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David Lee King: Six tips for better videos

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Online video is huge, and it's not slowing down. Currently, adults spend an average of five hours a day watching video. Over an hour of that time is spent watching video on digital devices. In fact, current trends show that online video watching is steadily growing, while more traditional TV video viewing is slowly shrinking.

What does this mean for libraries? I think it means that libraries need to be making useful, usable videos for our customers. And we need some help doing that well!

So, here are six handy starter tips for cranking out better videos:

Image: David Lee KingDavid Lee King


David Lee King is the Digital Services Director at Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library, where he plans, implements, and experiments with emerging technology trends.

He speaks internationally about emerging trends, website management, digital experience, and social media, and has been published in many library-related journals. David is a Library Journal Mover and Shaker.

His newest book is Face2Face: Using Facebook, Twitter, and Other Social Media Tools to Create Great Customer Connections.

David blogs at

Read David's other articles…


Image: Social media

1. Get close

When making a video, don't shoot too far away from your subject. Get up close - think in terms of close-ups of the subject and any objects you are showing in the video. Most likely, your video viewer will be watching via YouTube on a web browser or even on a smartphone, so the screen size will be tiny. Because of that tiny video size, the closer you get to the "action", the better.

2. Light it up

Another way to quickly improve your video is through better lighting. Good lighting doesn't necessarily need to be expensive studio lighting. It can be as simple as using natural light from a window, or using inexpensive workshop lights.

Image: LightsImage: CameraImage: Action

3. Make it sound good

You can see it - you want to hear it, too! Actually, hearing a video is often more important than seeing a person's head talking. The visual is nice, but the communication comes from the speaking - from the audio.

Because of this, the sound of your video needs to be really clear. Getting closer to the audio source (i.e., the person) helps. Buying some better microphones can also help. There are a number of lavalier and larger microphones that work well with cameras, camcorders, and smartphones that will help make audio sound better.

Editing can also help. Most video editing apps let you turn the audio signal up a notch or two to make it louder.

4. Start strong

In today's busy (and easily distracted) world, your best strategy is to immediately start … at the start of the video. Don't worry about showing credits, or video titles, or logos or intro music. Instead, cut to the chase, and immediately jump right in to the main content. With videos, besides imparting your great information, your main goal is to catch and keep your viewer's attention. So … get to the point fast, and stay there.

5. Plan it then wing it

Are you an actor? How about the rest of your library staff? No? I didn't think so. Since most of us aren't skilled in acting or in reading and memorizing scripts, when we attempt to do that on a video we tend to sound really stiff and formal.

Stiff and formal doesn't work on the Web. To fix this, create an outline of what you want to say, and then wing it. Do a few takes (and some judicious editing) and you will be able to adequately get your point across (and sound like an actual human doing it).

6. Edit

Did I mention editing? You don't have to do anything fancy, but edit out anything that's not needed. Simple editing to cut out ums and ahs, or cutting to make a narrative shorter, is generally a good thing.

And edit in your logo or your website's URL at the end of the video.

And a bonus – get comfortable!

Sometimes, the hardest job when making a video isn't being the camera operator. It's being the person in front of the camera. Practice makes perfect. So start making videos! Familiarity with the process, like learning where to look, how to communicate a point quickly, and even knowing what to wear, comes with time and experience.

Video in one form or another has been around for over 100 years. It's obviously not going way, so use these tips to help you and your organization embrace the online small screen. Click record, and start sharing!