Helpful Hints for Making Videos

We've put together some ideas to help you make better videos.


Recording Your Video


If you want to make a video tutorial - meaning recording your computer screen - then you’ll need a screencasting program. These programs let you show other people what you click on and what’s happening on your screen. Screencasting is often used for creating video tutorials because it helps illustrate how to use a specific program, accompanied by an audio track explaining what’s happening.

There are a variety of screencast programs to choose from. Camtasia is a good choice, by the German company Techsmith. They offer a 30-day free test version for both Windows and Mac.
If you want to make a real movie, first you’ll need to get yourself a home video camera or a digital SLR (either with a video function or without - if you want to make a stop motion video). Before you start shooting, though, make sure everything is bright enough for the camera to capture it, and that you have sufficient sources of light (sunlight is best - otherwise lots and lots of lamps). If you have one available, use a tripod to avoid “camera shake.”

When shooting, keep these things in mind:


  • Light: It’s very important to make sure there’s enough light, especially if you’re shooting indoors. That means gather up all the lamps you have in the apartment! Remember - a video camera is not as sensitive to light as your eyes, so to make movies look good you’ll need more light than you think. 
  • Sound: Bad audio in your movie distracts from what you want to say. If you want your movie to sound professional, use an external microphone - the one in your computer or camera probably won’t sound that good. If you want to make a tutorial, a good headset mike will do, but keep it a distance away from your mouth, otherwise you’ll get bothersome ‘popping’ sounds.


Editing Your Video


Once you’re done shooting, you’re not done yet. You have to edit your video, and for that, you’ll need film-editing software.    


Editing programs available free of charge include Windows Live Movie Maker and Apple iMovie. If you want to give your video a professional edit, you might consider using proprietary software like Apple Final Cut Pro or Adobe Premiere.    

Most screencast programs include an editing function, so you can get started as soon as you’ve finished recording.

Viewer-Friendly Editing  


For tutorials in particular it’s important to edit your video into a logical sequence. This is the easiest way to make sure the person watching the video understands what you’re trying to explain. It’s also much easier to follow along if video and sound match - meaning if what you’re talking about is the same thing as what you’re doing in the video.

While you’re still working out how to present the material in your video, try to keep everything easy to understand for a viewer. If a tutorial is edited haphazardly or too quickly, viewers can quickly lose track of what’s happening - and lose interest.


Get the Sound Right

By adding music and sound effects to your video, you can make it stand out from the crowd - and give it a personal touch.




The right song can make a video exceptional - but watch out. Just because you hear it on the radio or in a commercial doesn’t mean you can use it for your video. Before your video can be published, you have to be sure that no rights have been infringed upon (composers, singer/performer, etc.).
In North America, most music rights are licensed by ASCAP,  BMI and SESAC - and you’ll need the permission of one of these three organizations before you can use one of “their” songs. Some music is in the public domain or minimally licensed, and this is the music that you’ll want to find. Sometimes music (and other art) is published under a “Creative Commons” license, which is less restrictive than traditional copyright. There are plenty of places online where you can find music under a Creative Commons license or in the public domain. Check out Jamendo, Musopen and Free Music Archive, for starters. On these sites and on others (just search for “public domain music”, “Creative Commons music” or “royalty-free music” on the search engine of your choice), performers release their music under certain conditions. Usually this means acknowledging the artist and providing a link; sometimes it also means paying a one-time fee.

Here as well you should make sure to read the fine print: the conditions of use for “free” music are always included on the website. If it mentions an “attribution” license, that means you’re allowed to use the song as long as you reference the name of the artist. There are also licences that only permit music to be used for certain purposes. Usually this specifies that you may only use the music and the final product - which in this case is your video - for non-commercial purposes. Admittedly, it can all be a bit confusing. If you’re in doubt - ask. Ask the copyright holder or the webmaster where you’ve found the song.

In case you were wondering - you can use your own music, of course. This may be the easiest way to avoid the copyright/licensing hassle, so if you’ve been composing and practicing on an instrument, now’s the time to show off your skills! Even if you’re not a guitar hero or heroine yet, you can make music using the computer with software like GarageBand (if you’re a Mac user).

Sound Effects


If you want to jazz up your video with sound effects, give Freesound a try. It’s just what the name says - free sounds you can download and add to your videos, from bird chirps to that strange fuzzy sound of a TV being switched on. Just make sure you check the licensing on these sounds, too.

If you're a Mac user, you can also use the loops in the Mac library.    

Keep in mind: It might seem obvious to you, it might not, but either way: we at Jimdo won't be able to publish your video (or promote it or give you a prize, and so on) if you violate someone else's copyright by using music you're not entitled to use or haven't gotten permission for.


One Last Thing...


Editing takes longer than you think. Post-production - meaning cutting, adding effects and music, etc. - will keep you busy for some time. In other words, Rome wasn't built in a day and your video won’t be done in one day either. Take the time you need, and make the best video you possibly can. Just remember the submission deadline!