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Let’s be honest: my first video tutorial was a great example of how *not* to adequately film a card tutorial video for YouTube. After fiddling around with things, returning things, ordering new things, etc., I think I finally got this setup correct and wanted to share it with others so we can collectively take over YouTube with card tutorial videos. I started stamping because of YouTube card making tutorials from people like ChicnScratch, Dawn Griffith, Kristina Werner, etc. They are amazing at what they do, so they deserve heaps of praise. But I also get a lot of inspiration from people who simply post pictures of their cards and creations to Pinterest, Split Coast Stampers, etc. and as an observer, I can’t really figure out or deconstruct the techniques they used. Maybe they don’t have the time or desire to create a video tutorial, or maybe they don’t have the equipment to do it. But if you actually want to learn what you need to make a card tutorial video, keep reading.

I am a big believer in not spending an insane amount of money on equipment unless you can justify it (i.e. making a LOT of videos), so this is some of the information I share with my team or anyone who mentions they want to get started making any kind of crafting video tutorials. This is absolutely free, and if you want to share it around, I only ask that you to link to this blog post because I plan on updating it frequently with new information.

Get That Tripod Off Your Desk

I saw a lot of setups and video stamp room vlog tours showing people putting tripods on their desks to film. Huge tripods. Tripods that can quickly serve as camcorder destroyers if you knock it with your elbow. If that kind of setup works for you, — awesome! But not that many of us have desks or crafting tables large enough to accommodate the square footage required by setting up your typical tripod in a quasi-stable fashion.

For the same price (or cheaper) than fairly good tripod, you can get a two section, single articulating arm that mounts to your desk (temporarily or permanently) / shelf above your desk / desk hutch via a super clamp. If you are worried that a heavyweight clamp is going to mark or nick your desktop, then you can place some scrap paper on each area the clamp will touch, and try not to grind the thing into the desk’s surface. If your desk wobbles when you stamp or breathe, then you probably have to upgrade to a double articulating arm, or try a different setup that would include a thick monopod and an additional super clamp to attach the monopod to the articulating arm.

To figure out what you will need depends on your particular desk or table, and the weight of whatever you are trying to mount — there isn’t a single universal formula I can give you. Most mounting something less than three pounds to a shelf or hutch above the desk will need at least the two section, single articulating arm I previously mentioned. If no shelf or hutch is available, and you have to mount it to either the front or the rear of your desk, then you want the three section, single articulating arm because you may need the additional distance the third segment provides you. However, keep in mind that the more sections an articulating arm has, the less stability it has when extended fully.

2 section, single articulating arm 3 section, single articulating arm 3 section, double articulating arm

The stud you see sticking out on the bottom of each arm connect to a super clamp that you have to purchase as well. The super clamp you purchase is largely dependent on the thickness of whatever you are mounting the arm to, but for anything less than 1.5″ thick, the standard one is typically recommended. Most super clamps come with a reversible stud: one end has a 1/4″ male thread, and the other end has a 3/8″ male thread. The studs protruding from each end of the articulating arms have a 3/8″ female thread. Long story short: connect super clamp to desk, connect articulating arm to super clamp by screwing it on to the protruding stud. Mount the camera mount on the other end of the articulating arm, then mount your camcorder to the camera mount’s 1/4″ male thread, and make any necessary adjustments.

CowboyStudio Super Clamp (Manfrotto dupe) CowboyStudio Gorilla Clamp (Manfrotto dupe)

If your desk is super wobbly while you are stamping, then you can use the monopod + two super clamps solution I suggested in the first paragraph (Kristina Werner has a great demonstration of this mount in her office tour video), or you can get a two section, double articulating arm (shelf or hutch) or three section, double articulating arm (front or back of desk top). This provides more stability, but it can be the significantly costly option. I think there are also some triple articulating arms out there that will give you even more stability and flexibility, but we’re probably talking in the hundred dollar cost range territory, and my goal is to show you how to do this on the cheap, so leave a comment if you are curious about these and I’ll try to recommend one for you.

Note the dimensions of the various different arms, and sketch out on paper using dimensions from your work space to determine which one is going to work for your particular situation.

This set up will get your camera positioned over your desk surface for a bird’s eye view, although you most likely will film upside down. If that is the case, then you can flip the video 180 degrees in free or low cost video editing software like iMovie (Mac) or Windows Live Movie Maker (PC). Sidenote: I am still testing My Digital Studio’s video capabilities. The only other possible upgrade to this that you may want to get later on is a good ball head mount with a quick release plate (so that you aren’t stripping the threads inside your camera constantly taking it off to to remove a SD card — or answer your phone if it rings).

Use Your Smart Phone To Record Videos

If you have an iPhone 5, Samsung Galaxy 3, or any smart phone with greater than 5MP camera, then you don’t need to run out and go buy a digital camcorder until you outgrow using it. Smart phones today usually have really high megapixel cameras with good optics and white balance. For example, I would have to spend about $500 on a camcorder to remotely match the quality my iPhone 5 puts out.

All you need to purchase is a really inexpensive tripod mount that accommodates your smart phone, like the iStabilizer pictured above. It uses tension to keep the smart phone in place, and has a typical 1/4″ female screw input. The drawback to using a smart phone as your camcorder is that it doesn’t have optical zoom capabilities. There are plenty of apps you can get from Apple’s App store or Google Play that will allow you to zoom while recording video, but keep in mind this will provide a digital zoom and not optical.

To take this to the next step, then you might want to invest in some optics for your smart phone, like the olloclip lens system for iPhone 5 or variants. I haven’t fully tested it out yet to see how well it works for video because I simply move my articulating arm closer to what I’m filming on my desk. Either way, this is a great low cost method to get started and to experiment with your set up to see if you are really interested in creating video tutorials, and gives you room to grow because you have the foundation equipment.

But what if your smart phone doesn’t take great video indoors? Or like me, you have a 16GB iPhone 5 largely filled with pictures, music, and apps, so you don’t have much room for HD video longer than five minutes? Well, you are probably going to have to fork out some money for a pocket camcorder — but be careful here researching the options. My first video taken on a Kodak PlaySport Zx3 came out horrible with an Oompa Loompa orange cast not because of lighting, but because the white balance on that particular camera isn’t adjustable, and is just really off under certain circumstances. It shoots fantastic video underwater on our snorkeling trips, but not so great when shooting indoors, plus it lacks optical zoom. Therefore, I’m anticipating my mid-February delivery of a new handheld, non-professional, non-super expensive camcorder, and I’ll update everyone with a review once I get it. In the meantime, I’m going to make videos with my iPhone 5. So do very thorough research, and don’t be afraid to return something if it doesn’t meet your expectations after testing it out for a day or two.

Light Up Your Desk

Unless you are constantly shooting yourself on camera, there is no need for the $200+ soft gel light stands. I simply use a few OttLite lamps that I already had, and it is more than enough light to illuminate my workspace for any camera. The other thing that I like about these lamps is that they are directionally adjustable, and look nice enough to leave out on my desk. My stamp room/home office is darker than a deep cave because I was so in love with Chocolate Chip a few years ago that I painted the room that color. And I don’t get much light from my north facing windows — especially when recording at night. 😉 Honestly, you can get away with some OttLite bulbs in some inexpensive articulating desk lamps — as long as you are able to position them so the light is in front of the camera and not originating from behind the camera. Optimally, you want three lights acting as a triangle: one on either side of your craft surface, and one above it off-center but not above your camera (or you’ll get a nasty shadow all over your project). Most of us can get away with only two lights on either side, and I prefer either CFL or LED lights because they emit less heat (which is fine for the winter, but think about the summer months). You can later upgrade to professional video lights with reflectors, filters, and umbrellas if you find it necessary, but really, it all comes down to how your camera handles white and color balance. Just stay away from incandescent lighting, because it will give you a yellow cast to your skin.

So You Want To Be A Hand Model

Because of the subject matter and how we have to film these, I have a few tips to keep your viewers focused on what you are creating on camera — and not on the fact that you have ink all over your hands.

1. Keep your hands and nails clean.

I know this sounds fairly obvious, and I’m not judging anyone, but please wash your hands before you shoot a card tutorial. Make sure your nails are clean and nicely filed if you are without nail polish; if you have time for a quick application of clear top coat, go for it. If you want to wear nail polish, then a simple french manicure or a muted pink/peach really helps people focus on the project instructions. Keep in mind what looks good in person sometimes doesn’t look all that great in HD video, like glitter or silver nail polish, or nails with rhinestones on them because they reflect light and can be distracting. Moisturize your hands with some non-greasy hand cream about a half hour before filming — dry hands look extremely ashy on camera. Take your watch off before filming because the watch face will also reflect a huge chunk of light. Jewelry is a personal thing, so you can use it to your advantage or as an extension of your personality. Just film some tests and see what works for you.

2. Keep the video to less than five minutes.

Editing is your friend. The more time you spend doing it, the more people will watch your video from start to end. If it takes ten minutes to watch a video about making a simple card that is supposed to be fast and easy, then the card isn’t fast and easy. I completely learned from my first foray that the optimum length is about five minutes, and that faster is better unless it is a project that involves a significant amount of steps. As people are watching your video on YouTube, there are a bunch of other recommended videos on the side of the screen, and it is really easy for people to stop watching and click on something else. Cut out any parts where you are throwing something away in your trash, or fumbling around looking for something. Keep everything you need within arm’s length to shorten editing time. Have all dimensions of cut pieces written down in large thick print on a Post-It note off camera, and pre-cut whatever you can. If you are a Stampin’ Up! demonstrator, make use of their free project planning worksheet — it works awesome for video. Editing video takes time, but the more you do it, the better and faster you are.

3. Use My Digital Studio For Video Graphics.

MDS is awesome for creating HD still images and your own logo, so take advantage of the free trial and play around with it. Keep graphics clean and simple to start, because they should only be in the video for about ten seconds maximum. Create a 1920×1080 pixel board in MDS, export it in PNG format, and import it into your video editing software rather than using stock titles. Create ones where you can change things around easily. These video boards set you apart from all the other pairs of talking hands on YouTube.

4. Be Personable.

Some things that work for other people might not necessarily work for you, so again, I can’t give some specific tips on this except be yourself and try not to hate the sound of your own voice. Pace yourself. If you had a bad day or are tired, then leave filming for another day because anything that you force will sound forced and fake. Confession time: I actually make card videos because I’m trying to get better at public speaking and presenting — I got passed over for job promotions because I am terrible at it. I could have some ground breaking idea and write about it without issue, but putting me in front of people and have me explain it with all the “uhms” and nervously swallowing my words is a different story. So I hope that even if I don’t get a single subscriber to my YouTube channel, I will at least become a better public speaker to my two cats and dog that hang around my home office/stamp room after making the transition from a content viewer to a content producer. 🙂

If you read this far and found this helpful, or have any questions about this tutorial, then please leave a comment below. Thank you!