So I’ve been thinking about this idea for a while and it’s still one which is percolating for me, but I thought I’d share it here because I love the concept. The idea is to create a web TV show which highlights your website and which can then drive traffic for you. In essence, my thought was to do my own version of the Invested Life, which is a web series put out by MSN Money to encourage people to visit that site. Here’s how it works:
The Invested Life
Let me start by briefly explaining how the Invested Life works and then I’ll cover how you could do this in a simpler way. First, the Invested Life is a professionally produced web series from MSN Money. It includes a number of episodes where you have actors playing out various roles which teach people about smart investing and money advice.
The series has been a hit for MSN Money and they have been continuing the series, adding new episodes periodically.
It Doesn’t Have to Be Expensive
Now I’m not suggesting that the model you follow needs to be the model of the Invested Life. That series is cheap by the standards of Microsoft to produce, but ungodly expensive by the standards of a small time business owner (I think they spend around $50,000-$100,000 per episode). Obviously, most of us don’t have that kind of a budget to spend. However, there are ways to create web video series which won’t cost an arm a leg. That’s what I want to suggest here.
Start With an Idea
The idea I came up with was to do “news reports” about issues in personal finance (since I own a personal finance blog in addition to writing for Quantum SEO Labs). Basically, it would involve me standing in front of a green screen (I’ll explain what that is shortly) and explaining a concept in personal finance.
I’d splice in stock footage from various locations around the world to create a professional image for the series and basically it would be the equivalent of watching the TV news with a report on a subject in personal finance.
Obviously, you need to come up with something interesting which would fit within your own niche to allow your customers to enjoy your own web series. This does require being somewhat creative and writing a script, so if you’re not comfortable with that, consider hiring a professional to do the job for you.
You can usually find someone on a place like Elance for a few dollars per script, depending on how long of a script you are looking for (Personal plug: I’m also occasionally available for hire, though I tend to be fairly booked up and am not the cheapest writer around).
Figure Out Who Stars
The next issue is who will be reading for your script. Note that it’s generally much easier to do a one person series than to do a scripted show like the Invested Life. That’s because when you have two people, they need to be able to act and play off of each other in a show.
If the two people you have acting don’t know what they’re doing, your web series could easily be a huge flop, so it’s better to simply stick with the news style show (again, in my opinion).
If You Stiffen In Front of the Camera
Now, if you tend to stiffen up on camera, then there are two ways to get around this problem. The first is to hire someone else to do the job for you (you can often find someone on sites like Fiverr who will be happy to do these kinds of jobs).The second option is to practice.
I remember when I was learning public speaking many years ago that I read somewhere that if you really need practice, just take your speech, stand on a soap box on a public street and start reading your speech out loud. Most people will ignore you completely, but it’s a great way to relieve the stress of stage fright.
Personally, I got over it by taking a class in public speaking and forcing myself to volunteer every chance I got to speak. These days, I can easily stand in front of a crowded auditorium and give a speech, though I still get a bit of the butterflies when I have to do so. It used to be however that I literally couldn’t speak (I was valedictorian in my high school and basically squeaked out that I wanted to thank the principal for everything he’d done for us and then got off the stage in under 5 seconds).
What is a Green Screen?
Okay, let’s get back to making our web series. I mentioned earlier that my idea involved me standing in front of a green screen. In essence, a green screen is a screen which is colored green.
If you’ve ever watched the weatherman on the TV news, then you’ve seen a green screen in action. Basically, they stand in front of a screen or wall painted green (or blue) and they point to things which aren’t actually there. The graphics you see are actually computer generated and entered in at the same time the person is speaking.
Green screens are also commonly used in movies, especially science fiction movies, since they need to show a set which may not actually exist.
The reason that they are green (or blue – in which case it’s a blue screen) is that those colors do not appear in natural human pigment so that you show up cleanly and the computer can cut away the green (theoretically – I saw a fan produced Star Trek show which had a horrible green screen job where you could see the green outline around everyone who was speaking).
How Does a Green Screen Work?
Basically, what you would do for a green screen is to set up a sheet of green or blue material for you stand in front of. Then, you would use software such as Adobe Premier to remove the green screen and to impose a different background (a news room for example).
Note that you can buy professional green screens for hundreds of dollars, however a simple piece of fabric from a fabric store which is kept smooth and pinned to the wall will do the job for a fraction of the price.
Or Do Without a Green Screen
If you prefer not to go to all that trouble, you could also construct a physical set which is reasonably simple. Basically, you’ll need a blank bit of wall and a piece of clear plastic which has your website logo on it to hang behind you. You could also craft a “news desk” from some plywood and fabric, or you could stand, as needed. I did both of those things years ago when I worked on a public access TV show in New York City.
Some people also simply set up a desk to stand in front of and speak. The choice is really yours as to how you want to handle it and how professional you want your web series to look.
Get a Camera and Tripod
This should be obvious – the video capture function on your still camera or smart phone is likely not a good choice for this. You can purchase an inexpensive video camera for around $100-$150 which will record in HD and does a decent job. You should also mount it on a tripod (even if you have someone to run the camera, the tripod will give you a more professional look since it means there is no camera shake which happens when you handhold a camera).
Finally, let’s talk lighting. If you want to do this in a completely professional way, you could invest in studio lighting. However it’s not really necessary for our purposes. You can also create your web TV series either outdoors where you have good sunlight and quiet, or indoors where you have very good regular lighting (put in at least a 200W bulb and ideally have a few lamps on either side as well to make sure you are well lit when recording).
Once you’ve recorded your raw material, use a program such as Adobe Premier to edit the result. For our purposes, you may be able to get away with Premier Elements, which is much cheaper and which includes many of the features that premier includes.
Basically, you’ll want to take your recording and splice in stock footage of various other things (for example, if you were doing a report on retail stores and where the cheapest prices can be had on groceries, you might splice in some footage of people shopping with you speaking over the video).
Finally, a word on stock footage. I found several websites which offer to sell you all the stock footage you need for reasonable prices. The one that seems to have the best selection however is VideoBlocks. They also include a subscription plan which means that you don’t have to pay a per download fee.
Another which seems to have a good selection, though they’re more expensive is Shutterstock. I have seen a few places offering free material for download, though they don’t have the same selection. Just make sure that when you do sign up with any of these places that you only choose “royalty free” footage. Otherwise, you would be required to pay a fee every time someone watches your video rather than simply when you download.
Is this for everyone? Probably not. I admit I haven’t had the time to do it myself, but it is something I plan to do in the near future and I do believe that a web TV series can potentially be a great way to attract new people to your website.