Making a YouTube Video on the Cheap.

As part of the marketing for our new Ebook, 100 Small Fires To Make Your Book Sales BLAZE (for sale November 18th on Amazon), I made a YouTube/Indiegogo video. In keeping with our promise to share the good, the bad and the ugly, below you’ll find exactly what I went through to create Arthur Author’s adventure with 100 Small Fires. Of course, what I’ve written will make a lot more sense if you watch the video first, which you can do here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jOBX3HAIfYM&feature=player_detailpage

A couple of things you should know. The marketing for 100 Small Fires To Make Your Book Sales BLAZE, and thus the budget I had to work with on the video, was constrained by my agreement with my sister, Kathleen Vrona, my co-author, to spend as little as possible without embarrasing ourselves.

I think the video achieves this. It is if nothing else, clever and perhaps unintentionally funny in places where it isn’t supposed to be and at a whopping cost of $3.00 undeniably cheap. In short, it’s good, bad and ugly!

Here are the materials (I’ve starred those purchased specifically for the video – the rest were pre-owned):

Lenovo Ideapad Z585 15.6 inch is my laptop. At $500.00 it is a deal and runs memory eating programs like Photoshop with ease;

Nikon D5100 camera with 18-55mm lens (about $600.00);

A black coat of smooth but non reflective material which I draped over a black leather chair to provide a makeship studio setting for taking pictures of Arthur and Reluctant Readers. I took the photos in a dark room at night with one spot light (of the clip on variety) and using the camera flash on portrait mode;

Photoshop for crisping and cropping the photos and changing Arthur’s face when I needed another emotion;

Microsoft Word 10 for writing the script;

Microsoft Power Point 10 for creating the video, using the file “save as video” feature;

*Voice Changer phone app which was downloaded for free and used on my Iphone for recording the script in the different voices;

*Skull Sugar Cookie from Dollar Store for The Ghost of Authors’ Past. Cost – $1.00;

*Skull tombstone to be tomb of authors’ past. Also from Dollar Store;

*Packet of spiderwebs with plastic spiders for ambience. See above for procurement details;

Stack of old books

That’s it. I purchased three things and spent less than $5.00 to make the video. Even if you apportion part of my Photoshop license, which I got on Ebay for $129.00 for the year, that only increases the cost by maybe another $5.00. Maybe.

That’s the good.

Now for the bad.  Since I had a steep learning curve, the entire production took me about 20 hours, including subbing out the turtle voice which I’d orginally used for Arthur’s because it was p-a-i-n-f-u-l-l-y slow, and dragged the whole thing into the death by boredom territory. So, #1 tip on using voice changers for video? Never be tempted by the turtle. Never.

Also, Connie Fleming, my wonderful friend and fellow www.writerandwannabe.com  author, donated the clothespin dolls. This saved me at least a few dollars in supplies and probably another couple of days in time. It also saved us from having a really horrible video, because my concept puppets were hand-drawn faces on popsickle sticks. Not the most appealing little guys.

But, I digress.  Here’s the order of what I did:

1)      Wrote script with help of my partner, my sister

2)      Obtained dolls from the fabulous Connie (did I mention I’m eternally grateful?)

3)      Set up corner of house as studio with coat, chair and light

4)      Took pictures of dolls

5)      Loaded them into computer

6)      Photoshopped

7)      Copied and pasted script into Power Point

8)      Uploaded photos into Power Point

9)      Recorded voices with phone and emailed to self

10)  Uploaded voices into Power Point

11)   Went through production and decided that with turtle voice dragging it down, most people would put it out of its misery rather than watch the whole thing

12)  Re-recorded, emailed and uploaded voices

13)  Re-watched and changed seconds per slide from 5 to 4 to speed it up even more

14)  Recorded as video and emailed to Kathleen

That’s it! Not as bad as it seems. If you’d like to see some of the stills from the video, take a look at page on the blog titled, “Stills From 100SmallFires and Arthur Author And His Book, My Masterpiece.”

Prior to this week the only experience I had in Photoshop was making our book cover. See our archives for more on that. However, that was easy peasy compared to changing Arthur’s face.  I actually had to watch some “how to” Photoshop videos to figure it out. So I Googled, and then picked my candidates based on the least amount of time each professed to take to teach me what I needed to know.

My experience in Power Point was ancient history, but I found that much easier to pick up as I went along.  No instructional videos required.

Now, about the sound quality. Yeah, it basically sucks. However, I did not previously own any recording equipment (not even a cheap computer microphone or an old recorder) and could not justify the expenditure when it would exceed everything spent to this point.  Instead of  buying recording equipment we added words to each screen and went with what I had. Was that a good call?

Maybe, maybe not.

I recorded each character’s lines to my Iphone on the Voice Changer app, then emailed the recordings to myself.  I then manually pieced together conversations by replaying, re-recording and re-emailing. Definitely not the best process.

The first thing I’ll buy for my next YouTube or Kickstarter venture? A Blue Snowball or Yeti microphone.

All in all, I think the video is cute, and maybe even a little clever; but no-one’s saying our “monstrously good tale about Arthur Author and his book, My Masterpiece” will win any production awards. Without a doubt, with a bigger budget, and maybe even without, you can make a better one.

So, skip Starbucks this week,roll up your sleeves, and get to work!

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