Government Video Expo 2011

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I got the opportunity to spend a few hours in the exhibit hall at Government Video Expo in Washington, DC this week. For those of you not familiar, it’s an industry event for all things video related to the US government.

This is the first time I’ve been able to attend since 2006, and it was great to see how it’s grown. Just like the first time I attended, I was surprised to see all of the exhibitors related to video that I wouldn’t normally put in the category. Sure Panasonic, JVC and several of the folks you’d expect to see there were in attendance. But there were also companies there with surveillance and security equipment, as well as systems to support that kind of data collection. It was interesting to see how my definition of video is just a small part of the picture.

I also overheard some people talking about my alma mater. It turned out that one of my former college professors (and continued friends) brought a group of production students down to the show! It was great to meet the students who are now filling the roster of the class I took. It was even better to see one of the people who helped to teach me what a lot of what I know about production and shaped my future.

It may not be the largest video event, but Government Video Expo is definitely a great stop for people interested in any aspect of video. Hope to see you there next year.

Who Are You Telling Your Story To?

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Stanford Smith makes some great points this post about “preaching to the choir” if you will. And he’s right. It’s great to have the support of like-minded people, but if the right people aren’t getting your message the right way, you’re getting nowhere. I’ve talked before about how it’s important to know your audience. And, whether your marketing a university, developing adult learning content, or producing a killer video, you need to make sure the audience you’re creating your story for is the audience that gets it. It happens all the time. We write a marketing piece in a way that appeals to our executive, but is it written in a way  that will appeal (and sell to) your audience? Will your learners love the content as much as the other instructional designers do, or will the be confused and turned-off by it? Those special-effects and artistic edits are awesome, but are you doing it to show off your favorite skills or to reach wedding and corporate clients? It’s so easy to study your audience and develop something for them but do it in a way that appeals not to the audience, but to ourselves or our peers. I think we’re all guilty of it from time to time. I’ll be the first to admit that I have. I’ve done promos and videos that I thought were great but missed the mark with the audience because they just didn’t get it. But, I’ve also done videos that I didn’t really connect with that were exactly what the client and the audience needed to see. I challenge you to go back and take an honest look at the stories you’re telling. I have and I’m going to be doing a few rewrites on a project I’m working on where the target audience is very different from the people involved. I did a pretty good job in the beginning, but I can see now that I lost that edge a bit. Now that I’m aware I can make it right. If you’re in the same boat I’m in, here are a few suggestions to help you stay on track:

  • Get out of your comfort zone and expose yourself to the interests and environment of your audience. Remind yourself where they’re coming from. Don’t assume you know.
  • Do a focus group or have an informal chat with folks from your target audience. What story do they want to hear from you or your client?
  • Look for outside experts. Don’t just listen to the usual people get opinions from, find someone from outside your circle to give an objective opinion.
  • I’ve been known to put up signs up around my desk to remind me about the audience I’m trying to reach.
Take a minute. Think about the stories you’re telling now. Are you telling your story in a way that will move, excite or affect your audience? Is your story being told in a way that’s too “inside” your environment to reach that target audience out there?  Are you telling the right story, the right way, to the right audience?
The answer to those questions are the difference between telling your story and selling your story.

Telling Stories at the Airport

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I read this story about a man who won a video contest to spend the next 80 days living at the airport. The reason? To tell the stories of the people he meets. He’ll be talking with travelers, employees and everyone in between. It’s not exactly a hardship, he gets to live in a luxury hotel. The airport has given him a new camera and editing equipment and he’ll get $15,000 when he’s done.

I love this idea. Each and every one of us has a story and most of them never get told. Sure sometimes we swap stories (especially painful travel stories) over a beer, but how often do we really tell those stories? How often is there someone there willing to not only listen to our stories, but to help us tell them?

There’s something poetic about telling the stories of travelers. Where are they going? Why are they going? Travel is such a wonderful metaphor for life, and there are an infinite number of stories to tell about that. This is an amazing opportunity to capture a moment of someone’s life and use it help tell the story of that life. What an awesome gift.

I for one look forward to seeing what happens.

Telling Your Story

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

Image via Wikipedia

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

Image via Wikipedia

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!