Dave Kaminski is a quality teacher of online web video skills at WebVideoUniversity.com. His background as a professional copywriter, videographer and direct response marketing helped this former U.S. Marine setup splendidly online. Dave specializes in teaching entrepreneurs how to effectively use web video in their marketing efforts. I have been through one of his excellent video courses.
- The dangers of creating sales video players with NO player controls (even if you think they convert better)
- What is better between TEXT video sales letters versus FACE TO CAMERA videos
- How to overcome nerves and become a natural on camera when you are filming yourself even if you suck right now
- The best video, sound and lighting equipment to use right now to get results within your budget
- Which is more important, sound or video picture quality?
- Why SLR cameras replicate your eye more and how to harness natural light
- A ninja testimonial technique for getting great videos from customers
- How to leverage your customer service using videos
- The FREE software Dave uses to convert (encode) videos for web
- Why YouTube videos play on most devices
- What format to use for mobile devices to get a reliable streaming experience for your self hosted videos
- Dave’s choice of SLR Camera (“It’s a steal”)
James: James Schramko here and today’s special guest is Dave Kaminski. He’s from the site called webvideouniversity.com and we’re going to be tackling the topic of web video, surprisingly enough. Welcome, Dave!
Dave: Glad to be here. Thanks for having me, James!
James: Dave, I hear you were a former US marine. Is that true?
Dave: That is true. I was in the United States Marine Corp for 5 years.
James: Right, and you somehow found your way into making videos and teaching people about videos.
Dave: Yeah. The path I took was not the most direct path. I actually started as a direct response copywriter and this was back when most promotions were sent through the regular mail. The internet really hadn’t taken off and I was writing sales copy for clients and some of them wanted to start including videos, VHS tapes, with the sales packages they were sending out. I had a background in photography so I went ahead and started doing videos for them.
And then, in the early 2000, internet started taking off. Web video became something that was actually doable, and I was burned out writing sales copy day in and day out. So what I decided to do was focus on video exclusively. I decided to basically share with people what I had learned from actually doing the stuff for years and years and years. I ended up starting webvideouniversity.com a little over four years ago, and that’s what we’ve been doing ever since.
James: It seems to be quite an established site. I’m pretty sure I came into contact with it through a joint venture approach at some point through a helpdesk. We reviewed the product and started recommending it. I went through the course as well, and I really liked the quality of the material. It now makes sense to me that with your copywriting background, this has probably, partially been the reason for your success online, is actually applying this sales knowledge to a product and marketing it.
Dave: Yeah, I think that’s critical, knowing at least the basics of the sales process. It’s going to help you whether you’re doing video, whether you’re putting opt-in form or website or a squeeze page or whatever.
James: What do you think about the trend of video sales letters with the scrolling text and voice over approach?
Scrolling text or voice over
Dave: I’m kind of on the fence about that because I think the internet is not a medium where it’s just video. It can’t be confused with television where there’s a two-minute commercial on there or a 30-minute infomercial and at the end you have to call a telephone number. The internet shouldn’t be confused with that.
People obviously want to see videos but they want to see texts as well so I’m kind of on the fence about doing a sales letter or something worse. It’s just strictly a video and someone has to wait to the very end to take whatever action they want, and then the people will disable the player control bars. It doesn’t spread very much good will. What I would recommend to people is put video and text on the same page because your audience wants to see both.
James: Right. I noticed yesterday there was a big promotion that came out and it was a forced video. There was no player controls. It was one of those cheesy sales videos with just text and you had to wait until the end. There was outrage in one of my communities about it, and some people were saying, “What’s the problem with that? If it works, what’s bad about it?” but I think you’ve just explained that really well, and I appreciate that. I’ve certainly much prefer with my sales videos to offer controls as a courtesy. What’s your take on face-to-camera versus text or screencast type videos for sales letters? Have you got any hard data on either of those? Have you tried them both?
Dave: Yeah, I do have some hard data on that and without getting into specifics, you are better off putting your face on camera rather than just doing a straight PowerPoint presentation or something like that. The reason for that I believe, I don’t know anyone who can prove it one way or the other, I believe it’s a trust issue. If you put your face on the video for all the world to see, you can’t fake that. You can’t fake who you are but if you are doing just a straight PowerPoint presentation, who knows who you really are. You could claim to be anything or anyone.
James: I think, actually, Professor Cialdini explained it quite well in one of his books. It was 50 proven ways to get yes or something, and he talked about scientific experiments where if two people had talked to each other first before they do business, they are more likely to come to a deal so I think that makes a lot of sense.
Handling the nerves
Let’s sort of drill into this face-to-camera stuff. I noticed that you’ve got quite a lot of face-to-camera videos up on the internet. What sort of advice would you have to someone who is thinking about doing that but might be a little bit nervous?
Dave: What they need to know is that everyone goes through the same process. When you first sit down in front of a video camera, you’re not getting any feedback like you would from a person. You’re basically staring at a black lens staring back at you and people suddenly, no matter how easy going they might be in everyday life, they suddenly get tongue-tied and they get nervous, and they come off sounding and looking not too genuine. Expect that from the beginning. The only way to get over that, despite what anyone might tell you, whatever little secrets they have, is to keep doing videos consistently. It’s not going to take very long. It’s going to take maybe half a dozen videos and you’re naturally going to get very, very comfortable on camera.
For people who are nervous about it, everyone goes through the same process. You’re going to suck at first, to be blunt. Keep doing it. Four, five, six videos and you’re going to be significantly better and if you keep at it beyond that, you’re going to be what people would consider “a natural” on camera.
The right equipment
James: Right, that’s terrific advice. Just for developing this, if someone wants to get started with this face-to-camera stuff, how high-tech do they need to go in terms of equipment? It’s a very common question whenever video comes up. What microphone do I use? What camera do I use? Should it be high quality? Is it okay to put out something just to get started? Can you just use the camera on your computer screen? What’s the best start?
Dave: If you would have asked me this four or five years ago, the answer would have been that you need to invest money on some decent equipment. What’s happened with camera technology and technology in general is that it’s gotten so good. A camera on an iPhone is going to rival a camera that costs several thousand dollar six or seven years ago. So that’s good news for people because you don’t need to go out and spend a bunch of money on equipment and then before I go any further, the big thing that I want people to remember is that when it comes to equipment, you’re absolutely right, people always want to know what to use. But you need to think in terms that it’s not the arrow, it’s the archer. In other words, it’s not necessarily the equipment that you use, it’s the experience that you gain with it. That’s where people stumble, because they actually don’t make videos as often as they should.
The good news is, you can go ahead and start with any basic equipment. You can start with a webcam. It doesn’t matter because we know that just having your face on video is probably going to convert better than doing a regular screen capture video. Don’t get hung up on the equipment. Start within your budget. As you start earning more money and as you get better, then you can go ahead and invest in more expensive equipment, but really what the more expensive stuff is going to give you is just going to make your workflow faster. That’s why professionals use expensive equipment, because time is money to them, and it makes them complete their work a lot faster.
James: That’s an interesting point. I recently stepped up my equipment. One of the things I did was start recording the audio on a separate device. I think it possibly increased my production time slightly, but the production value went up dramatically from a sound perspective.
Dave: Yeah, that’s something I do want to point out. When it comes to video quality versus audio quality, audio quality is actually more important. There’s been several studies and I can’t remember where the links are to them off the top of my head, but basically people were shown two versions of the same video – one had horrible video but great audio, the other one had horrible audio but great video. The majority of the people, each and every time, watched the video that had the great sounding audio longer than the other video.
The importance of lighting
James: Nice, so sound quality is super important. The other thing that comes up when you start delving more into video are things like lighting. Is that also important?
Dave: Yeah, it is. Basically, light is like food and water to a camera particularly these days where pretty much everything is an HD camera, and HD cameras need even more light. It is something where there is a difference between the cheap equipment and the more expensive equipment, and how it deals with light. If you are using an inexpensive camera, if you go out and shoot in natural daylight – it could be outside or it could just be in a well-lit room all natural daylight, your videos are going to look really, really good. Cheap cameras, all cameras handle natural daylight really good.
Where that camera is going to fall apart is if you’re indoors and you’re in lower lighting or if you’re using any type of professional studio lights, the lower-end cameras are going to struggle. Higher-end cameras are actually going to start performing better in situations like that.
As far as should you go out and invest a bunch of money on lights, if you’re just starting out, my answer would be no. If you do want to spend maybe a hundred dollars or 200 USD on a set of lights, what you want to use are called softbox lights. Softbox, one word or two words, it doesn’t matter. You can go out to Amazon.com and type in softbox lights, or go out to eBay and you can find a kit that will work absolutely fine for you. Two or three lights, you can get them from anywhere between 100 USD to 200 USD.
James: That sounds like how I started with those little Mr. Whippy light bulbs. Yeah, so light is important. I certainly noticed. Recently, I got an SLR camera, a Canon 60D. It operates with almost no light. I can go out at dusk and film, and it looks like day. It’s such a great contrast between the Kodaks that I was using before that.
Dave: Yeah, I used a 60D myself. It’s one of the cameras that is kind of under the radar. It’s a fantastic value. It’s my recommendation to people who want to use a DSLR camera – use the Canon 60D. It’s a steal.
James: Same for me! I mean, even in Australia it’s under a thousand dollars to get a Canon 60D brand new and you get a 50mm lens. You get that nice blurred background effect. The thing that I noticed that surprised me more than anything is how many of my viewers replied back and said, “What camera are you using? What are you using to record these videos?” It was a visible, noticeable difference, enough to prompt them to actually ask about it. That to me says well with the proliferation of all these cameras now, everyone has got an iPhone or a Kodak or a flip, maybe that extra thousand dollars in the business is going to set you apart from a lot of other marketers if you’re looking for the edge.
Dave: Exactly. Particularly with the DSLR because you will get the depth of field and if people don’t know what that means, that means the background is blurry behind you but you’re in focus. It’s what you see in film. It’s how our eyeballs naturally see things. People do notice it when they see videos online and again, with the Canon 60D, it’s almost impossible to shoot bad looking video with the camera.
James: You’ve seen lot of students apply your methods and you get a lot of questions I imagine, and feedback. You would have probably been sent to a few things to observe how they’re using video. Can you tell us some of the most interesting things you’ve ever seen people use videos for?
Where to use videos
The obvious ones are selling things and for educating or tutorials or creating information products but what about tricky things? I’ve used them for thank you upon purchase or a reactivation of a cold list or a feedback request, invitations to events or whatever testimonials. What other ways can people use videos once they get their camera and they skill up a little bit?
Dave: One of the unique things that I’ve seen people do and I guess people starting out are able to afford this but I’ve known people who use video cameras for video testimonials. What they’ll do is buy a lot of 12 to 24 inexpensive pocket video cameras and because they buy them in bulk, they might get them for $50 apiece and what they’ll do is send them out to their customers or clients, or maybe to the best people who have spent the most money with them and they’ll say, “Hey, here’s a free camera as my way of saying thank you for being such a loyal customer. Can you please record a video testimonial and send it to me.” That is a way where it’s going to cost you a little bit of extra money but it’s a great way to get video testimonials which are probably one of the most effective types of testimonial, considering that testimonial has lost some steam, at least the written kind.
I’m going to go back to the sales video portion because one of the most interesting things I’ve seen video used for when it comes to actually selling something was a company that sold jigsaw puzzles. You’d think, how in the world can you put together a sales pitch for jigsaw puzzles and how in the world can you put together a compelling video that’s going to make people want to get jigsaw puzzles? They put the video together so well that you wanted to buy their jigsaw puzzles.
It’s important for people to realize that no matter what market you’re in, there’s going to be some application to video. Don’t think that you can’t make a sales video for your product or service. Don’t think that you can’t use video in some other way. Me personally, the way I use video a lot is I get, like you said James, I get a lot of questions from people and nine times out of ten it’s a question on how to do something within software. And me like everyone else, time is money, I can sit there and spend 15 minutes typing out a response to a complicated question and people are going to get the response, they’re going to read it and they’re not going to understand, so on and so forth. Instead, what I do is I spend just a couple of minutes actually recording a screen capture video showing them exactly what to do. And as far as a customer service point of view, it’s really cut things down for me. It’s really cut the amount of time I spent on customer service way down.
James: That’s a hot tip. You can also publish those, I imagine, and build up quite a nice online library to send people to when you get the same support request.
James: So content creation and education, and it still builds a relationship and bonding with the customer. It’s a terrific idea. In fact, my daughter was making videos for Fiverr gigs where she was filming the dog eating someone’s name in mincemeat, and then playing it back in reverse. So it was like vomiting out minced meat in the person’s name. It was very popular. With just an iPhone or a camera, the world is open these days.
Recording on bigger screen
Now, I learned something very recently which surprised me but I think everyone who’s in this particular area of internet marketing or business should know. I put out a lot of information products and I’ve done a lot of screen recordings, but my friend and your friend, Will, was teaching me that the resolution that you record at should be as close as possible to the resolution you wish to play back at. That shocked me because I’ve got big screens and I would have thought, logically, if I record on a bigger screen and then I render it down then I’d get better quality. Perhaps you can fill us in on the technicalities of this?
Dave: Yeah, the funny thing with screen capture video is when you’re recording something on your screen, it doesn’t work the same as a live camera video. If you go ahead and shoot video with a live camera, you can put it on a 60-foot movie screen and it looks good, and you can reduce it down to a little two-inch video on a computer screen and it’s still going to look good. The same thing doesn’t happen with screen capture video and that’s because it’s basically an image and images don’t scale too well. If you’ve ever created like a logo and then you try to enlarge it or you try to reduce it, suddenly that text becomes unreadable. The same thing happens when you record something on your screen. So like you mentioned, what you want to do, if you want to get crystal-clear quality, you want to record your screen on the same dimension you’ll display it at on your website.
As an example, let’s say if I’m putting together a training video on how to use video editing software and I want to display it to people on my website at the dimension of 960 pixels across and 540 up or down. I’m going to go ahead and record my screen to that same exact size or at least I’m going to try to. The problem you’ll run into a lot of times when you’re doing screen recordings is you’re going to have to record it at a size that’s actually larger than you will display. It’s just because you can’t fit everything on the screen that you want to show. In that case, we absolutely must record your screen a little bit bigger than what you’ll display it at. You want to try to do it in the smallest of increments as possible. You don’t want to double the size. You just want to use your mathematical ratio where you’re increasing it, let’s say, 18 percent or 36 percent. You don’t want to double it but that is the big secret. Otherwise, your screen recordings are going to get really fuzzy. If you try to record your full screen and then you go put it on YouTube or wherever where it’s displayed small, everything is going to be fuzzy and very hard for people to see.
James: That is an awesome tip. It’s just one of those things that I think everyone should know that they probably don’t.
James: There must be a couple more just like that – you think everyone would know but maybe doesn’t make perfect sense. It could be reverse logic. Of all the things that you’ve seen in the last year or so, what thing just keeps coming up over and over and over again?
Videos on mobile devices
Dave: Oh boy! That’s a great question. What comes up over and over and over again? I would say, the thing that I get over and over again concerns mobile devices. People want to know why a certain video will not play on their mobile device. And the answer to that is because not all mobile devices are equal.
Apple devices, iPhones and iPads, if you do your videos a certain way, that they will play on all iPhones and iPads. When you go to Android devices or Blackberry devices, it’s a free for all. Especially on Android because it’s an open operating system. Each phone manufacturer takes Android and they tweak it for their own use, then they have 50 different phones and each phone might have different video capability. So what happens is, you put together a video and it plays on let’s say Bob’s phone. Bob’s got an Android phone and it plays fine on that but that same video might not play on Jim’s Android phone. So that’s the biggest thing for people to understand, that there’s not, unfortunately, a single format that’s going to play on every possible mobile device. What you do instead is you go after the mobile devices that have the largest number of people viewing videos, which are going to be Apple devices. If you encode your video for those devices, then 90 percent of your audience is going to be able to watch your videos without any problems.
James: Great! So the encoding process, you might want to just explain that because we export our video from our editing software. We have to encode it for the web if we’re using our own hosting, right? In my case, I’ve switched to Wistia so I’m pretty right I could just load it up and it will encode it and make a player that works on most things like YouTube but private. Tell me about the encoding thing – what is it actually doing?
Dave: What happens is when you have your video in your video editing software and you go ahead and you export that video, that video is not in a format that is playable on the web – at least not yet. And that’s because our video editing software, for whatever reason, they haven’t caught up with the times where they allow you to export your videos in a format where they are immediately playable on the web. It just hasn’t happened yet.
You export your video out of your video editing software and now it has to be rendered again into a format so it’s playable on the web. When you upload that video to YouTube, that’s what YouTube does for you. YouTube is going to go ahead and convert your video into probably 20 different formats and they’re making sure that it’s playable on all devices. In your case, James, when you upload your video to Wistia, they’re going to do the same thing. For someone who is self-hosting their videos, who isn’t paying a service for this and they want to do it on their desktop, probably the best free tool is something called HandBrake and the website is handbrake.fr. That is a desktop encoding tool where they’re going to have presets where you can take your video after it’s out of your video editing software, and you can run it through the software and it will prepare your video in a web-ready format so you can upload it to your website and everyone would be able to see it.There are other options out there. I don’t want to get too complex for people. HandBrake is the free one. You can end up spending a thousand dollars on some of these software packages, but for most people, if they start with the HandBrake product that’s all they’re ever going to need.
James: Yeah, I’ll second that HandBrake’s awesome. Be sure to tick that little box that says web optimized, though. [Laughs]
James: Do you change the default setting to MP4 in HandBrake? I think there’s an advanced setting there that you tick.
Dave: Yeah, all the videos that I do for the web, I do as MP4 and the reason for that is they’re going to be playable on the broadest range of devices. An MP4 video, it can play on your desktop computer, and it can play on 90 percent plus of all mobile devices as well. That’s why I do MP4.
James: Great. That’s a good tip for information product creators because you really want to cut down service calls from people who can’t consume your product. I learned that one the hard way. Alright, so we’re going to wrap up. Where can people find out more about Web Video University? I’ll put a link near this audio, I guess.
Dave: Sure, what they can do is they can just go to webvideouniversity.com and they’ll be hit with one of those annoying pop ups, but what I’m basically giving away is I’m giving away 47 free video lessons. All you have to do is put your name and email address in there and you’ll get a link where you can see 47 video lessons for free. Then about every week or two, I put out new lessons absolutely free and you’ll be able to access those as well. You’ll be able to learn lots from me. If it turns out that you want to dive in and do more, then I’ve got lots of different training courses and packages out there where you can sign up and either watch pre-recorded videos of me or even learn from me one-on-one.
James: Dave that’s awesome! I really appreciate the tips today. We’ve covered some really interesting stuff and hopefully we can catch up again in the future.
Dave: Alright, sounds good. Thanks for having me, James.