How to Make Videos Yourself

Creating a video of your garden, your favorite plants or a how-to topic that’s useful and watchable is probably easier than you think. Plus, it can be free or very inexpensive. Here are our tips for beginner and DIY videographers – and we welcome more. (Write: contact@goodgardeningvideos.org.)

General Tips

No matter the camera or editing program used, these tips can make a huge difference.

  • Tackle just one topic, and make the video as short as possible. Edit out the unnecessary parts; get to the point. Otherwise, most viewers click away or don’t even start the video when they check its length. Assume all your viewers are impatient – because they probably are. 1-2 minutes is ideal for getting seen.
  • Hold the camera steady, on a tripod if possible, or simply use still photos to create your video.
  • Don’t record while walking. Stand in one place to get the shot; panning on a tripod is fine. Then move to a new vantage point and repeat.
  • Hold the camera horizontally, never vertically.
  • Avoid shooting the garden in deep shadow or even worse, when the light is blotchy, a mix of sun and shadow. To film in light that’s even, wait until an overcast day or at least early morning.
  • Especially when videoing outdoors, don’t use the in-camera microphone for speakers. Outdoor speakers need their own microphone, either hand-held or (preferably) lavaliar-type, and they’re very affordable.
  • An easy alternative to having speakers in videos is to record narration (this $50 microphone does a good job), or use captions.
  • If you add music over narration, make the music track very soft.
  • Trim away dead time – awkward beginnings, or unnecessary pauses any time – then join the clips together with transitions.
  • Transitions should be simple (like cross-fade) and not draw attention to themselves, though the occasional dramatic can be used to good effect, too.
  • When plant names are mentioned, add captions so viewers can see how they’re spelled and maybe research them further.
  • Start the video with a title page.
  • Check the captions that Youtube automatically creates to see if it’s correct. They rarely are (especially at rendering plant names), but fixing them is easy. Correct captions are necessary for accessibility by a wide audience.

The No-Video Video

  • Got still photos? You may already have the makings of a good video. (Shooting video isn’t required to create a video.) See “Videos Promoting Garden Books” below for examples.

Cameras

Any camera can be used to create a useful, watchable video of your garden, even smart-phone cameras. More advanced videographers might try using a GoPro camera to create time-lapse and how-to videos, perhaps with a headmount and a gooseneck mount, as used to create this video.

Software

iMovie For Mac users, iMovie is free and easy to use. There are many tutorials on Youtube and for more detail, we recommend the iMovie tutorials on Lynda.com (just $25/month to watch as many videos as you want, or available free through your local library). Here’s a good tutorial on using iMovie for iPhone or iPad, and there’s more from the same teacher.

Windows Moviemaker For PC users, Windows Movie Maker is free and easy to use but no longer included or supported by Microsoft so we can’t recommend it.

Slide-show programs can be great for easy-to-use, affordable options. Filmora is powerful and just $60 for a lifetime subscription. The top version of Pictures to Exe, at about $130, is the favorite of professional photographers making videos of their images; it accepts video clips, too.

Youtube Editor Youtube’s built-in editing capabilities are easy to use and may be all you need. Check tutorials like this one and this one, among others.

Powerpoint to Video If you can make a Powerpoint presentation, you can easily turn it into a video – here’s how. Examples are coming.

Know of Others? Please let us know.

Using Youtube

Videos promoted on this site have all been first uploaded to the videomaker’s own Youtube or Vimeo channel. If you don’t have either, creating a Youtube channel is especially easy, and free. Here’s an easy how-to, but there are many others.

To make Youtube channels look great and provide basic information about you, we recommend uploading a header image, which they call “channel art” (example above); adding text to the About page; and if you have more than a few videos, organizing them into playlists. Here’s an example of a channel main page, and  here are the playlists for that channel.

Lastly, make your video accessible to more people by correcting Youtube’s auto-captions. They’re error-filled and recognize almost no plant names.

Special Video Topics

Video Tours of a Garden

  • Use a title page, which can be as simple as “My Kentucky Garden in September.”
  • (This first point bears repeating) No recording while walking! Instead, stand in one place, get the shot, explain where you are in the shot, cut, start at a new vantage point and repeat.
  • Take an establishing shot of the garden at the top of the video with voice-over explaining what we are looking at and what we will see in the tour or what makes the garden special. Example: “My garden features a waterfall and the plants were selected for texture and colorful foliage, let’s take a look.”
  • Always mention your location and garden zone in the introduction, or in captions.
  • The rest of the video should have at least 3 shots that support the declaration in the opening.
  • Only feature specific plants IF they are “camera ready.”  Azaleas look like common evergreens when not in flower and is not interesting to viewer.
  • End the tour where you started so the viewer doesn’t feel “lost.”

Videos Promoting Garden Books

  • Pam Penick created her video for Water-Saving Garden in a weekend using a one-month subscription to Animoto, and another one for Lawn Gone.  (Animoto is perhaps the fastest method of all – here’s a tutorial for Animoto, and there are others.)
  • Jennifer Walliser’s video about Attracting Beneficial Bugs incorporates interviews.
  • Evelyn Hadden’s No Mow Lawn book trailer uses still photos and her own narration, using iMovie.
  • Susan Morrison created her trailer for her book Garden Up! using Animoto.
  • Debra Prinzing makes floral design videos that tie in with her books while not actually mentioning them IN the video. Here’s one.
  • Margaret Roach used stills, narration and music to promote her Backyard Parables, and similar techniques to make two how-to videos using quotes from the book. (Here and here.)

Videos Promoting Garden Blogs

Videos Promoting Talks or Workshops