Learning to make videos: the hardest skills to learn

Not too long ago, I decided to create a YouTube channel. That’s not news to anyone since this website talks about it and has a link. Here is what is not known about making YouTube videos: IT’S REALLY HARD.

I have a lot of YouTube mentors who I rely on for inspiration. These are YouTubers who make regular videos effortlessly. The only issue is that it’s anything but effortless. I can’t even begin to fathom how many hours it look them to get a consistent look and message. I am still in the process of trying to get to the basic beginner stage on the key pieces of advice they all say is critical. (And it is.)

Audio: The primary message of pretty much every vlogger is that lighting and framing can be largely forgiven if the audio is good. I’m going to say, after watching and listening to hundreds of videos, that this is entirely true. The sound needs to be crisp and easy to understand, so the litmus test I use for my own video attempts is to close my eyes and listen. Is the sound good? Could I listen to this if the video just played as a podcast? If the answer is no, then I dump the entire thing. There is no excuse for poor audio.

But here’s the problem: what actually makes for good audio?

Think of it this way. In a world of iPhones with a speaker phone option, how many times have you been on a call with someone who you just know has their phone sitting on top of the microwave and then they started to do dishes while they talk? First you have the echo of their kitchen, which is as annoying as heck. Then you have the competing sound of Niagra Falls drowning out everything they say. But then the real killer is that they are far enough away from their phone that you can’t hear half of what they say. Personally, I can’t get off those calls fast enough. You won the lottery and want to give me half? Awesome. But I can’t talk right now. Got to go.

In the world of YouTube videos, there is a similar issue. If the echo chamber you are filming in distorts what you are saying, I can’t listen for more than a few seconds. I assume this is true for everyone, which meant I went and bought microphones to manage every situation. I have on camera mics, on phone mics, lavalier mics, and a few different USB mics. I should probably do a review of those. The main thing I have found is that you get what you pay for and it’s better to buy a good quality mic out of the gate rather than going for budget. If the audio isn’t good, there’s no video.

Oh. And the lesson I learned just two nights ago: get a dead cat wind cover. An hour of perfectly balanced light just got tossed in the delete bin because the audio is basically an hour of wind with me murmuring in the background. Lovely.

Regular Posting: This is the consistent message of every successful YouTuber and so far, it’s not been a skill I’ve got on every level. If you want to grow a channel, a business, or anything in life, you need to show up with consistency. Right now, I film with consistency, then delete the videos with equal consistency. I’m considering this period to be my vlogging internship. Once I nail down videos with consistently good audio, I’ll be much better at uploading on a schedule.

Video Quality: This is a bit of a broad term because it’s hard to say what single item makes for a good video. For sure lighting helps, as does framing, as does a dozen tiny tweaks and set ups. I won’t point to any specific videos on YouTube, but a few minutes of random clicking will get you some knowledge of what I mean. There was one video I watched not too long ago with a girl curled up in an armchair talking to the camera. Sounds like it has all the potential to be cute, right?

Well, aside from the fact that she didn’t use any sort of microphone at all, it was clear that she also didn’t put much thought into what the viewer would see. The camera was propped lower than the chair she was sitting in, so it was pretty reminiscent of those FaceTime conversations you have with your grandparents, except there were fewer nostril shots. Smart phones have given us the ability to take really good quality videos, but you still need to put some thought into what other people are seeing. A high resolution video does not mean a high quality video.

And yes. I delete a lot of my own videos. Armchair girl and I are at different parts of the learning curve, but armchair girl has more videos uploaded than I do. There is something to be said for fearlessness over perfection.

Script: I could write an entire chapter in a book about scripts. Some vloggers say you should write a script and others say you should write speaking notes and then just talk about them. I’ve tried both approaches and I’m undecided which works better for me. When I write a script, I get very clean material to edit. When I write an outline and then speak from the heart, I get a ton of material that needs to be edited from what can best be described as a hot mess, but my energy is much higher, which makes me feel a lot happier with the end result.

Energy: Speaking of energy, one thing my favourite vloggers have in common is their energy. Some of them are just amazing in their entertainment value. I smile when I am watching them because they bring the “it” factor to their videos. There’s another piece, too, which is that they are natural and spontaneous in what they say, which is amazing, because what I am currently dealing with is how to talk to a lens.

It’s easy to be energetic in a conversation when someone is feeding you. Know what I mean? Think of it this way: is it easier to have a conversation with someone who stands like a wooden post the whole time you’re talking or with someone who is laughing with you, changing the subject as you go, throwing down their own anecdotes, and making, at minimum, eye contact? Right? So translate that into a camera that is just sitting there on a tripod. And worse – while your camera is sitting there saying and doing nothing, people are walking by watching you monkey around in front of the camera.

Nothing says, “Hi, I’m a total weirdo,” like setting up a tripod in the middle of a crowd and then taking to it like it’s your friend. I’m working on this because, in reality, if I want to make YouTube videos, camera comfort is critical.

So why I am doing all of this in the first place? There’s a lot of reasons and high on that list is that I think it will make me a better public speaker. A lot of what I do in my offline life requires me to speak to large groups. If I want to do more of that, then doing more speaking is a necessity.

Keep watching my YouTube channel. I’m getting better and I’m starting to find the things that define more of what I want to say every time I create a video. I’m closer to producing the quality I want!

And with that, it’s time to go shoot some more video!

The defeated look of a woman who can’t believe she’s eating off a burlap sack.