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How to Light, Frame, and Shoot Online Video

While some of the time-tested principles of traditional video production still apply, online video is really a world of its own; here we look at key elements of online video production that distinguish it from producing for other media, including composition, lighting, and more.

How we produce video for online consumption is different from how we create video for traditional television, and there are a lot of key factors that we need to take into account to produce effective online video.

Online Viewing Habits

First, we must consider how our audience’s viewing habits are changing, and how online viewers approach video content differently from how they watch broadcast video. Figure 1 (below) shows how many options viewers have on a typical YouTube page to click away from your content. In addition to the on-page distractions, there’s also a good chance the viewer has other websites open, audio streaming, and possibly some type of chat window or other applications open.

Figure 1. Even when viewers find your video, click-away options abound.

Viewing habits have gone from passive to active, and we need to produce online videos with this in mind. That means shorter, more engaging content that’s “snackable” but still provides a value to the consumer.

Compression Tips

When it comes to engaging online videos, production quality is just as important as content. One of the biggest technical considerations is the process by which an online video is compressed. Your video file is reduced in size and quality a number of times before it is finally published on the web.

The more you compress a video, the more you lose resolution, color, and even audio quality. Raw video takes up a lot of space and compression is necessary to provide online video viewers with content that they can watch the video without interruption. Today, hosting sites like YouTube and Vimeo allow for high-definition uploads, but you’ll still want to keep in mind the following production tips.

Virtually any video that you deliver online has been compressed multiple times before it reaches your viewers. The first time your video is compressed is when you select a compression mode on your camera; the second happens when you transfer the footage to your editing system. Encoding your edited video adds another layer of compression and, finally, it’s compressed once more when you upload the video online. That’s a total of at least four times--maybe more, depending on your specific workflow.

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