Caleb Wojcik, co-founder of Fizzle.co, The Fizzle Show, and The Sparkline Blog, created a definitive crash course guide to making better videos. The DIY Video Guide takes you from gear (and the gear you don’t need) to audio to shooting to editing (with a trove of tricks to save on editing time), and everything on the software side. In addition to the book, higher packages include video tutorials, interviews, case studies and more. I talked to Caleb about the guide and video-making in general, and how I could have saved countless hours of my life if his book had come along just a little bit sooner.
Starting from absolute scratch, what’s it going to cost someone to make good-looking, good-sounding, engaging videos?
Assuming you have a smart phone made in the last few years, you can start making good-looking and good-sounding videos for about $100. The three pieces of gear I recommend for making great-looking iPhone or Android videos are a RodeSmartLav ($60), the Glif Phone Tripod Mount ($30), and a small Gorillapod ($18).
Engaging videos, on the other hand, don’t cost anything but time. Time spent planning and scripting a compelling video, time recording take after take until you land that joke correctly, and time during editing making sure the video is as concise and clear as possible.
What are some of the biggest DON’Ts you see in videos out there in the cultural milieu?
One of the biggest mistakes I see is publishing videos that are way too long. The French mathematician Blaise Pascal once said, “I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.” A video that is too long is one that didn’t have enough time spent making it. The creator didn’t plan it out well enough or edit out enough fluff.
Think of a director’s cut of a movie. Even in Hollywood, at some point you can’t just leave everything in. Videos that take too long to accomplish what they set out to do are a waste of time for the viewers and ultimately show a lack of polish by the creator.
What are the least-used and most-used pieces of video equipment that you own?
My least-used piece of video equipment has to be an LED light that just sits on top of my DSLR. I always bring it just in case I need it but I always default to natural light or setting up a three point lighting kit.
The piece of gear I use the most would have to be my tripod or monopod. I can’t stand shaky camera footage. I don’t mind it in a movie or show that is using it stylistically (see: Bourne movies), but if a video is shaky when I go to edit it I almost always throw it out.
We’ve got some more content coming out soon on improving conversion rates. One of the things we looked at was conversion rates for products with different types of covers (product previews) - image vs. video vs. audio. However, the vast majority of creators on Gumroad who use videos for covers are filmmakers. What sagely thoughts do you have about using video previews for other types of projects?
Don’t be afraid to show your face. In my experience, people buy from people easier than they do from mysterious brands. Hop on camera and explain to the viewer what it is you’re selling, in your own voice, with your own quirks and mannerisms.
Also, show the inside of your product, service, or company. Buyers want to see behind the scenes. Show them the inside of the book, the membership site, the factory where you make the shirts, or kitchen where the sausage is made. Think of it like special features on a DVD.
Caleb, the three-snaps-to-signal-a-mistake technique (see the book, readers) is fantastic. I’m currently digging through stacks of raw footage for some upcoming videos, and that would have saved hours of work if I had known about it before. I’m absolutely going to start snapping my mess-ups. Do you have another other quick video hack that you didn’t mention in the book or accompanying materials?
Always do two takes when possible. Even when I think I nailed the line the first time I always say it again. More often than not I will have made a funny face, said a word incorrectly, or had some other audio hiccup that I didn’t expect. Hard drive space is cheap. Taking the time to set up all your equipment again just to say one line is not.
It’s been around a month since the release of the DIY Video Guide. You talk about hitting the record button every day. That’s a month of work for you. Have you leveled up in that time (streamlined a process or two, picked up some new skills, etc.)? Or, Caleb, have you peaked? Oh no. Did you peak?
I actually worry about this. After you do something for a while, in my case making videos, it is easy to stop learning new things all the time. So what I’ve been spending some time learning lately is color correction. I always make sure that the image of the footage I shoot into the camera is publish-ready, but being able to stylize and adjust the colors of a shot just a little bit can go a long way towards upping the production value of your videos.
What part of video-making do you still find the most challenging?
Being myself on camera is something I still have an issue with when I’m working off a script. When I am just ad libbing or doing more of a tutorial where I can talk naturally it isn’t really a problem, but when I have to deliver a specific line or joke that I’ve written, it still takes me too many tries to not sound like a robot.
You offer the DIY Video Guide in three packages. What are some of the benefits of the packages that include more than the book alone?
What you get in the other packages are threefold. First, there are video tutorials from me on all of the more technical parts of making videos like the software you’ll use to edit and syncing audio with video recordings. Second, I have case studies of different kinds of videos I’ve made including book trailers and sales videos. Lastly, I have video interviews with online entrepreneurs that heavily use video day-to-day in their business, but do the majority of it themselves. These all add a more detailed and step-by-step look at how DIY videos are made.
The Gumroad team are big fans of Fizzle. (Readers, Fizzle creates products and content for indie entrepreneurs.) Anything exciting in the pipeline you can share?
We have some great “guest” courses that either just launched or are coming soon to Fizzle. One of which is an official course from Michael Port’s team called Book Yourself Solid. We’re also putting the finishing touches on an Advanced Podcasting course with John Lee Dumas of Entrepreneur On Fire. And that’s not even to mention the great things our Fizzle members are accomplishing and sharing in the forum. I love all the Fizzlers. They rock.
Find Caleb Wojcik’s blog, podcast, and book at calebwojcik.com.