Category Archives: Filming

Hate being on camera? ‘Run and gun’ community videos have potential to go viral, build brand


When we first started VScreen seven years ago, we had a great marketing idea: exhibit at real estate conventions and provide video services for agent profiles in our booth. We were absolutely sure that this was the “wow factor” we needed to launch the company in a way that showcased our skills and attracted clients, like moths to a porch light.

We arrived at the first convention, hyped and optimistic, with everything we needed to do a top-notch job: cameras, lighting, green screen, editing technology, plus a team of video pros.

There was one clear and obvious problem: No one wanted to get in front of the camera. Though hundreds of interested attendees stopped at our booth, everyone had an excuse as to why they couldn’t shoot a video, then and there. A few promised to come back once they ditched the flashing beads, changed clothes, teased their hair and piled on the makeup to perfection. But no one ever did. Not one single person. What we quickly learned was a very expensive lesson for our genius selves: that most people hate the way they look on camera.

The good news: You don’t have to be in front of the camera to create effective videos for your personal brand or company. Why not choose someone else on your team to be your company spokesperson? Or rotate team members to build company morale and give everyone their time to shine. Think about hiring a professional actor to talk about your company. You can always find acting students willing to work for little to no pay in order to add your video to their demo reel. In fact, an actor might be the better option if you’re paying a freelance videographer hourly. Unlike you, actors are less likely to freeze in front of the camera or waste billable hours flubbing their lines.

Then again, you may want to create your own video content. With excellent online editing tools at sites like Animoto, Videolicious and Magisto, you can easily shoot and edit video with your smartphone or tablet. And, with prices ranging from free to as little as $10 to $40 per month, it’s certainly more affordable.

But what if you’re camera-shy? Here are some ideas that can solve the problem while increasing your YouTube views.

Let’s say you want to shoot a “run and gun” community video. You can stay behind the camera while you interview neighbors, store owners or the chef at a local restaurant. First, make sure everyone looks into the camera, states their name, and gives you permission to use their likeness in your video and marketing materials. Once that is done, ask them about the neighborhood, cafes, venues, local schools and parks, community activities — the list goes on. Not only will this be more interesting than seeing one person speaking the entire time, the people who end up in the final cut will share your video link with friends and family, on Facebook, and from there it might even go viral.

There’s a final option: video content created by others. Link out to “HGTV types” of video on your blog or Facebook page, then build your brand story around it. Or look into turnkey programs like we offer agents at, in which we inexpensively package new consumer-oriented video content each month, alongside the market videos branded with your photo, company logo and contact information.

No matter which solution you use, being camera-shy is never an excuse to miss out on the power of marketing your personal brand or company with video.

Stephen Schweickart is the founder and CEO of VScreen, the nation’s leading video services company within the real estate industry.

Invest in evergreen video: the marketing gift that keeps on giving


Like the name implies, evergreen video content stays relevant over time. Because it’s highly informative, it continuously attracts viewers for as long as two to three years. In fact, when planned and executed strategically, evergreen content can be virtually timeless. As I mentioned in a previous article, “Real estate video tips: must-do’s when hiring freelancers or choosing to film it yourself,” this type of content is well worth the investment because it keeps working for you, year after year after year.

When it comes to content, community-based videos top the list. Research shows buyers start comparing neighborhoods long before they look at listings. That’s why it’s always better to provide valuable information about the local area versus hard-selling your company first.

Being subtle is key. Try showing a pan of a neighborhood with one of your yard signs in the background as subtle reinforcement. In commercial sections, pan restaurants and shops with only a quick glimpse of your office in the background. Think of it like product placement in Hollywood movies. A product or logo is clearly seen but it’s not the focus or purpose of the entire shot. It’s subliminal.

By now you’re thinking, “I’m paying good money to make this video, why should I avoid showcasing my name?” The short answer: You’ll lose third-party exposure. When you resist blasting your logo in every frame, a community video, like the ones VScreen created for brands like Century 21, Watson Realty or this series for Alain Pinel Realtors, is more likely to be picked up by the local Chamber of Commerce, community tourism bureau or economic development department of the city/county where you live. Once one (or more) of these major community influencers posts it, your video is very likely to be picked up by other third parties. Or, in some cases, even your competition. Besides, if it’s only about you-you-you, you’re not building relationships. You’re advertising.

Another powerful type of evergreen video is “how-to” content packed with relevant information that won’t become obsolete anytime soon. Some examples of this type of content we provide to agents includes “Deciding to Buy New Furniture,” “Understanding Your Credit Score,” “Tips for Buying New Appliances,” and the list goes on. When branded with your logo, these types of videos establish you as a trusted expert while keeping you in touch with previous clients. This alone can help resolve a common issue in our industry: More than 70 percent of recent homebuyers can’t recall their agent’s name within a year of closing.

To reinforce your expertise with your clients and farming database, remember to send your video newsletter to keep in touch, and post market trends to your Facebook wall and your website, further branding yourself as the local expert.

Next, testimonials. The more creative you are, the more evergreen they’ll be. Current and past clients’ testimonials always work, but don’t stop there. Think outside the box and do something most agents wouldn’t — like asking community leaders and business owners to put in a good word for you on camera. Or, ask an affiliated business owner — your favorite contractor, the interior designer who stages your properties, or the landscape architect you refer to clients. They can offer professional tips, promote their services and finish up singing your praises. You’ll build credibility with endorsements from the individuals – and the brands/companies they represent. Before you know it, they’ll be sharing the link with their clients and customers.

It’s all about shareability. People share evergreen video across social media. In turn, their friends,  family and associates share it with even more people. That’s why evergreen video content is the marketing gift that keeps on giving.

Stephen Schweickart is the founder and CEO of VScreen, the nation’s leading video services company within the real estate industry.

Real estate video tips: must-do’s when hiring freelancers or choosing to film it yourself


When you decide to include video in your real estate marketing, the next question is, “Should I hire someone or shoot the video myself?” The answer depends on what type of video you plan to shoot.

When you decide to include video in your real estate marketing, the next question is, “Should I hire someone or shoot the video myself?” The answer depends on what type of video you plan to shoot.

For evergreen videos like community tours, your agent profile or company commercial should be professionally filmed by a full-service production company. The investment is worthwhile for any video with a relevant shelf life of two to three years. For other types of video, it’s more economical to use a freelancer or do it yourself.

Let’s start with freelancers. Finding videographers on sites like Craigslist can be an iffy situation. A better choice is the marketplace section of because they specialize in real estate. No matter how you find freelance candidates, use the following proven ways to help mitigate risk.

Ask them to send three videos they’ve produced exactly like your project. One freelancer may be great with testimonials, yet not as experienced filming a home tour. After viewing their demo reels, narrow down candidates to your top picks. Then ask your candidates for references on the specific samples they sent you. This helps to weed out anyone who may have fudged the truth about their experience, showcasing someone else’s work as their own. You’d be surprised how frequently this happens in the video industry.

When you call a reference, ask them to describe exactly what role or function the freelancer was responsible for during the shoot. If you find out they were less than honest about their role in the production process, cross them off your list.

Once you narrow down to your top two or three videographers, ask each for a detailed proposal listing all included services. Beware of a significantly lowball price. You may end up with what you paid for: very little. And don’t forget to ask for proof they’re bonded and carry insurance. Someone has to pay for any damage to your client’s home. It shouldn’t be you.

Don’t forget to contract for two rounds of revisions. The first should include up to 10 changes. The second, up to five. If you can’t negotiate for both, insist on 10 changes allowed to the rough cut. Stand strong on payment terms: 50 percent upfront, the balance paid after you’ve approved revisions. A word of caution: Quite often we’ve been hired for a project that our client had previously paid someone else to produce and that person left town before finishing the video. So, take my advice, when it comes to using freelancers, it always pays to perform due diligence before signing the contract.

There’s a wealth of online resources if you plan to do it yourself. ReelSEO offers comprehensive do-it-yourself tips from lighting and sound to editing. HDhat has an online store with the latest apps, equipment and gadgets specific to real estate videography. They also provide very affordable editing services for raw footage you provide.

If filming your listing videos is something you want to take on, here’s a list of the equipment you’ll need:

  • A DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) camera.
  • A 64-gigabyte memory stick, which can record a couple hours of HD footage.
  • A fluid head tripod so pans and tilts aren’t jerky.
  • An umbrella light to eliminate shadows and fill in dark areas of a room.
  • A lightweight monopod camera support — it steadies the camera for sharper framing and can be used to create a boom/crane effect for creative and elevated angles.
  • Add in a lapel mic for audio and you’re all set.

Check out B&H Photo Video online for great deals. If they don’t have something you need, try Best Buy or Radio Shack. Now, buying all this equipment may seem like a pricey investment. But you also have to consider a freelancer usually averages from $1,000 to $2,500, plus their travel expenses, for just a single basic video. Do the math and decide which route is best for you.

Stephen Schweickart is the founder and CEO of VScreen, the nation’s leading video services company within the real estate industry.

Enhancing Your Videos With The Bokeh Effect

Bokeh Effect

Creating the bokeh effect or shallow depth of field in your videos is a great way to make your video footage appear more film like by blurring the background. In the industry we call shallow depth of field the “bokeh” effect. In this episode of the Reel Rebel, video production expert Stephen Schweickart introduces how you can create great looking shallow depth of field or bokeh in your videos in 3 steps.