5 ‘killer’ steps to a smartphone or tablet video

KANSAS CITY – Sarah Redohl’s grandfather owned a print shop.

“I grew up in that print shop,” she said. “I loved the smell of the ink and the chemicals, which is kind of bad, but I loved it. I loved the sound of printing presses. So even before everybody was going digital and everybody was going on-line, I wanted to be a journalist.”

Although she has a foundation in print, Redohl keeps exploring multimedia tools, including smartphones and tablets that take videos. She said they help her to share information, to share stories.

“They help me continue my grandfather’s legacy,” Redohl said.

Redhol, editor of the Columbia Business Times in Columbia, Mo., spoke in a hands-on mobile video workshop put on by the Kansas City chapter of the American Society of Business Publication Editors on April 29 in Kansas City.

She listed five “killer” steps to taking videos with smartphones and tablets: story, audio, visual variety, introduction and length.

“If you do these five things, your video is going to be kick-ass,” Redohl said.

For story, focus on the “why” more than the “what,” said Redohl, who also teaches multimedia classes at the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism in Columbia.

“My ‘what’ is, I help people engage with their audience through compelling multimedia stories, but my ‘why’ is a lot more interesting than that,” she said.

She gave her “why” as the story of spending time as a child in her grandfather’s print shop.

“Story is No. 1,” Redohl said. “Not that you want to sacrifice sound quality or compelling visuals, but if you have a good story, a really good story, people will suffer through your (audio and visual) failures.”

Sound, the No. 2 step, takes higher priority than visual.

“You can’t fix audio in post-production, not very well, especially on these devices,” she said.

Be careful when choosing music for videos, Redohl said. Your royalty-free music selection might be a composition that people have heard often before.

“Or, it’s crap,” she said.

For music, Redohl listed the web sites themusicbed.com, premiumbeat.com and songfreedom.com. Music may be purchased for $5 on sale or for $50 for something “really, really cool,” she said.

Location may affect audio. Carpeted rooms may be “less echo-y,” but trade shows may be “super-duper” loud, she said. Generally the microphone should be kept out of the video frame, but an exception might be needed for trade shows.

“If you have to have a mike in your shot to get great audio, it’s worth having a mike in your shot,” she said.

Visual variety ranks as the third of the five “killer” steps. To keep the audience engaged, take videos from different angles and places. One of Redohl’s students once fell out of a tree.

For every wide and medium shot, take three tight shots. Redohl said to think of a cha-cha-cha strategy: wide, medium, tight, tight, tight. To get tight, be intrusive. People today are used to having smartphones in their faces, she said.

Smartphones and tablets also provide distractions to your audience. The distractions may come in the forms of Twitter, news sites and games. Your video’s introduction thus becomes more important to keep the audience’s attention.

“The first soundbite should be the point of the video — What am I going to learn, what am I going to take away from spending this time watching your video?” Redohl said.

Since 20% of people may click out of the video after 10 seconds, front-load your best shots, she said.

Keep it short sums up the fifth step, length. Changing shots and fast pacing causes blinking in audience members, and blinking increases stimulation, she said. Fast pacing also makes a video feel shorter.

Videos have evolved since the days when Redohl was a child circulating through her grandfather’s print shop.

“Video seems like this really big complicated thing because we still have this old-fashioned concept of what we think video is,” she said. “We have this huge camera that we put on our shoulders.”

Smartphones and tablets are altering that concept.

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