FULL TRANSCRIPT BELOW:
Daniel: Welcome to the weekly update for American Small Business Institute. This time I have with me Rex Williams. Now, you’ve seen Rex’s work, if you’ve ever watched one of the testimonial videos on Wizard Academy’s website or the whiskey website.
Rex Williams: Nominated for an Oscar
Daniel: Basically, yeah, a guy named Oscar …
Rex Williams: Not many people know that.
Daniel: … who makes pictures of them, watches and goes …
Rex Williams: Ha.
Daniel: Yeah. Rex has been doing video for about 3-1/2 weeks now at least.
Rex Williams: Give or take 16 years.
Daniel: Yeah, give or take 16 years and what he’s going to share with us is, say you want to get into video, but you don’t have a video guy. You’ve never done video before and you’ve backed out of it because you were afraid of what it would take to be involved in doing video for your business, so where do we start?
Rex Williams: Basically, the question you’re asking me is how to get started with video.
Rex Williams: I hate you so much for that.
Daniel: Well, it won’t be the first time.
Rex Williams: Basically, that is the simplest and the most complicated question you could possibly ask me. Let me ask you this. As a very accomplished, experienced musician, if I were to come to you, I’ve never touched an instrument and don’t have any experience and I were to say, “Hey, Daniel, how do I get started in music …”
Daniel: Yeah, that’s true.
Rex Williams: … what would you say?
Daniel: I would say what genre?
Rex Williams: Exactly. Exactly. One of the most common things that people really neglect to define for themselves, before they start asking professionals, say, “What do I need to do to get started, what are the first steps?” is to figure out what are you trying to make that has a huge impact on how you should get started? Is this basically going to be ab orchestra? Is this going to be like a one-man band? Is this going to be rap? Is it going to be rock? All of those things change the approach, but there’s some common, there’s some foundational things that go into any kind of video effort that you’re doing.
Basically, the fundamentals of making sure that you can get a good focus, white balance, a composition, exposure and you know how to get good audio, those five things. Basically, the focus is how blurry or sharp the images. You need to be able to do that. This is very basic, basic level stuff. The exposure is how bright or how dim the images. You need to be able to do that. That sounds simple, but everybody screws up the exposure [inaudible 00:02:26].
Daniel: Even with the iPhones [inaudible 00:02:28] tap on the screen?
Rex Williams: Yes, even with the iPhone. Knowing how to get a good exposure … Quick tip before we move on, there are a few. Always expose for the face. Whenever you’re getting a shot there’s a face in the picture. It doesn’t matter what their clothes look like, what the background looks like. As long as their face looks close to the natural brightness or dimness, that’s good.
The white balance is basically the color, making sure that the colors are accurate.
Composition, that’s the framing of the shot, how are you putting things in the frame of the video screen.
Daniel: Centering the face dead middle all the time?
Rex Williams: No.
Daniel: Off to the side?
Rex Williams: Rule of third, you can Google that. Rule of thirds. That’s basically …
Daniel: Wait, you heard him. Google it, rule of thirds.
Rex Williams: Yes. That’s my very indepth suggestion. Go Google that shit.
Then sound is one of the things. As you well know, it’s very easy to screw up sound and it is, by far, the most common tell-tale factor in amateur videos. A lot of people can get the focus, the exposure, the white balance and the composition good. It actually takes a couple of steps of indepth knowledge to make sure you have good audio. Being able to listen to some headphones and say, hey, is this going to be all right? The sound needs to good. The moment anybody watches a video and the sound sounds like it was shot in a tin can, then you know all right, this is amateur hour.
Rex Williams: Those are the technical fundamentals, with those 5 things technically you’re ready to make music. Technically, you have the information pinned down so you can start pushing the button and feel confident that you’re doing everything technically correct.
But the technicals are the easy things and everybody thinks that, “Well, if I just get the right camera, then everything just falls into place.” You and I have had this conversation before. It’s the magic tool myth …
Daniel: Yeah, it’s the magic tool.
Rex Williams: … and in video there’s this idea of, “Well, I just need the right camera. What’s the perfect camera I should be using? What’s the right microphone? Or maybe it’s that carbon fiber tripod?” That’s really going to make [inaudible 00:04:39].
Daniel: The iPhone 7.
Rex Williams: Oh, don’t get me started. No, just don’t. I’m still twitching about that enough.
Let me put it this way. There is a legend that goes the iconic photographer Ansel Adams was sitting down to have lunch for the first time with Ernest Hemingway. They’re getting to know each other, just the few minutes of kind of awkward conversation and, finally, Hemingway says to Adams, “You make the most beautiful photographs. What camera do you use?” Ansel Adams frowned for a moment, finally looked back up and he asked Hemingway, “You write the most beautiful stories. What typewriter do you use?”
Daniel: Yes, exactly.
Rex Williams: Now, the reason why I say it’s a legend is because people can’t really confirm that actually happened, but anybody in a creative industry can tell you, “Oh, my god. The number of people who really appreciate my music, my videos, my paintings, whatever, and they’ll ask me, ‘Okay, well, what tool are you using?'” and that’s very, very entry level.
Daniel: Did you use Photoshop on your photo?
Rex Williams: Yes, exactly, and, quite frankly, the vast majority of tools out there are good enough, including your freaking smartphone. The technical things that we were just going over, the focus, the white balance, the composition, the sound and, then, whatever other thing I said, all of those things can be practiced with an iPhone.
You can get an app. With the built-in camera app you’re going to be able to do some auto-adjustments and, then, you hold it and, then, it locks everything down. But if you really want to be able to get into the settings and figure out, “Oh, this is what focus is all about, this makes it blurry. I slide it this way. This makes it more in focus if I slide it this way. Oh, this is the exposure. This makes it really bright.” You get the ISO and the shutter speed.
If you don’t know what the hell I’m talking about, that’s fine. That’s why you get apps like FilMicPro, this is in the App Store. MoviePro is in the App Store, it’s another good one. UltraKam, Kam with a K, that’s another good one where you can actually download these apps, it’s very inexpensive, and start getting the practice necessary to master these fundamentals. Because, like anything, if you don’t know the technical fundamentals, you’re not ever going to be able to focus on the more fun stuff.
Daniel: You’re saying that maybe you could get into this by just using your phone to shoot things around you to learn the steps?
Rex Williams: Yes, learn the steps and because we’re limiting this conversation to … it’s under the assumption that you’re going to be doing these videos, but if you have a budget …
Daniel: Yeah, don’t have time to hire them, but yes.
Rex Williams: Yes, that’s fine, but you should not be so … ignorant is too harsh of a word. Too …
Daniel: Naïve, maybe?
Rex Williams: Naïve, there you go. You shouldn’t be so naïve as to believe all of these asshats who get up in front of a room full of business owners and say, “You know what? Video is powerful. It’s amazing. Look at these statistics and it’s the greatest thing in the world. Look at the opportunity here. The only thing you need is your iPhone and you can be doing these amazing videos.”
Yes, they’re right, but there’s a giant but, there’s a huge asterisk there, and that asterisk is, the iPhone is just a tool, just the same way that a guitar is a tool. You’re going to put a guitar in my hand, I could be the best guitar on the face of the planet, I’m not going to be able to do anything meaningful with that guitar unless I’ve mastered the fundamentals.
People have been inundated with this entire marketing campaign from Apple. You have like “Shot on the iPhone.” It’s like, “My God, that looks stunning. That footage, those images, those photos is like beautiful.” It’s like, well, that was a professional photographer.
Daniel: Yeah, and if you ever tried to replicate that, you know how impossible that is.
Rex Williams: Yes.
Daniel: I know.
Rex Williams: Those five fundamentals, it’s not the most glamorous part of beginning to make videos, but it is absolutely necessary. Just like in any sport, there’s fundamentals you need to master.
Now, once you get past the fundamentals and you’re able to wrap your head around and consistently nail a good focus, a good white balance, a good exposure, a good composition and good sound, now you’re ready to start dabbling into the more what I call the soft sciences, the more creative factors in a video production. These are things like on-camera performance. This is about humor and authenticity and the topics and making sure that’s inline with your audience, the engagement with the audience having those conversations.
This isn’t technical stuff anymore. This is getting very deep into how you translate your human self and the genuine product and service offering of your business, into the most compelling video content possible. That’s an entirely different thing.
Daniel: Yeah, we’ll save that for another video.
Rex Williams: Yes, that’s an entirely different thing and, quite frankly, that’s about six hours of lecture that we won’t get into, but that is the type of thing that makes all the difference in the world because one of the things …
One of reasons why I am very adamant, I’m a huge proponent of getting business owners to be able to make their own video content is because it is an extremely powerful and valuable capability to be able to capture yourself, your thought, a moment immediately at your convenience, as it happens organically, just be able to grab that without having to wave over like a video guy or schedule a production.
That is so incredibly valuable because you, as a business owner, there’s nobody on the planet earth that’s going to be able to understand your business and who you are and what you have to offer better than you.
One huge misconception out there is that video guys who understand all those technical fundamentals, how to frame a shot and get good audio and the focus and the white balance, all that stuff, it’s like, “Well, they do videos all the time, surely they know a lot about video marketing.” No.
Daniel: They know it, but they don’t know how to tell a story.
Rex Williams: Here’s the thing. I can tell you video guys do not know a damn thing about marketing ..
Daniel: Take note.
Rex Williams: … and I will be correct 99 times out of 100. There’s always an exception, there’s always an outlier, but for the most part, this is a technical job.
Whenever you look at all of the things that go into a video production between the cinematographer and the director and the costume designer, set design, the gaffer, the lighting, makeup, all of these different things, these are all individual professions. People go to school, they study, they spend years mastering that individual profession.
There’s so many different jobs that go into a video production to make it look like it’s suitable for Netflix and the big screen and all this other stuff, it’s like, man, if you’re making your own videos and I always feel like a bucket of cold water and it’s never my intention, it’s never my intention, but it is this gut-check time. This is this reality check where I’ve seen so often people just blindly, happily just go charging into this world of video thinking they’re going to be making the next viral video because somebody has pumped their head with these ideas, “Oh, you just pull out your phone and push the button and magic happens.”
There’s actually a few other things that go into it than that, but my intention is not to throw water on that enthusiasm. My intention is to bring clarity because I have seen so many business owners ready to tackle the world. They are so excited about video and they charging into the frontlines and they just get smashed in the mouth. It’s, like, “Oh, my God, there’s so much I didn’t know. I’m so out of my league here.”
Daniel: As with so many things.
Rex Williams: Yes, and as long as they understand it’s like, hey, you’re going to get into video and there’s these fundamentals you need to master and the first 3, 4, 5, 20 videos you make probably aren’t going to be amazing, there’s a learning curve. As with like playing a musical instrument, you’re going to sound pretty rough.
Daniel: If you’re like me, what I’ve been doing at the academy, is I’ve been taking these tools you said to download and downloaded them and I’ve just been shooting family members and the kids and things I’m doing during the day or stuff in my office, just random things, practicing all of the technical things to get comfortable with them. My videos aren’t as bad as they used to be.
Rex Williams: Now, they’re not.
Daniel: They’re still embarrassing. I’m not going to show them to anyone, but they’re not as bad as they used to be.
Rex Williams: I want to wrap it up this way. Basically, video is absolutely worth doing, yes, but do not underestimate the learning curve involved and be prepared to be 6, 7, 8 months into making videos at least once a week. You know what, if you’re doing it once a month, it’d be like once a month I’m going to sit in front of a piano and peck at it, I’m not going to learn how to play Bennie and the Jets anytime soon.
At least once a week, once a day would be amazing, but most business owners don’t have that kind of time. If you’re not shooting something, even just for fun, at least once a week, then you’re probably not going to be doing it often enough to get good anytime soon, giving people the framework that you’re going to be doing this for a while before you feel really comfortable behind that camera and in front of that camera.
Then, the other thing is … It was interesting. I was doing a shoot for a training video right across the campus here and there was a student that was in the workshop, the video workshop that we did with at the academy. I didn’t know they were here, and they were talking to another person in the room and that person just happened to say, “Hey, I saw that video you did. It was amazing.” She’s, like, “Well, actually the guy that taught me is right over there.”
The thing that was really, really helpful that they shared with me is that … and I never would have said this otherwise and I’m glad they told me because I very rarely understand what are people really connecting with [inaudible 00:14:43] just going over their heads. The thing they said really helped them out was whenever I explained in the workshop that whenever you see yourself on camera in glorious HD or 4K if you’re so brave, whenever you see yourself in camera for the first time, you will have the thought that you are too old and/or too fat and/or you have a funny voice.
There’s going to be all of these reasons why you are unfit to be on video and that is everybody. Everybody has those thoughts. Even the most attractive specimens on the face of the earth, they have little things and quirks and eccentricities about how they speak and their mannerisms that drive them up a wall.
You’re going to see it and you’re going to never want to get in front of a camera again, you have to get through that. It’s going to happen. You just have to get through that. There’s a lot of speed bumps and barriers that you’re just going to have to grit your teeth and get through because making videos well and consistently is absolutely worth it.
One last practical tip that I think a lot of people have been helped by because they get the equipment, they get the tools, like, “Okay, I want to be making some videos. What do I do next? What do I say? What do I show?” I’m a big, big advocate of picking a muse or several. People that have their own YouTube channels or talk shows are just basically professional on-camera personalities that you identify with. You’ll think, “Oh, they’re fantastic. They’re great.” Somebody that you feel like is very much inline with your own personality and your own communication style. Nobody in your same industry because, then, you’re just a copycat. Somebody that you actually find entertaining, using them as your spirit animal, let’s call it.
Daniel: There’s a quote in the music industry, “Great artists steal.”
Rex Williams: Yes. Sure, you’re ripping them off. Let’s be real here, but practically speaking, you’re using them, you’re holding them up as a model of, “Okay, I’m in front of the camera, there’s lights on me, there’s a microphone. What the hell am I doing? This is unnatural.”
Daniel: Pretend to be this guy.
Rex Williams: Yes, what would that guy do? Because I love that guy and that guy is very much … We got the same style, same energy, the same communication pattern, speech patterns that I do and, then, just pretend to be that person. Not over the top to where it’s obviously an impersonation but, yeah, just channeling them.
That often helps people get the momentum, get the ball rolling, starting making videos, at least until they’re able to start to find their own voice because that’s the place you really want to get to. That’s after you’ve gone through the technical hurdles and, then, you’ve gone through, “Oh, my gosh, I’m a horrible hideous monster.” After you’ve gone through the growing pains of doing a good video, then being able to find a voice that not only is genuine and authentic and of you and who you really are. It’s a voice that your audience can identify with.
There’s nothing quite as gratifying as you making content that you know, oh, this is basically a totally accurate representation of me and my personality and my business and what we have to offer and people love you for it. They absolutely love you for it.
Daniel: That’s right. Well, there’s the quote that performance … I can’t remember what book I was just reading this in. It said be careful what personality you pick because if you pick one that’s not you and people love it, you’re screwed.
Rex Williams: Yes. Absolutely. Absolutely. That’s another huge thing. One of the main reasons why 9 times out of 10 I’m steering business owners away from scripts is because they’re not actors. I started listing, I didn’t get through even half of the professions that go into a video profession, acting is one of them. Acting is a profession. It is a skill that people study for years and it just amazes me that these business owners think that they’re going to be able to take words that somebody else wrote …
Daniel: That aren’t theirs.
Rex Williams: … and, then, read these words and look and sound like a human being. It’s, like, you’re not an actor.
Daniel: Yeah, it’s already hard enough to do radio like that, let alone do it on camera.
Rex Williams: Right. If you’re not an actor, don’t act. I’m not saying scripts are worthless. A really solid brilliant script is amazing and it’s worth learning how to present that well, but the vast majority of time with the kinds of content that a video that a business owner could make on an ongoing basis, it’s not going to be scripted because, quite frankly, most business owners they don’t have much time. They need to be able to pull out a camera …
Daniel: Or staff writers.
Rex Williams: Yes. They need to be able to pull out a camera and grab a moment. There’s a testimonial opportunity with a customer, you want to have an off-the-cuff interview with that person. You’re going through an airport. You had this brilliant thought or there was this really cool scene that happened at a trade show convention. Being able to, in a moment’s notice, capture that, maybe you don’t even have the need for it that week, but to capture those moments, those are assets. Those are things that you can begin collecting in any project in the future that you can begin making video content for.
Daniel: This is a huge thing. I don’t want to gloss over it too much. One of those things is that, what I’m hearing anyway, is don’t be afraid to shoot everything that you think could be cool, and also don’t think that everything you shoot has to be published. Be willing to shoot a ton of things without deciding whether or not they’ll see the light of day until later.
Rex Williams: Yes. Just to give you some context. Whenever a client works with us in our own studio, like fly into Austin, we’re shooting for at least an hour and that’s going to get cut down to usually about 90 seconds to 2 minutes.
Daniel: [inaudible 00:20:34]
Rex Williams: Even working with a director, sound guy and a full set, even working with professionals in a professional environment, we’re talking about 2 minutes out of 60 that’s actually going to be usable and actually going to be good. The main thing that we’re trying to do is basically get in the habit and a routine of capturing those moments casually, habitually. Pull out the damn camera and it could be like your kid’s birthday party …
Daniel: Like I said, the kids. Film the kids.
Rex Williams: Absolutely. Film the kids, but not just … Oh, for the love of God, don’t do vertical video.
Daniel: Oh, yeah.
Rex Williams: You hold the vertical video and, then, you could see it on the screen you have these big black bars.
Daniel: I may or may not be guilty of doing such things.
Rex Williams: No, you are [inaudible 00:21:17]. But basically shoot it as best you can, always. Not just holding the camera and say, “Do that again, that was funny. ” As best you can, shoot it as if you were trying to get a good focus, exposure, white balance, good sound. You want to be close for the good sound, good composition, you’re framing the shot well. If you do that often enough, consistent enough, then you’re going to get pretty amazing at making video content.
Then, an entirely other conversation is after you’ve mastered the fundamentals, how do you turn into an absolute rockstar in front of the camera?
Daniel: So in about, let’s say, 6 months, you’re going to have 6 months to practice, then I’m going to drag Rex back here for that conversation.
My takeaway is video is absolutely worth doing, but it’s also extremely hard, it’s not simple. Just because the tools have gotten simpler, doesn’t mean shooting videos has gotten simple and the only cure is to wade into the middle of doing it and do it over and over until it becomes easier.
Rex Williams: One qualifier, doesn’t mean shooting good videos is simpler.
Daniel: That’s right.
Rex Williams: You can push the button, it’s easier than ever …
Daniel: Tools have gotten simpler.
Rex Williams: Yes.
Daniel: Shooting videos has not gotten simple. The tools with which you shoot videos have gotten simpler. So do it, practice it, even if it looks bad and, like I said, if you shoot the kids, no one complains about those videos because kids are adorable.
You may want to come back and watch the video again to look at the tips that Rex talked about. Keep track of them and try to find a way to implement that kind of thing in your schedule on a regular basis.
Thank you, sir.
Rex Williams: Sure.
Daniel: See you next week.