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8 Tips to Help You Unleash the Power of Video


By Mike and Kristin Sukraw

What’s your video strategy?

Video is everywhere. According to YouTube’s own statistics, more than 1 billion unique users visit YouTube each month, and over 6 billion hours of video are watched on their site every month. And by the way, that is up 50 percent from last year.

Last night, I visited Kickstarter’s site. On it, people get to read text, look at pictures, and yes, watch videos about projects they might be interested in funding. I was fascinated by the particular campaign on which I landed.

Two girls were raising money to finish the work on an album they already recorded. I read about them, saw their pictures, and ultimately, watched their video. The video is what made their personalities come to life. It was endearing, fun, quirky, and made me like the two girls and want for them to succeed.

It was also clear they produced the video themselves. But even though it’s homemade, it will probably get them awesome results!

Here’s the thing: video production can cost a lot of money. There is absolutely a time and a place for hiring a production company (or we’d be out of business!), but within every organization there are opportunities for you to capture your own cinematic gold.

Do you have a YouTube channel? You should. And it can be filled with content you capture yourselves. Here are eight tips to help you unleash the power of video:

1. In-House Versus Outsourcing

It’s important to understand when to produce video in-house and when to outsource. Basically, if your content can stand on its own without much editing, and if the video’s purpose is more of a simple update, consider capturing it yourself. If your video needs to tie together multiple aspects of your organization, needs to impress a group of people, or meet specific goals, consider hiring a production company that specializes in this type of work.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself when trying to determine what to do yourself and what to outsource:

  • What is the purpose of the video?
  • What resources do you have?
  • What is your content?
  • Who is your audience?

2. Messaging Strategy

If you decide to do a video yourself, make sure you are purposeful with its execution. Before diving right into production, ask yourself the following questions and then make sure everything in the video advances your goals:

  • What is our objective?
  • Who are we trying to influence?
  • What do we want the audience to think, feel or do?
  • How will we define success?

3. Choosing a Story

Once you define your goals, you can choose someone to tell your story. We are hardwired to listen to and respond to a good story, and good storytellers can be hard to find. Always be on the lookout for the best ones within your organization. Here are some things to think about when choosing someone to be on camera:

  • Does their story help advance your video’s goals?
  • How do they do on camera? (Pull out your phone and ask them a few questions while recording them — this will tell you a lot!)
  • Do they have characteristics that your audience will find endearing?
  • Are they able to display emotion?

4. Introductory Cameras

Once you choose a story, you have to capture it. Being ready with the camera is more important than having the perfect camera. It doesn’t have to be a professional camera; it can be your mobile phone. When a moment comes that stirs your emotions, pull out your phone and capture it.

A phone with a good video camera can also work for your planned videos, but to do them with excellence you’ll want to purchase a camera. You may want to consider learning the world of shooting video with Digital Single-Lens Reflex (DSLR) cameras. A DSLR camera gives you a great, film-like image, has the option to use different lenses and doubles as a quality still photo camera. The Canon T4i is a solid choice for an entry level DSLR camera. We would advise, however, doing a little research online on the pros and cons of shooting video with DSLR cameras before purchasing one.

5. Basic Composition/Lighting Skills

Applying basic composition and lighting skills is just as important as a good camera. They can make your videos a lot more pleasant to watch.

6. Framing

Typically an interview is more pleasing to watch if the person is not centered perfectly in the frame. Try moving your interviewee slightly off center and make sure that people are always looking into the frame rather than off of it. For example, if someone is framed on the right side of the screen, have them looking slightly to the left side of the screen. You can have a lot of fun with some interesting angles. Experiment to see what looks good!

Proper headroom will take a little practice. For a wider shot, you want a little bit of room above your subject’s head. For close-ups, it’s okay to cut the top of the head off slightly. To practice, imagine a tic-tac-toe board over your screen (some cameras allow you to turn this “frame guide” on). This refers to the “rule of thirds” (Google it).

7. Lighting

There are volumes of books written on the subject of lighting for video. For the sake of simplicity, focus on two things: softness and shaping.

While hard light has its place, soft light is the most flattering. Two ways to get soft lighting are to place someone next to a lamp with a large shade or to place someone next to a window where there is indirect sunlight.

Shaping can add a lot of interest to a person’s face. The key to shaping is to not have the light source right in front of a person. Try putting it about 45 degrees off axis from the center of the subject’s face.

I was sitting in a coffee shop while writing this article and noticed the pleasing effect the indirect sunlight was creating as it came through the window. Using an iPhone, I snapped a photo of my wife sitting next to the window with her face angled slightly toward the window. If we were shooting an interview here, I would be quite happy with the result just from the use of natural light.

8. Put it all Together

After you import your footage, finding your content is your first job. Here are a few things to remember: lose anything that is not vital, stick with the heart of the story but leave in emotional details.

Next, add in b-roll (that video footage that shows what the interview is talking about). It covers your edit and can make the story more interesting. Once you have your story and b-roll, adding music can bring out the emotion. Check out some online stock music sites like Music Bakery or Audio Jungle.

Our best advice for editing? Get feedback. Show your cuts to people who you know will be honest. Ask them if the story makes sense and if the content is compelling.

Do it yourself (DIY) video is becoming commonplace — especially in the world of nonprofits and ministries. It’s a great opportunity to make a deeper connection with your audience.

Remember, the most important thing is to always be ready to capture moments when they come along. If you want to learn tons more about the world of DIY video, there are lots of great resources online. Check out for some great tutorials.


Mike Sukraw is CEO/producer and Kristin Sukraw is president of Reliant Studios, a video production company based in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska, that specializes in helping organizations achieve their goals by utilizing creative video communication. the is an excerpt from the 2014 Winter edition of Outcomes Magazine.

CLA.ProfPicW.flame_The 2014 CLA National Conference is April 4-16 in Dallas, TX. Be sure to check out the workshop being conducted by Aaron Mashbanks (Director of Business Operations, Tiny Hands International) and Mike Sukraw, Video Storytelling: Demystifying the Process.


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