PodCamp Nashville: Winston Hearn on Basic Video Production

Winston Hearn has been creating online video for several years and offered a basic tutorial Saturday at PodCamp Nashville 2011. Though I’ve done online video for a while, I’ve never really had any formal instruction, so I thought it would be nice to find out what I’m doing wrong.

It was a great session on the basics — and very little is about equipment, which is what most beginners get obsessed with. My notes are below. You should assume that the wording is all my paraphrasing, but some quotes are pretty close.

Winston Hearn’s tips for creating online video:

Just a quick note on terminology: You can’t make a “viral video.” [Loved this. Big pet peeve of mine, too.] Viral is something that happens after your video is online if people like it.

Five steps to online video

  • Write
  • Shoot
  • Edit
  • Upload
  • Disperse

You can’t skip the write step. People don’t plan and it leads to a lot of bad video.

How do you write for video?

  • Think visually. People are watching, not just listening.
  • Think short. Shorter videos get more watches. 2 minutes is a maximum timeline for your average online video.
  • Think about bullet points — what are the compelling messages you want to share?
  • Distill. Cut your story to the minimum points necessary.
  • Plan ahead. Once you’ve written, figure out how you’re going to show the story.


  • Test your ideas.
  • Lighting is critical. If you don’t have gear, no worries, but think hard about where to shoot. Avoid fluorescent lights. Cloudy days are perfect for outdoor filming.
  • Audio is your best ingredient. Poor audio quality will turn people off quickly. Here’s where Flips suffer — only good for close-by audio.
  • Make it pretty. Think about your framing. Check the background. Make sure subject stands out from the background. Don’t have distracting background. Only have one camera? Do takes from multiple angles, edit it together.

Hearn says you should start with the tools you have: Flip cameras can do a lot of stuff. The main thing is to understand your tools and know what they’re capable of.


  • Hearn uses Final Cut. He’s planning to add a blog post later today with more info on tools, and I’ll link to it when I see it. Hearn’s post gives you lots of links and ideas for video tools. There are a number of tools that work well that are less expensive, though.
  • First create a rough cut: Put everything in order according to your script, see what you have.
  • If you’re using music: Check music rights. There are lots of sources for inexpensive royalty free clips. Music can really make a difference in your video.
  • Don’t make a talking-head only video. Think of creative ways to show your story. Whiteboards etc.
  • Cut. Cut. Cut. Cut. Make it shorter!


Check out YouTube and Vimeo.

  • Vimeo – Hearn likes the tools, quality better.
  • YouTube – Everyone uses this.
  • Use both for many videos. Investigate the settings on each site — there are differences and how you format your export matters.


What you name and tag your video really matter if you want it to spread.

This is where your social media plan takes over. Start thinking about your marketing strategy way back when you’re writing.[The content strategist in me was happy to hear this pitch for planning.]

Photo credit from home page: Amie Simmons

One thought on “PodCamp Nashville: Winston Hearn on Basic Video Production”

  1. I missed @justwinston session, but that’s a really great (and encouraging) way of looking at creating video for the web. It clearly shows Winston knows what he’s doing, but he takes the time to share. Also, it has the potential to drive new business to Winston for projects bigger or more complex than the average person can do. Oh and as for planning, I know Winston takes his own advice. He writes and sketches it out far in advance.

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