounding the video. While this certainly didn’t get IKEA to sign off immediately on my idea, it was instrumental in getting my foot in the door. Without “171 Starbucks” being a hit I seriously doubt “Mark Lives in IKEA” would have happened.

4. Call to Action

It’s talked about a lot in social media, but a call to action can be very effective. It engages viewers and makes them feel included. For my Bill Murray web series, my call to action was asking viewers to help get Bill Murray invited to my apartment for dinner. I gave out a tip hotline and also asked viewers to Tweet me.

Another useful call to action was my Netflix Challenge video project in which I set out to watch as many movies as possible on Netflix in a month. The result was over 500 film suggestions from people on Twitter and Facebook.

5. Be Supportive

Countless times when I helped someone out without any thought of getting something in return, I was unexpectedly rewarded.

Many wonderful individuals helped to transform my mission ideas into a successful web series. These include:

  • Being given free equipment to borrow saving me thousands of dollars in rentals
  • Crews working and editing for free if there wasn’t a budget.
  • Comedy writers giving me script feedback

In return, I’ve tried to be equally as supportive and encouraging. It doesn’t have to be much. It can be as simple as sending a Tweet, posting someone’s video on a Facebook wall, or an email of encouragement.

How to Keep Fans Interested in Your Web Series

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I’d like to start this post by pointing out that I’m not a web series creator. I’m a blogger. That said, I am a huge fan of web series. I’m a huge geek, so some of my favorites include The Guild, My Drunk Kitchen, pretty much any series on That Guy With the Glasses. I also thought BBC’s The Pond Life leading up to the Doctor Who series 7 premier was brilliant.

That’s just scratching the surface of the web series I enjoy. Like most of you out there, however, my time is limited. You have to keep me interested with every episode or I’m probably going to forget about your series, instead moving on to find new series to enjoy. So how can you keep me (and other fans) interested? Here are my best tips:

1. Make some “special” episodes.

I absolutely love when web series producers includes some videos that are beyond the scope of the series itself. Behind-the-scenes footage, funny music videos, bloopers, and interviews with the cast are just a few examples of videos you can make that add a ton of value to your series. It’s like the special features disk when you buy a DVD. Fans who aren’t interested can just watch the series, but I think you’ll be surprised to know just how many viewers really do want extra footage.

2. Know your viewers – and make videos for them.

Without fail, the very best series always seem to be made for me. In other words, there’s a common theme, a thread that connects all of the videos so they’re made with a specific viewer in mind. Before you start filming the first episode or even getting too far along with the writing, think about the demographic you’re trying to target. Not everyone is going to like your web series, but that’s okay. You want to make rabid fans of the people who do like your series, not have a bunch of people who say “meh, it was okay” and never watch past the second or third episode.

3. Take your show on the road.

I never watched The Guild until I met some of the actors at a video game convention. At that point, the series was certainly popular, but it has only grown in popularity since then. Getting your actors out there, visible and promoting the show, is going to not only help you find new fans, but it is also going to feed your current hungry fans, keeping them interested in your series. Even if you can’t get a booth or speak on a panel at the show, just attending and networking with other attendees can help your fan base grow.

4. Don’t allow huge gaps between episodes or between seasons.

Just like bloggers need to be consistent with their posting schedule, it’s important for your web series episode to come out on a consistent basis. For most, this means every week during a season, with possible longer gaps between seasons. Once you have the millions of fans some series have, you can easily come back after six months or even a year of being off the air. If you’re new, though, or not yet super popular, this kind of gap can kill any momentum you have.

5. Get viewers involved.

Lastly, consider getting your viewers involved in some way. Hannah Harto from My Drunk Kitchen, Jenna Marbles, and lots of other web series creators take viewer questions and answer them on air. The Guild was initially funded by viewer donations, and today, you can start a Kickstarter or Indiegogo campaign. You can even consider getting a viewer to be part of an upcoming episode, and I’ve seen some series that allow viewers to vote in a poll regarding what should happen to characters. If I’m part of your web series in some way, I’m definitely going to be more interested to see what happens.

Composing Your Video Shot: The Rule of Thirds

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The artistic composition of your shots can instantly make a video look professional – or, unfortunately, like you don’t know what you’re doing. We’ve already gone over some composition tips for shooting emotional video in the past, but today, I wanted to highlight a really important design concept that all beginners can use: the rule of thirds.

The rule of thirds can be used for any kind of shot, but I personally find it most helpful for interviews and (in photography) portraits. Basically, if there’s a person in the video, this technique is going to help you set up your camera to get the most professional-looking shot.

Here’s a quick video that explains the rule of thirds. It’s super simple, so even if you’re just starting out, don’t be intimidated to try it out!

Want more great video education? Check out the web TV and video track at NMX!

How to Set Up Lighting for a Video Interview

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If you’ll be interviewing subjects in your videos, using the proper lighting is important for a professional-looking quality. One of the best set-ups to use is three point lighting, which uses a direct key light, filler light, and a back light. This kind of lighting allows you to see the subject’s face clearly, without any stark shadows, and it also makes the subject stand out from the backdrop.

For more information about three point lighting for video interviews, along with diagrams of your lighting set up, check out this video:

If you’re on a budget, don’t worry; you can still do three point lighting without the fancy equipment. Use the same general concept and principles with whatever lighting equipment you do have.

Want more great video tips? Check out the web TV and video track at New Media Expo in Las Vegas this January.

How to Use Camera Techniques for Emotional Filmmaking

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Camera shots in your favorite movies, television shows, and web series aren’t random. With the right shot, you can begin to elicit emotion in your audience before your characters ever say a word. These are techniques you can do with any kind of camera, and they’re completely free; you don’t need fancy equipment to make the shots happen (at least most of the time). So what are your options and how do these kinds of camera techniques psychologically affect that viewer? Here’s a great video from Film Riot that explains the relationship between emotion and the shot you choose:

Remember, although this video is talking about pulling emotions during a work of fiction, you can use these same techniques if you’re creating non-fiction videos as well, such as interviews and tutorials. Playing around with camera placement can make scenes feel extremely different, so try a few options to get that overall video tone you really want.

Digital Blacklists: Yes, They Do Exist

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If you’re creating content online, you’re part of the largest office in the world. You’ve got your virtual water cooler (Twitter), “office parties” if you go to events like NMX, and – yes – office drama.

People talk. Are they talking about you? Are you part of the “office” drama? If so, you could find yourself on some digital blacklists. Yes, they do exist.

Why a Digital Blacklist is Bad News

So what if some people don’t like you, right? If you have haters, that means you’re doing something right. Trolls indicate success.

Well, yes, to some extent, but you also have to realize that being blacklisted goes a lot farther than having haters. It’s about people in your own industry not respecting you or wanting to work with you. This could mean:

  • You don’t get speaking gigs at events like NMX, BlogHer, and SXSW.
  • Advertisers don’t want to work with you.
  • You’re left off the “top bloggers” lists and passed up for awards, both of which can land you lots of traffic.
  • People don’t consider you for cool partnership ideas.
  • Others in your industry don’t promote your stuff.

Can you be successful anyway? Sure. But it will be an uphill battle.

Basically, when I say “digital blacklist,” I mean that people – more than just a few – have mentally decided they don’t want to work with you or support your work.

What Gets You Blacklisted

So, what makes people talk about you in a negative way? Here are just a few of the things I’ve personally seen people do:

  • You talk badly about people behind their backs. Not venting or even complaining, but being downright nasty or snarky. If I hear that, I’m going to assume you speak badly about me too when I’m not around.
  • You’re unfair to others in your niche when you produce your own content. I think we have a duty to call people out when they do stupid things, but we have a responsibility as members of the media to be fair and honest when we speak negatively about people in a public way.
  • You aren’t completely honest. Maybe you’re not a big fat scam artist, but if you fudge your numbers or tell little “white” lies to get ahead and I find out about it, I’m going to assume that you lie about other things as well.
  • You act like a diva. Name the most popular blogger or podcaster you know. Now go to the grocery store and ask ten people if they recognize that name. I bet you at least 9 out of ten will have no idea what you’re talking about. Be humble, because no one online is that famous, and certainly even if you are very successful, you didn’t get that way without the help of others. When you act like a diva, it’s a huge turn off.
  • You don’t have time for people. We’re all busy, but if you constantly commit when offered cool opportunities and then blow people off, people are going to stop asking you to commit.
  • Your personal life is questionable. Yes, I know you can still be an awesome blogger even if you’re cheating on your husband and you can still be the best podcaster in the world even if you’re a deadbeat dad. But online, people care about who you are personally, and if who you are isn’t a very nice person, it makes people less likely to want to work with you.

Today’s the Day to Mend Your Relationships

We all make mistakes. Today’s your day, that day you start mending your relationships. If you’ve messed up, say you are sorry – and mean it. Follow that up with actions that show you are sorry. If someone else messed up, talk with them and forgive. You don’t have to forget or trust someone, but realize when someone is trying to make amends.

Digital blacklists do exist, but online forgiveness exists too. Think of it like a personal credit score. If you’re a scumbag, your credit score is going to drop lower and lower, but that doesn’t mean you can never rebuild it. It’s a lot harder to earn back your good credit score than it is to mess things up, but with hard work and commitment, you can repair your relationships and grow as a person so people no longer blacklist you.

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