Product reviews and unboxing have become big business all over YouTube. Here’s how to make your video stand out with amazing product B-roll.
Now that online video has surpassed all other modes of showcasing product, the internet is bursting with advice columns for DIY content creators on how to improve the production values of their videos. We surveyed the digital landscape to save you some click time.
If you haven’t yet graduated to a professional studio facility, you can still capture high-quality visuals if you can make room for a controlled space in your basement or your garage to set up a dedicated shooting area. A folding table, some white mat board mounted in a sweep, or curve, for a seamless backdrop, perhaps a turntable for your product and a basic light kit will get you started shooting professional looking video of your widgets.
You want your product to pop out the frame and dazzle. To do that you’ll want to put it in the best light, as it were. Lighting is the most important element in product shooting. What you don’t want is distracting highlights kicking off the product too harshly. And you want to avoid that amateurish look of multiple, hard shadows cast in all directions.
The best lighting for product illumination is indirect or soft light. Have at least one umbrella in your light kit. Bouncing a light source off the umbrella directed at the product produces a pleasing soft light as well as soft shadows. Soft boxes are a pricier but more effective lighting solution to achieve this. Bouncing light off foam core or white reflector cards mounted out of the camera’s view has a similar softening effect of light and shadow.
For optimal shadow placement, move the main light source around the object and watch where the shadow falls until you’ve got the look you want. Shadow placement gives you a sense of shape of the displayed object. Lighting from the side shows off details and texture. For dramatic shadow placement to create mood, use a single light fixture and place it to one side or about 45 degrees to the rear of the product.
If you want no shadows, raise the lights so that the shadows fall to the table or out of frame. If your background is something other than white, a rim light mounted high behind the object and flagged off to prevent light spilling onto the background will ensure crisp separation of widget from background.
In product video shooting, the basic lighting objectives of visibility, texture, shape, detail and accuracy of colors are particularly important. Most products are either cylindrical or cube shaped. To light these shapes, most of the time you will be using a variation of a three point lighting set-up. Set the white balance on your camera manually for best color results.
Depth of Field
You can control how much of the main attraction you want in focus by setting your aperture or f-stop accordingly. The aperture is the adjustable opening behind the lens that controls how much light it transmits. The smaller the opening — large f-stop number — the sharper the focus.
With a large aperture — small f-stop number — the focus will be critical since the depth of field will be shallow or narrow. This can be a nice look when shooting extreme close-ups of electronic gagetry or jewelry, for example.
To highlight a particular element of a product, manually focus on the featured area with the aperture wide open. The shallow depth of field will render other parts of the object and the background in soft focus.
Another cinematic convention for achieving sharp foregrounds and soft backgrounds is to shoot from a distance. Shooting on a long lens, zooming in and focusing on the product produces a classic selective focus effect.
A smaller aperture produces a look where all planes, foreground, middle and background, are in focus. Heads-up: this huge depth of field, aka the “Citizen Kane” look, needs a lot of light since it requires you to bring the aperture down and restrict the light that makes it to your camera’s sensor.
The opposite will be true for shots with shallower depth of field and larger aperture openings, so you may need to compensate for the extra light in those shots to achieve proper exposure. If your camera has a neutral density filter, switch it on. You can also mount an ND filter on the front of the lens to achieve good exposure at the stop of f/2.8 or lower needed to produce the focus effect you want.
Whether it’s moving the camera or moving the object, motion spices up any shot. Achieving motion for video is not as complicated and expensive as it used to be. Motorized turntables, available for under a hundred dollars at camera stores, allow you to move the product itself to create a variety of looks.
For a super dynamic effect, frame the product on the turntable in a close-up and slowly tilt or pan your camera against the rotation of the product. The result can be stunning as featured elements of the product move subtly in and out of focus as they travel across the frame without you having to touch the focus ring. There is a wide range of affordable aluminum rail and other motion control products on the market that can put the motion in your motion pictures and make your widget stand out from the rest.
Bringing It All Together
Combine these elements and you’ll have all the tools needed to create great-looking B-roll. Experiment with different setups to find the best one for the particular products you want to showcase and instantly up the production value in all of your future videos.
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