This Is How I Vlog

Video has very much become the name of the Internet game in the last couple of years. It’s not like video is a brand new phenomenon, but it has become remarkably more accessible for consumers and creators alike. You may have noticed that several of your favorite Internet personalities, John and me included, have started vlogging on a regular basis too.

So, maybe you’re thinking about starting a vlog of your own, but you have no idea where to begin. It can feel like a remarkably daunting and intimidating venture, because there are so many moving parts and it can start to sound pretty expensive too. The good news is that while you can certainly invest thousands of dollars in great equipment and software, you can also get by on a couple hundred dollars to start.

The most important thing, though, is to start. While I certainly don’t claim to be an experienced expert in this realm, I have established a rhythm and routine to my vlogging. It probably helps that I have been posting video on the Internet for over ten years.

1. Start with an Idea

This might sound obvious enough, but I’ve seen several vloggers who simply sit in front of the camera, hit record, and start to ramble on whatever comes to mind. They’ll veer off on tangents and never get to the point, because they never had one in the first place.

Unless you have a particularly compelling on-screen persona, this probably isn’t going to work. You likely don’t need to outline a specific script, but you should have a general idea of the format of your video, how long it’s going to be, and what shots you need.

2. Shoot for the Edit

One of the most common vlog formats is the “lifestyle” vlog where the goal is more about documenting your life than it is about “creating” a certain movie. That’s partly what John does with his Dot Com Lifestyle vlogs. And that’s fine, but it leads you down a very dangerous path.

You might feel compelled to record almost every possible incident and event “just in case” you might use it in the video. What ends up happening is you’ll have a random mish-mash of clips with no cohesion. Start with a general idea and shoot the clips that you think you’ll actually use and edit.

3. Be Natural

This will come with practice if you’re not already comfortable in front of the camera. The next step in the vlogging process is shooting the actual video itself. Everyone has their own style, so I’m not going to comment on the creative vision here. Some people like to be in the vlog talking, other people like the “first person” view for more of their video. Experiment and do what works for you.

But if it’s a vlog, you should be talking in at least part of the video. For me, I try to have an on-screen portion at least in the beginning and the end of the video where I comment on what I am going to do or what I have done or what I want the viewer to do. This provides context and pulls the narrative together.

4. Import and Edit

I dump all the footage into a folder in my computer and fire up my video editing software. I’m personally using an older version of Pinnacle Studio that’s serving its purpose for me, but you can just as easily use iMovie, Premiere Pro, Final Cut or whatever other software you want. There are even some free options out there, but they’re usually not quite as good.

Different people will have entirely different approaches to editing. I’m not saying that one method is necessarily any better than the other. For me, I work on creating the core timeline first, snipping and cropping the parts that I know I’ll want to include and in what order.

I tend not to leave very much “empty” space and, as a vlog, I tend to use a good number of jump cuts. In doing so, I try to reasonably match up the volume of the clips so the change in sound isn’t too jarring when switching between shots.

Once I’ve got that done, I’ll go into some finer detail. I’ll add text overlays or captions where appropriate, I’ll add secondary footage or picture-in-picture footage. I might add transitions or background music. If I am using music, I’m mindful of how that integrates with the visuals and may further refine the video edit to fit certain “beats” in the song.

5. Don’t Forget About the End Screen (and More)

This took some experimentation on my part. I ended up creating a flat template in PhotoShop that I use as the background for my end screen, including information about my social media. I also account for how my YouTube end screen is laid out, knowing where I will put my subscribe button and my recommended video thumbnails.

Along these same lines, it’s also important to create custom thumbnail images for your YouTube videos. You can use a “screen grab” function in your video editing software and then further refine the image in PhotoShop. Take the time to craft your video description and other meta information too.

6. Upload, Configure and Share!

When I first upload a video to YouTube, I almost always set it to “private” at first. This gives me the time to go in and edit my end screen, add in cards, and do any other “back end” stuff before the video goes live to the public.

Here’s an example of one of my vlogs:

Simply uploading your video to YouTube oftentimes isn’t enough. You need to promote it too! For many of my videos, I’ll write a blog post to accompany it. I’ll also share it on social media with several scheduled updates. And just when I think my work here is done… it’s time to get started on next week’s vlog!

Are you a vlogger? What advice would you have for someone who’s thinking about doing it too?

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