online video hacks

The beauty of online video is that you don’t need an expensive studio and production team to make it happen. You just need some know-how and determination, and you can make amazing videos in-house.

To help you get started, we’ve put together a quick list of our favorite video creation hacks. We’ve focused in on common problems with lighting, sound, and movement on film. These tricks of the trade will help you contain costs and work with what you’ve got.

Problem: You can’t afford to shell out for expensive lighting.

Hack #1: Use nature.

In a jam, you can take advantage of natural light indoors. Have the subject face a window, and cover the window with thin white paper or a transparent white cloth to diffuse the light. This keeps the subject well-lit, while keeping the light from being too harsh.

Hack #2: Reflect what you’ve got.

To make the most of a single light source—and that could even be a window—use a reflective surface such as a foam board ($3 at most photo supply stores) or a white wall to fill in the shadows. To find out more about how to light subjects properly, check out our post on lighting for video.

Hack #3: Improvise a dimmer switch

If multiple lights are on just one switch, you might be dealing with too much light instead of too little. Unscrew some of the bulbs to reduce the amount of light being emitted.

Or, cover the brightest lights with heat-proof parchment paper, usually used for baking. Clip it over the light with metal or wooden clips to diffuse the light.

Problem: You’re filming on your webcam or smartphone, and are picking up background noise.

Hack #1: Build your own Mic.

We loved this tutorial on Lifehacker, which shows you how to build your own bootleg microphone for around $9. This one is fairly easy to make if you have a spare hour. It’s perfect for enhancing sound quality on smartphone or laptop video recordings.

Problem: You have to move the camera while filming, but the footage is bumpy and unprofessional.

Hack #1: Build your own Dolly.

Another gem from Lifehacker, this tutorial shows you how to build your own dolly from PVC pipes and rollerblade wheels (other wheels will work, too), which will allow you to add some movement into your storytelling without breaking the bank.

Hack #2: Instructables

Instructables has a host of DIY camera rigs for stabilization. For example this video we found for building a shoulder rig or this $15 DIY DSLR Steadyicam.

Hack #3: Use a handheld drone

This might sound a little crazy, but if you hold a quadcopter while its blades are turning, you can get unbelievably smooth footage. Obviously, be really, really careful if you test this one out. Be sure to use blade guards as a precaution.


These are just a few of the many, many hacks out there. If you’re facing a video production problem, and you don’t want to throw a lot of cash at it, give us a shout via comments or on Twitter (@SproutVideo) and we’ll help you find a hack.

Written by Laci Texter

SproutVideo blog contributor. You can follow her on Twitter and Google+.

Posted April 15, 2013

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