Aug 01 2012

How Online Video Can Turn Your School Into a Blockbuster

Creating, producing and distributing your own videos has never been easier.

Believe the hype. The revolution won’t be televised, but it will be seen on the web. According to recent statistics from Comscore, close to 37 billion videos were watched in the most recent month measured. That’s an almost unimaginable figure.

What makes video one of the most powerful communications tools on the planet? The answer lies somewhere in the medium’s magical combination of moving pictures, sound and narration.

Take a moment to think about it. If you have a child who watches TV, how often does he or she say, “I want that!” after seeing an enticing commercial. It’s hard to understate the power of visualization, and the fact is, we have been conditioned to want the things that we see, or at least the things that we believe will add value to our lives. So why aren’t you taking advantage of the powerful platform that video offers?

Video can make your school or district seem larger than life and can help you connect with people. You can both entertain and educate your audience. Tutorials and music videos are great examples of this.

Once you understand the value of online video, the next step is to get started.

Start brainstorming. Think about what kind of information your stakeholders are craving. What information related to your school or district are they searching for online? What are the common questions you’re often asked? Take these scenarios and make them come to life, so parents, students, policymakers and other members of your community can see the value of your message, brand, product or service.

Conduct research. Search for videos on other schools in your area and around the nation on YouTube. Look at what your peers are and aren't doing well. Take a careful look at how the videos are produced. Are they engaging or boring? If so, what makes them that way? Also, think about what you can do to stand out from the crowd. The most important thing your videos can do for you is get your school or district noticed.

Assess the required equipment and skills. To shoot and produce video, you’ll need to either purchase your own video production gear or hire a producer or cameraman to help you. The level of production depends on your pitch and story line. If your idea for an online video consists of nothing more than a talking head, then a webcam might be all you need. Great videos don’t need to use high-end equipment to be effective.

The most affordable way to start producing videos is by doing it yourself. There’s nothing wrong with taking a DIY approach to video in the beginning. Later on, if you decide to invest more in video, you will need to put monetary resources toward the equipment and toward production and editing. For example, if you want to go out in the field to produce your own videos, you should have a camera, a tripod, a microphone and some lights, at minimum.

Look online for videos that you like, and try to reach out to the creators. They may share information about what equipment and software they use. Additionally, you may want to network with professionals who can help you figure out exactly what you need to get started. Video production can quickly become an expensive hobby, so know what you’re getting into before you make any purchases.

Video Production Basics

Do you want to know one secret that will greatly improve the quality of any type of video that you create? It is a technique that separates most amateur video from professional. Hold your camera still whenever you are shooting footage. Don’t zoom in or out, don’t pan left or right, unless you can make the movement smooth. Imagine that your video camera is a still camera and — hold the shot still. The best way to ensure that your shot is still is to always use a tripod; this is one item that should be at the top of your equipment list. Additionally, read up on a composition guideline called the rule of thirds.

Once you have that down, you can work on the basic shots. A wide shot or a long shot is an establishing shot and is most often used to establish location. A medium shot is often used to shoot general action from the waist up. A close up is used to bring the viewer’s attention to something specific or is used as a cutaway.

Lights. A camera has trouble capturing images if there isn’t sufficient light. You don’t need a costly light kit, but you should use some kind of light source, especially if you’re shooting indoors. A window can work, as long as the light is used to illuminate the subject’s face. Some affordable solutions include buying a halogen work light. These lights create hard shadows, though, and they get very hot. Another affordable option is to buy a clamp light. If you do want to go high-end, buy a professional light kit.

Audio. Don’t underestimate the importance of good audio. Always use a microphone when conducting interviews. If your camera doesn’t have a mic input, use an external recorder. Small sounds can cause big problems if you’re trying to capture an interview, so make sure all ambient noise is kept to a minimum. Take your interviewee to a quiet area, close the door, and turn down any music or the TV. Also make sure that your subject is relatively close to the camera. Audio captured by an onboard camera mic will be more hollow, so don’t try to interview someone from across the room, because the further the subject is from the camera, the harder it will be to capture good audio.

Editing. Video magic happens during editing, but it can be the most time-consuming part of the process. Editing allows you to use the best video and audio from your raw footage, which helps you create an interesting and compelling story. When editing a series of shots together, make sure that the clip you select is still and in focus.

If you’re just getting started, there is free software on your computer right now that you can use to produce a video. PCs come with Windows Movie Maker, which is simple to use. If you’d like to step it up a bit, consider Pinnacle Studio, Sony Vegas or Adobe Premiere.

Leveraging Online Video

You should also give some serious thought to your distribution strategy. Are you going to host your videos on your website or create a YouTube channel? Maybe you want to create DVDs to mail out to interested parties.

Your specific approach and strategy must be based on your goals and objectives, but you should strongly consider creating a YouTube channel. It isn’t unusual for school districts to exclusively host their videos on YouTube. After all, it is the second most popular site on the web. When leveraged correctly, YouTube can be a great community to build your following and lead traffic to your website.

If you’re creating content specifically for YouTube, be sure to include a call to action at the end of each video. Ask viewers to comment, subscribe to your channel or visit your website. Respond to questions and e-mails, and be an active member of the community.

Always title your videos, and use words that people who are searching online might use. Provide the URL for your website, including http:// in the designation, so people can click through to your website. And be sure to give a thorough description. Don’t forget to include a few relevant tags.

If you’re looking for additional information, take a moment to read the YouTube Creator Playbook, which is available as a free download.

More Advice on Producing Videos

You can read articles like this, you can read books and watch tutorials about how to produce videos, but nothing will prepare you better than just jumping in and giving it your best shot.

We are truly living in a special time. From HD-equipped smartphones to DSLR cameras, the equipment is small, but the quality is better and more affordable than ever.

Producing videos may seem intimidating at first, but once you get started, you may be wondering why you waited so long to sit in the director’s chair.


Click here to view videos of school district leaders sharing insights about key trends in K–12 and technology success stories.