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4 things that make bad videos

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Beautiful cinematography is magical. Combined with a compelling narrative, it can whisk you away to a different place and be a powerful way of telling a story.

Videos are becoming more and more popular, partly due to the ease of filming with mobiles. People are now recording films for work as a way to let people know what they’re up to or as a call to action.

But we have a problem.

1. Your boss telling you to make a video

Videos have taken over the internet and, without being too harsh, a lot of them aren’t very good.

Video content that doesn't have a narrative, has poorly recorded audio, slap dash cinematography and no passion or imagination only serves one purpose. Someone has been told (probably by their boss) to make a video to fill a void, raise money, showcase the organisation’s work or because video is a “cool” thing to do. So the video gets made quickly or by teams who aren’t experienced or passionate about film.

And the results? Not very good.

2. Making more videos for the sake of it

On YouTube alone there’s over 500 hours of video uploaded every minute.

That’s overwhelming and online viewers are getting bored. Attention spans are short and people want to know what you’ve got to say pretty quickly.

What does this mean? Well, something which captures people’s attention quickly. That means an engaging introduction but also making something that resonates with people, compels them to connect and engage.

There are two significant things that bring down the quality of videos: a lack of a strong narrative and bad quality recording.

3. Filming talking heads

It’s important that your video has a clear narrative to resonate with your audience. That doesn’t just mean what’s said in your video. It’s the whole way it’s constructed. It’s how the audio and video is brought together and made into a coherent and engaging piece of work. It’s how you weave together an interview with someone into a strong story.

If you can avoid making a video which is just a talking head, do it. Your film will instantly be better if you challenge yourself to avoid standard interview shots. If you do have a clear goal or piece of information you want to get across with one person speaking, try to keep it short and targeted. What is it they absolutely need to say to hit your important messages?

If you’re using a script, make sure your presenter knows what they’re saying before you start filming. This will give the video more passion. If you’re going to improvise, make sure you have pointers and do a few different takes so you have the best version. Don’t be afraid to keep the camera rolling to get authentic expressions and soundbites. You never know what someone’s going to say when they relax.

Always record some additional footage and cutaways to break up the story. It’s a good idea to do this after you’ve finished the interview and try to collect cutaways that reflect what the person said in the interview. If they talked about cooking for example, get some shots of them in the kitchen.

4. Not having the right equipment or environment

There’s nothing worse than watching a video that’s recorded badly (ok maybe there is – watching a poor-quality video that has no narrative).

You need to make sure that your audio and video quality are good. That means:

No camera shake

Use a tripod (even if you’re recording on a mobile).

No fuzzy background audio

If you’re recording on a mobile use a second phone that’s closer to the speaker to get better sound quality. Better still, use a microphone that plugs into a mobile. If you’re using a video camera, get good quality microphones and listen out while you’re recording for background noises.

Good lighting

Avoid recording in front of windows and think about the framing of your shots
Avoid recording in front of windows and think about the framing of your shots

Make sure you think about where you’re recording. Avoid using too much lighting or recording somewhere too dark (although it’s easier to bring more light in in post-production than take it away).

Some rules of thumb:

  • never shoot directly into light. That means you should never film someone in front of a window, for example
  • avoid white walls
  • avoid filming in dark rooms without any source of natural light

Good framing

Think about how you want to position your speaker and what the background is behind them
Think about how you want to position your speaker and what the background is behind them

If you’ve got someone speaking to camera, do you want them looking down the lens or into the distance? Have a think about the Rule of Thirds as well. Try and avoid busy backgrounds, especially those with a lot of lines. For additional footage, think about getting shots from different distances and experiment with the movement of your footage.

How to make good videos

Concept planning

Here are some questions to ask yourself when you're planning your video:

  • what’s the goal of the video?
  • is a video right for the story I want to tell? Video is not a strong medium for communicating facts. Engaging videos use storytelling. If your storytelling is top notch, facts can be embedded in there without being boring or making people tune out. If it's facts, figures and stats you want to communicate, try using an infographic
  • how’s my video going to hold viewers’ attention?
  • where will I show the video?
  • how am I going to measure the impact of the video?


Think about locations, equipment and story before the shoot:

  • have I developed a good script and storyboard? Make sure you plan the film: what’s going to be said and what it looks like. This will help you be targeted in your approach
  • what location am I going to record in? What impact will this have on the equipment I need?
  • what am I going to film with? Think about camera, mics, tripod, reflectors and lighting


After the shoot, ask yourself:

  • have I edited alongside the original storyboard?
  • have I made my video accessible? Think about subtitles, name plates and a transcript for your video

The most important thing is to give your video lots of consideration before you even pick up a camera. Beautiful cinematography doesn’t just happen. There are so many factors to consider. Keep your audience in mind and keep asking yourself, would I want to watch this video?

* Featured image by Osvaldo Gago using Creative Commons License 2.0

If you want any help from the content team on video production, please get in touch.

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