Virtual events and interviews are here to stay. And if you’re tapped to conduct an interview remotely, you’ve got a big task ahead of you. Prepping to host a virtual webinar or remote interview has some similarities with doing it live, but also some major challenges and differences. I’ll share a few common obstacles and how to solve them in this article.

  1. Curation is Key. One of the keys to a successful remote interview or panel is being sure you have the right person for that conversation. Just because someone is a subject matter expert, for example, does not make them a great interview subject, particularly in the virtual environment. Whenever possible, I pre-interview people—a “screen test” of sorts—via Zoom so that I can see if they will work well in a virtual environment. Some questions I want to answer during this brief 20-minute video call are:
    1. Is this person lively and engaging?
    2. Do they have good examples and stories to tell?
    3. Does their topic fit into a larger story arc for the panel or event?
    4. Will they need a lot of cueing for answers?
    5. Do they tend to go on too long in their answers? (Cutting off someone in a virtual interview is much more difficult than in a live event—you’ll have to literally interrupt them, which is not ideal, as opposed to using body language in a face-to-face setting).
  2. What Will the Audience See and Hear? Thinking through in advance what the audience will see and hear is critical to making any successful video content, but especially for virtual or livestreamed events. When your audience isn’t captive, they can easily switch the “channel” and consume some other content if yours isn’t compelling. So how can you convey the story and keep them engaged?
    1. Does the interviewee have good lighting, audio and camera setup? If you are not shipping a camera-in-a-box setup or having a local camera operator film the interview, you may need to rely on Skype or Zoom. Someone who looks like they are in the witness protection program will need your help to get their lighting better positioned for their face.  I’m a fan of the Aperture M9 LED, the Fox Fury Rugo, and the Lume Cube Mini as affordable options that you can ship to an interview subject. I’m not a fan of ring lights, by the way, as they do make the “devil eye” look for most people, and don’t work well at all for those with glasses. For audio, I love my Saramonic lavalier. I have the Blink 500 because I can also pair it with my phone for social media recordings (if buying this system, be sure you get the correct version–there are ones for Android or iPhone). The MPOW headset is a decent low-cost choice, if you don’t mind a headset in your shot. Or the Rode smart lav if you prefer a lavalier. Remember that computers and drives have loud fans, so be sure your subject is as far away from them as is practical when you are ready to record.
    2. Does your “talent” have some visuals to share? What format are they in? If a Powerpoint, can you view slides in advance and make suggestions for what will be most engaging? (Often I suggest some top selects, and we can provide the entire deck as a downloadable resource for registered participants afterwards.)
    3. If this is a video interview rather than a panel discussion, will we have access to photos or video clips to intercut into the interview at a later date? Sometimes I will even have the interview talent record a side-angle shot of themselves with their phone for some of our questions and send that to me, so I have an angle to intercut with the primary shot. (Teach your interviewee to use WeTransfer.com or Hightail.com to share large files so they don’t eat up your Dropbox or Box drive space.)
  3. Be Prepared. As an interviewer, the pressure is always on us to be more prepared than the interviewee(s). Most importantly, we need to set the subject at ease, and ensure that they feel they are coming across well. Here are some ways to be sure you are prepared.
    1. Create a flow or outline for the conversation—one that will make sense for the audience and your event theme. Be sure to share it in advance with all panelists, including which questions or themes you are likely to ask which people (which is based on your pre-interview and research homework).
    2. Have at the ready a primary set of questions that follow your flow, but also a secondary set of questions ready to go in case the audience isn’t highly interactive.
    3. Teach less experienced interviewees how to speak directly to their camera, rather than to their screen. This will make an enormous difference in how the audience responds to them. And as interviewer, remember to do the same. I put a sticky note with a smiley face just below my web camera lens as a reminder. (For more tips, here’s a LinkedIn post I wrote about looking better on your next virtual call.)
    4. In a webinar format, be sure you take advantage of the “green room” feature and give panelists a custom link so that they can enter the webinar early, get a chance to chat with each other and with you. You can take this time to review the format and agreed-upon flow or outline, test microphones, adjust lighting, and be sure everyone’s internet connection is stable (turning off notifications—here’s how on a Mac and here’s how for Windows 10, disengaging Dropbox syncing, and disconnecting any VPN). And don’t forget to take a group screenshot for PR purposes!

Moderating virtual panels and conducting interviews in virtual settings can be challenging. But with these strategies, you can make the experience fun, engaging and rewarding for you, your interviewees and your audience.  In a future article, I’ll get into the tech side of remote video recording. I’ll also be doing a post on how to get the audience engaged in a virtual panel discussion, so stay tuned!

Amy DeLouise is a digital media expert and producer/curator/moderator for virtual events.

Upskilling is vital. If you are seeking a job, ensuring your business is nimble, or tackling a career challenge, upskilling will be an essential part of your new year. Here’s why.

If you run a business

Upskilling employees is cheaper than replacing them.  

According to Gallup, replacing an employee is expensive:  from one-half to two times the employee’s annual salary. And that’s probably a low estimate. When you lose an employee, you lose their relationships with customers and their knowledge of critical systems and workflows. A better investment is upskilling them on what they need to succeed.

Upskilling can help you diversify your team. Women and especially women of color lost significant ground during the pandemic.  Even prior to the crisis, progress toward parity between men and women in technical roles had been falling steadily.  Upskilling has been shown to improve diversity in leadership ranks, which is not only the right thing to do but also improves the bottom line. Be sure to make advancement learning available to ALL employees, of every race and gender as well as people with differing learning styles.

Technology is speeding up. And yet half of executives feel that a lack of familiarity with technology is a barrier to digitally transforming their companies.  A global survey of 4,300 managers and executives shows that 90% of workers feel they need to update their skills annually just to keep up. This is one area where retraining can help.

If you downsized your business during the pandemic, upskilling your workforce can help you gain relevance.  According to McKinsey, “to emerge stronger from the COVID-19 crisis, companies should start reskilling their workforces now.” Two researchers from the Aspen Institute say adding skills is the only way workers taking on new roles in downsized companies will be able to function: upskilling “is a lifeline that turns an overwhelmed and unprepared employee into one with the knowledge and skills to take on new tasks confidently and capably.”

If you are a worker…

Upskilling is essential if you want to move up.  Employees can take on new leadership roles when they add new knowledge and skills. With all the remote learning opportunities available, it’s great to know that e-learning boost retention by 25 to 60% (as opposed to 8-10% with traditional training).

You need tech skills for the distance economy.  In 2017, the McKinsey Global Institute estimated that as many as 375 million workers—or 14 percent of the global workforce—would have to switch occupations or acquire new skills by 2030 because of automation and artificial intelligence. One Brookings study found that the share of jobs requiring a high level of digital skills more than tripled—to encompass nearly a quarter of all jobs— between 2002 and 2016.  And the share of jobs requiring AI skills has grown 4.5X since 2013. The benefits of digital transformation are everywhere, from improving customer engagement and revenue to boosting employee morale.

Adding a certification to help you do your job better and get better pay. Workers with certifications such as PMP (Project Management Professional) earn more than their non-certified counterparts. According to one study, PMP’s earn 22 percent higher salaries than their non-certified peers across 42 countries.

If you are self-employed, now is the time to increase your learning. And you may even get tax deduction for the cost.  In addition to improving digital skills, consider what knowledge will make you better at running your small business. For example, there are loads of great courses in everything from public speaking to accounting on LinkedIn Learning.

 

Amy DeLouise owns a digital media company and helps people improve their digital and entrepreneurial skills with courses on LinkedIn Learning.

Coming up with client profiles can be a fun exercise in strategic planning.

As busy creatives, we are always racing the clock. We might be rushing to deliver a portfolio of new photos for a client. Or working overnight on a new website. Or finishing a series of final edits in order to deliver videos for a virtual conference. Whatever we are working on, we will probably do it again some time soon. So it makes sense when marketing our creative businesses to develop packages of products and services that help our customers get what they need, when they need it, and help us deliver quality for a consistent price. One of the ways we can do that is by planning ahead for common types of projects for predictable types of customers and organizations. In short, building customer profiles.

Creating prospective customer and project profiles can actually be a lot of fun. It’s a good strategic planning exercise for a company retreat. First step: put yourself in the client’s shoes. What are the problems they need to solve? What would be the financial and time pressures on such a project? What “pain points” could you solve for this type of company or organization?

Figuring out the answers to these questions before you are faced with the precise project can help you market your company and your solutions, and set yourself apart in a crowded field. They can also help you consider how much time and staffing you’d need to accomplish those projects quickly.

Let’s say you own a graphics design company. There might be four profiles that show the different problems your customers face and the solutions you can provide. You want to focus on different sized customers, because their structure affects the kinds of problems they face.  A small company might need help with a website design or refresh. They don’t have anyone in-house with the time to do it. They can update the content themselves, once you set it up for them, but they have a limited ability to do major design changes. For this kind of client, you can create a template approach that can be customized, since they won’t want to spend large amounts of money. But it is also a great gateway project for other, bigger projects.

By contrast, a large company with a big in-house design and communications shop might have a completely different set of deliverables for a website redesign. They may want not just a new website but an entirely new logo and brand redesign, along with brand identity elements for every channel, and a brand guide on how to use them. There might be feedback from multiple different departments along the way, with a more time-consuming workflow as a result.

As you think through all the different kinds of problems clients have, you can design a few profiles that fit. And that gives you the type of customer you are pitching to, so you can design appropriate marketing campaigns and sales strategies.  These profiles are also useful frameworks as you develop package pricing and bids.

Whether your creative business is large or small, creating detailed client and project profiles is a great way to jump-start your strategic planning for the New Year.

 

This blog post is adapted from Amy’s upcoming LinkedIn Learning course on Launching Your Creative Business. See LinkedIn Learning for more of her video courses. 

Photo by Gabriel Benois, Unsplash

Brands deliver value. To customers (a consistency of brand promise, or “knowing what you’ll get”). To shareholders (increased revenues, a shorter sales/conversion cycle). To employees (motivated and brand-engaged employees have less turnover, higher satisfaction, and deliver better on KPI’s).

So if the ROI of good branding is so high, why is it always so hard to keep the brand at the center of strategic focus?  One simple reason is cost.  If the opportunity cost of NOT branding effectively or efficiently isn’t factored in, decision-makers often think it is too expensive to expend time and financial resources on brand-building exercises.   Here are four strategies that are cost-effective ways to keep your brand alive and well.

1. Mine Your Own Content

A tool everyone has, but rarely maximizes is your own media library. Maybe because it’s not so much a library as a mish-mash of files that are not indexed, so no one can find them. Every graphic, photograph, video clip, newsletter article or blog post you and your team have created are already sunk costs. Properly archived and tagged with metadata, they can be repurposed and reused in multiple ways to put your brand front and center with customers, clients, employees and other stakeholders.   The key is to use a DAM (digital asset management system) or MAM (media asset management system–often for larger files like video and audio) and build workflow best practices into every time you create a digital asset. Create a consistent system that works for everyone in your organization, with anywhere anytime access–vital with teleworking–is essential, so that you can build and share branded content that everyone can access, not only the intern, editor or photographer who first created it. A photo DAM system can help you avoid those awful automatic names (IMG_001) for photos, for example, by batch renaming name on ingest. But always maintain the original name in the data. Adobe Bridge, Google Photos (heads up–free is over June 2021!) and Adobe Lightroom are tools for managing photo content. LuminarAI is out in Beta from Skylum* and has a number of great photo management tools built into its AI-powered creative engine. For video, there are a number of DAMs (digital asset management) systems out there–from Imagen to CATdv by Squarebox.  (If you are looking for a MAM, this is a handy guide.)  There are also brand-specific systems, designed specifically for the marketing department (as opposed to a video production company or broadcaster) such as Brandfolder, Bynder, and Cloudinary.

  • Bottom Line: If you can’t find it, you can’t use it. So whether you use a sophisticated archiving system or a spreadsheet, save money and create your own “stock” library of branded content to tell your organization’s story.

*disclaimer: I do some writing and marketing work for Skylum. I do not receive any fees related to sales.

2. Video Sells

According to IndieGogo, “Crowdfunding pitches with video content raise 112% more than those without.” Video certainly is one of the top-most searched items on the web. But producing a branding video in-house can be daunting. It’s a time-consuming process, and commissioning one to be made can be costly. With just the investment in a Zoom H4N digital audio recorder, a SONY FDR-AX100 4K Ultra HD video camcorder, and some basic audio recording/mixing software like Blackmagic Design’s DaVinci Resolve, you can quickly share useful branded video clips to your target audience. Or consider building your community by sharing useful content with a podcast. For a quick rundown on the latest podcasting software, check out this review.

  • Bottom Line: Build video into your brand strategy. It works.

    Photo by Sam Mcghee, Unsplash

3. Show Not Tell

So many people want to say WHAT it is they do, before really explaining HOW and WHY they do it. This is the core of your brand, and that’s the story you want to tell through any platform, whether it is a speaking engagement, podcast, blog post, or branded video.  BTS, or “Behind the Scenes”, is some of the top-shared content online. Why? Because as humans we are naturally curious and love to know what makes things work. So build “How to” or “How we made that” into every production or project.  That means adding a BTS camera. At the low end, could be a mobile phone. But for under $300 you could add a LOT of quality and pizzazz with a tool like the 4K DJI Osmo Pocket Gimbal Camera. Or if that’s too pricey, throw your mobile phone onto a gimbal with this little number, also from DJI. In a future post I’ll talk about good lighting and sound.

  • Bottom Line: Make shooting and sharing BTS part of your brand best practices.

DJI Pocket Osmo Camera in action

4. Email Signature is Free Branded Space

Lately, most of my incoming emails from systems like MailChimp and Constant Contact are going into my Spam and Promotions folders. So those are lost efforts to convey branded content. Why not supplement those efforts through a free space your contacts see every day: your e-mail signature. What a great opportunity to do a little brand storytelling!  A signature line doesn’t just give you a chance to tell your name and title, it gives you space for a blog link, twitter hashtag for an upcoming event, or YouTube link to your latest video.  This simple free advertising can be employed unilaterally—and uniformly–across your organization. (Send a “signature of the week” email to everyone in your organization with easily copied information and links.)

  • Bottom Line: Creating an email signature strategy builds brand awareness for free.

Using these four strategies, you can gain ground with your brand, and decrease the cost of creating or trying to find existing content to share with your audience.  More story. Less hassle. And that adds to your brand ROI.

 

Amy DeLouise is a video and virtual event producer, brand strategist, author and speaker. 

Patty Jenkins directs Wonder Woman

#Storytellers are #LEADERS in many cultures. They preserve the past. They envision the future. And they help us frame who we are. So why are so few women the leading storytellers of our times?

 
It’s not for lack of trying.
 
As the numbers from the recent USC Annenberg #Inclusion initiative shows that across 1,200 leading films, women only direct 4%. And numbers behind the camera are equally dismal. Despite small inroads, the film director’s chair remains white and male. Much like the CEO chair and the Boardroom Chair.
 
But, we also know that women make highly competent #leaders. Women score higher than men in most leadership skills.
 
So what’s the deal?
 
There is often a #confidence gap. Society’s confidence in us as leaders. And women’s confidence in our own story as leaders. Which affects our ability to hone leadership skills, find mentors and champions, negotiate for the better positions/pay, and own our leadership brand.
 
This fall I will be joined by several incredible women who have helped boost my own skills and confidence as a leader at our #GALSNGEAR Taking the Lead Women’s Career Accelerator Workshop this fall. Check out these carefully planned sessions to take your leadership to the next level—we’d love to have you! 
Please follow me @galsngear on instagram for up to the minute info on this and other initiatives to promote women in the media and film industry.

Covid has changed video production, possibly forever.  Elements of remote workflows will likely remain, even when we “return to normal.” Let’s take a look at some options with respect to post-production collaboration (editing, audio mixing, color grading and effects).

Realtime Collaboration

Ensuring that real-time collaboration happens has always been a challenge as teams have become dispersed, and often include a mix of staff and freelancers. For years, we’ve had a remote-team setup in my production company, but have always liked being “in the room” for final edits, audio mixes and color grading. One tool that brings creatives “into the room” remotely is Streambox . Check out colorist Robbie Carman’s article on remote set-up using Streambox software for synchronous color-grading sessions with his clients. Sound designer and mixer Cheryl Ottenritter, of Ott House Audio also uses Streambox when offering remote synchronous client-supervised audio mix sessions. Cinesync, Evercast, Source Live and Session Link Pro all offer low latency, high quality synchronous reviews of video productions. Evercast also includes pre-Vis options, such as streaming Maya or other animation platforms. A slightly different post-production tool for the work-from-home user is BeBop.  This system was designed to help avoid costly individual hardware and software purchases, and allows the user to remotely access a powerful virtual computer in order to create VFX projects, edit media files, animate, process images, or collaborate in real-time.

Photo: Matthew Kwong, Unsplash

Frame Accurate Reviews

Other collaboration tools for reviews and feedback that were once “nice to have” are now becoming essential. Frame.io, Vimeo and Wipster all provide frame-accurate client reviews and the ability to share comments back to the team. I’ve been a personal fan of Wipster—that’s my affiliate link in the previous sentence–because I think they’ve been especially responsive to the needs and interests of the post community. Project management software such as Basecamp, Slack, and Teams is even more vital to keep teams and projects organized across different time zones.  I’m also becoming a fan of Milanote for sharing storyboards, vision boards, deliverables lists and more at the early phases of a project. Rich Harrington recommends using these kinds of tools, but reserving a Slack channel for quick-turnaround internal discussions that need to happen outside the channels with clients.

Wipster side-by-side comparison feature

Fixing Flaws, Speeding Up Delivery

While we are capturing some less-than-ideal footage these days, there are some fabulous tools to solve problems. Three great tools from Digital Anarchy can really help. The first is Flicker Free which removes flicker and rolling bands out of footage. The second is Samurai Sharpen, a plug-in that does just what it says–helps to sharpen out of focus footage. The third tool is Transcriptive, which will rock your world if you haven’t used it before with interview-driven content. I have other posts on this topic, so won’t delve into it today, but this plug-in transcribes footage, makes it searchable by words, and makes your captioning workflow a breeze.

Editing with Transcriptive from Digital Anarchy

Tapping Your Archives

I started my career delivering archival content to feature films.  And while the internet has certainly made digging easier, the process of tracking down rights holders can remain elusive.  Just because you find an image on Google doesn’t mean you can get the sync rights. And even images you source from a well-known archive like Getty may still require tracking down certain rights holders. If you need to source outside content, consider buying a package plan with the highest level of usage clearance, so you can use the shots for multiple projects. Shutterstock is currently offering several specials. And don’t forget national treasures like the Smithsonian Digital Archives and the National Archives collection, which often contain federally-created content that is free to use, or historical content that is no longer under copyright (but you still need to check!).

Remote video production isn’t as fun, frankly, as collaborating together in a room. But it’s workable. And some tools and workflows are improving quality and efficiency along the way.

Amy DeLouise is a writer and digital creative director working from home.  She has authored a variety of LinkedIn Learning video courses and a new book on nonfiction audio from Routledge Press.

The global shutdown is forcing organizations to re-examine the value of their archives–an internal “stock image library” they already own.  Here’s a case study I wrote about last year that is even more relevant today, showing how you can create content with impact that tells an organizational story and propels your brand message–all with internally owned content.

Fulbright Prize Introduction from Amy DeLouise on Vimeo.

The project is a motion graphics opener I just produced for the Fulbright Prize event in Berlin, where this highly regarded international prize was given to Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany. As these stories so often start, we had brainstorming meetings about how to tell the history of the prize in 2 minutes. In addition, we wanted to show the breadth of the work of the association giving the prize. Also, we needed to list past prize winners and years. Oh, and show all of their images, some of which were not available in the organization’s archives. Also, we needed to include quotes about the importance of the prize and the value of international exchange from well-known people and prize winners. And…we also needed to incorporate the thematic blue color of the organization’s logo, and create a look and font style that could be incorporated into the print, social, and other materials for the event.

This is all great stuff and just the kind of thing that gets my creative juices flowing! So here was our process:

Step One: Identify existing content that helps tell the story. This involved digging into archives for old footage, transcripts of old speeches, and old newsletter articles. Also pulling together archival images of past awardees, and more recent digital images of association events. We determined in this phase that the quality of archival clips were not good enough to pull footage (and it would make the show too long anyway), so we would look instead for quotes that told the story.

Before the magic begins, we start with raw materials–archival content from a variety of media sources

Step Two: We boiled down the best quotes from the broadest representation of past prize winners, and people who had spoken about the importance of the Fulbright international exchange program, and shaped it into a script. (Note: Scripts don’t have to include spoken words.)

Step Three: We identified the best images of awardees, and then we had to license and request some additional ones, so that we had a full compliment of images of past awardees at the high resolution required for large-screen HD presentation.

Step Four: As part of the image curation process, I pulled together those “action shots” I thought best exemplified the work of the association–as a convener, educator, and source of ongoing cultural exchange.

Step Five: I selected several cuts of music–pacing is critical for animation, and we “cut to the music”, so we have to choose this first. We settled on a piece we felt had rhythm, excitement, and momentum. I also like to lean towards more full orchestrations for videos that will air live in a large space, with quality speakers.

Step Six: Since this was airing abroad, which has different frame rate specs than the US, we sent a test file to the A/V company at the on-site location, to be sure it worked well from their end before we started to animate.

Step Seven (really steps 7 through 10): My graphics team and I went through multiple drafts of the story, honing and tweaking until we–with our client–felt we had the best representation of the story.

Step Eight: We rendered out our final files and shared them, making sure they had been proofed (so many names!)

Step Nine: We delivered the final files via link to the company in Berlin who was running all the A/V at the event.

Final Step: This step hasn’t happened yet, but we need to have the video audio-described, so that a blind or visually impaired viewer can still access this content. Accessibility is not just a matter of captioning, though captions are essential for videos with spoken words and narration.

Here’s the big takeaway: saving your archival assets is essential–you never know when you will need them. Digitizing them at high quality, retaining the originals, and metatagging them with important information is even more important. Your media archive contains gold, if you know where to find it.

Amy DeLouise is a video producer, author and trainer, helping organizations tell their best stories. She has a new LinkedIn Learning course out on Multi-Platform Storytelling, will be giving workshops at NAB Show this Spring (see Speaking page).

Like you, I’ve been recording more “selfie” mobile videos and participating in more recorded Zoom webinars than ever. What I know from my work as a professional video producer is that better audio leads to better online engagement. People may forgive some wobbly video, but if the content is good and they can hear you clearly, they’ll stick with you. Have poor audio? Forget it. So here are a few tips from my last 60 days of remote recording. Wired mics have always avoided interference best, and can come at a fairly low price point for the home user. Producer Nicki Sun recommends the Power DeWise wired lav mic which runs at about $40. iPhone video consultant Kim Foley recommends customized solutions to her clients, including the Mosotech Omnidirectional Condenser Lavalier Mic, which at the moment is priced under $20. (Remember you may need adapters for iPhones.) If you can go up a bit in price, you can get good quality for less than $80 with the Rode Smart Lav/Condenser . If you need distance from your mobile device or computer, then wireless is the way to go. I just bought the Saramonic Blink500, which works with mobile phones, computers and tablets and cost about $200. It comes with a transmitter you can clip on your belt, and a receiver that plugs directly into your phone (available for Android and iOS).  I’m also a fan of the Samson Go Mic Mobile package, which gives you a wireless direct-to-mobile signal for under $200. If you are more often seated in front of your computer and want a podcaster-style setup, consider the Rode NT-USB podcast mic, which runs about $250. For significantly less, the Blue Snowball gives a decent sound–I just used mine to give a series of webinars on Zoom.

Blue mic works well for podcasts

Other Pro Tips for Better Sound From Home

If you are recording audio that really matters–say for a podcast or to be the recorded on your computer for a video, avoid hard surfaces and noisy appliances. That includes your computer, which has a fan that can affect your sound. Some talent who record professional voiceovers will go as far as recording inside a closet or anywhere with dampened sound such as a carpeted hallway if they cannot be in a sound booth.  When using VOIP (Skype, Zoom, any Voice Over Internet Protocol system) to record an interview, my friend producer Walter Biscardi recommends using e-Camm recorder software with Skype, and then making a backup audio recording direct to a digital audio recorder, such as the Zoom h4n. If you don’t have access to these tools, that’s OK. You can at least increase the data rate of the recording you make inside the VOIP system. On Zoom, that means checking the box that says “Enable HD” and “Optimize for Third Party Editor” whenever you are planning to record your session.  This greatly improves the data rate, and therefore the quality of the recording. My colleague and tech guru Rich Harrington, CEO of RHED Pixel, recommends making a “double ender” recording–in other words, not just the cloud recording that Zoom will make for you, but asking someone else on the call to hit their record button and make a local recording. Note that these video files will oddly be auto-saved into a folder under Documents (but at least it’s labeled Zoom!).

More tips to come on making mobile video and Zoom recordings. In the meantime, if you want more audio tips for your professional video productions, check out my new book Sound and Story in Nonfiction Film and Video.

 

 

People come to my workshops all the time looking for help with scriptwriting. Often they are videographers and editors who are tasked with managing the entire creative process, from concept through delivery. The classic “one man/woman band”. If that person is you, or you manage that person, this blog post is for you. (Note: If you have hired a pro scriptwriter to work with your team, then you will only need to brainstorm steps 1 and 2, and then share feedback on revisions through the production process.)

  1. Start With Outcomes, Not the Shoot. Don’t worry, it’s a pretty common experience. Folks rush out to shoot some footage, and only later try to figure out how to piece that footage into a story. But unless you are a news crew, this is not the best workflow. Start instead with your Outcomes—what is it that this video should accomplish? Choose not more than three. And ideally just one main outcome. And be as specific as possible. For example, “Our top outcome from this video is to increase sign-ups for our next conference.” That’s pretty good. But even more specific is “Our top outcome from this video is more sign-ups among 35-50 year-olds for our next conference.” That outcome will drive your creative process, including the key elements of your story arc.
  2. Develop a Creative Vision. What’s the look of your piece going to be? What’s the editing style? What kind of music? Is there a graphical theme? Color scheme? Can you link to some videos that have a similar vibe to what you want? (And how much did those cost? Remember that big brand ad campaigns may look deceivingly simple, but actually use complex production techniques or post-production skill sets.) Your creative vision can be represented by a few simple frames on a Powerpoint. Or you can use tools like Storyboarder Plot or the more high-powered Frameforge. But don’t forget that even a crappy sketch can help everyone on the team visualize the look. A tool I’ve just started using for mood boards is Milanote. You can include all the elements discussed in your kick-off meetings, color swatches, fonts, deliverables lists, even links to inspiration videos.

    Milanote project board

  3. Write an Outline. If you have an interview-based production, then whenever possible conduct pre-interviews. I can’t tell you how many people come to me talking about scrubbing through footage looking for soundbites, which is a big waste of time. If you’ve pre-interviewed folks, then you already have a sense of who your primary characters and who your supporting characters will be. You can outline your story, which will help you construct your interview questions (more on that in a future blog post). You will want to consider what the peak of the story arc will be—what is the main heart or turning point of this story? Whether you are talking about a new piece of software or the mission of a nonprofit, you will still need a peak to the story that makes people want to keep watching. The other pieces then fall into place: the backstory or introduction, the resolution and the conclusion or call to action. This doesn’t mean the entire production can’t evolve organically. But if you have a plan for the story arc before you start shooting, you are more likely to shoot the b-roll shots and cutaways you need to cover the story.
  4. Make a B-Roll List. It’s amazing how many video shoots go forward without this simple tool. Make a list of all the shots you might need to bring your story to life. For reality-based stories, consider little moments—I call them “interstitials”—that can help you transition between scenes, but also deliver some important content. For example, if you are interviewing a young mom and dad, shoot a montage of baby bottles and toys. For a business owner, that might be a tracking shot of awards on her office wall. Once you’ve written your outline, dropped in your potential soundbites and b-roll–well, now you’ve written your shooting script!
  5. Get Interviews Transcribed. Once your shoot is over, you have one more step. Going to my earlier point about wasting time scrubbing through footage, you’ll save yourself enormous time and aggravation if you get transcriptions made of all your interviews, and even some b-roll sound if it is important to the story. You can get transcripts back in a day or two using automated services like https://www.speechmatics.com/ , semi-automated systems like https://www.rev.com/ , or human experts like Noble Transcriptions. For $1-2/minute, you’ll have accuracy not provided by the YouTube automated tool, and you can use the transcripts for all kinds of content—pulling quotes for your website and social posts, SEO keywords, and making revisions in the future.
  6. Cut a Paper Script Before Editing. I know, this seems like wasting time. Why not get right to editing? The fact is, if it doesn’t work on paper, it won’t work on the screen. So take a stab at sequencing your soundbites, figuring out what music cuts fit where, and which b-roll or stock images might best support your scenes. This, in fact, is your editing script. Once you build your story arc on paper, then you can hit the edit room. If you are using AVID, you have a built-in tool called ScriptSync that lets you import all your transcripts and conform your edit. Here’s a handy blog post on how that works. In FinalCutPro, you have the built-in tool Lumberjack, which lets you live log on your shoot and tag soundbites in the field, and also set up your top soundbites for editing. For those working in Premiere Pro, the plug-in Transcriptives from Digital Anarchy is a great way to go to simplify the soundbite-tagging-to-editing process. And all three of these systems allow you to speed up your captioning and subtitling workflow.
  7. Make a Final “As Aired” Version. I can’t tell you how often my team goes back to these “final” scripts as we make new versions of our videos. And since we also have all our original interview transcripts, it’s easy to swap out bites if we need to. Always be sure you have a PDF of your final version saved with your editing project files as well as in your desktop files.

Scriptwriting may seem daunting if you didn’t start your career as a writer. But by putting your creative on paper, and then working through soundbites and visual options before hopping into your edit, you’ll be more likely to deliver on stated outcomes. And that will make a stronger ROI for your company’s video investment.

For more nitty gritty tips and tools for video scripting, try my LinkedIn Learning course http://bit.ly/HowtoScript