A lot of shelters and rescue starting to put out web videos to promote the pets they have in care, which is of course AWESOME! And there are a few tips and tricks your group can be using to get the most out of your web videos. No one wants to make a video that no one watches and a lack of interest from supporters can lead to the web video program being cancelled before it even gets off the ground. So what makes for a successful web video how can you make yours the blockbuster of the year?
- A ‘Hard Disk’ camcorder <-- a video camera
These record and write directly to a computer drive inside the camera. This allows you to transfer your video straight to your computer through a cable, without having to mess around with video tapes. You can pick a basic model up at major appliance stores for around $300 – $400.
- A computer
You’ll need a computer which is compatible with your new camera.
- Editing software
Sometimes video cameras come with software which lets you edit video. Alternatively, there are a host of online programs you can use. If you’re engaging a volunteer to help you, having them research and choose the best editing software to use can be part of their role. One of the best online programs comes built into YouTube (see below).
- A YouTube account
YouTube is the website where you will upload your videos. Not only does it have software to edit your videos, it comes with lots of clever ways to share your video built in. Visit the site and create an account and password in preparation for your videos.
Before you even get shooting, you need to have a think about who you are making videos for, and how you’re going to go about sharing them. It’s not enough to think ‘we’ll make videos and people will watch them’; you have to have a plan on how you’re going to reach people.
- In your newsletter: if you have a email mailing list and a newsletter that goes out regularly, you can time your videos with the mailer. Web videos can be great for adding interest.
- On your Facebook fan page: Facebook is one of the best places to share videos as upload is immediate and videos make great content for your page. But how many followers do you have? If you’re neglecting your page and only have a few hundred followers, now is the time to get your Facebook page in tip top shape! (I’ll write more about Facebook pages in a coming blog).
- On your Twitter: some groups are using Twitter, others aren’t. It’s totally up to you and whether you have enough resources for another social media project, but like Facebook, Twitter is immediate and videos make great, shareable content for your stream.
- In your PetRescue listings: Videos can also be uploaded to your PetRescue animal listings; either as a YouTube link, or as a video upload. Pet profiles with video are much, much more popular than those without so it’s worth the time.
- On your organisation’s homepage: having adoptable animal videos on your homepage shows people that you’re committed to finding pets homes, and changing them regularly will draw visitors back to your website.
So you have your camera, you’ve created a nice big audience for your web videos and are ready to start shooting. Now what?
Think ‘advertisement’, not ‘documentary. Your video is going to be less than a minute long when you’re done. Did you hear that? Less than a minute. Any longer and people will be dozing off and tuning out. This means you have to be really focused on what is important.
There is often a temptation to use your web videos to profile those pets who need extra help – we’ll call them the ‘harder-to-place-pets’ – and web videos CAN be great for getting extra exposure for these guys…. STOP!
You want your web videos to truly reflect the kinds of animals you get in care. Most often – lovely pets who need a second chance. These are the guys you’ll want to start with, to send the message to your community that you’re a great source of healthy, friendly, adoptable pets.
Once your program is up and running, then use your videos to profile your harder to place pets, alternated with lots of attractive and desirable animals. Don’t worry that the pet may be adopted soon after your video is released; this is an advertisement for ALL the animals in your shelter, not just the one you’re videoing today. So choose a friendly pet who will probably find a home as the ‘spokespet’ for your shelter.
While a video of a pet running around is cute, it is not very effective in ‘selling’ that pet’s best traits. You’re going to need a spokesperson. It doesn’t always have to be the same person, but they need to be enthusiastic, clearly spoken and positive.
There are two ways to film a video; either have the person handling the pet and speaking direct to camera (easy to film, hard to execute), or film the video first and then give it a voice over (a little tricker to put together, but gives a better result). Or you can do a combination of both, which is especially good if you want to film a foster carer talking about a pet, but then add extra details later.
Remember that someone talking behind the camera is going to be much, much louder than the handler a few steps away. If you want to have a ‘discussion’ between handler and cameraman, use a tripod and stand approximately the same distance away. Much better, avoid it altogether.
To make your video pop, you’re going to need to develop a script. You’re wanting to tell a story about your pet as they are now, and the kind of place they need to go to next. Don’t waste vital time describing how the pet came into care, unless it can help describe their new life (eg. “Billy previously lived with a retired owner, so we’re looking for another loving person with time to spend with him.”) And always, always keep it positive.
A quick way to compile a script is to answer the following questions;
What’s the best thing about the pet? What makes this pet super awesome and unique? Does this dog know how to sit? Fetch? Chase a basketball?
“Billy is exceptionally friendly and loves to run. He is happiest jogging along beside you, or fetching his ball in the backyard.”
What’s the best thing about the pet’s new owner? Who is the perfect owner for this pet? What are their attributes?
“If you’re an active family looking for an outgoing companion, Billy is your man. He’s looking for a mature family who will include him in family life.”
How would this pet’s perfect day go? If you had to describe the perfect day for this pet, what would it be?
“Billy would love to join you on a family outing to the beach or park, then curl up beside you on the couch and watch TV.”
You’ll want to introduce the pet at the beginning, then tell people how they can adopt the pet at the end. Use pre-made visual slides (more info below) to confirm these details:
You’ll need an attractive location, which is free from distractions to shoot your videos. Indoor areas with no carpet can produce a very ‘echoy’ result which makes it hard for the speaker to be heard, so a quiet outdoor location is often best. Off-lead paddocks can be great for shooting extra video of dogs playing and interacting, while extra video of cats should be filmed in a place where they are comfortable and therefore friendly and open.
When recording your script, the pet can be held by the handler, or dogs can be asked to sit for treats. A toy can be used to attract the pet to look at the camera.
Types of video you can film:
- The pet with a handler: Either speaking to camera or not.
- The pet ‘doing its thing’: Chilling, doing tricks, interacting with other pets, playing, getting a bath or food or sleeping.
- The pet interacting with the camera: (As long as it doesn’t freak the pet out), video of the pet playing to the camera is really engaging.
If you also have a great picture, use that too!
You’ll want to create a slide to start the video and introduce the pet:
Music is great for creating feeling, glossing over background noise and people speaking off camera, but track choice is important. Just because you like loud rock, doesn’t mean the person you’re trying to ‘sell’ to does. Think about the audience for your video (the pet’s perfect adopter) and the kind of music they might like (or at least not find repellent).
Also, keep it light and positive. While you might like the heart-wrenching effect of a sad track with poignant lyrics; remember getting a new pet is supposed to be an exciting and fun time for adopters. No doom or gloom!
Click ‘continue reading’ to see a library of some of the best pet adoption vids on the web…
This is a great video about ‘special needs’ pets. The spokesperson speaks clearly and the echo is kept to a minimum. I especially like the lead out at the end where they revisit each pet. Unfortunately the vid is miles too long – single animal videos are a better bet.
While this doesn’t have any speech in it, I love the concept. Don’t be afraid to be topical or just have fun!
I really liked the way they got all the adoption info in, plus a bit of info about the dog and had some simple, professional graphics. Also a good use of an upbeat voiceover.
Showing that videos don’t need to be overproduced to be enthusiastic and effective, check out this one from Dog Rescue Newcastle. Getting a foster carer to ‘sell’ their pet is a great idea as they know exactly what kind of home the pet would suit best.
These are great! Both these pets are ‘special needs’, but the positivity just shines through. I especially like the idea of a scripted voiceover for anyone who’s too shy to speak on camera, as it leaves the animal handler free to concentrate on featuring the pet in the best possible light.
This video is from a breed rescue and is quick and dirty, but at the same time heartfelt and effective. Again, the use of a foster carer works well, as they know the pet better than anyone.
Dog Rescue Newcastle nails it again.
This one has a really bad echo, which is a shame, as otherwise it is a really good example of using a handler to tell a story about a pet.
This one is quick and basic, but effective. This could be fleshed out with some video footage of Rocco doing some tricks, or running or goofing off, but if you’re strapped for time, this is what a great video looks like.