When I was in middle school, Justin Hall, one of my best friends and I would sit down and write small skits that we would film with a home video camera my parents had. We developed skits that would mimic different SNL segments. One of the most memorable was my version of Mike Meyer’s Simon character and I would come up with brand new ideas of own. Our mutual favorite was the Attack of the Killer Bunnies where we used several figurines my mom had of bunnies to fight and it even had a theme song. (Hey, maybe that is why I like The Goldberg's so much!)
We would edit straight on the camera: record, review, rewind, and record on top until it was perfect. Then with our finished product, we would take it to school and show our class. Seriously! Two kids, without fear, showing our production to a whole bunch of other kids. Incredible times when I think back to it.
Over time, the videos stopped because, well you know, girls and stuff. It is amazing that it would take me nearly 20 years to get back to the point where I enjoy being in front of the camera and telling stories with the medium. Why the return to video? Because that’s probably what your audience is looking for.
Side note: Video is just one medium we can use and I do not advocate putting all your eggs is one basket with an established content strategy. You can if you are just getting started and carrying more than one basket is just not possible.
Things to Consider
If your team is planning to take on more video in 2016, here are some things you might want to consider:
- The “Just Use Your iPhone” Advice – I often hear marketers say, “Video is so easy now, you can just take out your iPhone and start recording!” Yeah, about that… How do I put this nicely? Those videos look horrible. If you find yourself going on the cheap, and I mean super cheap and using a camera phone or webcam, you might reconsider your entry into the video landscape. A few years ago, it might have been acceptable for some but the quality of video feeds that the average user subscribes to should be your goal. To be able to produce a decent quality video, you are going to need a few cameras that can be placed on a tripod, otherwise it may look as if your guest is in an earthquake because you can’t keep your hands still. Then capture a view of someone beyond them sitting in front of a computer. I still go by the rule of thumb that if it fits in your pocket, you probably can’t use it for producing brand videos. Lenses, bodies, monitors, tripods, recording devices and lighting will need to be something you are used to having around.
- Production Takes Time – And not just a little bit of time, but at least 8x the length of your final product. A pretty fast computer will be required for editing and rendering your video. Think top-of-the-line MacBook Pro, or a decent $1000+ new Windows machine (sorry, had to poke a little at my Apple fan-folks). When editing video, you are required to make many corrections to the media. These revisions include color, composition, lighting, effects, and audio. Each time you make a change, the video needs to be processed frame-by-frame to apply the change. This takes time and space, so have some extra hard drives ready and another computer you can use for doing work while you are waiting.
- Quality Can Be Assessed Quickly – Back to quality for a second. This time, not the quality of the cameras and other devices, but your quality as a filmmaker or videographer. There is an excellent reason most movies spend the last 10 minutes of the video speed scrolling through a list of names. Producing, directing, gripping, audio technician and color grading are all major jobs that you will probably fill as you get started. Think about it, you are telling a story, solving a problem, and entertaining someone who is used to consuming hours and hours of video content every day. When you are writing an article, your reader probably reads 10x less per day than they do consuming video content on their televisions or mobile devices. Most of the content they consume is not written by prize-winning authors, but people just like you and me who write often but not for a living. On the flip side, we have not come so far with video where the average American consumes content that is created by non-traditional video maker. It is time to step up your game, buy a few books, join a group of videographers, take a class and work on all the areas you need to create a fantastic video.
- Video Requires Audio – On a Lynda video I was watching about producing documentaries, the expert said the audio is one of the most important pieces of the quality of your final product. Not just is it a clean feed, but he described how the video is in two dimensions when you consume it. It has a height and width and can be far from you or up close. However, the audio is what enters the room and surrounds the viewer, pulling their attention to the medium. When you are making your video, think about where the viewer will be when they consume it. Are they at a desk, sitting with a tablet on their couch or watching with a group of friends on a large screen? Then consider how you will make the video fill the room and pull them away from all the other things that will distract them.
- Agencies Can Be Expensive – Several thousand dollars per minute expensive. Since most marketing teams can use freelance writers for pretty low prices, producing video can cause some major sticker shock for customers. If you do move forward with an agency, make sure you discuss the budget for at least 10 videos. I feel so sorry for those companies that drop $10,000 on one video and now they have a few hundred views and no more budget for the next one.
- Hosting is Never Free – YouTube, Vimeo, and Facebook are free to upload, but there is a significant opportunity cost associated with hosting your video there. One, they are all controlled by advertising now so your reach will be based on the amount of subscribers you have and the money you put into getting the message out. Second, you have the opportunity to share some other content at the end of your video that will lead the viewer on to another site or to your competitor. I often giggle a bit when I watch an educational video from a service and see their rival sitting right there on the side of my browser. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my viewers to see a competitor’s video when I send them to my YouTube feed via a link on my site. If you are getting into video, seriously consider using these free services as a place to put the trailer of your main content and get a service like Brightcove to have a privately hosted video service.
How Can I Participate?
Not everyone is capable of getting behind the lenses or in front of it. Whether it is time, courage, talent, or a myriad of valid reasons for not being able to produce video, there are still ways you can get started to adopt video.
Here are some ideas that might help you get started:
- Think Outside the Agency – Just because they create super cool commercials we all fast-forward through doesn’t mean they are the only ones who can help. Interview a few freelancers like part-time news anchors, cameramen, college students, and wedding videographers. As long as you are able to see their work beforehand to make sure it is a match and you have the story you want to tell, these folks may be just the team you are looking for.
- Practice Makes Perfect – Maybe you are not ready for the red carpet, but that doesn’t mean you or your team is hopeless. Consider making some internal-only or client demonstration videos to get your feet wet and learn the tools and techniques the masters use. In the famous words of Yoda, “No, try not. Do, or do not. There is no try.” Take a stab at it and give it your all, then keep doing it.
- Take Notice When You Are Watching TV and Movies – If you are like your customers, you probably spend some time in front of a screen watching videos, television, and movies. You have seen examples of amazing cinematography and storytelling, and some pretty amazing goats making crazy noises. You might have grown up watching Dan Rather on 60 Minutes or seen Barbara Walters interview some of the most famous people in the world. Don’t just immerse yourself in the experience and turn off your brain, take some time to analyze the cuts they make, the angles of the cameras, the lights they use, and the questions they ask. Did it work? Were you able to make an emotion connection? Did you feel compelled to make a change in yourself or your actions? This is exactly what I did with Justin when we were kids. We watched the masters and pretended we were them with the camera facing us.
- Leverage Your Partners and Vendors Videos (With Permission) – You might have vendors you work with or partners who help you sell your products. If you do, work together with them to produce something fantastic. That may look like you putting the cash in and they use their equipment or the other way around. Or, they just might have the perfect video for you to embed in your site with their permission.
You Can Do It!
During my workshops, I always like to reassure my audience that they can do this. As technology continues to bring us out of our shells and away from what our professors told us we would be doing in our careers, we are faced with the need to continue to learn.
Don’t let the fear of the medium scare you! I still remember the days in college and high school that I was standing in front of the class presenting a topic or turning in a 3-page essay on a subject, I was completely unsure of myself and my ability to do the work. I guess you were the same but now you produce content, conduct meetings and maybe you even present topics in front of your peers. Producing video for marketing uses all those skills you have developed to capture a story and allow other people to experience it.
And as Dan would close out his newscast, COURAGE.