Part three: editing your footage and growing a YouTube channel.
The first article in this series of three explored the need for a clear rationale for your videos, the kind of camera equipment that might be useful for videoing on a boat and a brief overview of the camera gear I carry on board Arwen, my Welsford designed ‘navigator’ sailing dinghy. In my second article, I discussed how to use mounts and clamps to get interesting video footage, tips on planning your storyline and finally thoughts on how to record good sound for your video. In this last article, I now suggest some tips for editing your footage and growing a YouTube channel. Before reading this article, I would recommend reading article two if you haven’t done so yet, particularly the section on getting relevant footage for your storyline.
How can thoughtful editing improve your overall video quality?
Let me start by saying I’m not recommending a particular editing software. Personally, I use Moviemaker, iMovie and Gopro studio 2. Some friends use Pinnacle Pro, Adobe Premier and Final Cut Pro. If you are new to video editing, I suggest starting with an easy to master ‘drag and drop’ program such as IMovie or moviemaker (tip 1). IMovie and Gopro Studio 2 include short movie ‘templates’ along with appropriate titles, credits and music. Great little movies can be created on moviemaker (windows) and this is my ‘go to’ choice. If you have some video editing experience, then there is a whole host of free video editing software that you can download and I have suggested some websites to explore these in figure 1.
Figure 1: some free video editing software
On returning from a boat or sail trip, immediately download your video footage to your PC, organising your clips into folders (tip 2). I have three main folders, introduction, middle and end (see article two where I expand further on creating a good storyline). Each of these main folders contain sub folders entitled ‘establishing shots’, ‘action shots’, ‘transition shots’, ‘interviews’ and ‘relevant B roll footage’. Then rename each individual clip with a descriptive title of what it shows. It sounds laborious but believe me it makes it easier to find the piece you want when dragging and dropping your clips onto your software time line, saves much search time during editing and helps you stay ‘focused’ on your video’s plot line.
Different people have their own ways of editing their footage and to a certain extent it depends on what kind of movie you want at the end; a 30 second clip, a 4-minute feature, something a little longer? Irrespective of my end video length, I always edit a video three times (tip 3).
The first edit is what I call a ‘rough’ edit. Here, I identify and select the essential bits of video for the storyline and rough trim these clips to the crucial ‘key’ scenes, ensuring that I leave a few seconds either side for further ‘polished’ editing. I place these clips into the sequential order I need for the story on the video editing software timeline, (focusing on the key segments of a good story – the beginning, the middle and the end). In each of these story line divisions, I try to ensure I have included some wide scene setting footage, some medium view shots and finally some real close up shots. (see tip 15 in article two for further elaboration).
On my second edit I then start to add in ‘transition shots’ and ‘B roll footage’ to link the key story video clips together so that they ‘flow’ well. ‘Transition’ shots are video clips that move from something related to the main story subject you are about to shoot to the actual main subject itself e.g. from a bow wave, pan through the turbulent water to focus on the dolphin swimming alongside; or going from the mast top wind indicator down the sail to finish with a look to the horizon and the approaching weather front (transitional shots add a professional feel to videos and reduce abrupt subject changes which can interrupt the flow of the video for a viewer). B roll footage is the additional footage outside of your main story shots e.g. the rudder and its wake; wind indicators flapping; the compass bearing; a flapping sail; the wheeling seabird overhead. It is the ordinary moments between exciting ones that helps create good story in video by putting significant events into a context that makes them stand out more dramatically. If you followed the tips in article two you will have a number of transition and B roll shots, each of several seconds in length. The trick on the second edit is to select the interesting ones and insert them between your main video clips in a way that helps the clips flow one to the other so that viewer interest is maintained and your story line plot isn’t confused or watered down. B roll clips should be no more than 3 seconds in length, transition shots no longer than seven seconds. Watch your favourite TV drama or documentary and watch how many clips they use that are only two seconds in length!
By now your story should have emerged sequentially on your software time line. Your video, at this stage, is likely to be way too long and so the final, third edit stage is the ‘fine polishing’ and length reducing edit. In this stage a number of things are going to happen
· Firstly, I go back to my main story line shots and I begin to break them up into natural sections. So, a ten second shot from one perspective and camera may lend itself to being broken into three separate clips. I then search my video footage to find another clip of the same event but from another camera perspective and I replace one of the three clips with this one. If you watch your favourite drama tv programme you will notice this is a favoured trick, the same event from multiple camera angles and perspectives whilst keeping the plot line moving along.
· Then I look at continuity between each clip and identify any jerky or annoying cuts and re edit these so they appear softer and less irksome to viewers. At the same time, I will also try to balance the colour and hue of each clip with its bracketing neighbours.
· Next, I spend some time going through each clips soundscape. If I am unhappy with the sound quality because of excessive wind noise etc, then I will lower that clips volume considerably; alternatively, I may get a sound clip of say gurgling water under a boat and insert that one instead. YouTube Creator studio has a very useful bank of free sound clips. If you have used an external microphone such as the Zoom H1 to record ambient noises whilst out boating, then you can use such recordings across a number of clips – see tips 22 and 23 in article 2 for further details.
· Now comes the final, hardest bit of editing. What is clear to me over the years of analysing my YouTube viewing data is that people have short ‘viewer attention’ spans because they are busy people and many want just a short dose of boating or sailing pleasure! So, as one friend puts it, rather gruesomely I may add, ‘kill your babies’! Get rid of those clips of video which you think are great but that in all honesty do little to tell the story! Its harsh but remember ‘less is more’. Cut everything away to only the bare essentials needed to be seen to tell the story. Aim for a 6 mins max length video if it is going up on YouTube and you want it viewed by others. Keep the best clips only, the most important ones to the story. Be ruthless. Any talking pieces to camera, keep them short. Ditch the long monologues, however interesting and important to you, they are often less so to viewers. Alternatively, break the monologues up and have little clips of video and no commentary between them. Go through each clip and see if you can trim off a couple seconds more. You will be surprised how it builds up. One second trimmed off each of your 60 clips is a full minute lost! Placing any separately recorded audio across a number of these short video clips shortens the film (because you are not relying on the length of commentary in an individual video clip) so it looks and sounds better.
If you follow this editing model I would strongly urge you to do your editing in short bursts over a number of days (tip 4). Rest your eyes and walk away frequently. It helps you stay focused, alert and able to spot things which irritate or annoy as you repeatedly play back what you have edited thus far.
When should you add music to your video?
Well, firstly, remember that at the appropriate time silence can be golden, especially if only the ambient noises of the breeze, gurgling water and birds can be heard (tip 5). Pick music to resonate with your known audience and learn the skill of when or where to play it loudly or softly within your video in order to create atmosphere and mood. Alternatively, pick a music track which becomes your theme music and which plays across all your videos, thus triggering instant recognition and familiarity with your viewing audience.
Make sure your music volume doesn’t mask the ambient sounds in the video. You don’t want to lose the flapping sail sounds, splashing water sounds or creaking of the boat because they give ‘atmosphere’. Check that any spoken commentary can be heard clearly over the music and always correctly copyright any music you have used in your rolling end credits.
If you use moviemaker, remember that it doesn’t do multi sound tracks. Thus, you will need to a) save your finished video edits once with normal video sounds as a movie file and then b) open a new moviemaker file, add in your just saved movie and this time add the music track and resave as a new movie file. It is laborious but necessary as moviemaker does not allow you to add in multiple sound tracks simultaneously (tip 6).
Finally, always save your final movie in the highest quality format 1080p for higher definition, even if you are just uploading it to YouTube.
So, what about setting up a YouTube channel of your own for your videos?
YouTube is a convenient way of storing your videos on line for easy access. In the settings you can decide whether to have your video private or publicly listed. If you are intent on setting up your own YouTube channel to allow others to see your videos (publicly listed) then select an appropriate channel name for your work (tip 7). Mine is ‘Arwen’s Meanderings’ (Plymouthwelshboy), the same as my blog title. You can try to think about what words people might use in a google search to find your site and use some of those words in your channel title, or at the very least in your video titles. So, for example, all my video titles start with ‘Dinghy cruising in a Welsford navigator’ followed by the rest of the title reflecting the video content .e.g. ‘Cruising the river Tamar’. Thus my videos will show up in a search of ‘dinghy’, ‘dinghy cruising’ and ‘Welsford navigator’. Your video title is critical. It is this that will determine whether it shows up in peoples online searches!
Always fill in the video description box (tip 8). The first three lines are crucial as this is what viewers see first without having to scroll down to see the rest. So, in these first three lines make sure you put your blog site address if you have one, followed by details about what the video is about. YouTube algorithms use the description box to decide if your video is relevant to what users search for.
Tag boxes for each of your videos are just as critical. Tag words should relate to video content (tip 9). Don’t be tempted to add hundreds. Useless ones will lower your ranking in search engine optimisation. Basically, your video has less chance of turning up in peoples search lists! Think carefully about what your video content is about and what eight key words would sum it up.
Stay consistent with your channel art (tip 10) by using images that identify, promote and link back to your boat and the purpose of your videos. Channel art is the photo or graphics you use at the top of your YouTube page. Your channel banner photograph is crucial. It should be eye catching and also give an immediate flavour of what your channel is about. Visit YouTube creator studio after you have set up your google and YouTube accounts for tutorial videos on how to sort your channel artwork.
Alongside the channel art banner is the development of a logo watermark (tip 11) for insertion into your videos. ‘EyeintheHand’ (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCaCeNk443ZUcL4L0b7TgbrQ )has a striking logo which when clicked upon often takes you to his blog site. I am still in the throes of learning how to create a watermark logo and have yet to add one to any of my videos.
If you are adding a profile picture of yourself, which you can overlay on top of your channel banner photo, choose a profile picture that shows you off at your best angle (tip12). It took several tries for me!
Insert social media links across your channel page banner to drive viewer numbers and your brand (e.g. link buttons to your Facebook, Blogger, Twitter account (tip 13). Again, YouTube creator studio has tutorial videos on how to do this simply and quickly.
Many successful YouTubers create an ‘intro video’ of 60 secs or less to introduce their channel to non-subscribers and write a channel description to introduce themselves and what their channel is about (tip 14). It helps secure new subscribers because it allows you to give a brief summary of yourself, your channel content and your rationale for having one.
As you add more videos to your channel, create playlists (dividing your videos in to categories such as ‘reviews’, ‘vlogs’, ‘how to’ etc). Viewers and subscribers can be encouraged to download your playlists through the use of ‘cards’ embedded in your video (tip 15) (and, yet again, YouTube Creator Studio has helpful videos explaining each of these things and how to do them).
Publish and promote your videos regularly (tip 16). This is something I am striving to get right. I currently produce a new video approximately once a month during the summer sailing season and slightly less so during the winter months. This doesn’t really help drive up viewer numbers and subscribers to my channel because YouTube research shows that going weeks without posting a video results in the loss of subscribers. Subscribers appreciate loyalty and dedication from you, so try to upload your video at a regular fixed time during the month e.g. the last Friday of the month so that your subscribers can anticipate when the video will appear and set time aside for viewing it.
If you create content and then just hope it will turn up in search engine lists, you’ll be waiting a long time for subscribers. Build your YouTube community and bring them to your channel (tip 17). Create ‘expectation’ of a new video upload in the week before by spreading the news of forthcoming vlogs and videos on your social media sites (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google+). If you haven’t done so yet, join social media forums related to what you do and post actively on them. I am a member of several Facebook groups such as ‘open boat’, ‘wooden boat’, ‘trailer sailors’, ‘John Welsford’ and ‘Duckworks’. It has helped build a sustainable subscriber base for my channel.
If you have a blog, create a side bar using a widget to promote your video posts and/or a direct link button which blog subscribers can click on and which takes them directly to your YouTube site (tip 18). In your videos, have subscribe buttons (see YouTube Creator studio etc etc!). Even ask people directly in your video via a caption or you talking to them, to like your video and subscribe to your channel (although I confess this is something I find difficult to do).
Always respond to comments from viewers; act on what they tell you (tip 19). They appreciate it because it shows you are listening to their views and advice. Do some homework by reading the comments on other peoples’ boat or sailing videos as well as your own. What are people liking, hating, loving? What questions do they ask? Such research gives insight about what to include in your later video efforts.
A very successful caravan vlogger who built up 10,000 subscribers in only a few months once told me to be mindful of the first 15 secs of my video (tip 20). He suggested the first 5 secs should show something relevant, exciting, attention grabbing; and the next 10 seconds should introduce the film and the story line. In that way viewers would be hooked and would be prepared to invest their time in watching the rest of the film. Its good advice!
Finally, one last tip about your YouTube channel. Think about your thumbnail choice for each video you upload to it (tip 21). The thumbnail is the little picture that represents what your video is about. It is what attracts people to click on your video or not when it appears in front of them. Don’t take what YouTube offer you. Often these are blurry, unflattering or miss the whole point of your video message/story. I put a photo taken on the day of my voyage into photoshop or IPhoto and then play about with colour and fonts. I then upload this as the thumbnail. In this way I can chose an image which flatters me or which is relevant to my video content and which encapsulates what the storyline is about in that one single image. I have also produced a 10 second standard video clip introduction to all my videos, drone footage across the top of Smeaton’s Tower on Plymouth Hoe at dawn. It helps viewers instantly recognise my channel brand.
This is the last in a series of three articles about how to film good quality videos of your boating and sailing adventures.
In the first article, I focused on why you want to do boat or sailing videos, what your rationale might be and what videoing gear you might use. The second article focused on mounting cameras, obtaining imaginative video footage and recording quality sound and aerial footage. This last article has looked at editing and growing a YouTube channel.
I hope you have enjoyed the articles and found them helpful. Good luck in your adventures; have creative fun in your videoing endeavours. Remember, not only will they be a great visual memory bank for you, but they will also serve as an inspiration and useful source of information to many others if you choose to share them on YouTube. After all, that is one of the great advantages of sites such as YouTube. I look forward to watching your video endeavours. If you have enjoyed these articles and would like to read more about Arwen and my adventures in her, you can subscribe to my blog at www.arwensmeanderings.blogspot.com or watch more of our videos at www.YouTube.com/c/plymouthwelshboy .
I look forward to hearing your views, tips and constructive advice. If you have any follow up questions about these articles, drop me a comment via the blog.