[Hooping.org's Editor Philo Hagen has ten easy tips for making your hooping video rock.]
by Philo Hagen
When Hooping.org began in 2003 we didn’t have a Video of the Day. In fact, we didn’t have videos at all. It wasn’t that we were against them or anything, there just weren’t any. A little thing called YouTube wouldn’t even get off the ground for another two years or become truly useful for even more. Nevertheless, we would occasionally put together very short visual pieces shot on large and now incredibly obsolete digital cameras. We’d anxiously wait for a few hours while it uploaded on our dial-up modem to our server, hoping it would get there intact. And if it did and you wanted to share it you’d have to have some web skills to be able to embed the video on a web page and get it to play too. Ahh good times, good times – good times like this one from yesteryear that we recently converted from a massive web file and uploaded featuring Hooping.org Co-Founder Ariel Meadow Stallings.
It’s not that she chose not to have any sound. Sound just hadn’t arrived yet. Seriously. These days, however, hooping videos are everywhere and if you want to be a part of the great big global hooping community it truly helps if you have one to share with the world every once in awhile. Knowing someone hoops is one thing. Being able to see them spin it up is another story altogether. So when I recently asked my friend why she has never made any hooping videos, knowing that she has mad skills to share with the hooping world, her response was, “I’m too intimidated. What if nobody liked it?” Ah yes, the ye olde internal psych out. I know it all too well. But there are things we all can do to help ensure our hooping videos are well received. So here are ten easy ways to improve your hooping video.
1. First Impressions: The internet is a very short attention span place. Even commercials online don’t last a fraction of what they do on television for a reason. So consider that you maybe have 20 seconds to make a good first impression. If viewers are twenty seconds into your video and you’re still not on screen, or the camera is shaky, you can’t really blame them if they move on. Making a good first impression online is just as important as it is in the real world. Reel the viewer in quickly. Trim away any of your preparation time footage before posting it online. Don’t know how to edit? In an ideal world your camera is positioned, framed and focused and you’re in front of it ready to hoop before you hit record. Ask a friend to come watch you film. Not only can they hit the record button for you, you’ll also have a real live audience to engage with and the sooner you can captivate the audience, the sooner you are going to have all of our undivided attention.
2. Framing Your Shot: Make sure you’re shooting your video in landscape (a horizontal rectangular view) rather than portrait (a vertical rectangle) or you’re going to end up with less video and a whole lot of wasted black space around you when you post it online. If you don’t have a tripod for your camera, don’t sweat it. Set your camera down on something stable and sturdy that isn’t going to move or shift if you’re jumping right by it. Take a look through the lens to see where the boundaries for your shoot will be. If your friend is there and you know they have steady hands you can ask them to hold the camera, but be careful – nobody likes watching shaky videos. Your friend, or even a realistically helpful stranger nearby, can often be better utilized by having them go in front of the camera and walk around so you can see for yourself what it will look like. How far to the left and right you can go? How close can you come to the camera before your head gets cut off? How far back can you go before it becomes impersonal and you lose that intimate connection with your viewers? Nice steady well framed shots are incredibly important. Why? Because we really want to see you! We want to celebrate you! While some hoopers make the mistake of believing the hoop is more important in the video than they are, this couldn’t be further from the truth. You are the real treasure and hooping is your art. It deserves a great frame so you and your hooping can really shine.
3. Location: Want your video to be even more interesting? Go someplace interesting to shoot it. There are all kinds of places near you that are scenic and intriguing, particularly to those of us who don’t live there and don’t see them every day. What may seem boring and familiar to someone in Alaska may seem incredibly exotic to someone in Miami – and visa-versa. And while I’m personally of the opinion that living rooms and bedrooms can be great places to shoot a hooping video because they can feel very intimate, providing the room is reasonably clean and presentable, be careful about shooting in the same location from the same angle repeatedly or all of your videos will start to look the same. You can really shake things up by taking your camera out into the great outdoors. If it’s too cold outside, go on a mission and shoot at an indoor location you wouldn’t ordinarily hoop at, maybe even one you’re not supposed to hoop at. Just don’t blame us if you get into trouble. Beware of large open vacant spaces like empty gymnasiums though. Creating visual energy in an environment that has none to little in it can be quite a difficult challenge.
4. Lighting: Since you are the most important part of your hooping video, we really want to be able to see you. Please make sure that you’re reasonably well lit. Keep in mind that if you are shooting indoors in the daytime with a window behind you, or outdoors with the sun behind you, chances are high your camera is going to turn you into a silhouette, a mere shadow of your former self. While silhouettes can be cool to watch every once in awhile, generally the same rule applies to them that applies to most LED and fire hooping videos shot without any light in the black of night. If it’s you or your friend it’s pretty cool! If it’s not you or your friend, well, it can be a really difficult video to make a connection with. Another thing about silhouettes too is that most people don’t really like to stare into the bright sun or bright lights for very long. Remember, we really want to see you! Find a brighter streetlamp, try taking off that lampshade. Give yourself the spotlight you so madly deserve.
5. Wardrobe: What are you going to wear? It’s kind of nice if you give it a little thought – not because we’re going to necessarily judge what you’re wearing, but because you probably are going to. The best line of defense against our own self criticism is a little self preparation. You want to wear something that you already know you can hoop well in prior to shooting your video, and a little extra costume or fashion or sparkle or color can take your video from ordinary to extraordinary. Unless you’re going for a specific costume for your video, like if you’re playing ninjas, for example, wear something that you know you feel great in, something you love, something you feel like a hottie in. Why? It’s a fact that when you feel like you look good, in whatever way that manifests for you personally and your own specifically beautiful personality, you’re going to feel a whole lot more comfortable in front of the camera. And when you’re comfortable in front of the camera, your viewers will feel comfortable watching you too.
6. Soundtrack: Hoopers can hoop to practically anything musically these days. I think we’ve truly seen and heard it all, but a little forethought regarding what you’re going to hoop to can pay off handsomely. Take a little time to investigate your soundtrack selection prior to filming your video. Trust me, nobody likes to spend hours working on something only to have the audio stripped from it once it goes online because the rights to that particular track are owned by the Warner Music empire. So take a look on YouTube first and see if the song you want to hoop to is already online – preferably posted numerous times and has lasted without deletion for several months. If having your video viewable on phones and other devices matters to you, search for that song on your phone as well. YouTube often says something is okay for use on some things and not others. If you really want to play it safe, make a simple pre-screening video with only your song on it and upload it to YouTube under the private setting. That way you can see what they’re going to do with it before you invest a lot of time in a particular soundtrack. Vimeo is typically much more lenient about these things, though hoopers have run into similar issues over there from time to time as well. Why so much talk about music prior to making your video? Because you want to be hooping to the song that is playing in your video, for musicality.
7. Let’s Get Musical: Most hoopers watching hoop videos are already rooting for you before you even begin. They want to see you connect with your hoop and your song and throw it down or flow it out or just be so gosh darn pretty or fun or whatever your goal is. A big piece of making this happen for your viewers has to do with your musicality – your connection to your soundtrack, your ability to hoop to the music being played with the goal of relating your hooping to the music’s rhythm, melody, and/or mood. Now, while musicality is something we are all working on getting better at throughout our hooping lives, the basic principle is quite simple. Hoop to the music that is playing in your video. If your soundtrack selection is really fast and your hooping matches the beat, guess what? We viewers are going to get even more excited. We’re experiencing it with you! But if you’re hooping very slowly to a fast song, or the rhythm of your hooping is off synch with the rhythm of your soundtrack, it can feel a little disconnected. Question: Aren’t most of your favorite hooping videos actively relating to the music that is being played? Try to do the same. Helpful hint: Choose music you love, that you emotionally connect with and that you already know really well.
8. Connect With Us: Don’t forget that the camera is actually your audience, so give it a smile, a wink, a nod, a laugh. If your friend is there behind the camera it can really help. And while there are those situations where a voyeuristic experience might be more beneficial for your video presentation – like a particularly moody and intimate song selection, or perhaps you have a storyline where the lens is best utilized as a casual observer – generally speaking we’re watching you and when you notice that we are there we feel a little more included, we feel invited, we feel like you want us to watch and that makes us feel good about watching. It sounds simple, right? It’s not. Be aware of the amount of time spent with your back to the camera. While your viewers don’t need constant acknowledgement, even a visual hello at the beginning and end that says you knew we were there can help engage your audience tremendously.
9. Final Presentation: You chose your song, you shot you’re video footage and now you’re going to put it all together. We’re so excited for you! And there are all kinds of editing programs out there to help you do all kinds of stuff pretty gosh darn easily. So if you want to clip this or edit out that or make that part slow motion or turn that section green, you probably can – but do be careful when it comes to using video effects. While they can be utilized as extra special treats to the eye or to add an element of interest at a time when your video might need that little something extra, overuse has been known to really hurt a video. My rule of thumb is if you and your hooping are getting lost in the translation, then your audience may be getting lost too. Less really can be more – and that applies to the length of your video as well. Remember, the Internet is a short attention span place and the longer your video is the less people are going to click to watch and watch all of it.
10. Uploading: Yay! It’s all put together and ready to upload. That’s awesome! Now I want you to resist any urge you may have to say anything negative about your video whatsoever. You have nothing to apologize for. If you dropped your hoop, big deal. We all do – that’s a sign of progress! We’ve all had our own share of hooping challenges and we generally tend to give people the benefit of the doubt quicker than we give it to ourselves. Try to let your video speak for itself, no excuses, no apologies. Titles like “Watch Me Fail at Chest Hooping” or “Not a Very Good Practice Session” aren’t going to get you much sympathy or viewers. Choose a title that highlights something good about your video. If it’s not something about your hoooping, maybe it’s the location or the soundtrack if you can’t think of anything else. In the information area briefly share some facts – where you filmed it, what music is playing, thank people for watching and let it go.
Still a little confused? Perhaps Richie can help. Here he shares how to add a little polish to your no budget hoop video using some of the ideas described above. And there you have it, ten easy ways to improve your hooping video. The only other question left is where to upload it to. One of our favorite places really is Vimeo, simply because the quality has a tendency to be higher, the audience troll factor is generally rather minimal to none and they also appear to care a little less about audio copyright, as previously mentioned. I hope these guides aid you in engaging your viewers more and in giving you greater self confidence in front of and behind the camera. Happy hooping and happy filming. I can’t wait to see what you come up with!
Philo Hagen is the Co-founder and Managing Editor of Hooping.org. He’s been spinning things up online and off since April 2003. Co-Founder of the Bay Area Hoopers and LA Hoopers hoop groups, Philo has performed internationally and has won Hoopie Awards for Male Hooper of the Year and Video of the Year. He lives in Los Angeles, California, USA.