How to Shoot Professional Quality Videos with a Smartphone

When dealerships first start their video marketing programs, one of the most common questions I am asked is, “Will I have to buy an expensive camera?” The answer is no. Just about everyone these days has a smartphone that can shoot HD video. When used properly, the quality of video produced can be exceptional. All it takes is practice.

Most dealers start with inventory walkaround videos and these are probably the trickiest videos to shoot, so that’s what we’ll focus on here.

First, to ensure a good high-resolution (and non-pixelated) video, adjust your camera setting to record video at 1920 x 1080 and 30 frames per second (fps), unless you plan to extract your still images for the inventory from the video.  In that case you may want to utilize 60 frames per second (fps).

Next, invest in a stabilizer. Most smartphones have a pretty good stabilizer built into them today, but they will only make a good video better. This is the merchandising layer for your inventory that most shoppers are going to view, so invest in the tools that you need to provide the best experience for your shoppers that you can. Don’t fool yourself into believing you can walk around the vehicle while holding the smartphone steady in your hand. The result will be a bouncy video that will make your viewers seasick and result in low video completion rates.

A hand-held stabilizer or tripod is better than nothing, but if you want to produce the best quality video invest in a 3-axis gimbal for a couple hundred bucks. It is worth every penny! For top of the line stabilization a 4-axis gimbal is even better, but may run you a couple thousand.

Currently we recommend using a set-up that includes your smartphone, and the DJI OSMO camera/gimbal combo. This is a really cool camera that takes amazing quality video and connects wirelessly with your smartphone, so you can use your smartphone to view what the camera is recording.

You can find a DJI OSMO starter kit for around $500 and depending on how you want to accessorize it, you may spend $700 to $800. This is a small investment that will make your inventory shine!  GoPro also offers some great camera/stabilizer combinations that cost less and produce very good quality videos as well.

Once you have a stabilizer, the next thing you’ll want to address is lighting. Smartphones have small lenses so adequate lighting is critical. This shouldn’t be a problem if you’re shooting outdoors, but always position the vehicle so you will not be pointing the camera into direct light, such as the sun.

When you first begin shooting walkarounds, you may want to allow extra time to shoot the entire video two or three times. With each ‘take,’ experiment with different ISO settings, which measure your camera sensor’s sensitivity to light. On a sunny day your ISO settings will be lower and on cloudy days your ISO settings will be higher. If you do shoot on a sunny day, avoid shooting midday because that’s when the sun casts the harshest shadows. Instead, schedule shoots for early morning or late afternoon.

For vehicle walkarounds, you want to feature shots panning the side of the vehicle, as well as the front and back so the viewer has a good sense of what the vehicle looks like from all angles. Open the doors and shoot the interior, both front and back.

Then focus on shooting the features that you will use to sell the car, such as the Infotainment system, new tires, safety features, etc. The total length of your walkaround videos can range from one to four minutes. Don’t believe experts who tell you that all videos have to be one minute or less. Though this is probably true for a bad or dull video, if the presentation is informative and entertaining, two, three or even four minutes is okay. There are plenty of dealerships that get 80 to 90 percent completion rates with videos that long, and plenty of dealerships that only get a 50 to 60 percent completion rate with their bouncy and dull one- minute videos.

If you are worried about the audio track for your videos, you can have your photographer shoot your videos and have a data driven audio track added to the video automatically.  If you are adding your own audio while shooting the videos, or if you decide to shoot your walkaround videos featuring a salesperson or spokesperson giving a live presentation, invest in a good noise-cancelling microphone.

Either way you can always go back and replace the audio layer of the video if you want or need to without having to re-shoot the video.  You can even personalize the audio layer of the videos for specific leads (personalized walkarounds) without having to shoot another video, saving you a LOT of time while producing an identical personalized walkaround video to one that was shot from scratch.

Finally, expect that the first few videos you create will probably suck. Don’t be discouraged! Practice makes perfect. Keep doing it and eventually things will click. Pretty soon you will find your own unique style and every walkaround video will become a mini-masterpiece.

What tips do you have for shooting professional quality video with your smartphone?

[VIDEO] Google’s 5 Auto Shopping Moments – Part 2: Is It Right For Me

In this series of video blogs, Flick Fusion COO Tim James shares Google’s 5 auto shopping moments that every dealership should know and how to take advantage of those moments to lead customers to your dealership.

[Video] Google’s 5 Auto Shopping Moments – Part 1: Which Car Is Best

In this series of video blogs, Flick Fusion COO Tim James shares Google’s 5 auto shopping moments that every dealership should know and how to take advantage of those moments to lead customers to your dealership.

It’s Not What You Say, It’s How You Say It

Those of you with spouses have probably heard this at least once: “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it!” Whether at home or at work, miscommunication can cause plenty of problems.

Have you ever misinterpreted the tone of an email that a colleague wrote to you? Perhaps you thought a tersely written email meant that person was angry, but in fact, they were just rushed. Or someone joked about something in an email, but you took offense because you thought they were serious?

Miscommunication is so common that it’s one of the main reasons why some dealerships require BDC staff and salespeople to use templates for customer communications. And it’s why some CEOs are issuing video recommendations to employees, instead of email memos.

Videos allow people to see how you’re saying something, leaving little room for error in the interpretation of what you’re saying. In fact, videos are so effective at expressing personality and tone that it’s become trendy for job seekers to send video resumes to prospective employers.

Let’s face it: a public perception still exists that in general, car dealers are not humble, caring or honest. One bad experience with an overeager or aggressive salesperson is all it takes to forever sour the car-buying experience for a consumer.

As a dealer, how do you change this perception? You could try creating marketing slogans and post them on your website, in ads and in emails, but words by themselves don’t have much impact. Online consumers are very adept at scanning information to find out what’s important to them; which isn’t necessarily what the dealership thinks is important. We all have the ability to ignore or visually ‘tune out’ messages right before our eyes.

When a consumer watches a video, however, it’s not as easy to tune out the message. Videos offer a multimedia experience with live action, sounds and sights, so the entire message is absorbed. Retention rises too. Video viewers retain 80% of what they hear and see in videos, versus just 10% of what they hear and 20% of what they see.

This is partly due to the fact that so much of our communication is non-verbal. Think about your own experiences. Have you ever had a customer service experience and were put off by the customer service rep, even though they were saying all the right things? Perhaps you believed the person wasn’t truly sincere. Or perhaps their tone started getting defensive, leaving you with the impression that they didn’t care about your problem.

When we communicate, we pick up multiple cues from facial expressions, gestures and tone. This happens largely on a sub-conscious level, but the end result–the emotion we feel–is very conscious.

If you’re looking for ways to improve customer perception and communications at your dealership, try creating the following videos.

  • A value proposition video that features a dealer or other company spokesperson showing, not telling, what your dealership has to offer
  • Vehicle walk around videos that generate emotion and excitement about your inventory
  • Customer testimonial videos that feature real customers saying nice things about your staff; these do a lot to alleviate car shoppers’ fears about a bad experience
  • Lead follow up videos from salespeople that engage car shoppers; if the salesperson comes across as likeable, these greatly increase the probability of response
  • Service videos that feature service staff help to build trust and the perception of honesty

Of course, you have to make sure that your videos are conveying not just the right message, but the right tone. When you first start to create videos, ask as many people as you can for their objective and true opinions. Don’t get emotionally attached to the videos you’ve created, and don’t get defensive if the feedback from others isn’t what you want to hear. The last thing you want to do it spend time and money creating videos that turn prospective customers off.

Video communication is powerful, so use it wisely. More than two million years of evolution has equipped most humans with the ability to accurately sense insincerity, arrogance and plain old hogwash. So say what you mean, and if you don’t truly mean it, don’t say it.

Five Critical Micro-Moments for a Successful Video Marketing Strategy

In a recent study titled “Winning the Moments Before Your Dealership,” Google outlined five critical moments buyers encounter on their online journey to your dealership. For any marketing strategy, ensuring that you are in front of potential customers is imperative to maximizing its effectiveness. The same goes for video marketing. In video marketing you have to ensure that you don’t fall into the trap of simply creating videos that are ineffective, which nobody will ever watch, or which are irrelevant to what you do. Knowing the type of video, along with the correct message that will attract customers and continue to guide them along the path which ends at your dealership, is what matters and will bring sales.

Google’s five critical micro-moments are decision-based and centered on where that buyer is in the car buying funnel.

They are:

  1. Which car is best?
  2. Is it right for me?
  3. Can I afford it?
  4. Where should I buy it?
  5. Am I getting a deal?

Understanding these micro-moments and applying them to broadcast video content so it engages customers, is something every dealership should do — not just for your video marketing, but for every digital marketing channel you participate in.

If you can tailor video to those moments you’re much more likely to guide customers down the “yellow brick road” that ends at your dealership, avoiding any encounters with the Wicked Witch (your competition), which could end badly for you (meaning your customer ends up at your competition).

For those of you that haven’t yet taken the plunge into video marketing, knowing HOW and WHAT TYPE of video content to produce, along with WHERE to put it, and WHY it’s important, will get you dealership off to a great start.

Of course, you won’t know what’s working and what’s not without the data to show you. We’re in an era of data-driven marketing and now have the information to make decisions based on real-time actions — to then take that data and entice and convince customers that, in each micro-moment, your dealership is the one they should choose.

And believe me, folks… it works.

Consumers today are far more likely to watch a video than they are to read or look at the 40 or more pictures a dealership has on its VDPs, whether that’s a vehicle walk-around, dealership introduction, or a personal branding video message. By simply HAVING video, you are ahead of the game. Through learning and embracing these micro-moments, along with producing relevant videos that are part of a larger video strategy designed to capitalize on these decision-making moments, you’ll be leaps and bounds in front of your competition.

Join me at the 22nd Digital Dealer Conference & Exposition on Wednesday, April 12th from 2:30-3:20 pm for my session, “Mastering Google’s Five Critical Micro-Moments with Video – Creating a “Video Marketing Strategy to Maximize the Effectiveness of ALL of Your Video Content and Deliver Measurable ROI through an Increase in Leads, Appointments, Shows and Sales.” I will show you how easy and inexpensive it is to enter the realm of video marketing. You will learn how to create a strategy and how to measure the results through accurate data while being relevant and engaging by incorporating Google’s five critical micro-moments. I look forward to seeing you in Tampa, FL.