I HAVE THREE STORIES FOR YOU.
A company calls me about doing their video. They need a really good video to launch their new business. They have $1700 to spend. They looked at an out-of-state company that makes videos with a spokesman on a white background, with graphics, for $2000, and want to do something like that.
After the first video, they want to do 30 more videos, happening sometime soon after. They have scripts they’ve written, and a storyboard of how the graphics will work.
I reply with an itemized budget of what it would cost to shoot and edit this professionally, and the amount is $16,700 for a one day shoot and one-day edit. But since I’m a one-man-band, I figure out a way to make it happen for their price. I have no lighting people, no sound person, no teleprompter operator, no teleprompter, no makeup person, but I spend money on a studio and professional talent. I supply a camera package, sound package, lighting, and my laptop for the teleprompter. They supply graphics, which arrive in the wrong format, with the wrong codec, and are unusable for numerous reasons. Their plan going forward is to produce the next 30 videos in-house, using the CEO’s son, who took video classes in high school. The son has discovered a widget that let’s an avatar read the script on-screen. With his graphics and editing, and the avatar, the videos will complete themselves.
I bid on a big project for the state. There was a long Request For Proposals (RFP) which detailed all of the deliverables, and what format those deliverables would be delivered in. Pages and pages of Marketing jargon about ‘Efforts’ and ‘Initiatives’ and ‘Influencers’. They wanted White Board videos. They wanted Green-Screen videos. They wanted a handbook on how the influencers could leverage the videos. No scripts are attached. They knew what kind of videos they wanted, without knowing what the videos would say. I didn’t get the contract.
A Video Producer gets hired because he does great work. Really compelling storytelling. The boss is moved by the videos, and really gets how great they are. Once on-board, the boss, and the Marketing guy, and the other department head, all become experts on how to make videos. “Check out this video I made last week!”, says the boss. The video is basically him reading along to the Powerpoint presentation in the background. “I’m looking at a Red Dragon camera!” says other department head, not recognizing the irony that he is not describing a camera at all. “Your videos are out of our Branding Guidelines, and won’t work”, says the Marketing guy to the Video Producer.
WHAT IS THIS ALL ABOUT?
I am a filmmaker: a video production expert.
Expertise in the field is different than in other fields. In other fields, if you want to do something well, you learn the technology or the process. In video, you learn the technology, the process, and then the education begins. You learn about people, you study communication, you watch countless hours of other people’s work, you break down your own work and look for why something succeeded and why something failed, and you re-work the pieces to be more successful. Your process includes technology, art, communication, and a healthy dose of your own subconscious.
IN STORY ONE:
Those folks never once mentioned their viewer, and why that viewer would ever watch their video.
•There is nothing said in their video that couldn’t be read on a webpage, or sent in a brochure.
•There is nothing compelling in their video to make their customers desire their service, only information about their service.
•They are relying on the concept that ‘People like to watch videos’, which is a fallacy.
People like to watch GOOD videos, videos that are fun, interesting, well-told, which have the information the viewer wants, in the way the viewer wants to receive it.
The video I will produce for them will be well-shot, well-edited, and may well fail.
IN STORY TWO:
Their brief was clearly presented by a Marketing company. Marketing has more jargon than any other field I’ve come across. They make up more words and phrases than anybody, and the jargon could be restated clearly in the same amount of time. “We are efforting to…” could be said as “We are making an effort to…” just as easily. The only difference is, now everybody outside of the Marketing world just wants to punch Marketing Boy in the throat for being so self-important. Here’s a quote by Nido Qubein –
“If you’re in the presence of a true expert, you will understand everything they say. If you don’t understand what someone is saying, they are not an expert.”
When the brief mentioned initiative and influencers, but didn’t have scripts attached, they showed that they were incompetent. How can you decide on who the communicators will be, without a blueprint, or script, of how you plan to communicate? When they mentioned White Board videos and Green-Screen videos, but don’t give any idea of the points they are actually trying to communicate, they prove themselves to be incompetent. How can you know your method of delivery, without knowing what you need to deliver, or better yet, the audience you’re delivering it to? The audience decides what is relevant and compelling, because they decide which method works for them. Know your audience, and work backward from there.
IN STORY THREE:
Everyone watches lots of TV, so many people think they are now experts. ‘I saw this great effect on a Super Bowl ad, can we do that on a training video?’ ‘My new computer comes with editing software, and look how cool my new video is!’ ‘That video is beautiful – what camera did you use?’ If only these ‘New Experts’ could hear this through my ears. Your new video? That’s great. You managed to combine camera shots with editing and text, and you threw in some cool transitions. And music too! How exciting!
Let’s look at some of the things you did, that I wouldn’t do, shall we?
•You made a video without considering the intelligence and time value of the viewer.
•You shot without lighting, making your video look amateur.
•You shot without good lighting, making your video look the opposite of compelling.
•You shot with the camera microphone, making it sound amateur.
•You shot at the wrong focal length, making you look less than flattering, and therefore less professional.
•Your shot is static, which makes your production look cheap.
•Your face is dead center of frame, which makes your shot look poorly composed.
•You shot with a white background, making your face look dark, because the camera auto-exposed.
•You shot with the camera at the wrong height, which makes us even less interested in what is hiding in your nostrils.
•You edited at the beginning and ending of each sentence, which is poor storytelling.
•You included exciting transitions, which makes the video feel like it was edited by a thirteen-year-old.
•You added text movement without any reason or rhyme, which makes us think you’d just set your editing system on Autopilot.
•And you added music which is the wrong tempo for your message.
And all of the mistakes mentioned here are still not touching the bulk of what makes good communication. Do all of these things correctly and you start looking like a competent beginner.
The most ridiculed aspect of this is the Camera enthusiast.
Us professionals immediately laugh at the question, ‘What camera did you use?’
I have been using a Canon T2i since 2009. It is the cheapest DSLR camera on the market which shoots HD video. How is it possible that I have been successful with an $850 camera? Because it’s not the camera.
My knowledge of lighting, lenses, exposure, camera movement, cinematography and color grading are what makes my work look great. The camera has a number of features that help, but what I’m doing with a T2i, I could do with and Arri Alexa, or any camera in between. Having the best camera around makes you a camera owner, but having skills makes you a Director of Photography.
And to the Marketing argument, that “This video is longer that three minutes, and its not on a green background, which is the corporate color”, well, let’s talk. I was in a meeting with not one but THREE advertising agencies and the client, including their whole Marketing contingent. There were probably thirty people in the room. I’m the guy making the videos, and we’re talking about the videos. None of these people have spoken to me before this meeting – and the meeting is about the progress of the videos. One ‘Expert’ from the web agency says,”The videos should be a maximum of three minutes, because nobody watches a web video for longer than three minutes.” Everybody nodded thoughtfully, and I raised my hand. “By a show of hands, does anybody here watch The Daily Show?” About twenty hands went up. “Any of you watch it online?” They all stayed up. To the expert, I asked – “The Daily Show is video, right? And you just saw that people watch it online. Are you saying that people tune out of The Daily Show after three minutes?” “Well, no, it just that The Daily Show doesn’t really count…” “I beg to differ. I think your data might be flawed. What are the stats of videos that are really good, really compelling, or really funny? How long do people watch them?” The rule of online video is that there are no rules. If your videos are compelling, then they can be two minutes or ten minutes. If you want people to watch your videos, make them compelling. A boring video will be watched for ten seconds, a great video will be watched for ten hours.
And as to the Branding Guidelines, please understand – video has more ability to be compelling than any other medium. Your font may be lovely, your color palette may inspire “an Earth-based love” of the brand – (I’m not making that up), but video has the ability to reach a person’s heart, their soul, and change the way they feel about your company, your brand, your product. When a person knows the benefits of your product, they will think about buying. When a person feels like your friend, they will buy from you, and be interested in furthering their experience with you. Their investment will be emotional, on a needs level, and there is no font or PMS color that can do that as well. When you’re forming your Brand Guidelines, figure out your video strategy first, and use that as a jumping-off point to choose the colors, styles and fonts. When used correctly, video is the most important tool in your Marketing box.
The videos we make are a product of a lot of time, effort and work. Viewers are sophisticated. They watch a ton of video each day, whether its on the TV at home or their computer at work, or their phone at lunch. They know the difference between good and bad, and although they might not know how to articulate it, they can tell a video which was produced with them in mind, and videos which were produced for someone to get a point across. My job as a storyteller is to tell the story in the way the viewer will be open to watching it, and not tuning out after two minutes, or four minutes, or twenty minutes. My job isn’t to make videos, it is to make compelling videos, to make the viewer feel closer to the company, or service, or product. My job is to make the video successful, by making the viewer understand that the video really is for them. My job is to be the audience, to see the story from their side, and to tell it to them in their way. Without jargon, without excessive effects, without Powerpoints. I am a Storyteller; Being a storyteller wrapping your needs in with the viewer, and using technology and processes, and so much more, to forge a bond between the viewer and the client, and remain invisible. What kind of camera would you recommend for that?