How to create compelling video content from home
Expert insights and tips for marketers who need to turn their home into a studio
April 23, 2020
B2B marketers have learned that one of the most effective ways to share an idea is to put it in a video. Whether live-streamed or pre-recorded, thought leadership video content helps to humanise expertise and bring brand and product narratives to life. It turns concepts into conversations and makes insights feel interactive.
With face-to-face meetings off the table and audiences isolating at home, the sense of connection that video content brings feels more important than ever. However, it also feels harder to produce. The best video content is almost always a team game – and bringing that team together in one place is no longer an option.
However, just because you can’t gather expert guests together in a room and have people on hand to handle the filming, doesn’t mean that you have to give up on video. Sharing ideas through a camera is still powerful, even when the only cameras you have are those on your laptop or your smartphone. With a few creative touches and a little know-how, you can create content that stands out, and feels polished, professional – and worth watching.
Here are the insights and tips that we’ve found most helpful when it comes to creating video content from home. They come from video production experts, video marketers and our own analysis of what makes for effective thought leadership content in the LinkedIn feed:
Have confidence in your content
It’s worth remembering that the most important ingredient in your video content is the same whether you’re filming at home or in a studio. If you have ideas that are fresh, relevant and relate-able then audiences are likely to respond no matter how rough around the edges your video feels.
At the end of the day, it’s the content that matters most,” says Scott Jackson, Managing Director of video production consultancy, Through The I, who works with me on our Live with Marketers video series.
The most important thing is that the content matches what people are interested in.”
The value of strong core content and confident delivery are increasing in the current situation. Audiences’ expectations of video are being reshaped by watching famous musicians live-stream concert performances from home, or seeing TV shows switch to showing footage filmed on presenters’ webcams. It no longer seems unnatural or unprofessional to watch video filmed at home, provided that what’s being filmed delivers the value an audience is looking for.
It’s all about the audio
Video is a visual medium, and so it’s natural to focus most of your attention on what things look like. According to Scott though, it’s often the quality of audio that has the biggest impact on audience’s experience. “Audio is one of the first things to suffer with home recordings, whether it’s a result of echo-ey rooms or presenters sitting too far from the mic,” he says.
If the audience can’t understand what’s being said, it makes it all too easy for them to disengage. Subtitles help – and viewers were happy to rely on them when they were commuting or watching with the sound off. But now people are more likely to be watching at home and a lot more video content is streamed live. It’s important to make audio a priority and aim to get the best quality you can at source.”
Pushing for better audio quality can take place on several different levels. Try experimenting with the sound levels in the app you’re using to record – and find the level that gives the clearest sound, before you start broadcasting. If you’re using the mic in your laptop or smartphone and you find it’s a little echoey, place a thick towel on the table with the device on top, or record closer to sofas, curtains or duvets to soak the unwanted sound up. For even better results, invest in one of the simple clip-on microphones that you can buy online.
If you’re hosting a live discussion, you can often get better quality when you and your guests use the dial-in-by-phone option for audio. And don’t rely on video-conferencing platforms’ auto-switching software to decide who should be muted and who shouldn’t. It’s better for the audience experience if you take control yourself.
Choosing your shot – and dressing your set
“The secret to shooting video content at home is to think like a producer,” says Scott.
All kinds of things can be happening offscreen – but it’s what appears in the shot that counts.”
The direction of your camera, and what appears in the background, all make a difference. Done well, they can add visual interest. Done badly, they can make it difficult for your audience to focus on what matters.
An uncluttered background is usually the best approach. You don’t really want your audience distracted by how messy your living room is – or what brand of dishwasher you have. However, Scott says there’s no problem with books or pieces of art appearing on a wall if you’re happy that they add something interesting and relevant to the shot. Depth of background helps to pull a viewer in (avoid filming yourself flat against a wall if you can). And if you want to incorporate more of a controlled brand environment, consider ordering a printed pop-up stand to be delivered to your home with relevant brand colours or an abstract of your logo.
The way that you or your speakers address the camera can have an impact on engagement as well. “It’s best to follow the rule of thirds,” says Steph Garofoli, the Senior Director for Patnerships at VidMob, the video creation platform and a Certified LinkedIn Content Partner. “In practice, that means positioning people slightly off centre of the shot. If you’re filming yourself, pick an object or a person that’s positioned behind the camera and off to the left as you look at it – and then look at that as you’re speaking. It will give a much more natural feel to the shot.”
Besides angles and backgrounds, smart use of lighting is often the X Factor in making your video content more captivating. “If you’re fortunate to have some natural light to play with then make friends with it,” says Scott. “It’s tempting to try and film yourself in front of a window and a nice view, but remember that the camera will automatically expose for the brightest light – so this throws you into darkness. Try facing the window instead, so you’re lit by the natural daylight. Try different angles where you can have it falling across your face and lighting you in different ways. You can also try using a torch or the flashlight on your phone to light you from different positions, or light the area around you.”
A few simple pieces of equipment can help. You’ll be able to order mini-tripods to fit most smartphones which you can use to position your camera – and keep it steady. LED lights can also make it easier to get the effect that you want. If your smartphone has a 4K, high-definition camera, then this is likely to be your best option for capturing high-quality footage.
Introducing live guests
These days, there are a range of different options for introducing guests to your broadcast – without the need for them to be in the same room. You can use popular videoconferencing platforms like Zoom or Bluejeans to combine footage from different webcams and either edit the content first or stream it live. Online streaming studios like StreamYard, which runs in your browser and works with LinkedIn Live, enables you to add up to six other participants to a live-stream broadcast.
If you’re featuring influencers as guests in your video content, consider sending them a gift package of simple equipment like clip-on microphones, mini-tripods and LED lights. It will make it easier for them to get set up to record your content – and it helps to maintain a consistent quality for your broadcast. You’ll find some of our recommendations for affordable but effective filming equipment in this post.
Raising the bar with remote production expertise
Just because you can’t have a video production company in the room with you doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from that company’s expertise. A remote producer can advise on setting up a shot and capturing the best possible quality footage with the equipment you have. They can also talk you and other presenters through what you’re doing, and help you perfect a natural delivery. And while you’re broadcasting, they can work on cleaning up audio, sync’ing camera angles and adding effects remotely that turn the look and feel of your content from a video conference call to a news broadcast.
There are actually a lot of different devices within most homes that you can use to capture video,”
says Scott, who helped interviewees to film themselves at home for LinkedIn Talent Solutions’ virtual conference, Impact 2020. “Even with a live broadcast, we can use webcams alongside our remote studio technology, to increase the quality of the images and audio, and talk presenters through what they’re doing. We can bring in feeds from different camera sources. We can also make interviewing guests look a lot more professional by framing them in thirds of a screen the way a news broadcast would.”
When it comes to live video, a remote producer has another equally important role: monitoring comments as they come in and passing them on to you, as the presenter. It enables you to focus on what you’re doing without having to divide your attention between two different screens – and it helps the audience feel more closely involved in the live experience that you create.
Be prepared to mix things up
Filming at home doesn’t have to mean creating just one kind of video content. By playing with format and length you can create a range of audience experiences.
Different styles of video content perform against different metrics,”
says Jennifer Bunting. “If you’re looking to raise awareness, then it helps to focus on snackable content lengths where people can quickly get an idea of why they’re watching. If you want to drive an action, think about how you can incorporate a sense of movement or model the action you want somebody to take. Then there’s live video, which we know can be really effective for driving engagement and consideration.”
The content marketing expert and bestselling author Ann Handley launched a pop-up video show on LinkedIn in response to the current crisis – and along with her fellow author and co-presenter Marcus Sheridan, she’s already shown the value of mixing up video formats. Ann and Marcus launched their #InItTogether show as a pre-recorded, 10-minute discussion of questions sent in by the LinkedIn audience, and this snackable format proved very effective for building awareness and momentum. When they switched to a longer live-stream discussion they managed to boost the number of comments they received almost 20x, deepening engagement.
It’s not just your overall video content plan that you can mix up in this way. Scott incorporated a mix of live and pre-recorded video content into Impact 2020. “A live-streamed video broadcast doesn’t have to include just live video,” he explains. “You can pre-record whole sections, which could enable you to do more in post-production, play with different camera angles or introduce different types of footage. You can record on smartphones and a laptop webcam simultaneously, use a clapperboard to sync the audio, and then edit something together that uses different camera angles to create something quite impressive.”
Why it pays to rehearse
There’s one other area where it’s worth investing a little extra time and attention when creating video content at home – and that’s your own performance. Rehearsing what you’ll say and how you’ll deliver it can make a big difference to the end-result. In fact, one of the big benefits of working with a remote production company is the value of having another pair of eyes and ears to help check how everything comes across. This isn’t necessarily about avoiding mistakes (audiences really don’t mind if you get a line wrong and they’ll interpret the odd gaffe as natural and authentic). It’s more about making sure your message is easy for people to follow.
Running through a live broadcast is also a great way to test your camera angles and audio, and sense-check how you’re appearing on-screen. And it helps to make sure that video recorded at home delivers the same level of experience as that put together in a studio
“We’re seeing a real appetite among marketers for doing this better, doing something different and more creative,” says Scott. “We’re going to see this kind of video content become a lot more engaging in a short space of time.”