Guerillas In Our Midst - Part 2 - YouTube

The Internet is a major can of worms, but one which offers no end of marketing potential for the savvy independent author. Perhaps the most prominent Guerilla Marketing resource on the web is YouTube: it gives the author means to reach out to a vast audience with a variety of specific book reference and general interest materials with a minimum of cost and effort. This topic looks at how to develop YouTube videos. Promoting them is covered in Networking.

Doing a video is pretty much the same as doing an Audio Book but with a visual component added in. This involves setting up 'tracks' with your software to handle, at a minimum, dialogue and video. Additional 'tracks' can be added for music, audio effects, and some video effects, as desired. It is best to keep each process on its own 'track' to make it easier to manipulate them.

An important consideration is the video's length. You don't want to post something so short that it doesn't grab the viewer's interest and say what you want to say, but at the same time, you don't want to let it drag on forever. Rule of thumb: keep videos between two and five minutes long, unless you are doing something special, such as a reading.

Remember always that your YouTube videos are a selling tool: keep them clean, crisp, and to the point, and don't try to wow the viewers with your techno-whiz-bangery.

Technology

You should be able to do videos on your home computer with a few basic additions which won't cost all that much:

  • Software: Modern computers usually have a video software (such as GarageBand or iMovie for Mac) as part of their software package. However our experience has shown these have sevre limitations, and you may have to go to a commercial software. YouTube does offer background music and some limited editing capability, but we haven't had the chance to explore it yet. If you prefer another brand, there are several low cost and Shareware systems on the net. When choosing one of those systems, be sure it has the features you will need. Specific capabilities should include multiple tracks, drag-and-drop to shift elements around, and the ability to adjust each element for volume, etc.
  • Microphone: There are several brands of microphones available from computer accessory suppliers. Things you need to look out for are how the microphone is powered (some require a separate power supply, some are powered through their USB connection), the ability to record from 'zones' which eliminate some random noise, and the general sound quality. As a rule of thumb, the cheap microphones meant for web-camming don't do all that well. Decent microphones with several sound receiving options can be had for a modest price.
  • Video Camera: As with microphones, these are available from several sources, but you probably won't need one unless you plan to appear in your videos. As with microphones, select a better-than-bottom-line model which will give you decent images. Pay particular attention to the camera's 'pixel capacity' - the higher, the better.
  • Music And Sound Effects: These last two are deluxe options, are not strictly necessary for a decent video, and do require a lot more work to put them in. However, having these options adds a whole new dimension to your videos, and can produce works which are far more interesting to the viewer. Sources for these will be discussed below.

    Project Ideas

    The sky literally is the limit here, and you should use every topic device you can think of to tell the story of your storytelling. Some basic ideas include, but are not limited to:

  • Start by posting a video about yourself to put a human face to the name. Some things to include here are a brief bio of your writing history, your thoughts on what you write and why, and your feelings about the writing craft.
  • Post a brief background video spelling out each book's story line, setting, history, etc - the metapicture behind the actual book. This will give your readers a context to follow the story line and avoid confusion. It also allows you to spell out details and interesting tidbits which otherwise would not normally appear in print. This will be especially useful in the case of multi-volume story Universes, trilogies, etc. since it will tie everything together.
  • In a similar vein, consider posting brief accounts of the background of your major characters, giving their histories, personalities, beliefs, etc. If you have developed interesting characters, the readers will want to know more about them. This 'human interest' stuff is always a popular appeal, even (or especially) when applied to aliens.
  • The same can also be done for any critical technology, assuming it has some key role in the story. Remember the old truism that characters don't pause for "You know, Bob..." moments to explain their technology to each other. Doing a video for hardware should only be for things which are not all that well discussed in the manuscript, and understanding of which really does matter to the plot.
  • Readings of excerpts from your books are useful if done properly. These should follow the same rules found in Audio Books, since a poorly done reading is annoying, and will turn the listener off to the story concept.
  • In the same vein, do free short-short story readings as promotional throw-aways. The writing effort is minimal, and the broader the range of your talents you can display, the better your reputation with the viewer will be. Plus, people always love to get freebies on the internet, and having plenty of free content will draw them to your channel.

    If you can, you should try to upload something new on a regular basis to keep people coming back to your channel to see what's happening.

    The Audio Track

    The key to your video is the audio dialogue portion, since you will have to narrate that. This should be done first so you can use the verbal pace which works best for your needs. The dialogue track will serve as the structure upon which you can build the rest of the video. While you can record the entire dialogue track in one swell foop, it is better to break it up into brief chunks, such as paragraphs, so that if a take is ruined, you haven't lost the entire effort. Once done, these can be strung together into a continuous stream in any decent video software. The Audio Books topic goes into prepping the dialogue track in more detail.

    A good rule of thumb is to do the music track next, if you plan to have one, since you'll probably be using canned music, which has a fixed structure and timing. This will affect the pace of the dialogue track in turn, and you may find that you will have to spread dialogue chunks out a bit, or even renarrate individual elements to match the timing of the music.

    On the subject of music, keep in mind that almost all published music is Copyrighted, and you really shouldn't go there. There are a couple exceptions to this:

  • As noted earlier, YouTube has track music available for use in videos.
  • Classical music originally written in the 19th Century or earlier, or in a few cases in the early 20th Century, since the copyrights will have expired.
  • So-called 'Tent Music', which is generic, generally mood music which can be found in some limited Freeware sources, or on CDs. You should be cautious about using these, however, since the sources may not be reputable.

    There are a number of on-line sites which license sound track music, but they require fees which can range widely, and there are usually restrictions on their use or DRM riders which must be taken into account. Still, if you want to produce a high-end video, and are willing so spend some money, these can be a useful source.

    Doing the music track is the same as doing the narration track: build it up one clip at a time, and drag them back and forth as needed in the software to match up with the narration.

    At this point, we will pause and turn our attention to the video track, since the basic video will be the next major timing issue you must deal with. You can tie the timing of the video shots to the narration, and add any audio or video effects after that.

    The Video Track

    Doing a visual background should follow the same rules which apply to Cover Art. Keep it simple and direct, with a minimum of waste imagery, and keep in mind always that this is a selling tool; not a demonstration of your skill with Photoshop.

    The big advantage you have here is that you can rely on any amount of free art such as NASA starscapes, etc. You can also go out with your trusty digital camera to grab 'earthly' shots which could be modified with graphics software. While this has its limits for stories involving space opera or fantasy, a lot can be done with creative imagination and good software.

    You can also turn to YouTube as a source of videos of early film images - such as the trenches of the Great War - which are now copyright expired. You will need a special 'YouTube Downloads' freeware to download those images. Sources can be found in Links.

    One advantage you have in developing your video track is being able to switch from one image to another to emphasize your story line. Your graphics can include separate title shots prepared with graphics software (since most video software seem to have limited fonts and effects), and various shots geared to specific story elements. These can be either stills or movie videos, although movies will be more difficult to prepair.

    In developing scene shots, keep in mind the so-called 'Ken Burns Effect' - moving the view slowly around the image to give the illusion of motion, and to emphasize certain elements or moods. You can also use cut-to's and fade-to's if done discreetly. These effects can be done with any decent video software.

    Post-Production

    Now that you have all your elements in place, you will need to go through them and adjust each to fit the whole. This is a tedious process, since you will need to play the video again and again to check the fit of each element. The timing of images and sounds, and the relative volume of various sounds must be adjusted so that relate to each other correctly, and don't drown each other out.

    Foley (Audio Effects)

    Your Foley track - sound effects - can be had from any number of Freeware or low cost sources. However, most of these sounds tend to be brief snippets, and if you want a steady sound such as rain, you will have to loop the snippet. Most video software can do this. As with the dialogue and video tracks, add each sound individually so they can be adjusted to fit as needed. You can also group sounds together to create atmospheric scenes, such as the sounds of a battle.

    As with the dialogue track, you will want to adjust the various elements - doing fade-in's, timing sound changes to scenes, etc., to get the best results. You might, for example, group battle sounds with one side near by and the other faint in the distance by creating two sound groups and adjusting their relative volume. You will also want to fade the foley sounds to avoid drowning out narrative spots. This is why doing advanced videos with foley and effects take so long.

    Video Effects

    Video effects should be limited, since unless well done, they will detract from the story line. Most video effects, such as compound image overlays, titles, etc. are better done in Photoshop before adding to the video track. Take special care to avoid the too-cute fancy fade-to's and overlaps which many video software offer, since these are both distracting and annoying.

    Most of your video effects will go directly onto the images of the video track. However, there may be instances, such as text overlays, which are easier to work with separately on the effects track. You will have to experiment with these to discover what works best for your individual needs.

    In any case, whether talking about foley or video effects, use your creative imagination (you are a Spec Fi author, after all) to find just the right touch to express what you want so say.

    Getting The Most Out Of YouTube

    The last step (or perhaps the first step) is to establish your YouTube channel. You should think this process through carefully as you go, since YouTube is decidedly not user-friendly, and mistakes such as the wrong title cannot be edited. When setting up your account, be sure to establish a 'business account', since these have far more features than the 'personal account'.

    Within your account, you can establish 'lists', an option when loading videos. These should be used with care, since they put all the videos included into a continuous-play loop, presenting one after another. This can be good or bad, depending on how you want to approach your topic matter. For example, you can set up one 'list' for each book, or for character studies, etc. If you want each video to stand alone, load them separately to the general 'videos' section.

    The final step is promoting your YouTube channel, which - like all Guerilla Marketing - is a tedious process. We will look at this in the next chapter.


    NCH Software


    Guerillas In Our Midst - Part 1: Conventions

    Guerillas In Our Midst - Part 3: Networking


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