John Potter: How to make campaign videos

We asked the wonderful John Potter, a Lib Dem Councillor on Preston City Council, to share how he makes such brilliant campaign videos. John’s a professional cameraman and video editor with years of experience at the highest level. He’s kindly agreed to share some of his top tips with our members. 

How to make campaign videos

Video is everywhere now and it can be a nice way to get complex information across to your electorate. The great news is that equipment and software are very cheap if not completely free these days.

The first piece of advice before you get started is to keep it simple. It can be very tempting to add funky graphics or inventive shots, but for the most part they look naff and distract from the message you are trying to get across.

The kit

Cameras: I use a cheap DSLR to film mine but a modern phone or compact camera will film good quality 1920 x 1080 full HD. Investing in a cheap tripod means you can easily secure your camera without worrying about shaky handheld footage.

Sound: Often overlooked but it’s vital because no one will listen to a word you are saying if it sounds awful. For £15, I bought a Bona BY-M1 cavalier microphone that clips onto my clothing and plugs straight into my old iPhone and I use it with the free Voice Record Pro app. A handy hint: make sure you cover your microphone to avoid the noise of the wind. My mum quickly sewed me a tiny piece of fake fur which blocks all the wind hissing across my voice.

Edit: Because I work in the industry I have access to professional editing software but these aren’t complicated edits – keep them simple!! There are free or cheap software for both PC and Apple users. Software for newbies like iMovie on Apple and Windows Movie Maker for PC are basic but are perfect for simple edits.

The process

Plan what you want to say and make sure that your videos are around five minutes or under. If you have several issues you want to cover, then split them into separate videos and release them on different days. There’s no point having beautifully made videos if the audience gets bored and you lose their attention before the end.

“Nailed it in one take!!!” – fantastic but always do a second take just in case. You never know if there was a man picking his nose behind you or a million other things that can distract the audience. Do the second take more zoomed than the first, so you can seamlessly cut between the two takes without the audience knowing you messed up or fumbled your lines.

Rule of thirds – look it up and it will help you improve both your video and photography work. A mistake beginners make is to leave way too much head room as well as placing the subject in the centre of the frame.

They don’t need to see all of you – another common mistake is that people stand so far back the audience can see from head to toe. Your face and eyes are your most important features in engaging the audience so keep the shot relatively tight.

Cutaways – very few of us, myself included, are seasoned presenters so you will make mistakes, stammer, say erm too much, etc, etc. As well as having the second zoomed in take, you should always have cutaways. These are shots of other things; whether it’s a street sign or a wide shot of the area that can cover a multitude of sins, it should set the scene a little easier for the viewer.

Have a go at producing some of your own videos and send them in to ALDC at info@aldc.org so we can share your best practice.

Check out some of John’s videos via his YouTube Channel.

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