5 Tips for Making a Killer Video From Your Phone 

 August 1, 2015

By  Pascal Depuhl

The August 7 deadline for sharing a 90-second (or less) video about your business as part of our ongoing Small Business Big Game contest is right around the corner — and it’s an amazing opportunity to showcase who you are and why you love running the show as a small business owner or self-employed professional. 

But what if you’re not sure where to start? 

We tapped OWN IT member and professional cinematographer Pascal Depuhl to share with us his top tips for creating a video you can be proud of — even if you only have a smartphone on hand.

Read on for Pascal’s great tips…


You’ve worked with a range of different small businesses to tell their stories in video. What are your go-to ideas or themes that work best?

The #1 thing you want to express in your video is the *why.* Why is your product the best? Why is your service better? Why is your small business the right choice for a potential customer or client?Once you nail the “why,” everything else will fall into place.
The story that comes out of the answers to these questions is the backbone of your video. That story is always simple:
  • Identify a problem your customer has
  • Show why your business offers the best solution
  • Finish with a call to action
I always start by putting myself in my audience’s shoes: What do they need that I can offer? Or, do I need to explain something new to them? If it’s necessary, how can I change their mind?
Do they want to hear from another customer? Make a testimonial video featuring one of your star customers.
Do they need to hear from an expert? Shoot an interview.
Do they need to experience your location? Take them behind the scenes with a guided video tour.
Do they want to learn how your service works? Film a short tutorial.
Remember, a good story will keep customers watching. A bad one (or worse, no story at all) and your viewers will drop like flies.

I know I want to tell a compelling story with my video, but I don’t want to leave anything to chance. What is the quickest way for me to create a script before I start filming?

Good luck on not leaving anything to chance! Actually, you want chance — unless you’re filming a movie with professional actors. Your video should be real. If you script what a client says in a testimonial, it’s gonna sound canned.
That being said, it is important — scratch that, it is *vital* — to plan. The good news is you’ve already started. You’ve figured out the problem your customer has, why your small business offers the best solution and how to convince the potential client to take action. You also know if you’re creating a testimonial, a behind-the-scenes tour or a tutorial.
Write out interview questions that you think will give you the answers you need for your story. Sketch out the order in which you want to walk through a behind-the-scenes tour, or lay out the steps you are going to cover in your tutorial.
It doesn’t have to be fancy. A few notes jotted down or a few stick figures in a story board will go a long way in keeping you on track. Don’t forget to also consider the location where you’ll be filming.

I only have a smartphone that can record video. Is that good enough for creating my video, or do I need to invest in expensive equipment first?

Story trumps equipment. Period. Every time. Always.

A great story shot on an iPhone is much better than [nextpage title=”next page”]

a bad story shot on a $50,000 camera. Remember that there are two components to your video: #1 is sound and #2 is visuals.

Tips for using sound in your video:
Here’s a quick test for you: Next time you’re watching your favorite show on Netflix, take 2 minutes and close your eyes and just listen. Then, take the next two minutes and watch the show on mute. Which was easier to follow? It turns out good sound is more important than good video when you’re telling a story.
The best way to get good sound is to get an external microphone for your phone. They aren’t expensive and make a huge difference.
Don’t forget to add good music and natural sound as well (that’s the footsteps, the door closing, the machine starting up, etc). And don’t forget that it is illegal to use music you don’t have the license for. There are a lot of great sites that sell music for videos ( Premium Beat and Musicbed are two I like). Vimeo and YouTube also give you the option of adding music from their site — just don’t grab you’re favorite song and put it on your video. Chances are the complete audio track will be stripped when you upload it and you’ll end up with only a nice silent movie.
The same goes for photos. Just because you can download an image from a website doesn’t mean you can use it. If you find a great image, ask the photographer if you can use it. I’ve written blog posts that called for imagery I did not have. After finding the perfect photograph on Google, I usually contact the photographer and tell them how I want to use their image. I’ve received permission every time I’ve asked and the cost has only been a link back to their website.
When you set out to record the sound for your video, remember that people will sit through bad visuals with a great story and good audio. When your sound is bad or unintelligible, no one will care how cinematic your video is. They’ll switch channels. Fast.


Tips for nailing the visuals in your video:
The cameras in today’s smartphones are amazing. They shoot HD video that rivals many cheaper camcorders. (Just remember that the camera that films you when you can see yourself on the screen is much worse than the camera on the opposite side of the phone. So always use the better one!)
These are my quick tips when shooting with your phone:
  • Always shoot horizontal, never vertical.
  • Keep the phone steady. Whether you choose to lock it down, lean it against a book, put it on a tripod or tape it to something, always look for ways to avoid shooting shaky video.
  • Keep your light source in front of you. Lighting is important when shooting with any camera. If you’re just starting out, then your light source (window, desk lamp, sun, etc) should always be in front of you — unless you’re going for the FBI most wanted silhouette look.
  • Film your interview first. Then listen for what is being talked about. If your subject talks about a process, film someone going through that process. Did they talk about a building? Film that building. Did they recount an experience? Figure out how to capture that experience on film. These clips are called B-roll and will make your video much more interesting to watch.
Remember to show your story. After all, it’s a visual medium. Use it! Great visuals can really enhance the viewing experience.

Okay! I filmed the footage that I want to use in my video. What is the best way to edit it and export it quickly?

Editing your video is essential. The first edit you make is to decide when to start recording and when to press stop. If you’ve ever done that, congratulations! You’re on your way to becoming a great editor.
The edit is the place where you assemble all the parts of your story. Your interviews, your B-roll, your audio, the sound effects, music and graphics. There is no right way to tell the story. It doesn’t have to start at the beginning, although it can. You can have multiple people telling the same story, but it also can just be one person.
For a quick and easy (and cheap) editing tool, check out iMovie to get started. They have great templates for trailers and the learning curve is not as steep as learning how to use professional, non-linear editing software. You can even schedule a Genius Bar appointment at a nearby Apple store and within an hour you’ll be on your way to being an expert.
Remember that the edit is where it all comes together. It’s your story to tell. Cut it together in an interesting way.
In your experience, what is the #1 mistake that small business owners make when they set out to create a video?
Video is a very powerful communication medium. You can tell a lot in a very short amount of time. Just think about your favorite Super Bowl commercial in recent years. You realize that it’s less than a minute, right?
Keep your video short. Then go back into the edit and cut it again by half. Especially online, no one takes the time to watch a long video (and by long I mean over 90-seconds). This is where good planning comes into play — know the why, know the kind of story you’re telling, know what you’re asking of your audience.

Remember: It doesn’t have to be an award-winning 15-minute documentary you flew half way around the world to film (although those are a lot of fun to make!). Keep it simple. Keep it short. Especially the first time out of the box.

Pascal filming video in Afghanistan.

About Pascal:

Pascal Depuhl is a Miami-based commercial photographer with 20+ years experience creating still images and videos for his clients. Footage from his 2012 award-winning short documentary On Wings of Hope has aired on National Geographic and the BBC, and his work has been screened at film festivals and won national and international awards. You can watch his TEDx talk called The Art of Changing Minds and check out his recent presentation at WordCamp Miami on how bloggers can step up their videos. Pascal blogs regularly about his work creating visual content for a variety of clients at blog.depuhl.com.

The post 5 Tips for Making a Killer Video From Your Phone appeared first on Own It – A network dedicated to Small Business Success hosted by Quick Books. [Since this post was published, Own It has been changed to qbcommunity.com and this post has been reposted on their new site as a featured member post.]

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Pascal Depuhl

Miami product photographer, video producer, cinematographer and chief mindchanger at Photography by Depuhl I love to share the knowledge I've gained over the past two decades. Catching light in motion.