How To Make Effective Explainer Videos

, , ,

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!

 

NAB Wrap Up Webinar

, , , , , ,

What happened at NAB? Join me as we review the emerging industry trends in an IBC365 Webinar today with Carolyn Giardina of the Hollywood Reporter,  dock10 CTO Paul Clennell and IHS analyst Przemek Bozek. Join us TODAY APRIL 18 as 4pm UK time (8am PDT / 11am EDT / 5pm CET) Click here for the webinar

On the show floor at NABSHOW 2018

 

What Makes a Great Video Info-Graphic?

, , , ,

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).

 

 

How to Set Your Rates for Creatives

, , ,

As a creative freelancer, one of our toughest challenges is how to set rates. Here are four ways to set your pricing. You can use a combination of these approaches, and sometimes may need to make adjustments depending on your career goals or the needs of a specific project.

  1. Market-Based Pricing – Market-based pricing is generally driven by two key factors: the number of vendors available (supply) and the amount of work (demand). But there are other variables at play. For example, if there are union rates for this job or service in your area, that may affect the typical rate charged–it usually improves it. Or, there may be pressures on the market, such as seasonal demands. Becoming an active member of a local association or meetup group — in my area of Washington, D.C., TIVA and Women in Film & Video , in NY and LA the Blue Collar Post Collective (BCPC)— is a great way to develop friendships with colleagues and learn about trends in your market. The BCPC conducts an annual rate survey which is a great tool for our industry.
  2. Value-Based Pricing – Using this model, the price of your services are driven by the value the customer puts on your work. For those with more experience in a particular subject matter or style of content, value-based pricing can work well. Value-pricing also works if a client really wants a particular team in place for a project and you have the track record to deliver what they need.
  3. “I Need This Job” Pricing – Of course there are stages of every career where you accept a rate lower than you might otherwise because you are trying to gain experience, try your hand at a new skill or tool, or secure work in a down market.  I would just warn that you don’t want to do this very often, or you are likely to get stuck at the lowest rates (and bring everyone else down with you.)
  4. Salary-Based Pricing – Wait, we’re talking about freelancers, right? So why would the term “salary” apply? Well, you may want to set your day rate by determining the amount of money you’d like to (or need to) make divided by how many days you are likely to work. This is not a hard and fast rule, but a good way to see if you are going to make your financial goals. If not, you either need to raise rates, work more hours, or perhaps garner more skills that prospective clients want.

 

These are excerpts from an upcoming Lynda.com course of mine on Freelance Work Strategies for Video Producers and Motion Graphics Designers. Let me know if there are topics you’d like to see addressed!

 

Branding for Freelance Creatives

, , , ,

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!

 

 

Why Every Video Needs a BTS Camera

, ,

Behind-the-scenes is one of the most valuable shots you can get on your next video shoot. Yes, you need to plan for that tricky interview. Yes, you need to manage locations, schedules and the editing workflow plan. But adding a BTS camera–stills and/or video– will pay you back ten-fold.

Here’s why.

Social sharing demands visuals. You want plenty of pics you can quickly share to stakeholders through Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and more. Watch your posts get much better traction with these visuals. For example, Facebook posts with visuals get shared two to three times more than those without. And Facebook currently pushes live video to the top of the algorithm, as does Instagram, so doing some live BTS footage while you’re shooting will get you even more shares.

Everyone loves a look behind the curtain. The process of video production is still a bit magical. Your internal and external audiences love to see “the making of” a project. So whether you are shooting your nonprofit digging wells in Africa or creating this year’s annual state of the company corporate video, you can engage your audience with some BTS scenes.  These can be shared through an email alert, on the web in the interface where your video plays, through e-news blasts, or in social posts leading up to the release of your video.

Photos can help tell your video story.  A BTS camera can also get you out of a jam when you don’t have enough budget or time for b-roll (background footage) to cover interviews. I shot a project where we incorporated flashes of BTS stills of the participants that we shot doing a photo shoot the day prior to our interviews in the same studio setting. By getting this “two-fer” imagery, we created visual assets for a multitude of purposes, including spicing up the video content of the interviews.  We also gave viewers an added window into the personalities of our subjects.

So the next time you are planning a video shoot, be sure to assign someone to shoot behind the scenes photos and footage. You will need to PLAN for this added asset generation, including how the BTS photographer will or won’t move around while you are shooting. You don’t want to distract participants, or interrupt your main focus of video production. You DO want to get more assets to share and boost the value of your project.

Amy DeLouise is a video director-producer who teaches #LinkedIn Learning courses, and in-person workshops on maximizing impact with video. She is the author of The Producer’s Playbook: Real People on Camera (Routledge).

#NABSHOW Survival Guide

, , , , ,

 

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. 

 

Women in Production

, , , ,

gng-logoIf you’ve been following the #GalsNGear hashtag on Twitter, then you know I’ve been working behind the scenes with many colleages–male and female–across production and post to put the focus on women in the technical fields of our industry. We want to be sure these professionals get the limelight they deserve, get access to the best gear, and also help bring along the next generation of women across the industry.  galsngear-nabshowSeveral hundred folks attended our most recent VR, production and post gear demos, and enjoyed our killer panel with women in film finance, VR, cinematography, and film finishing during NAB New York (shout-out to our partners NAB,  Adorama and Black Magic Design).  I’m looking forward to seeing friends and colleagues at IABM in London this weekend, and at NAB Vegas this spring.  If you’ve got an idea for a #GalsNGear pop-up event at an industry gathering or film festival near you, give me a shout.

Amy DeLouise is a director-producer with a passion for making the industry the best it can be. Her new book The Producer’s Playbook: Real People on Camera is available from Focal Press/Routledge.

 

 

How to Prepare to Conduct a Video Interview

, , ,

Amy Interviews

You’ve got to shoot and interview and ask the questions. How do you get the best from your interview subject(s)? How do you prepare? These four steps will improve the process every time.

  1. Research. I don’t just mean your basic Google search or Wikipedia page look-up. I mean actually reading something your interview subject has written or watching a speech they have given so you can a) learn from it and b) refer to it and build rapport. Also read articles about your person, so you understand where they come from and what they do.  Talking to people who know them well–a spouse, assistant, co-worker–can give insights into their style, character and personal history.
  2. Pre-Interview. Have a phone conversation several weeks in advance of your interview. Weeks not days, because you don’t want someone saying “As I said to you yesterday…” in their answer. I find phone is better than Skype or Google Hangouts, because people are more honest when they can’t see you. If you don’t have the time or ability to pre-interview, then talking to someone who knows this person is even more important. You don’t want to be blindsided by a strong viewpoint, a difficult to understand accent, or some other element that you could easily prepare for in advance.
  3. Create a Story Arc. Everything is story. Even reality. Find the challenge that your subject had to overcome. This is the high point of the story, and you can work backwards from it as you develop questions to lead up to the main high point. Also think of what might hook in viewers to this story. How can you elicit that bit of the story arc? Then think about how the story ends. What’s a good way to help your subject get to this conclusion?
  4. Reverse Engineer Your Questions. Reviewing your research notes, your pre-interview notes, and your draft story arc. Then build questions that can elicit those answers and topics. The goal is not to control every moment, but to help support your subject as they reveal their story.  people always ask me if I send interview questions in advance. Absolutely not! Send a list of topics, sure. But don’t give away your questions that are designed to elicit a story arc or you will find yourself interviewing someone who has over-prepared. If someone tells you that you MUST send questions, send three or four but write them related to themes. Get into the specifics on site.

Look, we all know that nothing is ever set in stone when you conduct an interview with a “real person” (i.e. not an actor or someone highly media-trained) on camera. Good preparation makes the shooting and editing process go much more smoothly.

This blog post is based on one of the chapters of my new book The Producer’s Playbook: Real People on Camera (Focal/Routledge).  Order copies here.  For more details on specific interviewing techniques and post-production strategies for working with interviews, see my Lynda.com courses here: Amy’s stuff on Lynda.com

Immersive Storytelling 101

, ,

20160731_180957

Henderson, NV – Today I’ve been surrounded by immersive storytellers, sharing their experiences with virtual reality, CG characters and the future of entertainment. 100 professors and filmmakers are taking this journey with me (several hundred more arrive for the main event starting tomorrow, where we’ll get to “hack VR” among other hands-on experiences). We’re participating in Digital Innovation Day, the prequel to the annual conference of the University Film and Video Association, “Content Creation in the 21st Century” where I’ll be speaking on Tuesday. As a self-taught filmmaker, I never took courses from the brilliant educators and industry leaders here this week, so this is an exciting opportunity to learn from them. Here are a few takeaways from the folks on the bleeding edge of this new generation of digital storytelling:

  • the workflow and camera technology are new and still evolving, and costs vary widely (from the $350 Ricoh Theta-S, good for shot planning, to the Nokia Ozo that can cost $60,000)
  • the role of sound is critical–we “see through our ears” (if we want a user to turn in a certain direction to catch some action, the sound might give them a clue)
  • throw out what you think of as “script”–VR doesn’t work that way (there’s not a beginning, middle and end or story arc as you traditionally think of it)
  • where do you hide the crew and gear when you shoot 360? (answer:  VFX is needed in post, and sometimes the director hides in plain sight as one of the talent)
  • promising collaborations between industry and universities are pushing the bounds of this new medium (we watched innovative productions involving professors and students from Florida State University, Loyola Marymount University, University of Nevada Las Vegas, and more)

and…most importantly…

  • the story only works when we have an emotional connection to the experience. (some things don’t change after all!)

I’ll be back with more from the conference. If you’re looking for the slide deck for my prezy, click on the Speaking tab of this website. Tweet to me @brandbuzz if you’d like to connect during the conference. My new book will be at the Focal Press/Routledge booth.

Amy DeLouise is a director-producer of short form nonfiction who speaks at/occasionally gets to attend cool conferences.