What Makes a Great Video Info-Graphic?

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Trick question. The important query is WHY? Why will this information be better conveyed through graphics than through, say, a more documentary approach with powerful interviews or a personal story? Why will the audience care more about the content when this infographic ends? Once you’ve answered why, you can get to WHAT.

Info-graphics for Issue Advocacy

Sometimes, infographics can be used to tell a powerful emotional story that must convey facts and figures but also turn that data into advocacy. In this wonderful piece called The Girl Effect, music plays a powerful role in drawing us into the story line. By the end, we want to take action!

Info-graphics to Inform

Sometimes the goal is actually to DE-personalize highly emotional or difficult content, so people can absorb it and act on it.

In this info-graphic video I produced for a children’s hospital, we decided to use animated characters rather than interviews with doctors and nurses. Our goal was to help parents of very sick children admitted to the Pediatric ICU understand how to better participate in their care. Our creative team and consulting parent advisory group decided that parents already see enough “talking heads” in the ICU, so that our piece would take a different approach with friendly characters and a friendly, soft-spoken voice-over. We also wanted to be able to translate the graphic into multiple languages. The finished info-graphic appears on monitors at a child’s beside, part of an internal “TV” system within the hospital.

Infographics for Branding

TIAA (formerly TIAA Cref) decided to hedge its bets and use both the personal story approach and an infographic one to roll out its new brand. Here’s a look at the TIAA brand story using real people and commercial-style footage:

https://ispot.tv/a/A2bc

Here’s the same brand in an info-graphic approach:

https://ispot.tv/a/AMee

Right away, the first difference you notice between these two cuts is the music. While one approach is poignant, the other is in your face.  My guess is the creators decided there were two audiences to reach—one an older person thinking about the next generation, and one a younger person looking ahead to their future. The two distinct approaches work well for each audience.

One of the great things about infographics is that you don’t necessarily need to make way for a narrator. As with the TIAA piece, a brief story told entirely without spoken words can get across not just your message, but your brand personality. In this case, the creators are trying to tell us “TIAA is an up-to-date institution. This is not your father’s TIAA.”

Info-graphic Workflow

Whatever approach you decide, infographics require a very specific and disciplined workflow in order to stay on budget.

  1. Define the Look. You need to decide the approach, which might take a few rounds of “look boards” before you come to a decision.
  2. Define the Specs. It’s important before starting any video project—animation or otherwise—to determine the output specs from the start. What is the screen size and frame rate? Will you be showing this on a big screen from a ProRes file or on the web from a Quicktime or H.264 file?
  3. Whether or not spoken words are involved, there is still a written script that tells the animator exactly what happens in each frame. I often use approximating clip art or stills to help the artist understand what I’m going for.
  4. Key Frames. These are still frames that map out the entire story line before it’s animated. Settling on the right key frames for each part of the story will save you from costly re-animating expenses.
  5. If the story has a narrator, this must be tracked as timing with animation is precise to fractions of a second. If there is only music, this still needs to be settled on so the timing works precisely. (If there is going to be a post-score, then the artist may still want to work to what is known as a “temp track” or even a “click track” to keep the pulse exact.)
  6. Once script is locked, soundtrack is in and script is approved, you’re ready to start animating your sequences. There may be several approval rounds within this step.
  7. Final output and mixing. Getting back to those first specs, you’ll need to output whatever versions you need for live events, online, email campaigns, etc.

 

Amy DeLouise is a director/producer and author of the book The Producer’s Playbook: Real People on Camera (Focal Press/Routledge).

 

 

A Live Event is a Story

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The Republican Convention has been getting flack for a rough start. As someone who helps produce live events, I feel their pain and know the challenges involved. Because while participants might feel the event is just a series of speakers, if produced correctly, the experience can actually be a cohesive narrative.  Attendees should come away with a positive feeling, some new information and a commitment to action, never knowing all the logistics, security sweeps, food deliveries, changing of speakers, and other details that are happening under the surface.

How is a live event a story?

A live event is a story with a main character which in most cases is not a single person but rather a company or cause. There are supporting characters, too—usually people who can help shed light on a particular aspect of the company or a particular example of the cause in action. And these characters all fit into a story arc with an introduction, a crescendo (for each plenary if there are multiple ones) and a finale. There might be break-out sessions, receptions and mixers where participants get to learn more and meet one another.  And there should also be videos and multi-media elements that help elucidate key themes help the audience get to know the main characters. But at the end of the day, it’s still a story.

What are the key elements for a good live event?

Entertainment. Talking heads never win the day. You need to build in some excitement and fun. This means more than just simply bringing out a musician on stage here or there. Because even a performance must connect to the main story thread.  So if your event is telling the story of homelessness in America, then the musician might be an artist who was formerly homeless. If your event is about women’s empowerment, you might create a live-on-stage showcase with cutting-edge products created by women-owned businesses.  Whatever can transform the experience of the person in the room and entertain them, while also helping to make an emotional connection to your theme.

Drama. This often relates to having a big-name speaker. But it can also mean keeping your timing tight so that speakers, videos and other elements move towards a crescendo to your climactic speaker of the session. This means vetting speeches—always challenging with VIPs—and being sure they don’t overlap in content, and are as short and thematically interconnected as they can reasonably be. The last thing you want is a tired audience (or one that gets up and leaves), which is exactly what happened to Iowa Senator Joni Ernst when her speech got pushed well past prime-time and almost at midnight during the Republican Convention.

Stories. Stories are most often anecdotes from speakers that elucidate the purpose or theme of the event.  As speechwriters, our first job is to interview speakers to be sure we understand their stories, which ones fit into the narrative arc of the event, and how best to write in the person’s natural voice. This is why Melania Trump was so ill-served by whomever wrote her partly plagiarized speech–Googling “first lady speeches” is never a great way to begin the writing process. It must always begin with the individual and their own story.

Video. Video is a way to tell compelling stories weaving together archival video clips, photos, interviews, music. Video can move an audience to tears, or make them rise to their feet in applause. It can tell a more textured story that a speaker can do about a cause or a person. Since I started this post talking about the Republican Convention, I should mention one of my first projects was researching a few of the archival images for the famous A Man From Hope video produced by Linda Bloodworth-Thomason that introduced Bill Clinton to the Democratic Convention in 1992 (minus the 3-min introduction now on YouTube that was not part of the original piece).

Audiences today wouldn’t be able to sit still for a 15-minute video at an event today, but this film is still a stand-out for its ability to introduce all the main characters in this family story. It helped audience members see Clinton’s vision and values within a historical context, such as his growing up in the poor south during the civil rights era and the impact of the Kennedy assassination on his vision for the future.  When we produce videos for today’s events, we try to keep them to under 3 minutes, which means we don’t get to develop the texture and depth of those older interview-driven pieces. But the goal is the same: let the audience see a more intimate side of an individual or a cause, and evoke an emotional connection in the room.

Producing live events is always a challenge. And national conventions are some of  the most daunting. At the end of the day, the best story will win.

Amy DeLouise is a writer-director-producer who creates content for live events. Her new book The Producer’s Playbook: Real People on Camera (Focal/Routledge) is available on Amazon.com and the Routledge website.

 

#GalsNGear Rocks #NABShow

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From Las Vegas, NV NAB Show 2016 –

I’m just back from NAB Show where I was privileged to co-host #GalsNGear Live! by Women in Film and Video (WIFV-DC) with Adryenn Ashley of Crowded TV to help showcase the amazing women working in production and post-production in broadcast, feature films, docs, commercials, branded content and more. Live-streamed by Broadcast Beat, we featured Megan Donnelly, DP and Camera Technology Specialist with AbelCine; Rose Fadem-Johnston, DP,  Luisa Cassasnovas Winters, Drone Operator/Adobe/Apple Certified Trainer; an iZotope demo by Cheryl Ottenritter, Senior Mixer/Founder, Ott House Audio; Katie Hinsen, Senior Finishing Artist, Light Iron (on TWO  Oscar-winning teams!) who is also a founder of the Blue Collar Post Collective; and Jillian Arnold, Video Engineer, Local 695; Lucy Seaborne did a demo for us at the Snell Advanced Media booth, and Christine Steele of Steele Pictures also conducted #GalsNGear interviews with Victoria Nece, Adobe After Effects and Alissa Johnson, Adobe Anywhere as well as Stefanie Mullen, the impressive woman behind the effects of Rampant Design. Christine also took time to make us an animated logo bumper. What an impressive crowd!

Terrific GNG graphics for our signage, logo and buttons were created by Deborah Humphries of True Color Chrome.

Shout-out to our amazing sponsors, including our lead sponsors Black Magic Design and Media Central! We had more than 100 people watch the show live, and thousands more watched online.  Sponsors gave us more than $4,500 in giveaways–everything from cameras to graphics packages to audio software and tickets to creative conferences. Let’s do this again at another industry event! How about Cinegear, IBC, Sundance, Cannes?? Let us know what you think!

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FULLSCREEN_SponsorsGNG_2of2_Tues9AM

 

 

Music Tells Your Video Story, Too

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ADMAR 2013

Hey, here I am playing a  violin solo in concert!

Most people focus on visuals when working on video storytelling. It’s a natural instinct. Our world is dominated by visuals-rich social media like SnapChat, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter and more. But the audio track for your video is a critical part of your storytelling toolkit.  There are two options for music for video: original scoring and licensed stock music.

Original Music Scoring

A professionally composed score-to-picture, which usually includes at least one set of revisions, will run you a minimum of $2,500-3,500 for a 30-second spot, at least $3,500 for a 5 minute video, and upwards of $8,000 for a half-hour documentary. Name-brand musicians can cost you much more.  Fees for session musicians (a band or orchestra) are extra.  And don’t think about using your friend who plays an instrument–session players are pros who read every type of music imaginable and have perfect intonation on the first take. Many composers can do without live musicians for smaller-budget projects by using good quality sampled sounds. And most composers will negotiate on fee based on how busy they are right now, how quickly they think they can do your project, or simply because you are offering an interesting challenge or a distribution exposure that interests them.

Before you give up on an original score because of cost, remember that this music works PERFECTLY with every visual on screen and creates EXACTLY the kinds of moods and transitions you need from scene to scene. Trying to find stock music that fits the bill requires hours of your time to audition tracks, and then more hours of editing time to mesh them together and finesse endings that are usually not right for your visuals. So for many projects, an original score is well worth it.

What’s the Original Score Workflow?

  1. Cut Scenes to “Temp Tracks”. This means finding music–even pop songs you can’t license, since you are going to replace them–that are the right tempo and mood to edit your scenes. I might use three or four temp tracks in any given short form project. Or nine or 10 for a half-hour show. This would be a mess to edit, but we will simply replace all of these with our custom score (a process called “laying back”) once the original music score is finished.
  2. Get “Picture Lock”. Before you can score, you need a 100% approved video, with all the images and voices and “sound-ups” (where you hear what someone is saying during a piece of background footage) in fixed locations in your video timeline. Any slippage by even a few frames will mean adjusting the score with the composer.
  3. Output Video to Composer’s Specs. Most composers want a video file that has a visible time-code window, so they can be sure they are achieving perfect synchronicity with your show. Depending on the type of software they use, a composer will request a particular type of video file they like to work with.
  4. Talk! You’ll want to discuss with your composer what goals you are trying to achieve with your film or spot, and what different moods you want to create with various scenes. If I have a particular genre or style of instrumentation that I want, I will also share temp tracks as examples.

An experienced composer may be able to write your music to picture for a very short film in a single day. Depending on how I’ve negotiated the fee, we’ll usually go through at least one round of tweaks before we get to a final score and go to lay back.

Using Stock Music

There are many online sources for good stock music, which can range in cost from $35 per cut to $500 per cut, depending on the source and the kind of distribution license you need. Be careful to purchase a license for online distribution, even if you have other ways of getting your video out, because YouTube now regularly pulls down videos for lacking the proper music license.

Premium music libraries that offer better-sounding orchestrations, a wide range of musical styles, and different lengths and underscore versions of tracks include www.apmmusic.com www.killertracks.com and www.audionetwork.com . A great feature of  Audio Network for me as a musician is that they list the key the music is in. That allows me to search for a related key for a transition from one piece to another, rather than having an ugly transition between two keys that don’t sound good together, or are identical. There are also lower-cost libraries such as www.premiumbeat.com and www.audiojungle.net which have plenty of great tracks to choose from. My only issue with their music is that the mixes are often muddy and require additional audio adjustment work in a sound studio if you plan to use them in a large room for live event playback.

Why Music Matters

Whether you go with stock music or scored music, you need to create the right mood for your message. I recently had a client send me a series of cute kid testimonials in a series of promo videos that they had shot. Something in the rough-cuts of these video just wasn’t working. They wanted me to help re-arrange the soundbites for a more compelling story. But the first thing I did was send them the same cuts but with new soundtracks for each. Presto! You see, their corporate music track was completely undermining the quirky, real-world comments of the kids. With just a little bit of re-tooling, I had a much happier client, and a better video story.

Amy DeLouise is a video director/producer who is passionate about great music. Her new book The Producer’s Playbook: Real People on Camera comes out this spring (Focal Press/Routledge).

 

Tips for Branded #Storytelling with #Video

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Storytelling through video can help you advocate for a cause, raise awareness and money, train, and motivate.  And with video engagement levels and distribution platform options at an all-time high, charities, associations, government agencies and corporations are producing more reality-based short video content than ever before. But many communications teams launch into producing videos without a solid script. That can throw up unnecessary roadblocks to success. With a plan for your  nonfiction story arc and a script-to-screen process, producers can lower their overhead costs and improve storytelling impact and audience engagement.

Identify Characters: Be sure you’ve identified a main character (protagonist), which might even be your organization. Are there supporting characters? Those might be other people who can speak about this person or product or initiative.  Don’t use more than 3 or 4 characters in a less than 5-minute video, or you’ll overwhelm viewers and confuse your narrative.

Write a Script: You wouldn’t build a house without a blueprint. Don’t shoot a video without a script. Even if your video is largely based on real people interviews, you want to have some kind of game-plan going into those interviews so you can craft a compelling story. Your script can include bullet points for the topics of potential “soundbites”–something that helps you create your interview questions and craft the story line on paper before you start spending money in the field or studio.

Create Storyboards: Particularly if you’re producing a graphically-driven piece, you will need storyboards to help guide the way before you invest in animation.  For other types of videos, your storyboards can be as simple as stock images in a Powerpoint with a few descriptions beneath each one. These visuals can really help you when you’re faced with choices of how to light, shoot and edit your production.

Get Interview Transcripts: If you are interviewing people for your show, get transcripts made–a very small investment of a few dollars per minute–so you can select your soundbites on paper before spending time and money editing clips together.

Build an Editing Script: Once you’ve inserted your favorite soundbites or options into your initial script, you’ve created an editing script. Add in your selections or options for stock music and other visuals, such as stock or archival photos, videos and graphics, and you’ve got your guide-posts for a streamlined post-production process.

For more detailed tips about how to create an effective short-form branded stories on video, try my new Lynda.com course in nonfiction Scriptwriting.

Amy DeLouise is a director/producer, speaker and author who makes branded short-form videos for impact.

Top Writing Challenges for Short Nonfiction Video

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“Helping people understand what can and can’t be communicated through video” and “Keeping viewers engaged” are two top sticking points for the video writers who attended my workshop during GV Expo this morning. We covered strategies and tools for writers to get better results with video. Top tips include:

  1. Define the goals for your video. Use a Creative brief to outline these goals, along with your story approach, point of view, creative look, and any budgetary or scheduling requirements.  Include a few success measures–“if this video is successful, what does that look like?” This might mean a lot more than number of views. It might mean the number of minutes reduced in customer service calls, or the number of registrations for next year’s event. Think measurable goals!
  2. Define your characters. A 1-2 minute video doesn’t need more than one main character.  Supplemental characters include setting and music, which play an important role in how the audience views your subject.
  3. Define your story arc. Everyone thinks about narrative arc with fiction, but engaging nonfiction stories have them, too.  What’s your hook? It needs to grab your audience in the first 15-30 seconds, before the dreaded initial drop-off in viewing happens. What’s after your hook—how do you give the back story quickly and efficiently? What’s the central challenge of the character and how do they overcome it (the climax)? And as your story winds down, do you include a call to action?
  4. Use tools and workflow. Get transcriptions done if you are creating an interview-based story. The roughly $25 per person will be worth it! Then you can focus on finding those elements that move your story forward. Plan a writing workflow that gives you the flexibility to find the hidden stories, but develop creative that meets your goals. Especially if you are writing for animation, you will have to be very detailed in your approach to story so that you allow time for storyboarding, keyframes and animation tests.

Amy DeLouise is a scriptwriter and video director working in short form nonfiction. A slide deck from her writing workshop at GVExpo is on the Speaker tab of this website. Don’t forget it’s #GivingTuesday. Join me in buying a gift for a child in need through Central Union Mission Operation Christmas Miracle.

Board Diversity Impacts ROI

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It’s hardFoliage as Shapes - IMG_0052 s.c to find an organization today that’s not focused on, or at least giving lip service to, diversity. But have you ever considered the cost to your organization of not having a diverse leadership team? When Catalyst first came out with their study about the ROI for investors of companies with more diverse boards, many were surprised. But the numbers were clear: Return on Equity, Return on Sales and Return on Invested Capital were all significantly higher (53%, 42% and 66% respectively) for companies with more women on their boards.

The same is true for nonprofit boards.  Boards lacking diversity can make poor financial decisions, such as investing the bulk of their endowment with an investment manager  “everyone knows.” Boards lacking diversity can miss big opportunities to reach new communities and new donors. They can miss out on creating new partnerships.

So how can you create a more diverse board?

First, let’s define diversity. When I meet with boards on this topic, everyone’s first instinct is to think ethnicity and gender. These are important. But just as vital to decision-making are having people of diverse ages, life experiences, socio-economic backgrounds, family structures, and more.

Range of Ages. The most common lack of diversity I see on boards is related to age. And the most common form of ageism I see is against younger people (which on boards tends to mean under- 35). Yet the views of the 18-35 set, and their facility with the internet and social media tools, makes them especially valuable on boards.

Varied Life Experiences. Another area where boards often lack diversity is in life experiences. That’s because so many people are recruited to boards by friends, business associates or college/grad school classmates. So if you have one corporate lawyer on your board, you’re likely to have two or more. That’s not to say anything against lawyers, but there is also diversity among types of legal expertise and it could benefit your board to have more than one kind. Life experiences also include living overseas, blended families, military families, LGBT, and religious background.

Personal Attributes. A third area for boards to focus on when attaining diversity is a mix of personal styles and personality attributes. Even if you’re board is every color of the rainbow, if every person on it is a forceful leader, you’re going to have trouble filling your committees. By the same token, if everyone is a quiet, behind-the-scenes type of operator, you’ll have trouble finding committee chairs every year. You need a mix of several personality types to make a board fully functional.

Varied Connections. Finally, board diversity requires diverse community connections. One of the most overlooked areas for recruiting board members is among the clergy. Rabbis, priests, and ministers tend to know a lot of people in their communities, as well as other organizations that are making a difference there. That makes them great “connectors” to have on your board, irrespective of whether your organization has a religious mission. Other great connectors are people who volunteer in communities in which your organization wants to reach. And also don’t overlook individuals who serve on national boards, where they make contacts all across the country.

Tapping diverse talents always leads to a stronger board. And a stronger board helps you avoid costly mistakes and deliver on your bottom line: the mission.

Amy DeLouise is a video producer/director and consultant who works primarily with nonprofits and their leadership teams.

Brain Chemical Connects Us to Human Stories

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When we watch cSigning a Checkharacters on the screen, why do they make us laugh or cry? And why does one story make us want to support a charity or social cause? It turns out compelling human stories trigger a chemical response in our brains. Neuroscientist Dr. Paul Zak has been studying the neurochemical oxytocin for years, and learned that humans have a chemical response similar to animals when we find another human trust-worthy: a spike in our oxytocin makes us feel connected to another human being. Even when watching the human on a screen, this response is triggered—what Dr. Zak calls the golden rule response: “if you treat me well, in most cases my brain will synthesize oxytocin and this will motivate me to treat you well in return.”

Most recently, Dr. Zak conducted a study with several short films from St. Jude’s Hospital. When viewers connected with the characters in a short film about a father whose young son is dying of cancer, they had an increase in cortisol and oxytocin. That chemical boost ran parallel to feelings of empathy with the characters, which was increased when there was a strong “narrative arc”—a powerful dramatic rise and climax to the real people story line.

This doesn’t come as a big surprise to those of us working in nonprofit direct response and impact story-telling. We know that to get donors to give and communities to care, we have to tell powerful stories. We know that viewers must connect emotionally with our characters, just as they would with characters in a fiction film. We do this through not just their words and images, but through lighting techniques, music scoring and the pacing of our edits. But building empathy isn’t enough. We have to create a dramatic arc that builds to a climax. We have to create suspense around some kind of obstacle that the characters must overcome, whether it is in their past or present. And our viewers have to relate to that obstacle, even if it is not precisely the same for them.

This is why pre-interviewing potential characters is so essential for documentary-style stories based on real people. Before they go on camera, we need to understand what will be compelling, what will not be relatable, and what will build suspense for our viewers.  And now it turns out that what we’re also doing is triggering those chemical responses in the brain that will make our subjects and their story connect to the brains of our viewers.  In the case of nonprofit storytelling, we need those chemical responses to be strong, because we are usually looking for a response that extends to well after the video ends: we want a viewer to get involved in a cause, donate money, write to their elected officials, or change some previous behavior (stop smoking, lose weight, etc). So it turns out that all these years I thought I was an English major-turned-filmmaker, it turns out that I’m in the neuroscience business: triggering a brain response that helps people act on the golden rule, and do great things for others and the world.

Amy DeLouise is a director and producer who tells real people stories to help viewers connect with causes and take action.

Sure Way to Increase Donors and Activists: Tell Stories

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Sky at Sunset In philanthropy, the saying is that people give to people, not causes. Connecting at the level of hearts and minds has always been critical to building long-term relationships with donors, and also with grassroots supporters. And the best way to do that is through storytelling.  Now that YouTube, Vimeo, and other Web 2.0 tools are giving so many nonprofits a “channel” for their stories, personal narrative is being rediscovered.  But to tell a compelling story requires critical elements.

What makes a compelling story about mission?

1.       Focus on outcomes. Everyone loves a success story. Reality TV is filled with them: obese person becomes thinner, aspiring chef wins the prize, talented singer gets a record deal.  Think of the success stories in your organization, but instead of listing them as bullet-points, express them through anecdotal stories.

2.       Focus on people. The people who make it happen and the people whose lives are changed. Who are the people who made a difference in students lives? What are those students doing today? Who is the volunteer who went into a community and changed it for the better? What is happening in that neighborhood now? What would have happened to that child without a medical intervention paid for by others? What kind of life does this child have today?  Interview-driven narratives are highly successful at building the case for donors and volunteers.

3.       Show why your organization matters. Somewhere in the narrative, you need to show viewers why your organization made a tangible difference in the outcome.  It wasn’t just random acts of kindness that led to this success. It was your people, your dedication, your/their dollars at work.

4.       Engage viewers in their own narrative. Make sure there is a call to action somewhere in your story, usually at the very end. “How can you make a difference just like Alice did?”  “With just 20 cents per day, you can change the life of a child like Shawn.” “Join us at our XYZ event to make your voice heard.”  Think about what story viewers want to create for themselves after watching yours.

5.       Provide follow-up options. If a viewer is moved by your narrative, they should easily be able to click somewhere next to the video or case study to do something–sign up for the conference, make a donation, become a member.  Despite the tendency to want sheer numbers—hey, our video got 20,000 views!—you really want qualified viewers. And viewers who will ACT once they’ve heard your story. So be sure you provide a way they can engage other than passive viewing. The framework around the video should have clickable links. And if you are participating in Youtube’s nonprofit program, you can embed links to your nonprofit site directly in your video content.

Telling and hearing stories is our oldest human instinct. Web 2.0 just makes it easier to share.

Amy DeLouise helps nonprofits tell their stories, strategize about their futures, and influence the world around them.