Producing a video review

Video review title

Tips on shooting a video review

I’ve just uploaded the latest instalment from Kev’s Shed which is a video review of the Tascam DR-60D audio recorder/mixer. Having already blogged about the product I was so impressed that it inspired me to turn the camera on myself and produce a video review telling you why I think Tascam have a smashing bit of kit on their hands. If you’ve got about 12 minutes to spare, and want to know how this little beauty is going to make your DSLR shooting life better, whiz down to the bottom of this blog and enjoy.

So what goes into making a video review like this?

The making of a video review

First of all, whoever is going to present the video review must have a good understand the key features of the product. Having already swatted up on the DR-60D whilst producing the written review I pretty much knew what I wanted to say about it on video. Whilst you wouldn’t always be supporting a video review with a written piece you must allow time as a producer/presenter to gather the facts and form opinions. There’s no point in just reading out the sales brochure.

Believe it or not, I did my entire presentation in one take. This is true, but not without stumbles, passages of pure nonsense, plenty of “erms” and a couple of coughing fits. All these breaks are skilfully plastered with b-roll footage – well maybe not all the “erms”! The idea is to get it all in the can in one go but at the same time understand where the editor can cut and repair. You need to think how you can link from one feature to the next and, if you can’t, make sure your viewer knows you are moving on to something else, “Another great feature I like….”

This video review was filmed in my edit suite, which is a room measuring about 3m x 4m. That’s enough space for my camera set up (see Tech Bits below) and for me to present to camera seated about 2m from the lens. It is a little too small for a standing presentation but I have another room to do these in with a greenscreen backdrop for keying.

Presenting a video review

Presenting a video review

There would have been room in my edit suite for a camera operator but in this instance I wanted to create the entire film single-handed. I had a volunteer to sit in shot whilst I checked focus but after that I managed everything on my own. The framing choice was intentionally off to the left slightly as I knew I’d also want to introduce a few captions in places where I thought the viewer would like more detail.

I then set about cutting this take into a logical story but not worrying at this stage about continuity between the shots as I would be covering these with b-roll footage of the DR-60D. This sometimes meant cutting words from one section into another, changing the order of some sections completely and cutting out about 70% of the “erms”. I had to leave at least some “erms” in as that’s what I’m like in real life!

With the narrative in place I was now at a stage of knowing exactly what I needed b-roll wise to cover the cracks and help tell the story. This consisted of a range of action shots demonstrating features that I was talking about, general pack shots and macro shots of switches etc. Again these were all shot single-handed in the edit suite plus one outdoor shot in the garden of me and the unit in action (this time using a tree as my focus marker).

Me shooting me

Me shooting me

That was day one over. With everything in the can I spent the following day adding b-roll and refining the main take to make sure the video review was telling the story that I wanted it to tell. Allowing for a bit of research time, encoding and uploading to Vimeo and YouTube, the entire film took two days or about 20-man hours to produce. I also put together a short teaser trailer too which only took a couple of hours on top of this.

Financing a video review

Whilst Proactive had supported me to write the original written piece (thanks again Neil – and buy your DR-60D here) I self-funded the production of the video review. I am genuinely impressed with the DR-60D but it’s obviously not my only motivation for making the video. I hope there are other manufacturers and distributors out there who would also like me to do something similar about their products – but obviously on a commercial basis. At least I can now show them something.

Applying my normal rate card to this job I would do something similar for around the £1,000 mark. On less complicated products I could see me turning the whole thing round in a single day – and maybe even get more than one product done in this time. That’s a fair price in my mind but happy to talk “bulk” with anyone : )

Technical Bits of the video review

Presenting a video review

The subject of the review

I filmed all content using my trusty old Canon 550D running ML (Magic Lantern). I could have used my 5Dmkii but wanted to show this being used on screen with the DR-60D as that’ll be my normal combination. It was mounted on my Sachtler Ace whilst the DR-60D rig was mounted on my Vinten Vision 3 (note the nice smooth rotation shot).

Lens wise I opted to use my vintage Fujinon 55mm f1.8 lens. On a 550D, with its cropped sensor, this gives an effective focal length of 83mm. I wanted to use this lens as its fast and I like its look. I wanted to create a fair bit of separation between me and the edit suite itself but at the same time didn’t want to struggle keeping myself in focus with having too shallower depth of field. I was therefore running the lens at f.4 and the camera set to 320 iso using ML’s controls. For the extreme close-up shots I used my cheap-as-chips eBay macro tube.

Canon 550D

Video review shot with Canon 550D

The only lighting was provided by my two Lishuai LED lighting panels (also available from Proactive). I’ve got a blackout screen on the edit suite window so could eliminate any natural light falling on the set and also turned off all house lighting. The LEDs were set to 3200k and placed just out of shot left and right and faded to give a little shaping to my already perfectly shaped body. I used my edit suite programme monitor as a practical back light source by getting a bright picture up on my Edius timeline.

Audio, and here’s the irony, was not recorded through the DR-60D as I wanted to have it in hand during my presentation. I didn’t have another one to use on the shoot so had to resort to attaching my Sony radio mic directly into the 550D and tweaking the levels within ML. Whilst I am used to working this way I have to say it only just emphasised just how much easier the DR-60D is going to make my audio recording in the future.

The cut and shut was done on Edius 6.5. I hope you enjoy the film and, if you’re in the market for a video review yourself, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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