The Beauty of Blog World 2009: How to Make Better Videos

Published in: Beauty Tips, Just For Fun, News

The Beauty of Blog World 2009: How to Make Better Videos

If a picture’s worth 1,000 words, what’s a moving picture worth? Blog World 2009 speaker Cali Lewis of posed that question at the convention yesterday, and it really made me think…


The answer depends on the quality of the video, right?

I’m on a mission to improve the quality of my videos (not just for the blog, but for home/travel videos too), so I sought out the sessions on video yesterday and took copious notes.

Tip 1: Write a script

When it comes to video, material trumps production quality, but watch any random 10 videos on YouTube, and what do most of them have in common? According to Sara and Lee O’Donnell, the couple behind Average Betty, the most popular short-form food entertainment web series online, most of them weren’t made with a script.

It doesn’t have to be fancy — even a few notes scribbled on index cards — but working from an outline or script can really make your videos stand out.

Tip 2: Choosing the right camcorder

“Buy a camera with the biggest lens, best glass and best sensor you can afford,” says Cali. Of course, that’s more for professional setups. Serious home movie makers and beginning web videographers might take a look at the Kodak Zi8 (about $180). Not only does it shoot in 1080p high definition video, but it’s image stabilized (less shaky in your hands) and has an external microphone jack (more on that later), too.

If you’re willing to spend more, both Cali and the O’Donnells mentioned the $550 Canon VIXIA HF200 HD Flash Memory Camcorder. It can do everything the Kodak Zi8 can do, does it better and does more.

For help choosing a camcorder, check out

Tip 3: Use an external microphone

Poor audio can ruin even the highest quality videos, and the microphones built into most small camcorders just aren’t very good. They struggle to capture clear voices more than a few feet away from them, and they tend to pick up too much background noise outside.

If you’re serious about your videos, external microphones can help. They range in price from small $9 lapel mics to the $250 Sennheiser MKE 300. Radio Shack carries a few different microphones, and it pays to be able to see them in person, since sometimes the hardest part of choosing a mic is figuring out where it’s going to be in relation to the camcorder.

And if you’re considering lapel mics, don’t forget to consider the length of the cable.

Tip 4: White balance

Do your videos have a yellow, red or blue tint to them? Poor white balance is a top beginner’s boo boo. Read through your camcorder’s manual for tips on correcting white balance. Some camcorders have settings to compensate for it, or you may be able correct it with software in your video editing program.

Tip 5: A tripod

Rock steady, girl! One of the easiest ways to take better videos is with a tripod. I use them a lot, even with my still cameras. While I also use full-size tripods, my favorite’s the small $20 Joby. It’s portable enough to carry in a purse and versatile thanks to its bendy legs. 🙂

Tip 6: Lighting

The experts agreed: Lighting’s the toughest part of the video (and still photography) equation. Cameras and camcorders like LOTS of light, and they despise harsh shadows. Consider the color (aka temperature) of your lights (I like daylight bulbs versus warm/soft light bulbs) as well as your placement. The easiest way to reduce shadows is by using more than one source of light (you can also reflect light with white surfaces like walls). Open the drapes, turn on the overhead light, and use a small desk lamp to bathe your subject in light.

Tip 7: Software

After you film your footage, you may want to cut out the boring bits, add fancy titles and spice it up with a soundtrack. For those things you’ll need a video editing appliation.

Beginner-friendly Apple iMovie gets lots of love for its ease of use and advanced features, but it’s only available for Mac. If you’re a Windows user, check out $90 Adobe Premiere Elements or the free Windows Movie Maker (quite limited, but it’s free).

And once you’re ready to move up from iMovie, look into the powerful $199 Final Cut Express. It can handle an almost limitless number of audio and video tracks, create broadcast TV-caliber titles and won’t crash as much as the other programs if you’re working with hours of footage.

Tip 8: Encode in h.264

This one’s just a quick suggestion, but there are different ways to encode video files for upload to services like YouTube and Vimeo (the service I use; I like the pretty colors). The experts yesterday recommended h.264, an option that most video editing applications support. It creates high quality web videos in very small files.

Happy Sunday, ladies. 🙂 I hope you found this interesting. I’m saving it in the Beauty Tips category because people do a lot of beautiful things with their home videos, and these tips can apply to way more than just videos for blogs.

Your friendly neighborhood beauty addict,



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  1. Okyanus says:


    I was wondering what kind of camera you use to take pictures?

  2. Karen says:

    Hi Okyanus,

    The ones I use most are a compact Canon SD950 IS (means image stabilized) and a Rebel XTi. The XTi is a DSLR, the kind of cameras with interchangeable lenses. With the right lens, it’s a way better piece of equipment, but the right lenses can cost major $$$.

    I really like Canon’s small Elph series (like the SD950). There are a bunch of them to choose from. I’ve owned three over the years and every one has been great. Just remember to use lots of light and to either use a tripod or brace your hand against something to hold the camera as steady as you can when you shoot.

  3. Lady Erin says:

    You provided some great tips and suggestions. Thx a bunch for not being selfish and sharing. I follow your site on a regular and ever since reading that you were participating in the conference, been very interested in the posts to follow. I actually use The pocket-sized flip Ultra HD Camcorder which has proven to be great and the already installed sw that comes w/ that coupled w/ the Windows Movie Maker app really provides all that I need for now plus both are so user friendly and FREEEEEE!!! I try to stay as cost effective as possible. But I will have to check out the Kodak model per your suggestion.

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