Perhaps not the funniest sitcom ever, I have a soft spot for Hardware, the Martin Freeman/Ken Morley/Peter Serafinowicz ITV comedy from Simon Nye. But that is nothing to do with today’s blog.
Maybe some other time.
I’ve been checking through the video reviews I’ve produced for MakeUseOf over the past few years. Since 2015 I’ve filmed and voiced at least 60, covering everything smartphones and tablets to robotics kits and connected musical instruments.
The process behind these is relative straightforward. I use the device, occasionally calling in a favour from a child or niece to help out if it’s a school age produce (I’ve had a few STEM things to review). Some of this usage is filmed, occasional to-camera observations made. Then there are the static, “arty” shots. These might be via my camera mounted on a small roller-skate sized dolly, or with the product on a turntable. I also favour the “Gadget Show” style shot of the product in focus while I’m stood holding it, blurry and irrelevant.
Over the years I’ve reviewed a few things that need installation (dashcams and security cams) or construction (Lego, robots, computer cases) so there is always an opportunity to record footage of the process for some speeded up or time-lapse/hyperlapse footage in the finished video.
Finally, after occasional location shoots of the item in a comparatively unusual or incongruous location (e.g. robot vaccuum cleaners on gravel), it’s time for the “presentation” in which I speak directly to the camera. Two key things to note here: I always shower and brush my teeth and ensure I’m wearing something suitable for these; and I always record at least two takes out of focus.
Audio is usually recorded with a lav mic connected to my Sony Xperia phone. I don’t use that phone for much these days, but you can see it in the clip above (written review here).
Occasionally I’ve been able to get away with just voice recordings where there is sufficient “b roll” material, but this is increasingly unusual.
Filmed and Voiced by Me, Edited By…
Sadly I don’t have the time for editing right now, so the videos are always edited by one of my MakeUseOf colleagues. Over the years the quality of the finished product has increased considerably, thanks in part to better filming techniques by me.
I’m particularly proud of things like mounting an action cam on a robovac, dangling a smart watch from the ceiling to create a “floating” look, being inspired by Paul Whitehouse’s “Brilliant” character (in the review above) from The Fast Show, and accidentally destroying the key component of a robotics kit, and making it a key aspect of the video.
You can find a playlist of my tech video reviews on YouTube.
What About the Words?
Scripts don’t write themselves. These video reviews are always accompanied by a written version (indeed, occasionally I prefer to simply write the review without a video) and the script is usually based on this.
Not always, however. I recently reviewed a security doorbell camera, with the review and script written at least a week apart. The result was a very different take on the same product, with ultimately the same conclusion, but taking a different path. I think in future a wholly separate video commentary is preferable.
Video reviews are hard work, it has to be said. Even with a seemingly easy product, there are things that need checking, technical specifications to dig out, and then there is the whole side of checking the lighting and white balance, and getting that all important framing and focus. But I really enjoy this aspect of my work.
Well, that’s enough from me for today. I have a laptop to review and I’m completely undecided whether to make it a video or a written review…