The biggest part of selling your creation on Tindie is making sure people understand what you’ve built. Making a great video to go along with your excellent photos and in-depth details is really important. Many times you just need to see what’s going on to really appreciate an object’s beauty.
As engineers and hackers, we’re interested in how things work and enjoy seeing them in action. For that matter, a verbal explanation can be quite helpful, both of which can be expressed in a product video.
Here are a few tips to help tell an interesting story with good quality audio and video.
Filming Your Video
Camera Equipment: In an era where the latest smartphones can take 4k video, there’s no excuse for not filming your project in a decent resolution. While “only” HD is fine for most applications, if you do film at a higher resolution than you need, this helps with your final quality if you need to crop video later. Likely you have equipment that’s good enough, but if you’re using anything less than 720p resolution it’s OK to upgrade or even borrow a smartphone from a friend. Better yet, ask your friend to help with the video shoot! Whether it’s a smartphone, a GoPro, or a prosumer video rig, make sure you frame the shot well and that your recording is in focus. These last points are far more important than what type of equipment you use.
Use a Tripod (or a Hack): Unsteady video is the realm of the “found footage” horror movie genre. Set your camera up on a tripod when filming. If you don’t have one, clamp your camera or smart phone to a leg of a ladder. Whatever you need to do, placing your camera on steady ground will help ensure proper focus and produce a much better product than going the handheld route.
Lighting: When shooting indoors—very likely if you’re showing off electronics projects—pay attention to lighting. A few clamp lights with a white bulb (4000°K or so) inside can transform projects in your shop from drab to wow. A bench-mounted desk lamp can also help you illuminate tabletop projects. Look at where light is coming from and watch for hard shadows and shining reflections that will disrupt the quality of the recording.
Narration: If you can verbally explain things during your videos—or edit your voice in later—this really helps personalize things, leading the viewer/listener to connect with you and your product. Practice beforehand and use a script if you need it. Keep your tone conversational, like you’re doing the demo for a close friend, and don’t let the script get in the way of this. A good microphone and office/studio setup can help with your quality, but don’t get too hung up on this at first.
Cut, Cut, Cut: While it might seem like a good idea to go over every little detail of your project, consider how you watch YouTube videos. Do you have 20 minutes or an hour to dedicate to watching a product get assembled and used while just browsing for interesting items? Probably not. Keep product overview videos short using fast-forward techniques as appropriate. You should consider doing an extended cut if you feel there is more that needs to be seen.
Audio Levels: Make sure the overall audio level is on par with other online videos so that playback doesn’t begin too soft or too loud for the viewer’s volume settings. If you’re adding narration, music, and perhaps sound effects from your products, be sure to mix them together at appropriate volumes. You’ll want to make sure you can hear everything clearly, and be sure to not have a sudden increase in volume—perhaps in an intro or outro—that causes listeners to be uncomfortable. Most multi-track video editing software has the ability to adjust levels of each audio track. You can do this throughout, not just at one level for the entire clip.
Music: Background music can be extremely helpful to keep viewers engaged. If you’re doing verbal narration it even helps disguise unwanted noises like breathing or static and hides “dead air” when you are not speaking. The Free Music Archive is a good source of background music that you can use on your videos—their advanced search has an option for tracks that are licensed for commercial use as long as you attribute the composer.
Give Your Video More Reach
Title/Thumbnail/Description: Make sure people actually watch your video: give it a compelling, well-lit, color balanced, and nicely cropped thumbnail image. Spend time refining a good title that quickly tells the story of what will be found in the video. This will appear in YouTube feeds and can help to reach customers who haven’t yet heard of your product. Make sure to include a well-written description that links to your Tindie product page, so that anyone interested can find where to get more info and make a purchase. If you used music that needs attribution, do so in the video description.
CV.OCD reviewed by Enrique Martinez
Outsource: If people have purchased your product, there’s a chance that they’ll produce a review video or clips of it in action. If their video allows it, by all means embed it in your Tindie listing. They’ll appreciate the views, and you’ll potentially get more sales—great for everyone involved. Beyond that, there’s no shame in paying someone to make a video for you, though you’d obviously need to look at the costs closely before making that leap.
Watch Others: When you’re watching videos, take note of what people do well and poorly and attempt to integrate their techniques into your own clips. Others make videos specifically about improving your YouTube technique, such as Roberto Blake, who notes that one should “always be creating.” This would be a good motto for Tindie sellers, even those that choose not to post videos.
Practice: In the end, the first product videos that you make won’t be your best work. You’ll stumble over your words, and your angle/lighting/production will likely leave something to be desired. These types of videos can still add immensely to the appeal of a product, but as you make more videos, your technique will gradually improve.
As for what not to do, here’s one of my early videos, filmed with a handheld webcam under poor lighting conditions, with inconsistent background sound volume. As of this writing, the title of the video is “rev1_robot_for_youtube_0001.wmv.” Not exactly search friendly. I had to start from somewhere, and so does everyone else!
Like actually listing your products on Tindie, don’t be afraid to put your video out there. Things can only improve, and you’ll certainly learn something! On a related note, check out my thoughts on taking great product photographs here.
These tips are pulled from my own experience, and have helped me push what I can produce video-wise from quite poor to what I consider decent quality. On the other hand, I hope that a year from now I’ll look at the videos I produce and marvel at how comparatively bad they were. All that being said, while my production might vie for a “most improved” award, I don’t claim to be an expert. If you have tips on how to make your production better, especially in the context of showing off your products, please let me know on Twitter @JeremySCook. I’d love to do a followup with tips from other Tindarians!