Recording on-demand content for upload to video sharing services such as YouTube, should not be too different to the delivery of online live classes but the reality is quite a bit more complex. The cutting room requires a whole new skill set, so get ready to sweat the small stuff and make a big impact!
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
First things first, where to film. During the first lockdown, I opted to film outside. My initial videos were full of birds tweeting, leading to a flurry of ‘tweet of the day’ conversations with my clients who seemed to love the element of bringing the outdoors indoors. As the weather turned a bit colder I couldn’t film outdoors so I looked for an indoor venue to film from and hired a local dance studio. I spent hours researching some of the most professional online pilates and yoga content that I could find and looked at what made their set up look so professional and discovered that less is definitely more when it comes to this area. It all seems to start with a simple background that doesn’t distract from what you’re doing and the core message you’re trying to deliver; a plain back wall or a large window that looks out over woodland perhaps. We don’t all have access to this but think about how you might be able to achieve a similar effect and don’t be afraid to add the occassional bit of greenery or props as appropriate, just as long as you remember that less really is more.
WHAT NOT TO WEAR
Whilst a lot of us instructors love nothing more than a funky pair of leggings, it really does seem to help with the visual presentation to keep our clothing simple when it comes to filming. Try on your outfits in situ, with the light that you will be recording with to see if there is enough contrast against your background. Perhaps record a few seconds as a test of sound, camera angles and also clothing. Contrast really is your friend here and not only against your backdrop but also against your mat so you can give clear demonstrations. When it comes to outfit planning, it’s worth considering what you’ll be teaching and what might be helpful to adding clarity to your exercises e.g definition in your clothing between your upper and lower body and perhaps even your feet. And with a note about sweating the really small stuff, I find it distracting when I watch myself or others on video and see that one legging leg is shorter than the other or one sleeve rolled up and not the other so take a moment to think about us pedants!
Teaching infront of a camera when there is no one there to physically teach is no mean feat. If you’re lucky enough to have someone there that you can deliver a class to and record it at the same time, great (APPI have really got this side of things sorted) but for most of us, we will be teaching to camera. If you find the idea of delivering in what can be quite a sterile environment gives you camera fright, be kind to yourself and do some simple planning first.
Plan your lesson, pitch it at the right level and practice it. I plan and sequence all my classes and keep a record. When it comes to filming, I use printed copies of the class on clipboards which means that I can place them out of shot but in a way that means I can read them whilst still looking at the camera. I can also place my standing section in line with the main camera and my supine/prone/4’s sections at the foot of my mat. Having a plan helps me to keep focussed and avoids too much freestyling but don’t be afraid to break up your delivery into sections as this can be stitched back together in the cutting room.
When I talk about pitching lessons at the right level, this means making sure you’re delivering what you’ve advertised so anyone finding your content will have some idea what to expect e.g. beginner mat pilates is what it says on the tin. By having a run through of your lesson, you’ll ensure you feel confident with your demonstrations and vocal cues. You also stand a much greater chance of running to time when it comes to pressing ‘record’ and can plan your camera angles if you’re using more than one camera.
And one final word of advice here is about delivery. I found talking a little slower and with more pauses helped enormously, not only in ensuring clear delivery for understanding of the exercises but also when it came to eventual editing of the video. With more pauses, especially when moving from exercise to exercise or from one position to another, it made life so much easier when either stitching together or cutting out parts of the video in the cutting room. And try to relax and teach with as much of your usual personality as you can muster. It’s always tricky to relax when you have so much you’re thinking about but adding that little bit of ‘you’ when you’re talking will give your videos your trademark look and feel and make them all the more watchable.
LIGHTS, CAMERA, SOUND
In my first blog, I attached a link to the box lights that i’ve used for my Zoom classes. I have found that these lights are generally enough when it comes to recording indoors and erasing issues with shadows, however, don’t be afraid to look at a third light if you find you need it. Get your set up ready and do some practice filming, looking at where there is too much shadow or generally how well lit it looks and adjust from there. Filming outdoors is a little trickier in some ways but I found I could successfully film without the use of diffusers and reflectors as long as I was mindful of where the sun was positioned.
There are so many devices that we can use to record video content that it can be a little bewildering. I’ve tried to film with an Apple MacBook, Ipad and Iphone but found that the best results actually came when I used an SLR camera on a tripod, set to video mode. I invested in a second memory card and second battery so that filming each lesson could generally be done in one sitting. As confidence and experience with filming has increased, I’ve added a second camera and set it at a different angle to the main camera. This means that when it comes to editing, I can add an extra or close up viewpoint of some exercises. To give an example, when doing squats, a face on view might work well most of the time but if the class is aimed at beginners, it might be useful to show a side on viewpoint. Ofcourse, all of this can also be achieved by moving your own position on the mat.
The final part of the set up was really to do with the sound quality. I tried a headset mic but found it annoying when in certain positions so I ended up using a Rode VideoMic. This plugs into the SLR easily and with an extension cable, can then be placed quite close to your mat, whilst still being out of shot. It picks up sound so clearly and cuts out quite a lot of external noise including wind when outdoors.
THE CUTTING ROOM
From experience, this has often been one of the most frustrating areas when it comes to recording on-demand content. I speak from experience and also having spoken to many other instructors. Plenty of people are happy to use their Zoom recordings and not have to worry about filming and then editing but if you want a different look and feel to your content and to be able to offer it to a wider audience than your existing class members, this is probably an area worth spending some time on. After all, you’ve already gone to all the effort of filming something amazing, spending some time here will do your effort justice.
After uploading the memory card content to my laptop, I found using the Apple Mac iMovie software did all that I needed it to do (apologies but I don’t know much about microsoft or other video editing software). I don’t add in music and so in lots of ways it’s quite simple. If i’ve used two cameras, I upload both contents and cut and splice what I need in iMovie. Using dissolve to help with transitions if I’ve cut out or spliced sections and this is where the pace of your verbal delivery and pauses between exercises and transitions really pays dividends.
When editing the videos, I’ve found it really helpful to have a consistency of style across my content. If you’re using thumbnails that appear next to your video uploads, think about creating one that has a similar look and feel each time, using the same font and brand logo perhaps. It doesn’t have to be complicated and is a really subtle way to let anyone viewing the content know that it’s your material.
Finally, a note on video sharing services. I upload my content to YouTube or Vimeo (other channels are available). I use a mix of channels depending on whether the content is free, restricted to a certain group (YouTube) or requires payment (Vimeo linked to my website or Bookwhen). One benefit of this type of software is that it allows you to get some stats such as how many people have viewed the content. This helps when it comes to planning future classes by pinpointing your most popular content for example.
THAT’S A WRAP
It can be quite daunting when you consider all the individual elements that go into creating content that reflects your personality, skill and expertise as an instructor but if you’re delivering classes online live at the moment, chances are you already have a lot of this covered. And if we’ve learnt anything over the last year it is that we are resilient, resourceful and the camera loves us!
As we hopefully edge towards the end of this current lockdown, there’s been a lot of discussion about whether on-demand and live-streamed classes are here to stay. I believe that whilst in person classes will be in great demand, we have gained much and created new demand by diversifying our services in order to be able to offer clients different ways to keep up their at home practice and I feel it would be a shame not to continue to build on what we’ve achieved.