Want to Be a YouTube Marketing Star? Here's Where to Start
by Dori Saltzman /

There’s a reason YouTube is the second-largest search engine on the planet: people are more influenced by moving images than the written word. Video is a super-powerful marketing tool and one that travel sellers should be harnessing.

For many agents the thought of becoming a videographer is off-putting. It’s one thing to switch the dial on your Canon Sure Shot to “movie” and shoot a quick one-minute video. It’s quite another to make a five-minute video of a cruise ship or a two-minute how-to-pack-for-Alaska video.

Making a video doesn’t have to be scary or difficult. You just need to know the tools of the trade. The rest comes with practice.

Paul A. Belletiere

Travel Market Report worked with Paul A. Belletiere, co-owner of a Cruise Planners franchise in Glen Burnie, Md., (and focus of the April 21, 2011, article “Agent’s YouTube Channel is Driving Sales”) to provide a practical guide to the tools agents need to create videos both on-location and in their offices.

In the first of a two-part series, we look at the basic equipment and software.

Cameras: from $200 to $4,000
“Deciding on which camera to select can be tricky,” Belletiere told Travel Market Report. How much money do you want to invest in your future as a videographer? How much video work do you intend to do? Have you ever used a video camera before? These are all questions you will need to answer before selecting a camera that is right for you.

Though camera choices expand almost weekly these days, Belletiere made a few recommendations according to how much you want to spend.

For an entry-level camera, he recommended the Flip Mino HD, which costs about $200. Flips are easy to use and come with their own editing software. Unfortunately, parent company Cisco is shutting down its Flip division and will only support Flips through the end of 2013. Even so, a Flip is a good choice if you want to experiment with video without spending lots of money.

For a mid-level camera, which can cost between $500 and $800, Belletiere recommended the Sony HDR-CX360V. This camera shoots in HD and offers more features than the Flip, including some ability to change light and background settings.

Belletiere uses a high-end camera, the Sony HDR-Ax 2000, which is priced at around $4,000. This camera allows the videographer to control audio, light, frame speed and more.

No matter which camera you choose, Belletiere advised taking three factors into consideration – sound, image resolution and data storage.

Sound quality is critical
Sound is one of two key factors affecting the watch-ability of a video. (Lighting, the second factor, is more important for studio-made videos; lighting will be discussed in part two of this series.)

“If someone cannot hear you or the person you’re interviewing, they’re not going to watch the video,” Belletiere said. And they probably won’t come back to watch other videos.

The built-in microphones on most cameras do not produce high-quality sound. A camera with a plug-in option for an external microphone solves this problem.

There are two types of external microphones to consider purchasing -- a handheld microphone, for recording interviews, and a lavalier, which clips to your shirt, for studio-made videos. Prices for both handheld and lavalier mikes range from $100 to $400.

Keep in mind that neither the Flip Mino HD nor the mid-level Sony HDR-CX360V have a plug-in option for external microphones. There are ways to get around this limitation, but they require several extra pieces of hardware and additional editing tasks.

Image resolution: more is better
What is the image resolution of the camera you’re buying? Is it low- to high-res? Is it HD (high-definition)? The lower the resolution, the grainier the image. HD provides the best quality image and is the more-expensive option.

“Within a few years, most video will be shot in HD [HD 1080 to be specific], so anything shot at a lower resolution will look dated faster,” Belletiere said. You definitely don’t want to go below 720 in resolution, he added.

Data storage: bye bye cassettes
Virtually all video is digital nowadays, so there are no cassettes to worry about. There are a variety of digital storage methods available.

Belletiere recommended ScanDisk (SD) or MiniDisk cards, because they are faster, more reliable and have better audio and visual quality than other forms of data storage. They also are easy to move from camera to computer for editing. Not all video cameras are compatible with these data cards, so be sure to double check when buying.

When purchasing either an SD or MiniDisk card, be sure to pick one with at least 16 or 32 gigabytes of memory. It should also be speed-rated at four or higher (10 is ideal); this governs how fast data can be transferred.

Editing software & computer requirements
In addition to a camera and basic accessories, you’ll need editing software so you can turn raw footage into a watchable video. Of course you first need a computer to run the editing software.

If you plan on doing a lot of video, the newer the computer the better, Belletiere said. “The computer should have at least a terabyte of hard drive space, eight gigabytes of RAM and the fastest processor you can get.”

Agents thinking about purchasing a new computer should be aware that all Mac computers come with a basic version of Final Cut, a powerful movie editing tool. The basic version is limited but you can make simple videos with it. The professional version of Final Cut (used by the pros in Hollywood) is expensive at $2,000.

Keep in mind when choosing between a Mac and PC that not all software in the travel industry is compatible with Macs.

Software from $55 to $700
For the majority of travel agents who use PCs, there are numerous video editing programs to choose from. Belletiere recommended the Sony Vegas 10, which costs about $700. If you want to get your toes wet with minimal investment, the Sony Vegas Movie Studio HD 9 software is available for only $55, but its functionality is very limited. 

Sony Vegas 10 includes standard editing features, as well as the ability to speed up or slow down images, add images in the foreground or background, and do green screen effects, which are useful for studio-created videos.

Next time: Travel Market Report and Paul Belletiere tell agents what they’ll need to build an in-office video studio.

How much money do you want to invest in your future as a videographer? How much video work do you intend to do? Have you ever used a video camera before? These are all questions you need to answer before selecting a camera that is right for you.