How to Shoot Your Own Commercial

Camera man filming

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Making a good commercial is all about crafting a message that speaks to your customers and a production plan that stays within the limits of your video skills and software. With proper planning and efficient production, anyone can make a commercial that wins over audiences.

What's the Message of Your Commercial?

The first step is to define exactly what you're commercial will be about. Is your commercial promoting your business in general? Or is it focused on a particular product or event? Because commercials need to be short, it's better to focus on one topic per ad, instead of trying to fit in too much at once. If there are multiple things that you want to promote, you can create a series of commercials that are produced in the same way but each has a different focus.

What's the Story of Your Commercial?

This is the creative part of making a commercial when you get to brainstorm. It can be very challenging to create a commercial that short (if it's destined for TV, it's generally 15 or 30 seconds), yet engaging and memorable. If you can find a way to use humor or surprise the audience, that's great. But above all, you need to make sure that your commercial is clear in getting your message (see above) across.

Also, when it comes to developing the story for your video, consider your means of production. Your video skills and budget will determine a lot about what kind of commercial you can make.

For a very low-budget commercial, you can use stock footage, photographs, simple graphics, and voice-over. In fact, many commercials that you see on TV are no more complex than this. If you have more video skills, you can have a live spokesperson or actors in your commercial and shoot B-roll and action shots.

The best way to come up with story ideas is to watch a lot of other commercials. Look at the ads on TV, thinking about how they were made and how effective they are. You'll get lots of ideas for how to make your own commercial.

Script Your Commercial

Once you come up with the storyline for your commercial, you'll need to create a script for it. If your commercial is destined for TV, you'll need to be exact in your timing so nothing gets cut off, and that means every word in your script is crucial.

Use a page with four columns — one for the time, one for the audio, one for the video, and one for the graphics. Be sure to include a few seconds at the end of your script to include a call to action in your commercial, or put your business name and contact information on the screen.

Record Your Commercial

When the script is finalized, you're ready to shoot your commercial. You want the highest production value possible, so read through these video recording tips beforehand. Above all, it's critical to record good audio and light your video well. These two things will go the furthest in making your commercial appealing to viewers.

Edit Your Commercial

If you stuck to the script during shooting, editing should be easy. For simple commercials, iMovie, Movie Maker or an online editing app may be enough to get the project done. Otherwise, you'll want an intermediate or professional video editing software.

To avoid copyright violations, make sure that you have properly licensed any stock music, graphics or footage that you add during editing. Also, try to put your logo and contact information on the screen for at least a little while during the commercial.

Show Your Commercial

Once you've produced your commercial, you need to get it seen. The traditional route is to buy airtime on television, and for some commercials that might work. People are watching so much on the web, though, that you might want to consider running your commercial online. You can buy online video ad space through Google and other providers.

Or, run your commercial for free on YouTube and other video websites. This way, you don't have the traditional time and structural limits, and you're free to experiment with different types of marketing videos.

YouTube is also a great place to test out different types of commercials, and see what resonates. You can also extend the life of your commercial by showing behind-the-scenes footage and bloopers on your YouTube channel.