If you’re not yet making and using videos in your online business, you should be. There’s no question that they help to engage your subscribers and customers more effectively.

In this post I want to talk about some simple lessons that will help you make better videos.

Why should you listen to me anyway? Who am I to tell YOU how to improve your videos?

Actually in this case the advice is based on a magazine interview with a big-name director: Guillermo Del Toro.

Before we get into the advice part, let’s consider the fact that all around you are lessons in how to improve your video making. All you have to do is pay close attention to adverts, films, news programs. Look for elements that appear regularly. Examples include

  • Is music used?  When? What volume? Does the volume change?
  • Are on-screen graphics used? When?
  • Do images and audio match?
  • Is the audio crisp and clear, or is it muffled and awkard to hear? How does that relate to the experience you have watching?
  • What techniques are used on shopping channels and infomercials to get you to buy? Do they show price before listing the item features? Why would one channel show price and an informercial leave it as long as possible to show price?
  • Are the presenters “known” to the audience, or total strangers? How does that affect how they have to present their message?
  • Are “experts” interviewed by another person, giving conferred authority to the interviewee? When is that technique not used?

It sounds like a lot of work, but it really isn’t. If you look for the techniques and strategies used you’ll see them used time and again. You’ll learn to spot them a mile away. At that point they become second nature for you.

So what does Guillermo Del Toro have to say?

Interviewed about his love of computer games, Guillermo raised some points that relate directly to the user experience.

He’s talking about video games, but video is video, so let me quote his points and then draw the lessons from them.

I hate bad voice actors…I can’t stand it.

Now of course you may not like the sound of your own voice – most people don’t when they hear it recorded. The real issue is surprising. Poor quality audio quite simply makes the video look worse! It’s not intuitive at all, but good quality audio makes a video look better.  Sound affects the viewer perception of the image.

Weird, right? But for as little as $40-$60 you can make sure your audio is crisp, clean, clear and convincing.

So rule #1 is make sure you sound good, to look good (even if you’re not on camera yourself).

If you’ve ever watched a Youtube video with poor quality sound, you’ll know how annoying it can be even if the video itself is great. So pay attention to sound for better visuals.

Rule #1a is sound effects and music can enhance the quality of your audio enormously.

Pick the right “feel” of music and you’re more than halfway home.

Of course you have to be careful to make sure you have the rights to use music you choose. You can’t just download the latest hit from the internet and do what you like with it. You have to use music that gives you permission to use it in your videos.

Make sure you always check your usage rights in all assets, whether visual or audio.

What’s the second thing Guillermo talks about?

I hate cutscenes. I like gaming (the visual). I don’t want you to cut away and show me a junky little film in the middle.

Wow, this one takes a bit more dissecting. Remember he’s talking about gaming and I’m talking about video making. But let’s examine what he means.

As you watch a video there comes a point (hopefully, if you’ve done your job right) where your viewer is immersed in what you are saying and showing.

They are “in” the video. If you have some kind of visual disconnect within your video, you spoil the experience for your audience. Think of adverts in the middle of your favorite show, just at the good bit. They cut to commercial.

Does that please you? Or does it frustrate you that you have to wait for the resolution to the cliffhanger you just saw? For most people that enforced cut is not what they want.  It’s a nuisance.

So the lesson here is to avoid having a cognitive disconnect with your audience. Stay on message and do not jerk your audience out of the narrative structure that you’re trying to create.

We’re aiming for a smooth journey (99% of the time – there are exceptions) from point A to point Z. Whether that’s establishing the need for your product to the purchase point, or training how to boot up software to using it, the flow should be logical.

Nobody likes traffic jams, right? A disconnect in your video message is like a traffic jam. Unwelcome.

Disruption is powerful, but it needs to be handled carefully. Unless you know your particular video requires it, don’t break the viewer’s concentration. Don’t drop a stupid little segment into the middle of an otherwise great experience for your viewers.

An example of that is the mid-stream ads you sometimes see on Youtube channel. Just as you’re getting to a point you want to pay attention to, boom, a break and an advert. Thanks, Youtube – not!

These are just two points to pay attention to when you’re making videos. There are many more besides these, but these are pretty key points.

Let’s recap:

Keep the audio crisp and clear. Your video will look better!

Keep to the point. Your audience’s attention won’t wander away!

You don’t have to use video for everything. I haven’t made a video for this post, for example. In my case it’s because it would be difficult to make good audio today – I have construction work right outside my home and the audio would be terrible. It’s likely to be another week before that’s finished.

But when you do create video – and you should almost certainly create more than you do already – please pay attention to at least these two points. Those alone will put you ahead of the vast majority of amateur video makers.