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Video in the garden with Debra Baldwin

by Timber Press on December 17, 2013

in Gardening


A background in photography helped, writes Debra Baldwin, but Toastmasters proved even more valuable when it came to making video. Image: Marci LeBrun

We don’t often associate writers with video. Like the rest of us, writers have found their way online, and using social media can now communicate directly with their audience. Like us, they share links, upcoming events, or pictures of their kids or pets (or both), but how many of them use video as a means of expression? More to the point, how many garden writers use video as a means of expression?

While video is easy to share, it is not easy to make, even with access to affordable production equipment. It seems garden writers who use video most effectively already have a platform for it, whether it’s a television show or production company, but is there hope for those not already hosting their own gardening program?

Debra Lee Baldwin may hold the answer. While she does not have her own television studio or cable network, she is the author of three best-selling gardening books, she has an irresistible topic, succulents, and she has a message: you can do this, too! And she makes video to help get that message out. We asked her recently about producing video and if she had any advice for other garden writers. Her message remains the same: you can do this, too!

You’ll find her answers after the break, along with a selection of videos from her YouTube channel.

As a garden writer, why did you decide to focus on video as a means of expression?

Video is a highly effective method of communication and a great PR tool, but I do it mainly because it’s fun and offers unmatched opportunities for creative expression.

Did your experience as a photographer prepare you in any way for being in front of the camera?

Ha! You should ask my husband, who probably would roll his eyes. After he takes my photo and I view the result, I invariably hand the camera back to him and tell him what to do differently. But as my own videographer (thanks to a tripod and remote), I have only myself to blame. And no, nothing prepares you for seeing how you truly look and sound, and especially for your inability to string two sentences together cohesively. Seriously, my experience doing public speaking probably has helped the most.

What is the most difficult part of making videos?

Audio quality. Camcorders are amazingly efficient at capturing visual images, but any microphone that’s several feet (or more) away from the sound source is going to pick up ambient noise: roosters crowing, kids playing, dogs barking, and the whoosh of traffic or wind.

Do you have any advice for other garden writers who would like to begin making videos?

Invest in a remote mic. It has two parts, a sender and a receiver, each about the size of a deck of cards. The receiver plugs into the camcorder; the sender has a mic that clips onto the lapel of the person being filmed. You’ll get fantastic sound quality, regardless of how far away the camcorder is from the person who is speaking. A few more things I mostly learned the hard way:

  • Don’t wear clothing that calls attention to itself, such as a T-shirt with words on it.
  • Make sure your grooming is impeccable, including your fingernails.
  • Invest in a tripod.
  • Don’t turn the camcorder so the image is vertical—if you do, when it comes time to edit the footage, the image will be a narrow strip bordered by black.
  • If you are demonstrating a project and want your head, hands and the tabletop to show, instead of moving the camcorder farther back, either sit down or elevate the work surface. Make sure the tabletop is lined up properly within the frame. Before you get underway, shoot some footage and make adjustments if needed.
  • If the videographer needs to walk or move about while filming, he should do it very slowly.
  • If you’re nervous in front of the camera, practice in front of a mirror. If you want to be more polished and professional as a speaker—either in person or on video—attend a few Toastmasters meetings.
  • To make editing easier later on, speak distinctly, complete your sentences, and pause occasionally.
  • Try to keep the completed, edited video under 5 minutes. It’s amazing how you can condense raw footage to mere minutes by cutting what’s repetitive or nonessential. (And if you don’t, you risk losing viewers.)
  • Last but not least, if you use iMovie, get iMovie: The Missing Manual, by David Pogue.


Debra shares one of her favorite succulents, Agave lophantha ‘Quadricolor’

For hot garden color, use Succulent ‘Sticks on Fire’

How to Make a Mounded Succulent Arrangement

How to Make a Succulent Dish Garden for Indoors

Succulents simplified:Aeoniums


Click image for a peak inside Succulents Simplified by Debra Lee Baldwin

This fresh and entertaining volume certainly deserves a green thumbs-up.Sunset

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 plant pots January 10, 2017 at 1:36 am

This is great information. I learned a lot here.

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