Telling Your Story

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Memory (1896). Olin Warner (completed by Herbe...

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Think back to when you were a child, and some of the most important lessons you learned. Chances are there was a story involved in teaching you that lesson. Now think about some of your favorite memories and how you would share that memory with me. You’d probably tell me a story about something that happened. The things that we learn the most from and remember the best usually involve a story, so why don’t we do that when we’re trying to reach people?

So much of the marketing I see and the videos I watch are trying to sell me something. Or influence me. Message after message directed towards me and talking at me. Sure the idea might be new or creative, but they aren’t sharing a story with me.

I believe strongly in power of storytelling. Whether it’s in a video or a pieces of instruction, or a marketing campaign, there is a story there. Everything we record, teach or sell is part of a story, and if we want to reach the deepest parts of a person’s being we need to connect with. I’m not the only one who feels this way.

It’s our jobs as the creators of content to decide what the story is and the best way to tell it. Should it be an article?  A press release? A video? An in-class exercise? A Tweet? There are lots of ways to tell a story, but the most important part is to actually tell the story.  If you don’t you run the risk of alienating your audience. They could feeling that they’re missing the inside joke, or even worse, that they can’t connect with what you’re saying and lose interest.

Before you do anything else, figure out what the story is you’re trying to tell is and make sure that everyone on your team is in agreement. When everyone is agreement everyone involved can make sure that whatever they are saying is part of the greater message. Every presentation slide, every tweet and every post to your organization’s blog will be part of the story you’re telling.

Keeping your story in the forefront might just be the thing that sets you messaging apart and creates a memory for your target audience.

Video Marketing

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It seems like over the last week or so I’ve been overwhelmed by discussions on video marketing. To be specific, using video as a marketing tool. I totally get it and agree 100%. A video can help put a product into context in a way other mediums can’t. I’m right there with you people! But, I disagree a little on some of the finer points.

Like what exactly is a video. I guess I’m old school. In my mind a video would be something that involves, you know, video. It also includes animations, graphics, motion graphics and images, and so on. I’ve seen other uses a slide presentation set to music and exported with a video extension as video. I have to say I have a hard time with that…I suppose technically anything that runs on YouTube is a video. But do slides, no matter how nicely done put together and awesome looking (and some of them do look awesome) really count as video? Maybe it’s just the video purist in me, but that’s something I have to get used to.

The other point is that anyone can use the above technique, or any number of free or cheap software programs and a couple of hours to make a video that will win them lots of business. In my mind this goes to quality. I’m not saying that you need to spend thousands of dollars making videos. I don’t believe that’s the case at all. I think you can make some really great high quality products with a pocket friendly budget. But as I’ve discussed here before, sometimes you get what you pay for.

I do think that there’s room for all kinds of video (even if I’m partial to actual video kind of videos), but I also believe that people need to look before they leap. Nothing beats planning. A video should make sense to your marketing campaign. It should have a purpose and not be a video just so can say that you did one. I’ve said it before and I will say it again, do a video because it is the best way to reach your audience not because everyone else is doing them. That will be the fastest way to video marketing success.

One More Time!

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I find myself this morning in the lovely position of having to restart a project I’ve been editing for a week in a new software program. Yes, I did actually finish the rough draft and it doesn’t look to bad. The issue is that the program I used (the only one available to me at the time) will not release the video in an acceptable quality. It acts if I am just asking too much and crashes about 2 minutes into the export.

Now I know some of my video friends out there will jump in with ideas, but the reality is that this particular program (I’m not going into detail to protect the guilty)  is not designed to do what I was trying to make it do. I only had the option of 4 video tracks (I really needed at least 5, but made do). I was doing motion images, motion video, re-sized images…not very complicated from my human perspective, but from the software’s perspective it’s very complicated. I was finally able to get a low res, low quality version out. It gave the people I was doing the video for the chance to see what I had tried to get them to envision (they like it by the way!). I just can’t get a higher quality version to out-put.

After examining my options, I think the quickest and easiest will be to recreate the video in another software program. Anyone who has gotten towards the end of a project only to find out a file got corrupted, or a drive died, or someone erased the tape knows how it feels. It can be frustrating, depressing, and overwhelming to think of having to go back and recreate what you’ve already done. Especially when your deadline is less than 48 hours away.

I’m trying to look on the bright side. The video is only around 90 seconds, so it’s not that bad. I have the audio cut and soundbite already saved as a separate file so that can just be imported in. And, I know what I’m doing this time. In the past when I’ve been faced with situations like these I find that the second version is usually tighter and generally better because I had a chance to think through what worked and what didn’t and what would work better. And hey, waiting for the new software to download has given me a few minutes to update my blog. What more could a girl ask for?

And so back to the bowels of my project…”once more into the breach, dear friends…”

Video Editing on a Cloud!?!

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Strassner Editing Systems

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I came across this article this morning. This is really exciting news. And, I admit, I haven’t finished researching this yet (something about actually getting work done and meeting deadlines). But just the potential has me really excited. The idea that you wouldn’t be tied down to one machine or hard drive(s) to finish a product, that you would really be able to do production on-the-fly, is a mind blowing concept for me.

A million years ago when I first got into production the world consisted of tape-to-tape editing, and if you were lucky a switcher of some sort to make it look a little fancier. When I left college the buzz was on non-linear editing and the potential to get a system soon(ish). Then I worked in a real-life television station, in a small market, that got a system (mostly because the guy who headed commercial development and was probably the best in the market insisted on getting one – and was willing to help foot some of the cost). Of course being low person on the totem pole I was only allowed to watch it in use and stare at if fondly while I did my tape-to-tape editing on 3/4 (yep, three-quarter) tape. Not only was I tied to machines, I was in a tiny room with no sunlight and human contact. Eventually I got into corporate video and met my first non-linear editing system. I even got one at my desk. My own system right there where I worked!

The take away there is that it was at my desk. Where I worked. If I had to travel (which I did frequently) there was no checking out and capturing footage at night at the hotel. No rough cuts to show anyone so they knew how things were going. It all had to wait until I could get back to my desk and edit. Even now when laptops are able to do a good job handling editing you still need extra drives for the footage.

Just the idea of being able to edit using a cloud. That could access the video and allow you to edit without being tied down to any one computer. To be able to work where you need to, when you need to, without having to drag heavy drives with – this is the future. I’m anxious to see where all of it goes, and if it really works of course.

This is just one more reason why living in the future is so cool!

5 Reasons NOT to Use Video

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I realized the other day after reading this that I’ve talked about reasons to use a professional video team. I’ve talked about how much I love the magic moments that you have. I’ve even talked about why you should use video. But what I haven’t talked about is why sometimes video isn’t the answer. As much as it does pay me to say it, video is not always the right answer. Let’s face it, it’s not.

Here are my Top 5 reasons not to use video:

  1. We want to be cool! I think a lot of people want to be a part of the latest greatest what ever is hot, but don’t necessarily consider if the latest greatest is right for them. I mean look how Twitter, Facebook and YouTube have exploded. Everyone wants to be there, but not everyone has taken the time to figure out what it means to them. Most business jumped on the social media bandwagon before develop marketing plans, metrics collection or even a plan of attack. Yes, you may seem that much more hip because you tweet, but if you don’t know how to use it to attract and keep customers, is it really worth the time investment? The same is true for video. Don’t make a video because all the cool kids (or your competitors) are making videos. Make a video because you have something to say and the best way to say it.
  2. My boss says we need it! Great, what about it does he feel you need? Just because his nephew is in film school, or just graduated, and is looking for a paid gig doesn’t make doing a video the best idea. (For my answer on why the nephew may not be the best idea, see the above link on the professional video team). Maybe your boss read an article somewhere saying that video marketing is the best thing since sliced bread doesn’t mean that it’s right for you. You’ll save yourself a lot of time and the company’s money if you play Devil’s Advocate for a few moments and find out what “We need video” really means.
  3. We want people to be able to see the faces of our staff! Not a bad idea, but not a great idea if your folks aren’t good on camera. Let’s face it, you can’t get much more awkward to watch than someone who is uncomfortable on camera. It doesn’t matter how many times you try to record it, rewrite or relax them, some people just aren’t good on video. Honestly, that’s ok. I would much rather have someone who is awesome with clients and not so good on camera than someone who is terrible on camera but comes off like an award winning actress on camera. Since she’s going to be spending 99.9% or her time with clients let her be awesome at and don’t embarrass her by forcing her to be awkward on camera. If you want your clients to see people’s faces then come up with a clever bio page with photographs of everyone. Chances are everyone will be happier with it in the end.
  4. Cost Outweighs ROI! As much as video folks like me want to do a video for you, it’s got to make sense to your bottom line. Does the cost of the video (even if it’s “free” there are probably staff hours involved) make sense for what you’re going to get out of it? If what you’re spending in dollars, time and/or effort is more than the benefit you’ll get from doing a video, it probably isn’t worth it. Video should be viewed the same as any marketing project. If the cost outweighs the return on that investment, you should rethink the plan. A video should make business sense for you and your organization.
  5. I’m Just Not Comfortable! This one really should be common sense, but if you don’t feel comfortable doing a video then don’t do it. One of the worse things in video is when someone is uncomfortable in the video. But the same goes true if you’re comfortable with the whole process. It only takes one tense person to drag down a project and make everyone else tense. Tense does not good video make.

One last thought….This advice applies to many things in life:  there’s nothing wrong with not be ready for video. Video is better when you wait for the right time and place. Wait until your ready for video, you’ll be glad you did.

Magic Moments

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I was inspired after reading  this post. In it Mike discusses the role happenstance plays in video production. Let’s face it sometimes we plan shots down to the frame and they turn out ok, making us wonder if we ever had any talent in the first place. Then we when we turn around we just happen to grab a shot where the light is amazing, just the right amount of wind and all the planets align to create the perfect shot. The shot usually ends with comments about our own brilliance, deserved or not, and we remember why we love what we do.

It can happen on the set or in post production. After hours of blood, sweat and tears (in my accident prone case blood is usually involved), after wondering why I  didn’t go into some “normal” profession, like teaching or animal wrangling…all of a sudden the “magic” happens and I get a glimpse at perfection. These are the moments of greatness we look for. These are the moments I love.

The natural high from grabbing the perfect shot or doing the perfect edit is amazing. All the pain and frustration are forgotten. I remember why I chose to work in video, why I keep coming back to it after getting out for a few years at a time. All of a sudden I’m a little kid back again, on one of my family’s rare trips to the movies, watching The Empire Strikes Back. I remember that magic.

I’m probably never going to make that kind of magic, but just getting a taste of it every now and then keeps me coming back for more.

Pay As You Go Video?

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I read this article this morning and hated the idea. Then I thought about it some more and I’m actually starting to really like it. A UK company, Shoot Cut Go, has created a company that helps you figure out what kind of video help you want (there’s a toll free hot line  if you have questions), gets you instant quotes, books your experts on-line and then provides for electronic delivery! Video and multimedia freelancers all over the UK are part of the network. Whether you need a full shoot, voice over talent, or editing they can help you get what you’re looking for, one would assume at a good cost.

While I am generally a fan of a one-stop-shop, this is a brilliant idea. It’s bringing video production to people who can benefit from it, but can’t necessarily afford what a large production house would charge. Since they have teams of freelancers all over the UK, you would be supporting local talent (for shoots at least) and not have to worry about huge charges for transportation. It puts the power in the hands of the small business that can benefit the most from video production.

To me at this point, it’s all theory. I’m in the US and not really in a position to go out and check with clients and the freelancers to see how everyone is liking the operation. But I do like the idea. For the production folks it’s a way to keep busy – let’s face it, it is  hard to start a production business. These folks have a company, that in essence, helps them line up work. The client benefits because they know the crews are carefully selected (and I would imagine that if there was an issue the company would help work out the problem) so they’re protected. It’s really a win-win.

I think that an idea like this would work well in the US – even if just on a state level. A few production teams working together and leveraging each others ability. Don’t have a 3D animator, that’s ok because someone in Sterling dose. The work is spread around to those who can do it with little effort by team. It builds resume reels and client bases. The clients get what they need all in one place.

Could this be the future for small video and multimedia production?

What the Heck is Corporate Video Anyway?

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High end linear editing suite, 1999.

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When I started college as a Radio/Television production major I thought I would work in television or movies. I never thought I would end up corporate video. Like many of my classmates I entered the wonderful world of small market television after college eventually becoming weekend director at a top 100 market. After a couple of years I figured out that not only am I good at video production, I love it. I also figured out that I hate news production. After some work in marketing and public relations I discovered a home in corporate video production.

The much less sexy cousin of television, corporate video covers a range of uses and purposes. While it might not be as glamorous, it’s filled with variety and options that television just doesn’t have. One day you could be working on a training video and the next be working a flashy marketing piece. And chances are that unless you work in news your whole life, at some point you too will work in corporate television.

Most production companies will at some point be involved in corporate video. Whether they like to admit it or not. Doing commercials is a lot of fun, but unless you’re a big firm there usually aren’t enough of them coming through the door to pay the rent. Trust me, this was not the career path I would have predicted, but you know it’s not that bad. The hours are a lot better than TV that’s for sure!

The best part is that I get to do such a variety of videos, I don’t get bored. Some have been a little less exciting than others, but in the end I’ve learned something. The challenge is to make each and every production fresh and interesting, because that’s what you’re clients deserve.

More and more companies are moving toward video to reach their customer base. They’re going look for people with vision, creativity, and high quality standards to help them do it. I think that many of these business will be looking to form long-term partnerships with small production companies rather than forming internal teams. If you only want one or two videos a quarter, the overhead for putting a team together and outfitting it with the right equipment is not cost productive. Hiring a local production company to handle videos from concept to completion is likely a better investment. One or two videos a quarter may not seem like much at the start, but if marketed well and producing good work that one company turns in to three or four, and it could just keep growing from there.

To answer the question, corporate is a growing lucrative market for those interested in a career in video. It’s fairly stable and there’s a lot of room for growth. My only words of advice are, be good at what you do. Do you’re job right and the possibilities is limitless.

YouTube Buys a Producer of Videos

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I had heard this was in the works, but it appears that the deal is done. I can’t help but wonder what it means to the future of video production.

It most certainly will change YouTube. Today YouTube is the home of cute cats, babies laughing, and quirky viral sensations. With the addition of a professional branch one can only imagine that more professionally produced content is not far behind. Yes, there is professional content available now, but it’s provided by people, bands and others primarily for self promotion.

What we’re talking about here is the potential for professionally created content created exclusively for the YouTube audience. Video content produced exclusively for the web is not new. As a matter of fact, the only thing new is the appearance that YouTube wants in on the act. But, will this change what YouTube is?

Washington, DC, October 20, 2005 -- Paul Luke ...

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YouTube seems is the home of home videos. It’s where you put everything from videos of kids for grandma to see to your videos on just about every kind of how-to you can imagine. I can’t help but wonder if professionally produced episodic videos become a regular part of the site, will it change the quality of the video we see? Will the cute cats and laughing babies be pushed to the side in favor of longer home produced series (perhaps with babies and cats as featured players)?

In some respects, I hope so. Let’s face it, there’s a whole lotta crap out there folks. Sure there are videos only Grandma’s would love, and that’s fine. But there are other videos out there that are of such poor quality even Grandma won’t watch. To paraphrase a popular saying, “With the ability to produce video comes great responsibility.” We are creative people, we want to share what we create. Here’s hoping we see more creative (and higher quality) videos with YouTube leading the way.

I Saw Bon Jovi and Fell in Love with His Monitors!

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That isn’t some sort of euphemism, it’s a statement of fact. I recently saw a guilty pleasure in concert – Bon Jovi (no comments about musical taste please). We had tickets that were basically stage right which was the perfect angle to see what was happening behind the stage and check out the video monitors.

Now, I realize that most people go to a concert with the sole purpose to listen to music and see a show. I want to do that but I have a habit of getting distracted by the technology. I’ve been known to watch spotlight operators, keep tabs on the folks running show production from the floor, and scrutinize how the stage lighting/sound/monitors all work together. I have to say that while the stage and lighting were nice, these monitors were amazing! I was so enthralled with them my husband had to keep reminding me to watch the band.

Jon Bon Jovi standing on a video monitor

Jon Bon Jovi gets a lift from robotic monitors.

I am not the first person impressed. I actually saw a few articles, including this one, about these monitors. They were highlighted by the lighting and sound industries. The folks who developed the stage used the Venetian monitors developed for the previous  tour and teamed them with five new monitors sitting on robotic arms that move and groove throughout the show. At one point the monitors turn into steps and stage as Jon Bon Jovi uses them to share the love with those behind the stage. The monitors light up and project as he walks across them. Combined with the larger monitors behind the stage, and the high def Venetian monitors, it’s an unbelievable sight.

If you saw my earlier post, I admit that I don’t get out much. I don’t go to every concert out there, but I’ve been to some pretty good one…Van Halen, Sir Paul McCarteny, The Police, Meatloaf, Weird Al…and others. My first concert was the Beach Boys (I was a kid, and they most definitely were not). I may not be a concert regular, but I’ve got a few reference points to use for analysis.

I think about the other concerts I’ve been to and I’m amazed at how far the technology has come. I remember back to hand-held cameras showing grainy images on much smaller screens. They were far from the clear crisp huge monitors all over the stage. Back then the screens were to help people see the stage better, they weren’t an important part of the show. That’s not to say flying monitors that doubled as a curtain and video stairs overpowered the show. They did exactly what they should do, enhance the show and increase the production values.

I’m sure that there were few people at the show as fascinated by the monitors as I was. I’m just a geek that way. To paraphrase one of my favorite geeks. It’s pretty cool living in the future.