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3 helpful tools to create great video

I’ve found that one of the hardest things about creating video is coming up with the ideas. It’s also often a challenge to put those ideas in order and visualise what the final video might look like. And video creation is almost always a collaborative effort. It’s handy to have a few tools to make it easier to communicate what is essentially a very creative process.

I’ve picked out three of the handiest tools I use when creating videos (or most any content really). Well, they’re actually more like categories of tools, but I’ll offer you specific examples for each too.

Mind mapping

There’s something about the purely creative process of brainstorming. There are so many ways you can do it. I’ve used post-it notes, white boards, stream of consciousness writing on plain paper. In groups I’ve even just shouted out ideas (over other shouting people when necessary) that were either discarded or used to build the next idea.

The one thing I’ve found in all those processes is that it can get out of hand quickly. It’s easy to lose track of what you meant or how one post-it note related to another one. In the case of the shouting, there was no record at all of the process other than our memories.

That’s why I love mind mapping tools. They take the process of brainstorming and give it structure, without interfering with the creativity. Mind mapping can also be done with post-it notes or white boards and dry erase markers. Plain paper can work fine too. But in the end you, or someone on the project, will have to take that mind map and refine it so it can be used productively to create the video.

If those sort of processes work for you, by all means keep doing them. But I’ve found that there are some programs that let you be creative, and save you much of the work that comes after the brainstorming session has ended.

My current favourite is a mind mapping tool called SimpleMind. I found it in the iOS store for free. Immediately I fell in love with how easy it was to create a mind map on my iPad. Below is a screenshot of a partial mind map I did regarding different types of technology that could be used by creative professionals (freelancers mostly).

mind mapping to create great video content

Each of those bubbles can move freely so you can place them where they make the most sense. You can make level after level of bubbles until your brainstorm has petered out. Note the version in the image above is SimpleMind+ which is the paid version of the app. The free version limits the number of maps you can make and a few other things so I went ahead and purchased the full version. It also comes in versions for Android, Windows and Mac.

One of the paid features is the ability to export your map to various other formats including text or freemind (more on this in a second). This is where you save a lot of time on the backend as you can take your mind map and automatically create lists and to-dos without having to type it all in or organise it again.

Freemind is an open source mind mapping program that really offers more than just your average brainstorming tool. The description page on Sourceforge (where the download is hosted) says it can be used for everything from a project management tool to organising essays. It will supposedly run anywhere Java runs (so Mac, Windows, and Linux machines). It won’t run on mobile devices yet. But its file format “freemind” has become one of the standard ones used for these types of applications.

There are many other versions and programs for mind mapping. Many are free or are free to try. If neither of the two I mention here two seem to fit how you work, then just go to Google to find dozens more.

So next time you are brainstorming video topics or ideas, make sure someone on the team is using a mind mapping software program. You might find the whole process is faster and that it’s easier to implement your ideas when you’re done.

Creative briefs

You probably already use creative briefs when planning out your content. These documents help answer the most important questions needed for creating any piece of content. For example,

  • Background – what does the content creator need to know about this project?
  • Objective – what are you trying to achieve with the content? What is your end goal?
  • Target Audience – descriptions of the profile of the expected viewers.
  • Main take-aways – what is it you want the audience to know at the end of the content?
  • Supporting data – All the “proof” or claims you need to provide so the audience will believe you.
  • Formatting and other requirements – The nitty gritty of how to prepare the content for presentation.

The specific questions and terms used varies from marketer to marketer, industry, company, and content type.

While content briefs are widely used in marketing, not everyone creating a video is a marketer. In fact, the marketer may just be one member of a larger team. Or the team creating the video might not have any marketing background at all, but still need to create the best video possible for their organisation.

But using a brief for creating video is critical when so many people are involved. Without it, not everyone will be on the same page and the end product might be nothing like what you’d expect. So given that video creation includes so many different steps (and potentially people or outside organisations), supplementing a standard brief with some additional information is helpful for everyone.

For example, if you’re looking for a specific type or look of video (animation, real people, landscape images only, or you want it to look ‘old time’) you should include that in the brief. Do you want a slow but steady pace to the final video or an in-your-face assault of colours or music?

Whatever your specific vision is for the video, write it down in the brief. Yes, you may also convey these ideas to the team during meetings. But by having them written down it’s easier to reference them when giving feedback and helps to avoid misunderstandings. Or, if you’ve outsourced the video creation, gives you a leg to stand on when you demand changes because it doesn’t look the way you want it.

If you use briefs already, think about what you can add to them to help throughout the process of video creation. If you haven’t been using briefs, give it a go. You’ll probably find they help keep the team more focused and you end up with a better product. Don’t know where to start? Simply google “video content briefs” or even just “content briefs” and you’ll find many different templates for download. You’re bound to find one that works best for you.

Storyboards

Storyboarding is the process of visually organising a video using pictures, text, or other illustrations. It’s standard process for film makers. And it’s a great way to “see” your video before it is created, and it can be another tool to share your vision of the video with the tech team in charge of creating it.

If you’re not an artist, creating a storyboard can be intimidating. At least it was to me. I can see in my mind’s eye what I want, but I can’t draw a decent stick figure. So it was great to find some apps to help create the scenes in my head without me having to pick up a pencil. Here are two “scenes” I created for one of my son’s movie ideas.

scene 1 scene 2

They are very basic, and you’ll notice a combination of clip art and squiggles I made to clarify the action or setting.

The app I used is called, aptly enough (pun intended), Storyboards. I run it on my iPad and it’s incredibly easy to set up a scene using their built in library of clip art, plus you can import some images if you need them. While the list of included art isn’t long, I’ve found it’s enough to get through short simple videos.

If you find you need something with a little more power or options, PowerProductions offers Storyboard. It comes in various versions depending on what you want to do. According to their testimonials, the app was used creating films like the Hunger Games, Spiderman, Shrek, Budweiser Super Bowl Ads, and the TV show Lost. Clearly it is a more professional level tool than the iPad app I use. But if you’re going to be making a lot of videos, it could be worth checking out.

It doesn’t come in a free version but there is a demo you can download. The cost isn’t outrageous either if you are investing in video marketing.

Using a tool to create storyboards can help produce a much better end product. Because you can visualise your video before it goes into production, you can save a lot of money by making adjustments early in the process.

And there you have it. Three tools and examples thereof that can help you create fantastic videos. Do you have any special tools you use?

Oliver Burt

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