The secret to making your amateur videos look professional is not nearly as much about the video gear you are using as it is the technique. A lot of the amateur filmmakers today don’t necessarily have all the fancy equipment and gear to make perfect quality videos, but it’s not the equipment that makes the videographer, vlogger or YouTube personality – many are simply using their mobile phones to make a great video. There are certain tricks that you can use to make your amateur videos look professional as discussed in the video from Griffin Hammond (who made an excellent documentary about Sriracha) below. With these ten tricks, you can take a bad video and make it look much better.
Here are ten tips to make your amateur videos look professional!
1. USE PLENTY OF LIGHT
Perhaps the most important thing you can do to help your videos look professional is to shoot with plenty of light. The lights used in a video can greatly affect the quality; it can be the difference between amateur or professional-looking footage. You don’t always have to spend a lot on professional lighting; you can buy clamp lights or work lights at a hardware store, or build your own powerful light with lots of fluorescent bulbs and a reflective surface behind them.
2. USE THE SUN TO YOUR ADVANTAGE
In case you don’t have proper lights, you can always use the sun – it’s free. The best time to shoot outdoors is the golden hours of early morning or evening when the sun is lower on the horizon and you can softer shadows. If you find there are shadows you don’t want, you can always use a white sheet or surface to reflect the light onto the subject to remove the shadow.
3. USE COLOR CORRECTION IN POST
If everything else fails and you end up with a dark video, you should learn how to use color correction in post-processing to fix the exposure. You start with lifting the highlights, but if you find the contrast is too much, try raising the mid-tones. This might wash out the image, so it works if you darken the shadows and raise the color saturation to achieve a halfway decent image. You might notice some grain but there’s no getting around that when you shoot a dark video.
You can also fix your white balance in post-process by tweaking the blues and yellows in your image. Also, if nothing else works, you can always remove the color and go black and white.
4. MAKE YOUR OWN TRIPOD
If you don’t have a tripod, there no need to fret, make your own using a quarter-inch screw and string. You screw the string on both ends onto the base of your camera, making sure the looping end reaches the floor, then step on it with both feet a foot or so apart and hold the camera up with the string taught – DIY stabilization.
If you still end up with shaky footage, you can use a stabilization effect to make it look better. You can also try and slow down the footage, which makes the shake less noticeable.
6. CROP THE FRAME
When shooting interviews or a web show, you should try and shoot at the highest resolution possible. This allows you to crop the frame when jumping from one shot to the other, which lets you make it seem like you zoomed in or switched to a different camera, instead of getting an uncomfortable jump cut when you edit.
7. USE A ZOOM LENS TO CREATE BOKEH
Without a prime lens, it gets a bit difficult to get a shallow depth of field with the background nice and blurry. What you can do with a zoom lens is move far away from the subject and then zoom in, which allows for a much more blurry background.
8. SHOOT CLOSE FOR GOOD AUDIO
While it’s important that your videos look professional, arguably it’s more important that your videos SOUND professional. There’s plenty of facts and data to support the idea that audio quality is more important than video quality when it comes to “watchability;” nothing will bounce a viewer faster than bad sound. When you’re too far from the subject, the audio you get would not be that great, so be sure to shoot as close as possible to get good voice sound. Make sure your actors deliver the lines the same way each time so you can then match up the close-up audio with wider shots when necessary.
9. BOOST THE VOLUME
If your audio sounds too low and distant you can boost the volume, but this will introduce noise in your audio. Many video editing software programs will allow you to identify the noise and then remove it through noise filters. We have other posts with many other tips for getting better audio quality while shooting video, too.
10. USE AUTOMATED DIALOGUE REPLACEMENT (ADR)
If all else fails, you can always use Automated Dialogue Replacement or Additional Dialogue Recording (ADR). This happens a lot in movies, where a lot for the dialogue is recorded again separately in a controlled environment with better quality and dubbed on top of the video. For this, you need to let your actor hear the original take and then try and deliver the lines the same way to match the video. This is a slow and cumbersome process so it’s better to try and get good audio in the field when you can.
While these are all great tricks, it is always better to be professional instead of making adjustments later and faking it. So plan your shoots ahead of time and round up the necessary gear to get the video right the first time, and only use these tricks as a backup when all else fails.