Video Essentials

Get Started with Online Video: Buying Equipment, Telling a Story

Content Rules, an extremely useful book by Ann Handley (chief content officer for MarketingProfs) and C.C. Chapman (founder of on creating all kinds of online content, has just been released in paperback. We’re thrilled to present this excerpt.

Equipment: What You’ll Need

Most of the content we’ve discussed in this book can be created with the tools and equipment you already have. Video can be accomplished with something as simple as a webcam or a cell phone, although you can also spend thousands of dollars to upgrade your equipment. It is better to start small and build up your equipment and video program gradually.

Be practical. If you’re not certain that video is going to play a big part in your content strategy, don’t allocate huge chunks of your budget to it. If, for example, you are planning to release your video only on the web (as opposed to using it on TV), you can get by with a fairly simple video setup.

High-definition video cameras now cost less than $300 and can fit in your shirt pocket. Kodak, Cisco’s Flip, and Sony, among others, offer practical options, and the great thing about them is that the video quality is reasonable and you can carry the camera around with you whenever you’d like. Portability is a good thing!

Although going mobile with your camera is a great thing, sometimes you need a tripod so that the camera doesn’t move or shake. A tripod is especially helpful if you want to film yourself interviewing someone. You can set up the tripod, hit record, and conduct the interview. You could spend tons of money on a carbon-shaft, ultralight tripod, but unless you’re going to go mountain biking with it, you can get by with any relatively inexpensive, sturdy tripod.

Finally, invest in additional storage in the form of an external hard drive to attach to your computer. Video files are storage hogs, but storage is so cheap these days that you can walk into your local electronics store and walk out with a 500GB drive for a couple of hundred dollars. (You should be regularly backing up your entire computer anyway, so an external drive is a must.)

Creating Your Story

Now that you have your video equipment, what’s next?

Video has the potential to tell a more powerful story than text or audio, so you have a tremendous opportunity to create something truly memorable. The difference between a ho-hum video and something that truly engages, according to new-media maven Thomas Clifford, is a true story. So he suggests you create a minidocumentary of sorts that has the following three characteristics:

1. It features a real story about your company.

2. It stars real people and so shows off your personality and team — as Tom puts it, “Real words from real people.” Your video should feature people even if your product or service is technical.

3. It includes outside sources (perhaps vendors, customers, stakeholders) to add credibility.

One advantage of minidocumentaries, Tom says, is that they are affordable. Generally, they are filmed with a small crew and don’t rely on fancy graphics or effects.

The key to great interviews in a minidocumentary, he explains, is to have a story sherpa who lays out a framework or loose script that will help shape the direction of the final product. Each person you interview should speak in his or her own voice, using his or her own words, but you need to guide your interviewees toward your goal for the video. Sometimes, your story sherpa might be an advisor or a director, giving cohesion and continuity, vision, and an outsider’s perspective. But more often than not, you will likely play that role.

The best stories, Tom points out, include a dragon: a problem or challenge that you or your company faced and overcame. That’s much like the way you would craft a customer success story, which is why customer success stories are great candidates for being reimagined as videos!

Excerpted with permission of the publisher John Wiley & Sons, Inc. from Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars (and More) That Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business, Revised and Updated Edition by Ann Handley and C. C. Chapman.  Copyright (c) 2012 by Ann Handley and C. C. Chapman. This book is available at all bookstores and online booksellers.

Video camera image via Shutterstock.


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