Great video production is hard and it takes a lot of skill to achieve. There are a lot of reasons why a video can come out horrible, uninspiring or just plain crappy. Fortunately, it’s usually pretty obvious to just about any viewer why a video isn’t very good.

Actors talk on the set of a commercial shoot

Actors talk with client on set of a video production

Obvious reasons your video production sucks:

  • Poor camera work that shakes, has actors cut out, or even out of focus.
  • Poor sound. This could be the result or a badly placed microphone, noisy environment or wind.
  • Horrible, unflattering lighting. Deer in the headlights anyone?
  • Disjointed, non-sensical edit. An edit that plain doesn’t make sense or is even ugly.

These are all technical reasons which an average person can look at a video and see that it’s wrong. An untrained person may not know how to fix these problems but they’re sure able to hear the wind hitting the microphone or the lighting that makes the actress look like she’s in a budget horror film. But sometimes you can get all the big technical problems solved but the video still sucks. Well, there are some not so obvious reasons I can share with you here.

Not so obvious reasons why your video production sucks:

  • Wrong person in front of the camera – Not everyone pops on camera. And even fewer can carry a film. This is why we cast and watch tape. Or when working with real people, we make sure they are “characters” or have something really important to say.
  • Poor direction – It’s not as easy as point and shoot. The actor or interviewee must understand what they need to communicate to the camera and have someone who can recognize whether or not the magic is happening. The director must also have the ability to course correct in the event of failure.
  • You didn’t write a script and storyboard – Production technology is becoming so accessible that people now just turn on a camera without a plan for what they are cutting together. Sure, you might get something good but your chances are much better if you start with a great script and plan each shot with a goal in mind.
  • Cluttered and poor framing – Sometimes amateur photographers get lucky and create a beautifully framed shot. But it takes experience and knowledge to do it every time. Signs a shot isn’t working are clutter in the background, odd angles and not following basic composition rules such as the rule of thirds.
  • Your lighting isn’t telling the story – The light needs to help tell the audience what they’re seeing. Horror movie lighting is an obvious way, but so is documentary lighting which is generally pretty “normal” looking. This light lets the audience know what they are watching is real. Want to learn how light effects meaning? Just study the old masters, yes, I mean the painters.
  • There is no story – Just because you’re written a script doesn’t mean you’re telling a story. Even an informational video needs to have a narrative that includes a beginning, middle and end.
  • You didn’t give the audience a reason to care upfront – Journalist call it the hook. Broadcast networks call it the tease. You have to let people know why they’re watching or they’ll loose interest and stop.
  • The editing is jarring and doesn’t help the story – Great editing doesn’t impress you with it’s technique; it helps you to become immersed in the story. Like great book editing, great video editing lives to serve the story and the audience.

Of course, these are just a few reasons your video production can come out sucky. The only way to learn proper video production techniques is to keep trying, preferably work with good people and to always carefully analyzing  what’s working and what’s not. There’s no shortcut to learning from experience.