Much has been written about the use of online video and how it is becoming essential for any serious brand online. It's used in promotion, video ads, "how to" and explainer videos, user-generated videos, contests, live event streaming and much more.
But if you know little or nothing about video production, where do you start and how difficult is it likely to be? Let's take a quick look at seven sites that can really help – and even have you making animated videos in hours.
Let's start on some familiar ground – ReelSEO was founded by SEO Mark Robinson back in 2006 as a blog to teach himself about video and SEO and it's taken off from there. He quickly realized that just knowing about the SEO side of video wasn't enough and that he had to learn everything he could about video production.
There's much to admire and learn from on this site: not only is there a good grounding in SEO, but there are tons of examples, articles and regular features – creator tips, viral video marketing, video trends, production tips as well as a comprehensive round-up of The Week in Video.
2. New York Video School
The New York Video School was founded by Michael Rosenblum, who has built media networks and TV stations all over the world and is also author of 'iPhone Millionaire' published by McGraw Hill.
Rosenblum has produced an excellent five-part series on video storytelling that is a highly accessible guide and a great starting point for anyone wanting to learn more about video. The list of instructors at NYVS is impressive and with a free trial and a monthly subscription of less that $10, it's a real steal.
3. VideoScribe from Sparkol
VideoScribe is a low cost video animation option. For just $25 per month, the software allows you to create stop motion or whiteboard videos that are inherently compelling. Watching cartoons being drawn as the story unfolds is hard to turn away from.
Here's an example:
The software comes loaded with a great library of cartoon images as well as professional audio tracks and a generous license that allows videos to be created for commercial purposes and even resold.
Playing with the software for just a few hours will have you easily producing your first videos. You'll get a great idea of what can be achieved, and if you eventually decide that the do-it-yourself approach is not for you, then they host a marketplace of companies who will do the whole job for you.
Israel Hyman (Izzy) is obsessed with video and publishes one of the most useful and comprehensive teaching sites on video.
According to Hyman, "while video seems complex at first, it isn't. I have devoted the last several years to showing others how easy video is. It's not the black art that people sometimes pretend it is. Developing skills with video is as easy as learning the principles and then practicing them."
Hyman is an absolute enthusiast and the depth of material – free and paid-for – on the site is astonishing. You'll learn about equipment, editing, audio, lighting – if you're a complete novice, this is the place to start. There's also a ton of advanced material as well, and for Apple users, there's a fantastic, free 26-part tutorial on Final Cut Pro X.
5. Skype Video Recorder
Skype video is great for conducting two-way interviews with people, irrespective of their location. And recording them can give you instant and interesting video material.
These recording can be used as they are, but you'll get a much more professional result if you import them into screencasting software such as Camtasia or Screenflow and spend some time editing. This dramatically improves the user experience. A one-hour video interview can drone on forever and lose the message, while the same interview edited down to 10 minutes can get straight to the point and be highly entertaining.
6. Vimeo Video School
Once you've got a taste for video and have got some successes in the can, you'll want to up your game. Vimeo is one of the most popular video hosting services and they have a thriving community that can teach you much more than the basics.
The "staff picks" section on their site lets you see some of the best work submitted, while the Vimeo Video School is a real education. This video on The Basics of Motion Design from the University of the Arts in Bremen is simply superb and gives great insight into how you should be thinking about titles and movement.
And while not strictly about how to use video, Coursera shows how online video can be used for complex online education. It's a fantastic, free resource that brings University education to the masses.
The quality, depth of teaching and interaction of this course, A Beginners Guide to Irrational Behaviour by Dan Areily of Duke University was just superb – and relevant to anyone interested in the art of persuasion.
If you're interested in teaching online, you'll learn a lot from the example of Coursera.org.
Learning the basics of video is not difficult and these seven sites can get you well on the road – whether you decide to learn how to do it yourself, or learn enough to be able to manage an outsourced project.
The sites mentioned in this article are from the personal experience of the author. They are meant to be useful, not exhaustive. If you have other great resources that I've missed, please share them in the comments box below.
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