It’s been said before, but bears repeating: Every video should tell a story! Even 15 second commercials do this, so it stands to reason that anything longer should be a no-brainer, but it often isn’t.
So, let me point out that the nucleus of any story should have three main points:
Yeah, I know it’s simplistic, but this is the cornerstone of any story “arc.” Having spent 30 years in marketing, there is another way to look at it:
If you do this right, there’s one last three-point metaphor:
Note: for those interested in delving into the full complexity of story development, there are hundreds of books, blogs and videos that will expand your horizons. I just wanted to keep it short and simple today…lots of projects in the workflow !
**AUTHOR’S NOTE** I first wrote this article in September, 2014. Having now done hundreds of interview videos since then, the 6 points I detailed in 2014 take on even greater meaning, so I thought I’d “rebroadcast” the post. I would also add a seventh point: When speaking in front of a camera, it isn’t necessary to try to remember a long passage or thought! When you get to a point where you’re not sure what you want to say next, just pause–while still looking at the same spot–collect your thoughts, and continue. Seasoned pros know this neat little trick and now, you do too! Your editor will love you because editing your session will be much simpler when there are pauses that can be easily put together, creating a nice, cohesive interview!
About a year ago, I wrote on my blog about giving a great interview, in which I tapped into my friend Steve Cooper’s article (hitchedmag.com) for some terrific insights. Recently, I shot interview-type videos for a number of corporate and non-profit clients and it sparked a few new thoughts that are worth sharing, for the next time you are asked to be interviewed on camera.
- Get comfortable! Make sure that—while attractive to the camera (viewing audience)—your clothing is comfortable. If it’s too tight or binding, it can contribute to your voice sounding constrained. If you’re nervous in front of a camera, an overly snug outfit will only compound the nervousness.
- Know your subject material. Create a list of talking points. Notes (as opposed to a script) will allow the conversation to flow smoothly and sound more “normal.” Unless you have expertise working with a teleprompter, I recommend not using one. Also, this is NOT a “gotcha” interview, so I want my subject to be well informed.
- I typically recommend the “off camera” style, as if you were talking with someone you know. You’re just “having a conversation.” Plus, off camera interviews pull the subject’s attention away from the camera equipment.
- Practice starting your responses. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to coach subjects to NOT start every response with ‘um,’ ‘uh,’ ‘like,’ and the dreaded ‘so.’
- Shoot with multiple angles and perspectives. Often, I shoot with two cameras to accomplish this. A single medium close-up shot can be a bit monotonous, unless you are going for a very specific look! Even if you only have one camera, you can (should) vary the angles and perspectives of the interview. It will be far more interesting. “60 Minutes” set the standard for this approach.
- Shoot “cutaways” (sometimes called “b-roll”) of other interesting areas that support the interview that can be edited into the final product. Again, this helps keep the interest level up and boredom to a minimum.
And finally, start with the end in mind. Even a short interview has a “story arc,” and by knowing where you want the interview to finish, it will simplify the presentation from beginning to end!
In my May 21st blog, last year (“Can you give me a ‘ballpark’ quote?”), I broke down the elements of a video production to illustrate what goes into a bid for a project. In that article, I mentioned that post-production is a subject that should have its own story, so here it comes today!
To review, the components that play into how a job is priced includes:
So let’s unpack that last one: Post production. A simplistic definition would describe it as everything that happens after production wraps, leading up to the delivery of the finished video product. It’s only when we drill down further that we find out what that really means…
- Editing. The art of taking the raw footage—with its audio—and turning it into something useful. I believe too many on the “client side” have limited understanding of what goes into good editing, especially the time it takes to do it right. And there is NO correlation between the aggregate time of the source footage and a finished sequence. Even if the desired time for a video is one minute, it could take hours (or even days) to whittle a lot of raw footage into that really special promo/talking head/commercial piece! A good shooter will capture footage with editing in mind (especially if it’s the same person doing both tasks), but editing is still the process that can take the most time*.
- Audio. This subject actually has two definitions. The first pertains to adjustments that are often necessary to “sweeten” the audio captured with the source footage. Depending on the quality of that sound, it may not require much work—but it can! A good editor typically has an audio application just as robust as the editing program and I’m pleased to have the Adobe suite that includes Audition, in my workflow arsenal. Nothing can undermine a video like bad audio, so major attention needs to be paid to this crucial element. The second context pertains to the music bed that sometimes rides under the video. This sound track should complement the tone of the visuals and NEVER compete with it. We’ve all seen videos with the audio track WAY TOO LOUD (yes, I’m yelling!), and even with volume controls, an audio track should never overwhelm any spoken word in the video.
- Titles, Graphics & Effects. Call this the “glue” that brings everything together, “TG&E” make for a nice opening and closing to your video. Effects should never be so dramatic that they become a distraction; they should be an enhancement to your presentation.
I hope this addresses the point that creating a video is comprised of many moving parts. Make sure your video production company understands them all and can pull the “pieces of the puzzle” together into a cohesive, compelling video!
Happy New Year!
* I am often asked how long it takes to edit a project. And while there is no specific answer (no dodge here!), reputable sources (plural) say that it can take from 1 to 5 hours to produce 1 minute of finished video. The range represents the complexity of the edit; the more elements (footage, graphics, titles, music, effects, rendering, color correction and others) the longer it will take. In the context of the “ballpark quote” article, post production can easily be equal to—or even higher than—the cost of production itself.
As we close out the crazy year known as 2016, I would be remiss if I didn’t say a sincere THANK YOU to all the clients I served. And as we head into 2017, there is only one question: GOT VIDEO?
Let’s do something together in this next year and you can see what other clients have learned: Great video does NOT have to break the bank!
First, my sincere thanks to all my clients who entrusted their video work to First Impressions Video! Whether a direct production or as a freelance contributor, 2016 was a very special year, and I am truly grateful! And as we head into 2017, just remember this important axiom: Rule #1…don’t sweat the small stuff. Rule #2…it’s ALL small stuff!
May we all be wildly successful in our respective endeavors in the coming year!
I hear that question a lot. Unfortunately, there are a number of elements that affect the price of a video. No, that’s not a dodge, it’s the truth. What would you say if someone asked you this question:
How much does an airplane cost?
In thinking about the variables in play to answer this question, you begin to get the idea there are a lot of things to consider! I know my way around aircraft and there are easily thousands of questions, like are we talking about fixed wing or rotary wing (helicopter)? So let’s dump the airplane example and get back to video. Let’s start by posing a few questions that should be addressed before we answer “that other question.”
- Rate. Often described as hourly, half-day and day rate. Many videographers don’t price by the hour and some only price on a full day-rate basis. Hourly averages range between $25 an hour from that film school grad you know to $250 an hour for a top-flight video veteran. My hourly average hits right about the center: around a hundred bucks an hour. Which lends me to…
- Equipment. Sure you could whip out your smartphone and shoot away, but is that really the look you’re going for? If so, stop reading! Otherwise, continue. There are $20,000 cameras out there (don’t forget lenses!), $2,000 microphones, and lights that weigh as much as a Volkswagen, but is that really necessary? Is there a line item charge in the project budget for equipment? I have professional level gear that you may not see Spielberg using, but it will produce corporate video that will resonate with your audience and you won’t need stockholder approval to shoot! Oh, and my rate includes the aforementioned pro-level gear! Cameras, mics, lights, sliders, tripods, gimbals…oh my! Only if I have to create a specific effect might extra equipment fees enter the equation. I don’t have a drone, though I have access to one through an industry colleague, and this is considered specialized equipment.
- Personnel. I started my business as a single person crew (“SPC”) to be able to deliver quality work at an affordable rate. That doesn’t mean that there won’t be multiple cameras, mics and lights…it does mean that I know how to be efficient in the deployment of this hardware (including setup and take down) by myself. And in those instances where it just makes sense to have a grip, 2nd camera op or sound person along, I have a rolodex full of these folks that can be called in. Also in the category of personnel: talent. Does the project require professional acting talent or will we be shooting personnel from the company being filmed?
- Time. How comprehensive is the project? Can we do it in a day? A few hours? What will be required to edit the acquired footage? When is the project due? And by the way, just because the finished deliverable is “only” 5 minutes long doesn’t mean that hours, and sometimes days of production didn’t go into what is ultimately seen on screen.
- Post-production. Because this is a future article all by itself, I’ll be brief here. Post-production includes the components that help make the video “pop.” Editing, music selection, titles, graphics, animations, voice-overs, special effects. A word of caution here: less is often more.
So there you have just a few of the key elements of a video. Truthfully, anyone who would just throw out a “ballpark” quote without reasonable consideration of the variables I’ve shared here is asking for trouble. I would much rather take a modest amount of time to talk about those elements so I could provide a quote that would be meaningful for all parties involved. I may miss out on a few jobs taking this approach but I’m as professional in my business methodology as I presume you are in yours. Consultations are free, and the result will be a production that achieves its desired results at a rate everyone finds acceptable.
**NOTE** This article was originally published last July, but as I’ve been doing lots of “talking head” interviews and testimonial shoots lately, I thought it timely to re-share a neat story of how to help non-professional on-camera talent to get comfortable in front of the camera.
One of the kindest testimonials I’ve received came from Elizabeth Fairchild, of Accurate Background, here in Orange County. I was tasked to shoot a series of interviews of company employees representing various departments, and the videos would be used as part of their exhibit at a national human resources convention. Some of the candidates were very comfortable being in front of a camera; others, not so comfortable. There are a number of techniques that I use to distract an interviewee from the camera and related equipment, and aside from some warm-up banter before we begin, we tried to focus on what excites them about their position in the company. I often roll the camera before we “start” because sometimes, you can get some real gems in the commentary. I also use the off camera style of interview popularized by shows like “60 Minutes” because again, if the interviewee is looking and speaking to a person, they tend to be less conscious of the gear in the room. Introverts present their own challenges, but by investing a little extra time, once these folks open up, their contributions are truly invaluable!
Part of Liz’s testimonial follows, and the next time you want to schedule interviews for your company or organization, give First Impressions Video a call! If you want to read her entire compliment, scroll down through the comments on my home page, and you can see it there.
“The day Terry came into film went off without a hitch. We had scheduled a full day of interviews with eleven employees. For many of them, this was their first time in front of the camera, and they were quite nervous. Terry did a great job making each interviewee feel comfortable – offering advice on how to ignore the camera and coaching them through their responses. At wrap, I think everyone felt like Terry was a part of our company family, and we were able to capture natural, authentic testimonials.”