Advice / Succeeding at Work / Getting Ahead

So You Want to Craft a Video Like a TV Producer

A logo with "the muse" in white text.
person filming video
jacoblund/Getty Images

It's hard not to be exposed to video these days. Everywhere you look someone is using a smartphone to Boomerang a moment in time. Instagram Stories are just as important as still photos, and hardly anyone makes a recipe anymore without a step-by-step video guide.

Video can also be an awesome tool to showcase your work, amp up your website, and even land a job. Whether it's an introduction video on your personal website or a way to showcase the work you've done, video is a great way to grab the attention of your audience. We live in a highly visual society with short attention spans, so video is a great way to break up text and add a dose of creativity to your site.

We chatted with Dina Makanji, a London-based freelance motion graphics designer, illustrator, and animator who has created video for Sony, Google, and The BBC and who touts the impact of video. "In my business, the website is so important," Dina says. "A five second logo animation will have so much more of an impact than a lot of words on the page."

So you want to produce killer video? Follow her four tips.

1. Start With a Bang

Once you have an idea of the type of video you want to create, make sure you capture your audience's attention immediately. Whether that's creating a quirky custom intro, or opening with killer music, think about how you can make people want to continue watching.

Dina emphasizes that the first five seconds are crucial. “If I am wowed in the first five seconds, I'll continue watching," she admits. “If not, I'll likely move on."

So if you're making a reel, put a visually interesting intro before any bio about yourself. People will be drawn to video and imagery first, and if that piques their interest, they will read more about you and your past accomplishments.

Video courtesy of Dina Makanji

2. Let Your Personality Shine Through

There's no point in making a video if it doesn't say anything about you, so viewers of your video should get an idea of who you are. Dina makes sure her personal website and clips evoke bright colors and fresh, clean images that stays true to her style.

“If you are a copywriter and you have a witty undertone, make the video about that—get your personality across," she says.

Even the way you film the video can share a lot about your point of view. "A visual can say so much more than a few words—if you use a tool to alter the color gradient, the photo you've taken, the way it looks on the page," Dina says.

Be cognizant of the larger purpose of what you are trying to achieve through your video. Want to land a job? Highlight your expertise in a particular topic? Showcase your work? All should include elements of your personality, but be delivered differently.

3. Craft the Story Before the Video

Speaking of delivery, Dina strongly suggests spending time thinking through what you are going to say from start to finish before you produce the video.

"Start by brainstorming what the content is going to be and select the really important bits, " she says.

From there she recommends creating a written narrative (like a script!) while making notes along the way about visuals that may sync with what you wrote. "Get a good flow from beginning to end, " she recommends.

Start by outlining what you'd like to show on screen and what the voiceover will be in chronological order. And remember, people don't have very long attention spans, so try to keep your video between 30 seconds and three minutes, depending on your audience. If you're also planning to use the video on social media, shorter is usually better for audience engagement. And put your most important content first so if people do drop off, you'll be able to get your main message across.

After that she usually takes it to storyboard, sketching out what you want to have happen in each scene. Here's where you can go a little deeper and layout the specifics of the visual components. Maybe you're shooting a casual introduction video that highlights who you are, your background, and some personal tidbits to help viewers get to know you better. Again, return to the larger purpose you are trying to achieve, whether it's displaying your highlight reel or showing off your keen fashion sense.

4. Get the Right (Cheap) Equipment

Equipment to produce and edit videos can cost thousands of dollars, but it doesn't have to. "You literally can create videos from anything these days—you really don't need major tools," Dina says.

A lot of times it's about the idea, concept, and creativity. iPhones have great built in video cameras, and a string of Boomerangs or a sequence of still images can be a great place to start. The key is making sure that you have solid lighting, a steady hand or tripod, and high-quality audio (remember, if you aren't using microphones, stay close to your subject). And if you are using a phone camera, always shoot horizontally! If you don't have good raw video to start with, it will be harder to edit.

She does suggest investing in one major editing program, like a Final Cut Pro, if you can afford it. Once you have the program, you can get different plug-ins or effects for free or for a small donation to the creator. There are also plenty of basic level classes you can sign up for. The Apple Store offers free classes on how to edit videos on an iPhone and use some of their editing software.

Making video can be a huge undertaking, but it doesn't have to be. Think about your message first and get creative. Once you have your story down, the imagery will come naturally. Play around with video in your day-to-day life and soon you'll be mastering video just like a producer!