how to: video shoot “speed bumps”
Here at MK3, we offer in-house creative and full production capabilities. You could say we’re a “hybrid” and it’s what helps to set us apart from other agencies. We work hard to deliver high quality creative and production for our clients, and in the process…things don’t always go as planned. Take video shoots for example. We take all the necessary steps to ensure an easy breezy video shoot, but we’ve also learned to think on our feet and adapt when things go a little sideways. Here are a few things we’ve learned when faced with production day “speed-bumps.”
when you’re a bundle of nerves…
We often shoot on-camera interviews with SMEs (subject matter experts), so we know how hard it is to deliver information on-camera. We also know that sometimes the nerves kick in. Our goal is to make the “talent” feel as comfortable as possible, so our directors take a few minutes to build a relationship with the interviewee before we start recording. We try to loosen them up by asking them about their hobbies, last night’s game or tomorrow’s weather – anything but the topic at hand. If we get a natural conversation going, the “natural” part often rolls right into the interview itself. Another trick: ask the first 3 interview questions again at the end, because by this time your “talent” will have loosened up enough to give better answers than the first 3 tries.
when you’re just not finding your light…
When it comes to video, it’s all about the light. No one wants to look shiny or washed out…or feel like they’re sitting in the dark. For in-person shoots, we always conduct a site survey in advance to plan all our shots, but with remote virtual shoots that’s not possible. So before every remote interview, we conduct a “tech check” to ensure the lighting looks good, the interviewee’s face is lit and there are no distracting shadows. We also check that their background is appropriate and looks put-together, but not staged. We may ask our on-camera subject to move around the room to find the best lighting and background for the video. When there are limited lighting options, having your “talent” sit in the soft light of a sunny window is a simple solution!
when you’re all shook up…
With so many user-generated videos being shot on smartphones or tablets, footage can end up looking unsteady or “shaky.” When it comes to stabilizing the video, skip the “selfie” approach and try placing your camera on any available flat surface. People are learning to be more resourceful, and are making “tripods” out of almost anything! Try resting your phone/camera against your laptop screen or a stack of books. No matter where you lean or prop up the camera (and especially if you have to hold it), you should always line up the camera lens to your eye height. This way, you’re not looking up or down at the camera and you’ll always be in frame no matter how you move.
when you’re at a loss for words…
When producing videos, we spend a lot of time on how it’s going to “look.” But for interview-driven videos, what it “says” can be even more important. What do you do if you set up the shoot, sit down for the interview, ask all the right questions…and get all the wrong answers? Conduct an interview before the interview. Set up a pre-interview phone call prior to shoot and ask all your questions in advance. This gives your subject a chance to practice their answers and you a chance to guide them if answers are straying from the main message. This way, your on-camera interview doesn’t turn into a fishing expedition and you know the answers in advance, so if nerves or memory issues kick in, you can guide the answers in the direction you need.
when one size does NOT fit all…
Each client and video shoot is different – with unique goals, needs and schedules. The more user generated and remote virtual “interview” shoots we produce, the more our clients find themselves not only on-camera, but as a crucial member of the crew. Make sure you know the tech needs and limitations of each client, as well as the person you’re interviewing. Are they using a Mac or PC? Can you send them higher quality recording equipment? When it comes to remote shoots, it’s important to know just how user-generated or professional the end product needs to look. But as always, the goal is to get the best sound and video possible for our clients’ needs.
Of course preparation is vital when planning any type of shoot, but here at MK3 we’re not afraid to think on our feet. You can’t prepare for every problem that occurs, but you can prepare to be prepared…and that’s always part of the plan.
New Guidelines for Video Production
Distance is in, which makes meaningful engagement challenging. There are still stories to tell, and now more than ever, video is still the best way to tell them.
But as restrictions evolve and businesses reopen, how do we return to live video production? Good question. So we asked it – and came up with a few good answers; three approaches for an on-camera interview video production:
1. User Generated Content & Video in a Box:
Record your own video from your home or office, with remote directing help from our team. We can even send you a “Video in a Box” camera/audio/lighting kit for a more professional look and sound.
2. The Controlled Studio Environment:
Produce on-camera interviews in a professional studio, adhering to all Massachusetts-mandated safety guidelines, and offering high-quality live streaming so remote clients can experience the production as if they were there.
3. The Remote Video Shoot:
Produce and direct an on-camera interview shoot with a professional crew adhering to predetermined safety protocols, in a client-provided space. As always, we’ll collaborate on the best shooting location and conduct a “hands-on,” yet professionally “distant,” video shoot.
Each project is unique and will require its own unique planning and precautions. MK3 will work with clients to determine the best approach for each production.
Don’t let distance become detachment. Stay informed, stay engaged and stay connected with the help of video. We’re all together, apart.
For more information about new video production practices and precautions, contact Joel Kaplan at email@example.com.
Scriptwriting Tips of the Trade
Video production is a visual medium, but more often than not, it starts with the written word. The script is the foundation a video is built on, so it’s always a good place to start. If you’re tasked, challenged, or motivated to write a video script, here are a few tips to help guide you.
Find your voice. Not the actual voiceover artist, but your brand voice. What tone should you use to deliver your message? Casual and conversational or serious and informational? Your tone and word choice should always match your brand.
Stand Out. Find a way. If your video can support an abstract conceptual approach, let the concept guide the scriptwriting. (Just make sure the tone, attitude, or style supports the information and doesn’t bury it.) If your message or brand requires a more straightforward, informative approach, you still need to find a way to stand out, and again, it should start with the writing. A solid creative approach can always turn a good script into a great video.
One is the loneliest number. You really need your video to resonate, so work hard to whittle the content down to one main message. You can support your message with 2 to 3 sub-messages, depending on the goal and the intended length of the video. But keep it lean, so viewers know what you mean.
Avoid the long and winding road. Don’t lead viewers down a path without directions. Structure your script so that you communicate or “tease” your main message up front, so viewers know what they’re about to hear. Then you can “unpack” your message in an orderly fashion and sum it up again at the end, reinforcing what they’ve just learned. In other words, follow these 3 easy steps:
- Tell viewers what you’re going to say.
- Say it.
- Tell them what you just told them.
Write for the ear, not for the page. Grammar and syntax are important, but with video scripts, you’re writing for the ear. You want language that rolls off the tongue and flows like a welcome conversation. That means avoiding stilted, overly formal language and sentence structure. Get your 5th grade English teacher out of your head and write with your viewer in mind.
Out loud and proud. Shorter is better. Always look for ways to edit your script to keep the total running time down. The best way to check the length is to time it while reading your script out loud, at a slow, reasonable pace. Timing it “in your head” doesn’t work – it takes time to actually wrap your tongue around every word.
Be talented. Tips don’t take the place of talent. If you have a way with words – go for it, but if you don’t, find people who do and work with them. Some people just have “it”, and that’s why they’re writers.
Great American writer Dorothy Parker one said, “I hate writing, I love having written.” Writing isn’t easy. It’s equal parts talent, hard work, practice and patience. Scriptwriting is an important part of our creative process at MK3. Whether we’re writing a script from scratch or taking a client’s script and “punching it up”, we have award-winning creative directors and writers on staff, ready to write the right way.
Careful, Mindful and Resourceful. The Small Business Story.
The COVID-19 crisis has affected everyone, everywhere. It’s a public health emergency, an economic reality, and it’s affecting companies large and small. The impact on small businesses, however, is unique. Normally, their size is an asset, allowing for a nimble and cost-effective approach to the marketplace. However, during an economic slowdown like we’re experiencing now, small businesses can’t always absorb the impact the way larger ones can.
That’s why small businesses everywhere are being careful, mindful, and more resourceful than ever. Companies who can work remotely are doing just that, and relying on kitchen tables, makeshift home offices and video conferencing to conduct “business as usual”. And here at MK3, it’s fairly usual.
While social distancing has made it difficult to produce video shoots for our clients, many creative approaches don’t require live action shooting (Motion Graphics! Stock Footage! Both!), and our post-production capabilities are as busy as ever. Brainstorming, scriptwriting, voiceover recording, editing of existing or stock footage, audio mixing, and the design and animation of motion graphics are all the ingredients of a great video, and can all be done remotely.
Small businesses are also getting creative on keeping the team “together”. Shoulder-to-shoulder collaboration, office drive-bys, and cubicle camaraderie are all quarantined. What are we replacing them with? Here at MK3, we’re video conferencing our regular Monday morning meetings, and scheduling mid-week and end-of-week video check-in calls as well.
In addition, we hold daily “water cooler” video calls – optional and open – for folks to check-in and chat about anything work or non-work related…replacing the valuable “what did you watch on TV last night?” lunch banter that we’re all missing. And all of this is over and above the as-needed phone and video calls that are driven by our on-going projects.
Surviving and thriving in this challenging environment means we all have to be more careful, mindful and resourceful. Small businesses are making the best of it and making news! Check out this story from WCVB-TV, featuring MK3! Stay healthy, stay safe, and stay busy!
Take Stock of Stock
Distance is in. And not in a good way.
Today is all about distancing – social, safe and sanitized. It’s the right thing to do, but not the best way to produce your marketing videos.
How do we keep the video communication channels open? By staying creative and relying on the tools and techniques still available to us: motion graphic animation and stock footage/photography. Creating videos using these approaches can be done “long distance”, with all collaboration conducted via email, phone and video conferencing.
If your business is driven by the power of people and their relationships, you might need to consider using stock. It’s not always as “generic” as you might think and when used properly, can still pack the emotional punch you’re looking for.
All stock footage, however, is not created equal. MK3 is experienced and adept at working with stock, because as Creative Directors and Cinematographers, we don’t rely on keyword searches to find the right content – we approach every production as if we’re directing a shoot, because the look, lens and lighting are just as important.
When searching for stock, we’re also scouting locations, casting actors, and reviewing each sequence for unique lighting, focal length and frame composition. We want your stock footage and photography to look and feel as unique as your video’s message.
Using stock also enhances the opportunities and importance of design/motion graphics. On-screen text call-outs and graphic framing devices become even more important in creating visual and branding consistency.
Distance is in. But as always, so is creativity. And that means being smart about your approach to video. Now, more than ever, consider using stock footage in your productions. It’s the right thing to do and the right time to do it.
Striking the Right Tone
The Heritage Challenge
There’s no place like home. Especially now, since many of us are housebound. In these days of forced “nesting”, home services are more essential than ever.
And no one knows more than Heritage Plumbing Heating Cooling and Electric, a New England-based home services company. During the COVID-19 crisis, their challenge has been two-fold: balancing their commitment to their employees and their customers. How do they stay safe, and still stay open in this time of personal and financial need?
Heritage needed to reach out to their customers but didn’t want to appear as if they were trying to capitalize on a difficult situation. They wanted to communicate their new strict safety precautions, including “contact-free” in-home visits. Given the economic impact of the COVID crisis, they need to offer economic incentives and discounts. And most importantly, they wanted their customers to know “We’re Still Here”.
The MK3 Solution
Heritage had been running a successful recruitment TV ad campaign and still had a bank of broadcast air-time available, so they came to MK3 for help in creating a series of commercials to deliver their unique “We’re Still Here” messaging.
MK3 collaborated with Heritage to ensure the ads not only deliver the right message but strike the right tone. Sending camera crews to record new footage wasn’t possible, due to social distancing concerns, and stock footage and photography felt inauthentic for this campaign.
Heritage wanted to confront the serious nature of the crisis, while creating a caring and thoughtful tone, so MK3 produced a series of text-only commercials backed by a simple white screen. No voice, just words and music. In today’s busy media landscape, the approach not only matched the seriousness of the message, but stood out in its stark simplicity.
Communicating with your audience can be challenging enough. Striking the right tone in a crisis requires thoughtful creativity. Video has always been a powerful communication tool, but like any tool, it’s all in how you use it.
DIY with User Generated Content
We’ve been spending a lot of time staring at each other on video screens lately…from desktops and laptops to handheld devices. More and more, we’re conducting business on-camera, live from our living rooms, makeshift home offices, and empty conference rooms!
Necessity is the mother of invention, and as resources are being reviewed and restricted, people are becoming more and more resourceful…and creating their own video content for internal and external communication.
Since we’re video professionals here at MK3, we have a name and an acronym for it – User Generated Content, or UGC! And because we’re video professionals, we’re here to support your UGC productions.
UGC is a quick and convenient way to deliver content across your audience spectrum, and while it’s typically lower quality than professional productions, it’s become more accepted in these days of remote-to-remote communication.
MK3 can offer UGC consulting, including everything from tips and best practices to remote directing and production support, as needed. Adding a little professional polish to your video can increase its quality and effectiveness.
MK3 + UGC =
- Consulting: Best practices, tips, advice, techniques, critiques
- Remote Directing: Location/background direction, directing on-camera performances
- Video Editing: Editing your video content for a tighter presentation
- Video Enhancements: Animated/branded “open and close” framing devices, animated support visuals/charts, graphs, text on screen, b-roll and stock footage additions
For example, here are a few tips, just between video friends:
Location, location, location!
If you’re recording yourself on camera, scout your location and dress the set! Everything the camera sees reflects on you and your message, so pay attention to your background! Pick an area that’s uncluttered, but feel free to selectively add “props” like a vase of flower, photo or other simple home or office furnishings.
Room with a view!
If you’re recording in an area with windows, try to sit facing them to take advantage of a soft light source on your face, and NEVER record yourself with a window behind you.
Sideways is the best way!
If recording with a smartphone or tablet, hold the device horizontally, since that screen orientation is closer to the industry standard 16:9 screen ratio we’re all used to viewing video content on.
We’ll all get by with a little help from our friends – and you’ve got a video friend in MK3. Let’s hop on a video chat, or a good old-fashioned phone call, and generate some content together!
Set your Messaging in Motion
We all know the value of video as a communication tool, but with today’s steady diet of “distancing”, it may be time to think of traditional video techniques in non-traditional ways.
Creating a video to promote your product, launch your business or communicate your message has always come in two forms: a “live action” video, in which people and products are recorded “in action”; and motion graphics “animation”, in which concepts that are not inherently visual or tangible can be visualized through animated graphics, text, design and iconography.
Live action video production requires camera crews and close collaboration, testing the need for personal and professional distancing. An animated video, however, can be created at a distance of anywhere from 6 feet or 600 miles… and beyond!
So think about using traditional animated productions in non-traditional ways, like presenting the messages you’d normally deliver in person, at events or in meetings, with engaging informative and dynamic motion graphics-driven videos, including:
- White Paper messaging
- PowerPoint presentations
- Employee and HR communication
- “Town Hall” company-wide updates
- Sales meetings and presentations
- Enhancing/packaging your own User Generated Content (UGC)
Using motion graphics for projects you normally wouldn’t have before, can help make the “new normal” feel a little more… normal.
So let the loss of face-to-face interaction inspire creativity, and the creation of new video tools that’ll not only help bridge the current communication gap, but provide you with a new complementary toolbox for the (hopefully) not too “distant” future.
Looking beyond animation? Here are a few other ways virtual can be reality.
Jerry Seinfeld may have been on to something…
In a popular episode of “Seinfeld”, Jerry once told a rental car agent: “You know how to take the reservation, you just don’t know how to hold the reservation, and that’s really the most important part of the reservation, the holding.”
As marketers, we can relate to Jerry. We know how to make the two-minute video, but we don’t always know how to get people to watch the video…and that’s really the most important part.
We’ve been using a solution called the social teaser. This is a 15 – 30 second “trailer” of sorts, targeted to your audience on social media, that piques their interest to click and watch your full video.
We often make these social teasers in a series of three by re-purposing the best sections of the longer video. And it’s not that hard to justify reserving some budget dollars for these cut-downs, particularly if you plan for them in advance. And having three additional short videos can mean more engagement and better SEO. Here’s an example of a recent social teaser, and the full video that we teased.
The Seinfeld in you might be thinking, “That all sounds great, but does it work?” One of our healthcare clients told us that promoting teasers for a recent social media campaign greatly increased the click rate and engagement of their longer video. They also tested each teaser to determine which one drove the most clicks and engagement. Social teasers have become a standard part of video strategy on social for many of our clients.
Tips to consider: Keep it visual, because much of your social audience will be viewing with the sound off. Large animated text headlines and provocative subtitled soundbites are particularly engaging. Have your editor or animator occasionally reduce their workspace to the size of a phone, so you can visualize what your audience will most likely see as you create the teasers.
So don’t just target your audience with video – capture and hold your audience, with a social teaser mini-campaign. Because Jerry’s right…the holding is the most important part.