How to create quick and easy videos for your blog – my #TBEX Dublin presentation

by Heather Cowper on October 3, 2013

This article about Quick and Easy ways to create video for your blog (without the film school training) is based on the presentation I gave at Travel Blogger’s Conference TBEX in Dublin in October 2013. I’m a self taught video-maker and I’ve learned as I’ve gone along, without any formal training. When I first started making videos to use on my blog at, I naturally aspired to make beautiful, professional looking mini movies, just like the BBC travel documentaries I’d watched over the years.

However, to make a 3 minute version of these professional documentaries is very time consuming if you try and adopt the traditional approach with complex editing, voiceover, captions and music. To make a short video using this approach was taking me 10 hours or more just to edit, on top of the filming time. I came to realise that I was creating a bottle-neck for myself, with a lot of videos waiting to be edited and many stories going untold. This was when I started to experiment with quick ways to create videos using smartphones and apps which, while not quite so professional, could make an engaging video to tell my story in a fraction of the time. This was the philosophy behind my talk – to let you know that you don’t need to be a professional or have the film school training to make some great looking short videos on your blog.

Below are the slides from my presentation for TBEX Dublin 2013 – Travel Bloggers’ Conference

If you can’t see the slides above, view them on Slideshare here

Video – why should you care?

Gives your audience a multi-media experience

If you’ve not tried making videos before, perhaps it’s because writing or photography is your first love and you think that should be enough. However different people seek entertainment and information in different ways; whether it’s being inspired by a well-written story, listening to an audio recording of local street music or the colour and visual excitement of video. The same person may also pick and choose their media depending on their mood and situation. I might watch a short video as bite sized entertainment while waiting for the bus or listen to a podcast to learn something new as I walk to work. Of course you can’t please all your audience all the time, but by providing a variety of media forms including video you will ultimately get more of their attention, more of the time.

More ways for people to find you

With new social media tools sprouting up like mushrooms and more people communicating online, the internet is becoming a noisy and crowded place. The more places your content can pop up in front of your potential audience the better. If you have a presence on YouTube and other video hosting platforms, this will draw some viewers back to your blog and vice versa.

Video will help your search engine results

It’s a fact often quoted that YouTube is the second largest search engine after Google. The majority of video views on YouTube come from internal search within YouTube, so just by uploading all your videos to your YouTube channel you should get a certain amount of traffic. YouTube is also owned by Google, so it’s a safe assumption that uploading your videos to YouTube will ensure your videos appear in the search results.

While I don’t have an inside track on the Google algorithms, there does seem to be a consensus that content such as a blog article that also includes video is likely to be perceived as higher value and may therefore appear higher in search engine rankings. Search engine entries that have a video thumbnail are also likely to draw the eye and get more clicks than text alone. Of course, search engines can’t see inside your video, so you need to title and tag your videos just as you would any other content, so the search engines know what it is about. Check out this article that includes links to some of the research done on the power of video in search and this infographic about the benefits of being on YouTube.

Everyone’s into it these days

I’m from the generation of internet migrants that can remember going to work in an office without computers and mobiles. My kids, however are internet natives who think nothing of capturing a quick video on their smartphone and sharing with their friends, or searching on YouTube for help with a history essay. Mobile is totally changing the video landscape and you need to be part of it to appeal to the audience of tomorrow.

Film school style of video v Quick and Easy Video

Once upon a time it was difficult and expensive to get a movie made. You might train at film school and strive to get your work noticed at a film festival, in fierce competition against other talented film-makers. Only a few years ago, if you wanted to make a short film that was of broadcast quality, you’d need camera equipment that cost thousands of pounds. These days you can shoot the same quality on a high end DSLR camera. When I was at a recent event to launch the Royal Princess Cruise ship, my blogging friend Shannon Lane was filming herself on her Nokia smartphone, to send to her local TV station, who would broadcast her footage in their travel reports.

Now that making short videos is accessible to everyone, you no longer need a whole camera crew, director, presenter and video editor to capture that travel experience. I’m not saying that you don’t need to develop some expertise in these areas, but with smartphone apps and simple video editing available direct on your phone or tablet it’s possible to create something that looks professional without a huge amount of time and effort.

In the Quick and Easy Video world, you can create;

  • Mini videos less than a minute long using apps such as Vine, Instagram Video, Qwiki and Directr
  • Shoot some video clips on your smartphone or tablet, edit them and upload them to YouTube using video editing apps such as iMovie and Filmic Pro
  • Record a video conversation or a demonstration using Google Hangouts On Air, streaming it live on Google+ and your blog and recording it for later distribution on YouTube.
  • Record a demonstration or share your travel tips using screen-share software such as Screenr – check out this article on screencasting from Eduardo Perez

Content v Quality – why you don’t need years of experience to get lots of views

I would always advocate that you make the best quality videos that you possibly can, but I’ve learned that technical quality does not always lead to more views or a bigger audience. I tell you this so that you don’t allow lack of technical skill as a barrier to telling your story through video. The number of views that your video gets is determined much more by factors such as;

  • Is the video newsworthy? As an example my video tour of the Royal Princess Cruise Ship reached 11,000 views due to the interest around the launch of a new cruise ship, not to mention that The Duchess of Cambridge performed the naming ceremony just before she gave birth to the heir to the throne.
  • Is the topic or destination a popular one that a lot of people are searching for? Video podcaster,  Gary Bembridge tells me that his videos about Las Vegas always do well as it is such a popular holiday destination.
  • Does the video feature pretty girls in bikinis? Only half joking here, if you have any bikini shots make sure you use them for your thumbnail clip.
  • Does the video have a controversial element that prompts lots of comments and sharing? Unexpectedly, my video of food and drink in Gothenberg got plenty of comments from Swedes who felt it was a slight on their heritage that I was sipping the Snaps rather than knocking it back in one go.
  • Does the video show your personality in a way that the audience can engage and identify with? This is why there are YouTube channels with a huge following that are just one person in their bedroom talking to the camera.

If you can create an amateur video that captures some or all of the factors above, you will probably get views regardless of the technical quality of the video.

You don’t need lots of expensive gear to make great videos

The video gear that you need when you’re first starting out is whatever you already have or can borrow. When I started out making videos, I borrowed a home video camera that my son had been given for his birthday that recorded the videos on mini cassettes – I think it cost around £200. As I got more into the video making I decided to upgrade and treated myself to a Panasonic HD video camera that was a lot more expensive and shoots great quality video. However, in the last couple of years the quality of video that can be shot on even an inexpensive point and shoot camera has really improved and now smartphones are taking over in video as they have in photography.

If you have a smartphone, I would start shooting some video with this and see what the results are like. Next time you’re due for a mobile upgrade consider going for a smartphone that shoots top quality video. I use an iPhone 5 which not only shoots great quality HD video but has plenty of apps available to help you edit it. If you have an inexpensive compact camera that’s fairly new, chances are that it will also shoot passable video. I would just start shooting video with what you’ve got and see where it takes you.

Golden Rules for professional looking videos

Just because we’re taking the quick and easy approach doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try to use some tips from the pros to get the best result – here are my golden rules;

Ban the wobbles

One of the easiest ways to make your videos look more professional is to keep the camera steady and avoid those shaky shots. A tripod is ideal, but I hardly ever use one these days. If you’re constantly on the move there really isn’t time to get it set up and it makes it more difficult to get those informal shots of people when no-one’s looking, or shoot things secretly in museums when you’re not supposed to. Instead I plant my feet firmly apart, steady myself and hold my breath for the length of the shot, which normally gives an acceptable result. Railings, pillars, tables and other firm objects are also useful to lean against to steady yourself, especially in low light. You might like to invest in a small, bendable tripod to set up quickly or wrap around things for a steady shot.

Ration the zoom, pan and effects

Zooms (changing the shot from long to close-up) and Pans (moving the camera from side to side) are also best used in moderation as they can be distracting and make the viewer feel sea-sick. Better to keep the camera still and seek movement within the frame; people going about their business, flowers swaying in the breeze, a walker moving across the landscape.

Vary the shots (close-up, med-shot, long-shot)

You need a variety of different shots to tell the story, so for each scene try to take a range of long shots (to set the scene), medium shots (to show what’s happening), and close ups (for emotion and detail).

Put yourself in the picture

Many people seem shy of appearing in front of camera, but if you do it really helps to engage to the audience. This is your video and should be expressing your point of view, so why not let the audience hear what you have to say. Even if you don’t want to talk to camera, you could get a friend to film your reactions to the things you are seeing; raise an eyebrow, drool over a gelato, blow a kiss, screw up your face in digust. Another way to get this kind of engagement is to put someone else who has something interesting to say in front of the camera; you don’t always have to hog the limelight. Filming yourself can be a bit time consuming, not to mention tricky if you are travelling solo, so I tend to film just one or two clips of me introducing the scene and then fill in with shots of what’s going on around me. A camera extender like the Xshot is useful if you need to film yourself talking to camera, as I did in some of my Tour de Mont Blanc diary videos.

Film with your ears as well as your eyes

What you hear in your video is just as important as what you see, so be alert to the noise around you when filming. If you’re standing near a road, wait for the lorry to pass. If you’re in a museum wait until the chattering tour group has gone. If you’re outside, wait for the wind to drop. You can reduce the noise levels when you edit but better to avoid unwanted noise in the first place. Another trick is to reduce all the audio on your clips and then overlay music so you won’t notice any differences in the noise levels.

Keep it short & snappy

In the video age attention spans are short. You probably have a few seconds to grab the viewer’s attention and your video will have to be pretty good if it gets watched to the very end. Personally I think that the optimum length for a video for internet consumption is 1-3 minutes. Any more and it had better be very good indeed. Keep the length of shots short and snappy too, around 1-2 seconds long works well. This way you can keep a good pace in the video and keep the viewer’s attention.

Easy video formats to try

If all the video jargon like pan and zoom, storyboarding and cutaways makes you feel nervous, then start with some easy formats – here are some that I often use;


You’re at the top of a mountain with a stunning view, you’re in an open marketplace with lots of colour and action, you’re on a hill overlooking the city at dusk as the lights start to flicker. Now get out your video camera and slowly and steadily film the panorama, swepping from one side to the other, or turning in a circle for 360 degree views. If you like you can top and tail the panorama with a couple of still shots and some titles or captions. Here’s an example of a Panorama of Tete Nord de Fours on the Tour de Mont Blanc.

Hotel review

If you’ve been given a complimentary stay in return for coverage, a video of the hotel will gain you a lot of extra credibility and it’s quite easy if you use this format. First walk around the hotel room filming it and talking about it behind the camera, pointing out any great features. Next film a few short clips around the hotel, or even use still photos if it’s easier. Edit together your video with around 5-10 short shots of the hotel at the beginning, next your hotel room footage, then another 5-10 short shots around the hotel. Add a few captions and ideally some music that suits the mood and style of the hotel. This is an ideal format to put together quickly on your smartphone, using a simple editing app like iMovie or Directr. Here’s an example of a video of The Bristol Hotel that I filmed on my iPhone.

Music or dance

You’re at a street festival where local musicians are playing or folk groups are dancing. Just record a clip that’s a minute or two long of the dancers or musicians. Even better, if they are doing several different dances or songs, record a minute or two of each then take the best 30 seconds of each and edit together with a dissolve or fade transition. Add a caption at the beginning and end. Here’s an example of some dancing that I filmed at the Hungarian Folk Festival in Budapest

A product demo or travel tips

You have a great travel product that you want to tell people about or some travel tips to share. So just stand in front of the camera (you can set it up with a tripod or get a friend to hold it) and talk to camera. Make sure you rehearse a few times so you feel confident about what you’re going to say, although it doesn’t matter too much if it’s not word perfect. This works best if you have  few props to hold up and show the viewer. Top and tail your demo with a still photo and some captions. Here’s an example of me demonstrating some walking poles on the Tour de Mont Blanc;

Presenter + scenes

Now we’re getting a little more advanced, but if you can be the presenter in your own movie, pointing out the things you find interesting, then you’ll get much more audience engagement. Filming yourself is a lot more time consuming so I’d suggest that you just film a couple of clips of yourself talking, and then edit them together a series of clips of the places around you. For instance, you can stand in front of a market and say; “I’m in the central market of Budapest which is one of my favourite places to grab lunch that won’t cost you the earth.” Then edit together a series of varied shots of the food on sale and the people who are buying and eating it, with captions to explain what is being shown. Here’s an example of a video about things to see in Budapest;

Where to find royalty free music that’s free

While adding the right music to your video will really enhance it, you need to be aware of some Copyright considerations or you could end up in trouble. Don’t just use music by your favourite band or pop star which will almost certainly not be licenced for this kind of use. You need to use Royalty Free Music – that means music that has a licence to allow you to use it in vertain circumstances (for instance for non-commercial use), without paying additional Royalties. Royalty Free is not the same as free as in no cost, as you may need to pay for the licence to use Royalty Free Music. Another consideration is that even if you use Royalty Free Music which is free for non-commercial use, if you are going to put any advertising on your Youtube videos, this may count as commercial use and attract a hefty licence fee. In an ideal world you want to find music for your videos that is both Royalty Free and won’t cost you anything, even if you are using it with advertising on your YouTube videos.

If you don’t obey the rules, especially with your videos on Youtube, you may find that your videos get taken down, or that YoTube puts advertising on your videos and keeps the proceeds.

If you are making a lot of short videos using your smartphone, you need to do a bit of work before you start, in finding some music that you like from sources that are Royalty Free and free to use. Some examples of my current favourite music sources are shown below and you can find other lists on the links below;

Youtube video – The Ultimate guide to Royalty Free Music for Youtube from Indy Mogul

List of Royalty Free Music on the Travel Video Facebook Group (not sure if this is visible if you are not already a member of this group) (this source is not cleared for use with Youtube advertising) (search for creative commons music only)

Cool video apps for Travel Bloggers

This section was originally published as my Speaker guest post for the TBEX Blog.

With the growth of powerful mobile phones that shoot great-quality video, the video action these days seems to be all on the smartphone. Your smartphone is always with you, to capture the fun things you see and do on your travels, but who wants to spend endless hours uploading and editing? What you need are smartphone apps that make fun mini movies you’ll want to share and create professional looking videos that no-one will know that you only spent 30 minutes to make. Here are my recommendations for 5 video smartphone apps that will help you create short videos to share on your blog and social media channels. Apologies if the selection is a little iPhone-centric, but most apps seem to appear for iPhone first, so if you’re serious about making videos with apps, this is the smartphone of choice.

1. iMovie ($4.99)

What it does

This was the first video app that I ever tried and I still use it all the time. I’m sure that there’s a similar basic video editing app available for other brands of smartphone. This app is a cut-down version of the iMovie video editing tool that comes as standard on Apple computers. You can string together video clips that you’ve recorded on your iPhone, either pre-recorded clips or clips that you record in the moment. Then edit the clips to the right length, add captions or titles and add music that you already have stored on your phone in iTunes. You can also record audio to add to the video although I’ve not used this feature as I find it’s a bit difficult to get the timing right. To give your video that creative look, there are 12 Trailer themes and 8 Project themes which are fun to play around with, although I normally use the simplest theme and let the video speak for itself. Another similar video editing app for iPhone that was recommended to me by Greg Brand is Filmic Pro $4.99

Available for: iOS

Share to: YouTube, Facebook, Vimeo

Add your location: Yes | Embed: Yes from YouTube or Vimeo | Download: Yes, to your Camera Roll and from there to wherever you want | Add Music: Yes, from your iTunes library

If you can’t see the video below, view it on YouTube here

2. Vine (free)

What it does

Owned by Twitter, Vine allows you to record 6 seconds of video by pressing the screen of your phone. When you stop pressing, the recording also stops, allowing you to record a series of sequential clips to tell a story or capture a moment. The video loops in a never-ending stream which can be hypnotic or irritating in turn. I like this app for capturing meals, hotel rooms, markets, street scenes. Because you are recording “in the moment” you need to concentrate on getting the shots that tell the story (but only for 6 seconds).

Available for: iOS, Windows Phone 8, Windows 8, Android

Share to: Vine, Twitter, Facebook

Add your location: Yes | Embed: Yes | Download: No| Add Music: No

If you can’t see the Vine below, view the original here

Recorded by Josh Garcia when he was in Bristol – this is a bit of a Bristolian in-joke

3. Instagram Video (free)

What it does

The video feature within this popular photo-sharing app is similar to Vine in that it creates a video of of up to 15 seconds which is recorded when you press the phone screen. Unlike Vine the video doesn’t loop and there’s a handy feature where you can delete the most recent clip if you don’t like it. The option to choose a clip from your phone’s memory has also recently been added. Once you have recorded or selected your clips you can add filters and choose a cover frame. As I use instagram a lot for photo-shares, I’m wavering between consolidating all my activities on Instagram, or using Vine for the videos as there seems to be more engagement for the videos there, whereas people seem to be more into the photos on Instagram. Like Vine, this is good for making mini movies about food, hotels, street scenes and for capturing a moment or idea on video.

Available for:  iOS,  Android 4.0

Share to: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Foursquare, Email

Add your location: Yes| Embed: Yes | Download: No | Add Music: No

If you can’t see the Instagram Video below, view the original here

4. Qwiki (free)

What it does

Recently acquired by Yahoo, this app takes the photos and video clips on your phone and turns them into an impressive looking video/slide show up to a minute long, with fancy transitions. You can either allow the app to select the clips to use (normally all from one day) and then edit them, or alternatively select the 25 photos or video clips you want to use and then edit the transitions and add captions for each group of clips/photos or “moments”.  This is a good app to make your still photos into a video or make a little video go a long way. I often use it to summarise a day or weekend of activities, grouping the photos and ‘moments” to tell the story. You need to make sure you’ve already got a few suitable tracks in your iTunes as this app doesn’t look so good without a catchy tune. Another new app that does a similar job is Voyzee

Available for: iOS

Share to: Facebook, Twitter, e-mail, SMS

Add your location: Yes | Embed: Yes | Download: No | Add Music: Yes, from your iTunes library

A week in Emilio Romagna by Keith Jenkins, Velvet Escape. If you can’t see the Qwiki below, view the original here

5. Directr (free)

What it does

This app is a bit like iMovie in that it allows you to string short video clips together, either those that are already on your camera roll or those that you record in the moment. Then you can trim the clips to the right length, add music from the app’s selection or from music that you have on your phone, add captions to each of the clips if you like. The point of difference is the storyboards available that give you an easy formula to make your mini Movie. There are plenty of different storyboards, including 13 in the travel theme, such as “This is where I’m staying”, “My Meal out” and “Road Trip”. The storyboards will give you a shot by shot guide for what to shoot in order to tell your story. The app does still seem to have some glitches and I lost a few along the way that didn’t upload correctly, however I think the Storyboard concept will be great for those who don’t have much of an idea where to start in shooting their mini movie.

Available for: iOS

Share to: Facebook, Twitter, e-mail, SMS

Add your location: No | Embed: Yes | Download: Yes | Add Music: Yes, from the app’s selection or your iTunes library

If you can’t see the Villa La Angostura Directr movie from 5diegoasturi below – view the original here

Share your videos

If you’ve gone to all the trouble of making a video, you’ll want to be sure to share it around the internet, to make sure the maximum number of people view it. You’ll also want your videos to lead viewers back to your blog to find all the other good stuff you have there. Here are some places that you can share your videos around;

On your blog – embed the video in a relevant article, so that the words and photos of the article are in harmony with the video and helping the search engines understand what the video is about.

Youtube – as the biggest video sharing site, not to mention a powerful search engine, having a YouTube channel as a home for your videos is a must, if you want them to be seen by the maximum eyeballs. Be sure to tag and title them correctly to help people find your video when they are searching for something. I also share my videos on other hosting sites, but I find that the majority of my video views come from YouTube.

Other video hosting sites such as Tripfilms, Vimeo,Viddler – I also upload my videos to these sites and more, and although they don’t get as many views as Youtube, I figure it’s worth getting your videos on the maximum number of sites, for the 10 minutes it takes to upload them. Some of these, such as Tripfilms also seem to syndicate to other video sharing sites, so you never know which video site’s version of your video will come up highest in the search engines.

Via your social media channels – If you’ve embedded the video in a blog article, of course you’ll be sharing this on your Facebook, Twitter and Google+ page, but it’s also worth also sharing the video separately. For instance you can upload the video file directly to Facebook or Google+ and share it directly from there, or share the link to the video on YouTube or another video hosting site. I tend to spread the social shares out, by scheduling different types of social shares over a few weeks, using a tool like Hootsuite, or the Facebook scheduling option. Don’t overlook your other social media sites, such as Stumble or Pinterest for sharing the video too. If you are making mini videos using an app like Vine, Instagram or Qwiki of course you can share on Facebook and Twitter direct from the app.

Other blogs – there are some blogs that also allow you to share your videos such as Travel with a Mate and TravelDudes  where you can register and then share your videos. If you know of other blogs that do this, please let me know in the comments and I’ll add them to this list.

Google Hangouts on Air – these are another kind of video that you can create by capturing your hangout on a live video recording that gets streamed on Google+ and Youtube, and then you can share the YouTube video link in all the ways mentioned above.

Leverage the value your videos

Finally I’d like to give you a few tips on how to maximise the value of your videos and give them the maximum chance of success;

Brand your videos & video channels – To be sure that the viewer knows they are watching a video made by you, you should mention your name and that of your blog when you speak to camera, especially at the beginning and end of the video. You can add the name of your blog as a caption at the beginning or end of the video and if you’re feeling super professional, create a small overlay that sits in the corner of the video or a professionally designed entry and exit clip to use on all your videos.

Title your videos carefully – Think of your video title as a headline and there’s a real art to writing. Ideally the title needs to be short and snappy, tell the viewer instantly what the video’s about, contain some keywords such as the name of the city, country or activity, but most of all catch the interest of the viewer so they are curious enough to press play. Of course it’s tough to do all of these things in a few words, but just bear in mind that titles can really make a difference.

Tag your videos – Like any other media or blog post, you can give people the best chance of finding your video if you add relevant tags, just as you would do for your blog posts. Search engines can’t see inside your video to find out what it’s about, so they rely on the tags, descriptions and titles to decide whether your video is relevant for a search. At a minimum, add tags such as the city, country, activity, place and anything else that’s relevant. If you’re feeling super keen, search on YouTube for a video on a similar topic that has plenty of views and see what tags thay are using.

Locate your videos – Take that extra minute to add a geographic location to your video in whichever video hosting site you use, so that the viewer can find you via a map or locations search. Often smartphone apps use Foursquare to provide locations and then all your posts can also be shown on a map.

Link to your videos – In the description of your video on YouTube or other hosting sites you should put the link back to your website or the relevant blog post at the beginning of the description. Be sure to begin the link with the full http:// code so that the link then becomes clickable. In my blog posts containing a video, I will also link back to the video in YouTube as this creates a network of links between your relevant videos to help people find them and I also read that YouTube gives some priority in search to videos that are linked to.

 Next Steps

If you’re now convinced that you’d like to try to create some simple videos, I hope you’ll try out some of the apps or simple video formats that I’ve suggested. As a first step why not;

– Download one of the suggested apps to your smartphone or tablet and create a mini video to include in your next blog post

– Try out one of the simple video formats, such as a hotel room review or a panorama, using whatever camera or basic editing software you already have, then upload to YouTube and embed on a relevant blog post.

Some of those attending TBEX took up my #TBEXVideo Challenge and you can see their efforts here – well done!

@CarolinHinz on Instagram – Some Ike+Tina Turner at #TBEX
With Husband in Tow on Vine – Still haven’t found what I’m looking for 
What Boundaries on Vine – Dancing for our dinner
What Boundaries on Instagram – Learning an Irish Jig

This article was first delivered as a presentation at TBEX in Dublin on Quick and easy ways to get video onto your blog

This article is originally published at My Blogging Journey. You’ll also find lots of great travel stories, videos and podcasts at our travel blog at Heather on her travels

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