Tips for making your charity video (Guest Post)

In a recent blog for Tech Trust, Adam Woods look at some practical ideas for charities to use in their video campaigns.

| 27th Nov 14

In a recent blog for Tech Trust, Adam Woods look at some practical ideas for charities to use in their video campaigns.

It’s playtime!

So you have a great idea, but you’re not sure how to execute it or if it’s the best idea. That’s ok. It’s normal in any creative process, but you might just want to push it a little further to see if your idea stacks up.

Be curious. Try writing it up (or better, try performing it) in a couple of different genres – what would it look/sound like if it was a Western? A thriller? Don’t worry about appearing ridiculous; it’s a way of playing that frees up the imagination and also allows you to be a bit more critical about whether your original idea really works. And hopefully some sparks might fly. Watch out for the instinctive “Aha!” moment when an idea really catches.

Keep it simple

In a cluttered, noisy market, I feel it’s best to keep things simple. Simple doesn’t mean simplistic. It generally means honest, clear and direct.

Consider having someone talking directly about their own personal experience, particularly if your charity is involved with anyone disadvantaged in any way. Speaking from the heart has a power of authenticity that can be powerful.

Hidden talents

I think it’s a good idea to look in-house to see what assets you already have on your doorstep.

Perhaps one of your volunteers has a really good presence on screen? Just try camera-testing them.

Often, switching on a camera can immediately turn on the ‘shy’ button, but try anyway. Perhaps someone has a great voice, or someone likes composing music?

It doesn’t need to be slick; there can be an authenticity to a DIY video that won’t just get you noticed but appreciated too.

Web of Wonders

There are huge amounts of assets out there on the web that you can use in your next video. For some good tips on producing professional-looking videos, go to Vimeo (a great streaming site for your videos) and check out their Video School.

Don’t get put off by complicated techniques. Remember, they’re all there to serve one purpose – direct interaction between your message and your audience – so make sure any technique you’re using serves your message, not the other way around.

If music be the food of love…

Music can really help turn your video into something memorable, but it can also turn people off if it’s not used well, so it’s worth considering carefully. Don’t feel you have to use music. Personally, I think there’s nothing worse than music that has no real purpose, just sitting in the background.

Having said that, there’s an enormous amount of good background music out there called ‘library’ or ‘production’ music. This is composed specifically with accompanying moving images in mind.

It’s worth having a look at some of the professional companies that license this music. They often have good rates for charities (try Audio Network or EMI for starters). Just bear in mind that musicians are trying to make a living in creative industries, so don’t use commercial or well-known tracks without permission!

A picture is worth a thousand words

As well as music libraries, there are an increasing number of footage and picture libraries out there that can license existing footage for your project – often at very reasonable rates.

It’s worth looking around, as some of the most popular images/clips have been used a lot and it’s good to come up with something original. Also think about how this footage or still will integrate into your own footage so it looks seamless. Try sites like iStock, or Pond5.

What a performance!

If you don’t have any on-screen stars in your immediate circle of staff or volunteers, don’t worry. You can always hire a ‘presenter’ (an actor who is paid to appear and present your cause).

It can be a tricky choice to find someone right, but don’t be put off finding someone because you’ve heard it’s expensive. Often, well-known actors and presenters are prepared to waive some or all of their fees to support you. Alternatively you could find someone who is less famous but who is just right for your audience.

Try some of the casting sites that actors use to get work, such as Casting Call Pro. Or for voiceovers, try one of the popular sites where voice artists can record your script at home in their own studios.

How long is a piece of string?

On a lot of the projects I’m commissioned for, one of the first questions I get asked is “How long will the video be?” to which I invariably answer “As long as it takes to get your message across in the most powerful way”.

I find it hard and potentially counter-productive to determine a length for the video at the outset or to have rules for the best durations of videos on YouTube. It’s as long as it takes.

However, do bear in mind the ease with which your audience can tune out of your video. All it takes is a mouse click, so be economical with your video’s length. ‘If in doubt, leave it out’ is a useful yardstick.

Just do it!

In the end, I don’t think there are rules for how to make a good video, even though there are loads of things you can practice. Just have a go and don’t be frightened to experiment.

The great thing about the digital tools at our disposal these days is that they have democratised filmmaking. We now have technology at our disposal that can achieve similar to what used to take large crews and unwieldy expensive equipment in previous decades.

So don’t be afraid. Provoke, experiment, risk and try something new. Nothing is guaranteed, so what do you have to lose?