How We Create Review Videos

We have developed several processes for producing our videos. We will be going over the steps we use.

To shoot a review for a product or service we follow the steps of a traditional film production which is pre-production, production and post-production.

Steven Johnson
by | Posted: October 11, 2011 | Updated: April 1, 2014
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Pre-Production

  1. Writing the review
  2. Adapt the review

The first step is to review the product or service. For this example, we will use our site iPhone Speaker Reviews. The products we review there are speakers built for the iPhone. Since the site is established already, our rating and ranking criteria has already been thought out.

The next step is to adapt the review into an interesting visual review. We opt for using a person as the subject talking about the product. The subject or reviewer simply takes the information and changes it to fit their personal style. Once we have the basic elements that make up our review we shoot it with a natural tone.

For the iPhone videos in particular we have an outline that consists of a graphic intro, a welcome greeting and overview by the subject, a close up shot of the iPhone speakers, a quick summary of the pros and cons with a closing statement about the product, and a graphic video outro.

 

Production

  1. Equipment inventory
  2. Setting up equipment
  3. Testing
  4. Shooting
  5. Breakdown

 

Production for us is the same as it would be for any major studio, except on a much smaller scale. We found it necessary to only use essential production tools and equipment because our videos rely much more on the content presented to the audience. Not overstretching our style keeps the videos focused on what’s important to our viewers, the content.

This may not always be the case. For us, we still use intro graphics with music and other techniques to spice up our video, but we do not let it interfere with our message.

Equipment inventory
The equipment is kept at the office and we set up at night to prevent interference with noise and other disturbances. We pay close attention to unpacking and keep all of the cases laidout near by. See our full online video equipment inventory guide.

Setting up equipment
Setting up for online videos has remained pleasantly simple and that's party because of our belief in simplicity. Too much time setting up can wear down the team, but at the same time you don’t want to be under prepared.

  • First we set up the background. After unpacking all the pieces we set it up to have a width of about 9 feet and a height of about 8 feet. For our videos we use white background. This provides us with a clean look that requires minimal setup to accomplish.
  • Second the background lights are set up. These are the lights that light the background. Because we are indoors and need to completely overexpose our white background to accomplish the ‘infinite’ white look, we have a set of 2000 watt fluorescent lights to light it.
  • Third the subject lighting is set up. We have a set of 200 watt fluorescent lights that are used to light the foreground. They are adjusted for one to be only slightly stronger than the other. We typically compose the shot to favor one side of the screen so that side is where we point our key light and opposite of that is our fill. They only differ slightly, but having light be too symmetrical makes the subject seem less 3 dimensional.
  • Fourth the camera is set up about 11-13 feet away from the background and 5 - 7 feet away from the subject. We adjust the cameras settings to get ready for testing. This includes, adjusting exposure, focal length and listening to sound through headphones.

Testing
After the camera is set up and we go ahead and start doing some tests. These are to ensure what’s shot looks good on a series of different monitors. One tip would be to get a monitor that is accessible for quick testing. This will speed up your prep time.

Shooting
Shooting is the most fun. It can take awhile though so make sure you and your subject save your energy for this section. For cameras with hard drives you can use that to your advantage by turning off the camera between takes. This creates individual clips per section of video you are capturing. This is a slating in the new era of film-making.

Breakdown
Keeping all your cases, bags and cords close together is very helpful. Take note of all of your equipment as you unpack it and where you leave it. It’s recommended to make a checklist and check it off as you go. Especially if you are shooting on location somewhere.

Video Post-Production

  1. Transfer video to computer
  2. Organize clips
  3. Re-encode files if needed
  4. Edit video
  5. Review
  6. Export

Post-Production is a fancy term for the work that is done to the video after shooting. Editing, color correcting, sound effects, etc... are all considered post-production.

Transfer video to computer
Modern cameras, like the Sony HDR-550V that we have, use a USB cable to transfer files to the computer.

Organize clips
As soon as you get the files to your computer, it is good to sort through the files and rename them so they can be found quickly for editing. Some editing programs will let you enter in ‘logging info’ which allows you to keep important details inside the file. Renaming the file names works just as well.

Re-encode files if needed
Because we use an editor that works primarily as a computer screen capturing software (Screenflow), it takes a little more effort to get the raw video files into the program. We use a encoding software like, Handbreak and Quicktime to get the files to format that is compatible with Screenflow.

Edit video
Once we have the clips shot and imported into our video editor, we use a template that we created. We drop in the new clips, make appropriate cuts, adjust color, sound, etc..., and add product information to the title screens.

Review
After editing the video is reviewed and simple adjustments are made and final touches are added.

Export
We export the video at 720p using the Quicktime h.264 codec. This compresses the video to a small file size while preserving the quality of the video. There are settings that can make the file size very small, but you will lose quality in the compression.

Conclusion

On the export of our file we upload it to youtube and embed the video on our site. It’s a quick process compared to who many high-end production houses work. If you have more questions about video please contact us!

 

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