Tips for Making Your #Video #Story

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Amy on Set 2nd camera on slider FA ShootVideo is some of the top shared media online. It’s a great vehicle for telling your brand story. When talking about video, everyone imagines lights, camera, action! But there are several steps that must happen before and after the shoot to help you deliver a great project.

Preproduction

  • Creative Brief. Getting everyone on the same page at the start of your project is critical to success. The creative brief is a short document–often just a page–that sets out your goals, your target length, your target audience, your distribution channels, your timeline, and who has approvals. You can also include your stylistic approach, main characters, and key scenes for your story arc. Often, I like to attach storyboards or style boards to help everyone visualize the stylistic approach.
  • Technical Brief. Before rolling footage, you need to determine two key specs: for acquisition (for example, 4K UHD, 29.97fps) and distribution (for example, H.264 file compressed for Vimeo, to be embedded in a website).
  • Pre-Interviews. When interviewing “real people” to tell your brand story, you’ll want to get to know your characters before you put them under the lights. A phone call can help you do that. Find out how they talk, their approach to your subject, and any issues or concerns they might have. It’s also important to give them guidance on what to wear (or not wear–such as don’t wear green clothing to a green-screen shoot).
  • Shooting Script. Many people skip the step of a shooting script, and this makes it harder to pull together a story efficiently in the editing room, because you may have missed filming key scenes or soundbites.  A shooting script should outline settings, scenes, possible soundbites (which you got from the pre-interview), any narration, and even ideas for music bed styles.
  • Shot List. Your shot list derives from the shooting script. Without a shot list, it’s hard to be sure you are getting every scene you need for your video.

Production

  • Field Notes. It’s important to have someone take script notes, to be sure you haven’t overlooked key scenes, footage or audio. I often make my notes on the schedule, and shoot time of day timecode so that the schedule pretty much lines up with our footage timecode. Then my editor has a great tool for navigating the footage.
  • Audio Notes. Your sound engineer should make notes along the way as well, and these notes go with your audio files.
  • Backup Audio. For interviews, be sure your sound engineer is recording backup WAV files (either to the mixer-recorder or a digital audio recorder) just in case there is an issue with any audio recording to the camera. You’d be surprised how often that happens. These files can also go out to your interview transcription service, to speed up your post-production workflow.

Post-Production

  • Editing Script. Lots of people just start ingesting footage and scrubbing through it for clips. That’s fine. But you’ll spend less time editing if you take time to review your footage, review your field notes, and rework your shooting script into an editing script. For interview-driven productions, this means pulling soundbites from transcripts and making a “radio script” that reflects your story arc.
  • Transcriptions. These days, you can easily send your audio for transcription, either to AI services like Speechmatics, automated combined with humans such as Rev.com, or all humans such as the folks at Noble Transcription. I often send out meeting scenes and other b-roll audio for transcriptions, so that I can pull just the moment I want for a sound-up. Plugins like Lumberjack (for Final Cut Pro) or Transcriptives can help you stay organized inside your NLE (non-linear editing system) so that you can use transcripts to build your story arc, and then be ready to create captions at the touch of a button.
  • Graphics Plan. If your project includes graphics, don’t wait until you are done with your edit to put together a graphics plan. This includes fonts, effects for transitions, and samples of work you really like. All of these can help your editor or graphics guru develop the right look and style for your project. Often, we will have our graphics artist develop “proof of concept” videos–short motion sequences to be sure we like the way the 2-D or 3-D animation will work in our story.
  • Voiceover Artists. If you are using a voiceover artist, you’ll want to audition your talent before you begin editing. Sometimes I like send out a couple of lines to a few different male and female talent, so that my client can hear how they deliver the message. In the meantime, I’ll record a “scratch track” so we have something to cut to. In another post, I’ll go into some tips for directing and working with voiceover professionals.
  • Music Curation. I’m a fan of a custom music score for many stories, because it can precisely evolve, change pace, and support your story arc. But often, producers must rely on stock libraries for music cues. Don’t wait to curate your music at the end of the production. Some segments may need to be edited to the beat. Try tracks and experiment. There are a wide range of great music libraries, from the extensive Killer Tracks to the more cost-effective Premium Beat Soundstripe and Jamendo.

There’s a lot of planning that goes into creating a video. I hope these guidelines help you as you deliver great content through this powerful medium.  For more tips, try my LinkedIn video courses.

 

Impact Video: Finding Value in Your Media Archives

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Today I bring you a great case study demonstrating how you can bring impact to a very short organizational story–in this case, for an awards event–if you know where to find your archival media assets. This case has all the classic elements: a quick turnaround deadline, a large quantity of assets to mold into a seamless 2-minute story, and me digging through boxes of old archival sources that no one imagined would be part of a future video. I thought I’d deconstruct the process for you, and shed some light on how you can up your game by mining your own media archive to create content for your organization.

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).

Multi-Platform Madness: A Day on the Set

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This week I produced and directed a fun shoot for an international education association. What might appear at first glance to be a simple studio shoot  was really a multi-tasking day that allowed us to gather multiple content streams at once, for later multi-purposing.  Here are some of the elements we shot in less than 8 hours:

-5 interviews with a Canon 300 Mark II camera

-Secondary/side angle of all interviews w/a Canon DSLR camera on a slider

-6 direct-to-camera reads of a brief :30 appeal

-BTS (behind the scenes) video and photos

-Samsung Gear VR footage of our setup

-Hyperlapse time lapse footage of our setup

-Smart phone photos and videos of our day on the set

And now here are all the outputs we can achieve for this client: 

-A short video about the association for their website combining the interviews,  BTS footage, and other existing content from the association

-Social media sharing content using the BTS photo and smart phone content

-A Facebook video campaign using the direct-to-camera content

-An Instagram video campaign using the direct-to-camera content

-Interview transcripts that can be mined for quotes for website and newsletter sharing

-VR and timelapse content that can boost social sharing

 

Planning For Multiple Content Streams

Of course, this all takes advanced planning. You can’t accomplish multiple outputs without having the right people on your production team. You need to have a designated BTS Photographer and ideally a separate BTS Videographer.  These roles are different, but can sometimes be combined as long as you are clear about what you need from each format. You will also need a DIT–Digital Information Tech–who can be offloading, ingesting and verifying your footage and photo media cards as you go, because you will need to keep using cards throughout the day.  That person will also be meta-tagging your shots so you can find what you need for quick turnarounds later. Again, this person could have another role such as production assistant, but you had better be darn sure they really know what they are doing when it comes to media management. On some shoots I rely on my director of photography (camera op) to do this job, but then you have to wait until the end of the day. This means you need to purchase more media cards up front, since you won’t want to “blow them away” until you have ingested, duplicated, and verified all your footage. For a multi-camera shoot like the one we did this week, I did not want to distract my camera guy with that task, so we had our BTS photographer do it because she is also quite experienced at this DIT role. She also pulled up all our footage in a laptop version of Premiere Pro, our NLE (nonlinear editing) platform, so that we could check our colors “in the real world”.

Designing Your Workflow for Spoken Word Content

You’ll also need a workflow plan for your Transcripts. I like to use a real, human transcriber for long interviews or anything involving speakers with accents.  The folks at Noble Transcription do a great job. If you live in a town with lawyers, you can find a transcription service! For quick interviews, Speechmatics is an AI platform that does a pretty nifty job. You might have to correct things like acronyms, which it isn’t good at recognizing. I then import my transcripts into PremierePro using Transcriptives, a new plug-in from Digital Anarchy. Transcriptives attaches speech elements to every clip from the interview, allowing you to build your script, output drafts that everyone can review on paper, and output your final captioning.

Archiving and Future-Proofing

Really, the future-proofing comes in the planning stage. I like to shoot everything in 4K these days. That gives me enough lattitude to compress content for small screen delivery without compromising quality. It also allows me to crop images to 2K, giving me the ability to add a second “angle” without moving my camera.   It also gives me enough color space and pixels to crop unusual specs like the awful Facebook vertical, while keeping high quality color and resolution for larger-screen delivery.  Future-proofing also means ensuring that you have permissions “in any and all media” from all your participants, so you don’t have to go back to them every time you change your output. You also will need to get the right licenses for any music or stock images you add into your final products.  As far as archiving goes, we really don’t know what the next digital medium will be, so the best policy is to save all your content in its highest quality form, without any added text or soundtracks. This will allow you to continue multi-purposing well into the future.

I’ll have a new LinkedIn Learning course on this subject soon, so watch this space for updates!

 

 

How To Make Effective Explainer Videos

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There are three keys to creating effective explainer videos. Whether you need one to promote a for-profit company, product or service, or you are looking to help explain/advocate for a nonprofit enterprise, these are the most important tasks at the outset:

  1. Know Your Target Audience

People often start the video production process, understandably, thinking about their company, their product or their service. But actually, when planning a video, it’s smart to start with your audience. Who is your viewer? How old are they? What language(s) do they speak? Will you need to make your video accessible to the visually impaired or hearing impaired community (and if you are a federal agency, this is required by law.) What does your viewer already know (or not know) about your company, your nonprofit, or the featured product or service? Most importantly, what do you want them to know, and how does it affect their lives? Once we delve into these questions, we can start developing a conceptual framework or creative direction for your video.

  1. Know the Viewing Environment

Some of my work gets shown on giant screens at big events. Many of my videos get viewed on a smart phone. How we approach each project—from the visual design to the audio planning—depends largely on the primary viewing screen and environment. For example, if you think someone will likely be watching your video in a fairly quiet, home or office computing environment—let’s say for a training video—then we might use graphics that move pretty quickly and some fun music. If, however, this is a video that might be watched on a smartphone without the audio on, we’ll need to plan a design that has impact with only subtitles.

  1. What Do You Want the Viewer to Do Next?

When working in the fundraising and nonprofit arena, you often want the viewer to Volunteer Their Time, Write a Check, or encourage others to Get Involved.  If you are selling a product or service, you want someone to Click and Buy. These are very specialized goals that require the right kind of crafting of the story and message, because causing behavior change can be quite challenging. Usually we (or your in-house marketing team) spend time in pre-production interviewing people who are the target market, or in the case of a nonprofit have become involved as volunteers, to find out what triggers made them care.  We also may spend time out on location, meeting those people who have been affected by the product, or by the work of the nonprofit so we can hear their first-hand stories and scout the location to figure out the best way to show impact on the screen.

This pre-production preparation is essential to successful storytelling. Only then can we craft a design, the messages (script), a production timetable and budget.

What about some examples?

The video at the top of this post is an animated explainer I produced for a children’s hospital, to ensure families engaged in rounds while their child was in the intensive care unit. We had to translate this into multiple languages, thus the choice of mouth-free animated icons.  Animation by David Fuchs at RHED Pixel.

 

Here’s a fun US Postal Service explainer using what we in the production business call a “practical” visual effect (in other words, a real effect created on set, not done through the magic of post-production) to accomplish the visual “flip”. (Shot by Matt Gottshalk)

Here’s an animated explainer I created for an issue advocacy organization, in the style of the famous Monty Python graphics, in order to capture attention at a large membership event.  Animation by David Fuchs at RHED Pixel.

Here’s a fun stop-motion style explainer about a subject that isn’t always fun–dental care–produced by Rachel Rasby, with co-producer, Julia Hoppock, and cinematographer, Lee Gillenwater at the Pew Trusts.

This video for a farewell gala was created entirely in After Effects from archival photographs, interspersed with some original graphics and quotations that we solicited from supporters about the leader of this performing arts organization.  Animation by, you guessed it, my favorite animator David Fuchs at RHED Pixel.

What about costs?

It’s best to set firm parameters for you project, including the number of reviews you want to be able to have, whether you want live-action or animation, and any significant or quick turnaround deadlines, plus the target length. I know 2 minutes seems short, but it is double the number of frames of a one-minute video, so can take twice as many resources! For the purposes of this blog post, and based on my years of experience, I can give you some fee ranges.  If you’re project is entirely animated, and you have a very small team helping to guide the project and do reviews/approvals (i.e., there aren’t layers of bureaucracy or board members etc who might make significant changes along the way, thus adding to time and costs), then you can get an explainer for as little as $5,000-$7,000. Remember that on the low end of the scale, you must be sure any quote you receive includes proper licensing of any stock graphics, photos and music!  (Be VERY skeptical if someone tells you they can produce an explainer for much less than this.  I’ve seen some websites advertising $500. The professional rate per day for an editor or graphics designer and their equipment is this amount, and that’s just an average rate and doesn’t include time for scriptwriting, storyboarding, meetings with you, and working with your team to research and verify the factual content to be included, not to mention the creation or licensing of music, hiring and directing a narrator, etc.)  On the higher end, if live-action videography is involved, for example, because there are impact stories and interviews to be filmed, perhaps with travel to various locations, then you are more in the $20-25,000 ballpark.  Many videos will fall somewhere in between, and with a streamlined internal process for content design and approvals , you can get a quality product for about $12-15,000.

The opportunities and the options are endless with video. So start with 1, 2 and 3, and then engage some professional help to get you across the finish line.

Amy DeLouise is a writer-producer-director and love to explain things using video!

 

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).

 

 

Branding for Freelance Creatives

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Good communication is a top soft skill that can set you apart in a crowded field, and something I look for when hiring a DOP.

Everyone loves to talk about branding. But how do you brand yourself when you are self-employed?  There are a few strategies I’ve used over my years in the video production business that you might find helpful.  I’ll be incorporating these into a new Lynda.com course this year on being a successful creative freelancer. Let me know any specific branding questions you have, as I’d love to incorporate them into the course.

Why You Think People Hire You

Most freelancers promote themselves with the skills they think people are looking for. Their websites show software or tools mastered, areas of expertise, lists of equipment.  That’s fine. But did you know that your expertise is only a small part of why people hire you?  If I want to incorporate a fantastic animation sequence in my next video, I can choose from literally thousands of freelance designers working with all the latest software. What I need in addition to those skills and tools is someone who is a problem-solver, easy to work with, and a good communicator, as we are likely to have a lot of back and forth during the storyboard process.   If you are that person, then your portfolio page needs to communicate to prospective clients more than simply the last projects you worked on. They need to understand HOW you accomplished the work to be sure you’re a good fit for their new project.

Why People Actually Hire You

Soft skills is what we’re talking about here. So how do you incorporate “soft skills” into your branding? References from past clients are helpful–and guide them to talk about your “HOW” skills. Also be sure to describe the personal attributes and abilities that make you good at what you do. These might include your positive attitude, your communications skills, your ability to work with challenging personalities, or your ability to lead a team.  Case studies are another great way to explain the problem or creative issue was that you were presented with, and how you solved it for a client. Be sure to include soft skills in your resume along with lists of hard skills and gear. Also put them on your LinkedIn page and website. These are part of your unique brand value, and that’s what you need to be promoting!

 

 

#NABSHOW Survival Guide

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Levi Sim-10

In just a few days I’ll be at NABShow, the Superbowl of my industry. Or as I like to call it, 110,000 of my best friends in content production.  If you want to catch up with me there, here are my 7 (yes, seven) sessions and 2 panels during Post|Production World. Plus, I’ll be hosting an amazing group of women in UAV, VR, 3D, VFX, Editing and more during a multi-camera, livestreamed show called #GALSNGEAR on Tuesday, April 25th.  Come for the coffee and donuts at 8:30, stay for the show at 9AM!

Here are a few things I’ve learned in my years at NABShow. See you in Vegas!

  1. Have a Shoe Strategy – Bring several pairs, and plan to swap out at least once per 15-hour day! While this is especially true for women, it applies to men too. A few years ago I shared a cab with an attendee who confessed he only had brought one pair of shoes. Big mistake. You will walk many miles a day across the 1 Million square feet of show floor (!), not to mention the miles of sidewalk on the strip.
  2. Have a Transportation Strategy – The monorail is great if your hotel is right on it. If not, there’s actually a decent Express bus that runs up the strip and over to the Convention Center. You can buy a multi-day pass for much less than the monorail. Thank goodness Uber has come to Las Vegas, which cuts down the cost of other rides. And of course once the show is in full swing, there are free buses that go to most convention hotels. If you’re in a hurry, however, these can take quite a while.
  3. Bring Business Cards – I’m always amazed at how many people don’t bring them, or don’t bring enough. It’s a show with more than 100,000 people! You can’t remember everyone to tag them on LinkedIn when you get home, so share cards. A strong visual and a simple declaration of what you do is important. I hate getting back with cards to scan that feature only a name. If you’re not Oprah or Cher, include details!
  4. Have a Daytime Food Strategy – Lines at the convention center food trucks and stations can be long. On days when I’m presenting, I bring a sandwich and a yogurt from the Walgreen’s on the strip (there are three). This will save you time and frustration on peak days of the show.walgreens on strip4. Have an Evening Food Strategy – Are you sensing a theme here? Since I’m feeding myself on my own dime during NABShow, I try to skip the overpriced strip restaurants for many meals.  These are some of my all time favorites as well as places I still want to explore.  Let me know if you want to grab a bite!

Lotus of Siam. Excellent, authentic, and seriously spicy Northern Thai cuisine. Try the spicy prawns or the sea bass in any of the three sauces–I’ve had the ginger sauce with mushrooms and it was divine. Kaizon Fusion Roll. Asia fusion with interesting (and gigantic) sushi roll combinations in a low-key, hip bar atmosphere. Just across street from Hard Rock Casino, but not nearly as pricey as their famous sushi spot. Tamba Indian I plan to give this place a try this year based on a recommendation of an Indian friend. Lindo Michoacan. A local Mexican 3-restaurant chain well regarded, including by my local friend whose wife hails from Mexico. Sen of Japan gets rave reviews and is more authentic Japanese, for purists. Pamplemousse. Locals go here for special occasion, reasonably authentic French fare. Pricing more on par with the strip restaurants, but reviews are rave. Echo and Rig Pick out your cut of steak, then have it grilled up at the restaurant next door. Talk about “on-demand” dining! Piero’s. A Las Vegas institution and close to the Convention Center where we’re all living for this conference. Dinner only. The only Vegas eatery on the strip that makes my list is Beijing Noodle No.9 at Caesar’s. Try the Soup Dumplings–the soup is actually IN the dumplings, not the other way around!–and a bowl of Lanzhou noodle soup.

Amy DeLouise is a director-producer specializing in nonfiction, short form videos for large live events. When she’s not in production, Amy is also a frequent speaker and workshop leader. She has courses on #LinkedInLearning and will be presenting at #NABShow. 

 

Focus on #GALSNGEAR at #NABSHOW

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If you’ve been following the #GalsNGear hashtag on Twitter, then you know I’ve been working behind the scenes with many colleages–women and men across production and post–to put the focus on women in the technical fields of our industry during NABShow this year.   On our program, we’ll be featuring 14 top pro’s talking about VR, UAV, VFX, CC, 3D, and more. Plus we’ll be giving away thousaGnG_IG-Post1nds of dollars worth of cool stuff! We want to be sure these professionals get the limelight they deserve, and inspire the next generation of women working behind the lens in our industry.

NABShow in Las Vegas is an incredible annual smorgasboard in our sprawling industry of content creators and distributors in TV, video, cable, OTT, satellite and more. Or as I like to call it, 100,000 of my best friends in media. Special thanks to NAB and Women in Film & Video, and our partners Broadcast Beat Magazine, sponsors Black Magic Design, Snell Advanced Media, and Vitec, as well as supporting partners Adobe, iZotope, Zacuto, Ott House Audio, Rampant Design, Sundance Media Group, and Radiant Images.
If you’re coming to NAB, then we’ll see you at the show! (8:30AM is free coffee/donuts and networking, the show goes live at 9AM). If not, join us live online at 9AM. Broadcast Beat, our streaming partners, will be carrying us to more than 2M viewers in 180 countries! Details here.

Luisa Winters on GalsNGear NABSHOW Live 2016

Check out these amazing women joining us on stage to demo and discuss gear and content production and post-production this year:

Participating women:

Jennifer Pidgen, COO, Sundance Media Group; UAV Pilot

Céline Tricart, Cinematographer & VR Filmmaker

Nina Page, Head of Business Development, Radiant Images

Amanda Shelby, Head of Production, Radiant Images

Csilla Kozma, Head of Content, Nokia Technology

Cheryl Ottenritter, Senior Mixer/Founder, Ott House Audio

Mae Manning, Editor

Sue Lawson, Editor

Megan McGough Christian, Production Manager, “Frontline”, WGBH Boston

Stefanie Mullen, CEO, Rampant Design, Visual Effects

Sophia Kyriacou, Broadcast Designer/3D Artist

E Samantha Cheng, Executive Producer, Heritage Series, LLC

Co-Hosts:

Adryenn Ashley, CEO, Crowded TV

Amy DeLouise, Producer/Director, Author of The Producer’s Playbook: Real People on Camera

 

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.

 

3 Ways to Minimize Budget Impact of Using Real People on Video

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AmyDirectsTalentSo-called “real people” can add power to a video story. For testimonials, someone who actually uses the product can be compelling. If the story focuses on a charity, someone who has lived the day-to-day impact can help raise funds more effectively than an on-camera professional host. A person who works in an organization might be the very best at explaining a new process or tool.

But here’s the catch.

Using real people as opposed to actors affects the bottom line costs of your video, in both production and post. Often executive producers focus on the cost-savings of not having to hire actors–no actor fees, no casting fees, no pension and welfare payments (for union actors). However, pro’s bring their ability to hit their marks every time, to become characters convincingly, and to deliver a particular line the same way in the wide shot, the closeup and the shot that gets done after a lunch break.

So if you are using real people, you need to focus on 3 areas to minimize the budget negatives:

  1. Casting. While you may use an informal process, you’ll still need to “cast” people to be sure they can work with you, they have an interesting story, and to build a relationship prior to the day of taping. While actors can step onto a set filled with strangers and go, most regular folks can’t. Always avoid using someone solely on the recommendation on another person. If you will be the day-of-production interviewer, producer or director, you’ll need to talk to them yourself to be sure you have a good rapport.
  2. Scheduling. Build extra time into your shoot schedule. Not just for each angle or shot, but also breaks for your “talent.” Unlike pro’s, who can muscle through a long day, most regular folks need some time out of the lights. Plus they will likely need to make calls, check on the kids being picked up from soccer, etc. I’m always surprised how often I’ve got someone telling me they’ve “blocked out” the whole day for our shoot, and then when we arrive, they’ve actually got several hours of phone calls, errands or other work scheduled. No one outside of production understands that what we do is a really focused, full day or more type of job.
  3. Post Workflow. Your post-production workflow will also need to be adjusted. If you are conducting interviews, be sure you get transcripts made (from mp3 or wav files of the interviews) so that you can make a preliminary set of selects and then choose from those for your final edits.  This will save massive amounts of time slogging through footage to find soundbites.  If you are creating a re-enactment or a direct-to-camera video, you’ll need excellent field notes via Adobe Live Logger, Google docs, Lumberjack, etc. that allows you to correct for the usual mistakes and changed dialogue or non-matching action that commonly occur when  using non-actors. Again, this will save massive amounts of time and frustration during editing.

I’ve built some handy templates and other prep, shoot and post resources into my new book The Producer’s Playbook: Real People on Camera. Use code FLR40 at checkout for 20% off (not available on Amazon). Let me know any other tools you think I should add here on the website.