Getting started with making video lessons

What I have learned making my first few videos of my art demos and classes

Whilst Covid-19 has caused huge problems and great sadness there are always good things which come out of bad. And personally, I do love to find the silver lining to bad situations.

In the art world, and certainly among the artists I know, getting our work seen and sold has been a massive challenge. It took me a while to wake up as, like most people, I thought we would just stay at home for about six weeks and then life would get back to normal but when I realised that wasn’t going to happen I started up the online exhibition space, Ginger Cactus Art. This is a platform for showcasing artists’ work which directs you to the individual’s own website until we can get back to proper, real life exhibitions.

Another activity which was hugely successful and generated a massive amount of traffic was the online courses. Some people were very quick off the mark, producing courses, often at discounted prices, right from the start. The same is true of TV programmes, most notably Grayson Perry  with his fabulous series showcasing artwork by both celebrities and members of the public, which he intends to make part of a large exhibition to go on show next year.

I jumped on this bandwagon too and made a series of lessons aimed at parents stuck at home with children and looking for something inexpensive but also good fun and different to do. I found that it also was of interest to other artists stuck at home looking for something different to try, too.

I took these down fairly quickly though and they are being edited them to make them flow better before, hopefully, re-publishing again soon. It doesn’t look like we’ll be returning to “normal” very soon.

Other cameras are available but I use one like this.

I was also asked to produce a demo for The Contemporary Art Fair as the exhibition could only go ahead in virtual form, but they wanted to do something to keep the momentum going and support their artists. I produced a (mediocre) 20-minute video which they showed over the exhibition weekend and which can now be seen on their YouTube channel. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-D0W_o7iHZM

So, I have been thinking about what makes a good video and how we can use the equipment we have and not spend a fortune on cameras and stands etc. to make reasonable quality video ourselves.

The first thing to think about is the light. I recorded all my video content in my conservatory. Natural light is always the best way to go when filming or photographing your work. You will need to keep an eye on the changing light if it is a sunny day with clouds in the sky. If you have blinds which can be drawn to reduce any glare whist retaining as much light a possible then so much the better. Failing that, working on an overcast day is probably best as the light shouldn’t change too much.

Next, write yourself a bullet point script. You know what you want to talk about but when the camera is turned on, your brain can go to mush and you forget what you were going to say. I have a large sheet of paper pinned to the wall behind my camera with the list of things I need to cover and the order I need to cover them in.

If you watch my Contemporary Art Fair video – you can find it at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-D0W_o7iHZM (at 50:40 into the video) – you will see that where you look is important and I definitely got this wrong. My husband was standing behind the camera and, instead of looking into the lens, my eyes kept flicking to look at him. It wasn’t a good look so try and remember to keep looking straight into the camera.

Sound. In all my videos to date the sound quality hasn’t been great. I have a small microphone on my camera too, but it never seems to work properly. I need to – and you probably will, too – need to get to know the equipment well so that you can produce the best quality possible. I will be working on this before the next video series.

Picture quality. Again, I need to get better at this and, as with the sound quality, figuring out how your camera or smartphone works so that you get the best possible outcome, is key. If you can use a camera and a phone to record your content at the same time you can then use editing software to merge them together for a more interesting result, e.g. varying the angles etc.

If you are using your phone you do need to think about where you will be showing your content and have your phone orientated the best for the platform you are using, e.g. portrait for Instagram and landscape for Facebook.

Also take some time to figure out how to use the zoom on your camera too. I thought I had it figured out for the Contemporary Art Fair piece but I didn’t. When I started working on an area which needed to be seen close up, the zoom didn’t do what I expected and the result was not great as there is too much distance to be able to see clearly what I was doing.

I already have a tripod for my camera which made things a little easier but I have also seen people prop their camera up on book stands, or small easels using elastic bands and tape to keep them in place. Whatever works best for you and doesn’t incur additional cost, well not at the beginning stages of doing this. You may find it is not for you so do keep your spending to a minimum until you are sure this is for you.

Editing – I don’t use Apple products, which is a disadvantage when it comes to this kind of thing as they have a full range of products/apps which you can use to make great video. I do have an editing program which was bought for me and this is something else I need to learn how to do. But if you know someone who has an Apple computer and can do the editing for you, this is probably the easiest way to deal with it until you have the headspace to work out all the technical issues.

In the end though, getting something out there which isn’t great is better than not getting anything out there at all. My first attempts are pretty amateurish but that’s OK. Next time they will be better and the more I do this the better I will get at it.

Also, watching people who are already doing this kind of thing and looking at how they have set things up, will give you more ideas for when you have a go yourself. So just try it, don’t be hard on yourself and most of all have fun.

This is the piece I produced for the demo. It can be yours for £195 with 50% going to the Princes Trust Charity

2 Replies to “Getting started with making video lessons”

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