Photos: Five Tricks for Keeping Track

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labyrinth copyright B.DeLouiseThanks to digital photography, organizations now have millions of photos to use in their promotions, websites and videos. But a photo is only useful if you can find it! As a video producer, I’m often fishing through massive files of photos labeled IMG1024 etc., trying to find just the right shot. Here’s a way to avoid that hassle and expense:

  1. Assign a Photo Guru. Even if multiple departments use and shoot photos, make one person responsible for your photo management system, and your tagging process. This person should create a cheat sheet for item 3 below.
  2. What Gets Measured Gets Done. Set a target for each quarter tied to institutional goals. Metrics might include not simply the number of photos to labeled and archived but how you are making them accessible to multiple departments/users/members/donors and how often they are getting reposted and linked back to primary content.
  3. Use Metatags. When an event is over, ingest all media cards and batch rename the files (while checking the box for retaining old metatag info) with the name and date of your event. If you hire professional photographers, give them the names you want to assign to each event or each day of a multi-day event. Your tagging work is not complete, but at least you have a good start. Most photo archiving systems will allow you to add other information such as who is featured in the photo and other keywords.
  4. Be Clear and Consistent. Don’t label your Los Angeles Gala photos “LAG” one year and “LA Gala” the next. In five years, no one will be able to find the LAG photos.
  5. What’s Old is New Again. From #TBT posts on social media to anniversary videos to website timelines, old photos get new life. Organizations that have been around since before digital will need to scan (at 200dpi minimum) old photos so that they can be re-purposed for web, social media, video, print and live event uses. This is a great job for a summer intern! But the intern will need to speak with the Photo Guru, above, so s/he understand key categories, institutional themes. Provide a handy photo “crib sheet” of important people for reference.

 

Amy DeLouise is a video producer/director who often finds herself slogging through unlabeled photo archives in search of the perfect shot!

What (Not) to Wear on Camera

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While Sarah PalinJacketPalin glittered her way to a Donald Trump endorsement, most of us can’t pull off that on-camera look. In fact, it’s generally advised to stay away from shiny, high contrast fabrics, let alone shiny stuff dangling off a fabric. This is because contrast can confuse the camera sensor, and may cause a “moire effect”–the image may seem to vibrate. Especially once the quality is degraded through broadcast or Web compression.

So what’s best for your next event or appearance that will be recorded on video?

In this heady pre-primary season, take some cues from our political class. For women, solid jewel tones work well. Reds can be tricky. ButStateofUnionRed you’ll still see plenty of women wearing them for televised events like the inaugural swearing-in ceremony or the State of the Union address. (To be honest, purple stands out more, as in this photo of the SOU a few years back.) For men, a pop of color in a tie works well (see Lindsey Graham’s canary yellow). The same rulespopofcolorties about avoiding busy patterns and high contrast apply to both ties and scarves. The Prince of Wales is a natty dresser, but this combo of polka-dot tie on striped shirt would be a nightmare on camera.

It’s always best to bring a few options to a shoot, and if you have time, do a short screen test. And Prince-Charles-too busyif your production is against a green-screen back drop, of course avoid green (remember to check earrings, ties, etc!) or those elements will disappear–just like magic!

 

 

 

 

Amy DeLouise is a director/producer who works hard to make people look great on camera. Her book on producing with real people on camera comes out this spring from Focal Press.

 

 

 

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.

5 Social Sharing Tips

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Social media writing challenges us all. So many platforms, so little time! Keeping a few easy tips in mind can help you focus on big picture goals.

  1. Be Yourself. Write the way you talk. Share what you think. Be authentic. If you write for an organization, be authentic to the character of the organization.
  2. Share Others’ Stories. Don’t only write about yourself, your work, your company. Share success stories of colleagues, clients, or industry innovators.
  3. Be Relevant. Post about issues that are current and trending. Look for hashtags to use that help your content break through the clutter and get reposted.
  4. Repurpose. Some content is too topical. But lots can be repurposed. A 5-minute live event video can be cut down into a 30-second webisode. A 7-second time Behind the scenes photos can accompany a tweet. Rework, reuse, recycle! Oh, and please make your media findable internally in your organization–label photos, put them in recognizable folders, metatag footage with names that people outside your edit suite can understand.
  5. Time it. Not every post will get equal views, depending on the time you post it. Weekend viewing is best for longer video clips. Late afternoons, later in the week will get you more forwards and shares. Post test messages on your favorite platforms and see what works best for your social community–each one is slightly different.

 

Amy DeLouise is a writer and video director working in short-form nonfiction that gets distributed at live events and via social networks. She speaks and writes regularly on challenges and solutions in communications, branding and video production. See her slides on social media from her workshop at #GVExpo on the speaker tab of this site.

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.

Ram Tough Branding to Women

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Women are Ram tough. That’s the message from Ram Truck’s newest commercial “The Courage is Already Inside” featuring women doing hard things. It’s a well-produced and welcome message in the usually testosterone-obsessed truck segment. (Dodge has even produced some negative portrayals of women, notably in its Charger commercial during Superbowl 2010.)

As many of you readers of my blog know, I am a car-lovin’ gal, and so whenever there’s a convergence of great branding and car stuff, I’m all ears and eyes.  This new ad from The Richards Group agency caught my attention. Directed by Jaci Judelson, the spot breaks new territory in car marketing to women. Judelson’s images are gritty, nuanced, and human. She has worked on Dove’s “Real Women” series, among other commercial ventures, and directed the new Sundance series Single Stories.  Marketing to women has come a long way.  And by positioning this brand to appeal to strong-minded women and men, Ram is leading the charge.

 

Amy DeLouise is a nonfiction Director/Producer and consults and speaks on branding, marketing, and digital storytelling. Join her with fellow speakers at GVExpo December 1st and 2nd at the Washington DC Convention Center.

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.

4 Ways to Keep Restricted Gifts From Killing Your Mission and Brand

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Every fundraiser should cringe when offered a restricted gift. Sweet Briar College found out the hard way.
$56M out of their $84M endowment is restricted. That’s  2/3 of its endowment, but even more if you consider past, present and future earnings on those funds.  And so it makes sense that the recent reprieve for the women’s college, which was about to shutter its doors, included an effort to waive some of those limitations. 
Restrictions are popular with donors. Who wants to give millions for playing fields and find out they’ve been used to renovate the cafeteria? But the overarching driver should be delivering on mission. And tying the hands of leadership in making decisions for today’s students/patients/recipents etc. can, in fact, compromise the overall mission.
Of course, many donors have personal projects that motivate them to give. And tapping into those interests is part of Fundraising 101. But even when donors have the institution’s mission at  heart, changing times and future needs are hard to plan for–in Sweet Briar’s case, many gifts were made over 100 years ago.
So how can a nonprofit institution ensure that funds raised today support the mission tomorrow?
1. Pose the What If’s. When speaking to a donor interested in a restricted gift, offer some examples of unforseen, mission-focused challenges. Use examples from other segments of the sector: Food banks once conceived to serve the urban poor are rethinking how to feed suburban underserved populations. Girls schools are grappling with how to meet the needs of transgender students. Pediatric hospitals are figuring out how to serve HIV survivors now in their twenties and thirties. Environmental groups focused on once endangered species are now pivoting to tackle the massive implications of global climate change.
2. Be Proactive. Board leaders need to think ahead by staying engaged with donors. Before a donor becomes elderly or infirm, they should discuss how restrictions can be eased to support original intent (as tied to mission) without limiting opportunities (the vision for the future of the nonprofit).
3. “Self Insure”. If a substantial gift is permanently restricted due to the donor being deceased, the financial leadership should target raising a percentage of that base gift every year to “insure” the institution against too much imbalance in the portfolio, much like they already adjust the balance in stock, bond or real estate holdings.
4. Just Say No. Occasionally, institutions have bravely declined large gifts, because they knew the restrictions could substantively alter their brand for decades to come.
Restricted gifts can be a godsend. But they can also kill your nonprofit brand, which means how you deliver on the mission for those you serve. Hopefully Sweet Briar’s experience will be a shoot across the bow for any other nonprofits–not just colleges–with too much restricted giving putting their mission at risk.

Amy DeLouise works with nonprofits on telling their mission story through video and other content. She has chaired nonprofit finance comittees and knows what it’s like to be responsible, as a volunteer board member working with staff, for overseeing endowment finances.

Hacking Video in 10 Essential Steps

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AmyDirectsTalentSo you want to make a video for your company or nonprofit. You may want to capture a particular event or person on camera. But what’s next? Actually, a lot comes first, before the shoot ever happens. Let’s break it down into all the steps that go into production. Then you can decide which parts you want to manage yourself. And you’ll understand the workflow if you decide you want to team up with a Producer or Production Company to help you.

Step 1. Define the Goal. Wasn’t it Yogi Berra who famously said “if you don’t know where you’re going, you probably won’t get there”? So knowing what you want to shoot is great, but if you don’t know WHY, and what kind of outcome you want for your production, you might miss your mark. Do people need to learn a key skill from this video? Do they need to get motivated to take action on a social or political cause? Do they need to feel good about their new company? Buy something? Attend your big event? Knowing your goal here is essential to how you design the video, but also how you measure success afterwards.

Step 2. Define the Audience. Success will rely partly on knowing your target audience. And please don’t say “everyone.” Have you noticed how many cable channels there are? And how about YouTube channels? We don’t live in a one size fits all world. Take advantage of that, and determine who you want to reach—age, demographics, viewing habits, and what information they bring to your subject matter. You might end up shooting 3 different versions of your show for those different audience segments.

Step 3. Consider the Viewing Environment. Are folks going to watch this video on their laptops? In a busy office environment? At a training session? At a purchase counter? On a noisy trade show floor? Gathered together with thousands of other activists for your cause? The viewing environment—the “envelope” as I like to call it—matters a lot. It helps determine length, emotional content, style, sound design, and many other factors. In addition to thinking about where people will view your video, this step is vital in determining your output specs. And output specs will influence your shooting specs. If I know something needs to be very high quality, on a big screen, I might shoot it in 4K or higher. If it could air on broadcast, we need to shoot interlace. If it will never be seen on anything other than the web, I might acquire footage in 1080p. All of these decisions need to be made up front by you, typically with the Director and Producer, in consultation with the Editor.

Step 4. Hire the Production Team. Pulling together the right team—for writing, directing, shooting, sound, editing, graphics design, sound design—is a key step. You might decide to do all of this coordination and management work yourself, or hire and direct a crew and editor you’ve worked with before. Or you may hire a Video Producer. She has a rolodex of folks she’s worked with, or perhaps a production company, who work as a team every day.

Step 5. Define Creative Concept and Budget. OK, Now that you know Why, Who and Where, you can start thinking about How and How Much. How will you best connect with this audience? Does this need to be fast-paced? Funny? Dramatic? Documentary style? Will the end product need to be less than 90 seconds long, for web viewing? Can it be longer–more like a brief news package (2-3 mins)—for group viewing? You’ll want to develop a creative treatment and maybe a few storyboards, so you have a sense of how things will look, and how much they will cost. You’ll also need these documents for internal approvals before moving forward with production. Here’s where a Scriptwriter and Creative Director can be helpful to your project. They have loads of experience developing concepts that are creative, but also achievable. Cost drivers will include schedule (is this a rush project?), how many shooting and editing days, and complexity of the concept.

So how about cost? People used to define video budgets in terms of “cost per finished minute.” I think it’s more useful to consider cost-per-impression. If your video costs $10,000 and reaches 20,000 people live and online, that’s 50 cents per impression. If those people go out and raise $4 million for your cause because the video helped inspire them, that’s a pretty cost-effective outcome. If your video costs $40,000 and reaches 2,500 people worldwide in online training sessions, that’s a cost of $16 per person. If you would normally spend $150 per person to send trainers to multiple locations, then you have saved yourself a bundle. So you need to know from Step 1 what the goal is, and whether this cost is justified. There is also a direct relationship between cost and quality, there’s no getting around that. Some situations do not merit a full-scale production. You may be able to get away with recording someone with an iPhone. That’s another cost-benefit analysis you need to make when weighing your options.

Step 6. Plan the Shoot. The shoot takes 10% of the time spent a given production, but it’s the part everyone thinks about most. Typically, the Director will work with the Producer and the Writer to develop a shot list. These could be very scripted scenes, or more documentary style “we hope to get this” kind of scenes. If it’s the latter type of shoot, be aware that you won’t get everything you dreamed of. But you might get some cool stuff you didn’t even imagine. If you think you might need footage for multiple platforms or purposes, it’s a good idea to bake this into your shoot plan and schedule. It will take more time and money, but save substantially on the back end.

Step 7. Tag and Digitize Footage. This step is usually done by the Producer with the Editor. It’s a time-consuming but vital process for reviewing, prioritizing and organizing all your content–footage, photographs, logos, audio, music–in a digital Nonlinear Editing System so that you can use it now and in the future. Make sure the tags are something that would make sense to someone not intimately involved in the project. So don’t label a shot “MS w JJ.” Label it “Marilyn Smith CEO _ Jarvis Jackson CFO”.

Step 8. Editing. Footage editing typically goes through several rounds. The first round—the rough-cut—might be done with only temporary or “scratch” VO and music. Later rounds will include professionally recorded voiceover, if that’s the style of piece you’ve planned, plus music that the Producer needs to license for your specific usage. Even stock music has a license, and YouTube will pull your video down if you can’t demonstrate that you have it. I tend to go through about 4 rounds of edit drafts: a rough cut for only internal folks to comment on, a finer rough cut for their bosses or decision makers to comment on, and then two rounds of final refinements for graphics, audio, narration and music. A sub-step of editing is graphics—whether simple text or more complex animation. If you have a million shots from various sources, you’re also going to need a color-correction step so it looks like a unified piece. The same goes for audio—an audio mixing session will help even out interviews or other audio from multiple sources.

Step 9. Compressions. In the world we live in, there are many platforms and many output specs. Hopefully you already figured out what you needed in Step 3.  My clients usually need several different compressions for projects—one version for Vimeo, another for YouTube, and another for a live event projection system.

Step 10. Future Proofing. Be sure you archive all your edit media—you’d be surprised how often you’ll need to go back for shots and use them in another production. Back up your project files. And be sure you also output one master file, at the highest possible resolution such as ProRes 4444, as well as a version with separated audio tracks, so that you can always go back in and reversion as needed in the future.