What trailblazers inspire me?  For International Women’s Day, I immediately thought of five world-changing, badass conservationists I met recently—women working in biodiversity hotspots to save their local habitat, species and communities to help save our planet.

As global citizens, we’re so lucky to have women like Awatef Abiadh working in North Africa, Ingrid Parchment working in Jamaica, Leah Mwangi in Kenya, Martika Tahi in Vanuatu and Le Thi Trang in Vietnam—check out their videos to learn more about the challenges they face and how they are bringing communities together to save biodiversity.  Biodiversity hotspots are Earth’s most biologically diverse yet threatened terrestrial areas. The Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) empowers civil society organizations–with leaders like these fearless, focused women–to manage the global biodiversity crisis at a local level, one initiative at a time.

One of the great things about being a digital storyteller is learning about people who make a difference in our world, and thanks to @Interface Media Group (IMG) I was lucky enough to get to know these five inspiring women and their incredibly important environmental work, partly funded through grants from CEPF, as part of the IMG production team which produced the CEPF Hotspot Hero Awards videos and the entire virtual awards event where all 10 heroes were celebrated. Let me take this opportunity to shout out the incredibly talented creative team at IMG, including Director of Experience Design Jordana Well, Senior Project Manager/Line Producer Frankie Frankavilla, Director of Visual Effects Dave Taschler, Editors Luke Blackwell and Abbey Farkas, Sound Designer Dennis Jacobsen, and Sound Mixer Pavel Sinev—it takes a village to create great content!

You can watch the entire virtual awards event produced by IMG here and learn more about the important work of CEPF, their global partners, and all the Hotspot Heroes.

 

You need to explain an issue, product or service to an audience through video. Where do you start? Begin with these three keys.

  1. Know Your Target Audience

When creating branded content, you naturally want to start with “what”. What work does our nonprofit do? What benefits does our association offer? What product or service does our company provide?  But starting with WHY is better. Asking Why We Do What We Do inevitably leads you to the people who benefit. Who are they? Why do they need what you offer? What impact are you making in their lives? My team and I guide clients to talk about “why” when we start developing a creative brief for any video. One of the very best “Why” videos I’ve ever seen is the Girl Effect. Just over a decade old, with more than 2.5 million views, this video is still making its point of Why girls matter (and by extension, why the work of www.girleffect.org is needed. Also note there is plenty of “data” presented, but all through clever motion graphics and a powerful cello score, with no boring voiceover. In fact, no narrator at all!

 

  1. Know the Viewing Environment

In years past, my production company’s videos for clients would often be shown on giant displays at large live events, and only later online. Today, snippets of our videos might be played on social platforms while extended play versions are screened at hybrid events, where they are viewed simultaneously by a live audience on a large screen and a remote audience on mobile devices, iPads, or desktops. And those virtual audiences might be listening on earbuds, headphones, or computer speakers. How we approach each project—from the visual design to the audio planning—must take into account these multiple viewing and audio environments.  Audio is particularly important to both engage the audience and ensure that the video can be understood well, even in a less than optimal viewing environment. This Pew Trusts Mobile Banking explainer is a great example of audio that connects the viewer to the content without overwhelming it, and motion graphics that also tell the story, so that it works on screens and sound systems both large and small.

 

  1. What Action Should Viewers Take?

Companies want you to click and buy. Nonprofits want you to get involved or write a check (or both). These goals require the right kind of crafting of the story and message, because causing behavior change is no easy task. As video creatives, we spend time in pre-production getting to understand what makes viewers care and take action, so we can choose among strategies to prompt action.  The four most common ways to promote action are: FOMO (fear of missing out), Freebie (creating indebtedness), Authority (trusted brand), Validation (testimonials of community members or influencers). In this #GALSNGEAR sizzle reel, we are using Authority of several trusted industry brands, Validation with soundbite testimonials, and a dash of FOMO to drive prospective #GALSNGEAR participants to the website (where they can sign up to get involved).

https://vimeo.com/manage/videos/602111635

https://vimeo.com/manage/videos/602111635

Whatever your explainer content, starting with Audience, Environment, and Action will help you craft a message, a creative plan, and a technical plan that delivers impact.

Photo by Chris Yang, Courtesy Unsplash

Think Big Picture First

If video is part of your content plan this year, it will be important to start by stepping back and think big-picture as you budget. Why? Because budgeting project-by-project is inefficient in terms of time, audio/visual “assets” and money. You’ll want to consider all the assets you collect for any project to be resources for the next projects. So for example, maybe you want to create some short and snappy Tik Tok videos. While you’ve got people in front of the camera, could you also be creating testimonials or other content for longer videos?  If you are videotaping speeches at a conference, could you also have a roving crew capture in the moment footage of participants, or set up a booth for attendees to tell their stories? And once this footage is created, don’t just use it and lose it. Plan to archive it in such a way that other content creators in your organization can locate and repurpose this footage (see my January post on this topic). In other words, build a content library that reflects your brand, your mission, your organization. (Pro tip: get interviews transcribed so that you can find and use excerpts more easily across media, and for easy captioning.)

Set Realistic Parameters

It’s best to set some realistic parameters for your video project, including the number of reviews you want to be able to have, whether you want live-action or animation, and any specific turnaround deadlines. Without these, I can just give you some rules of thumb on cost. 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), then you can get an explainer video produced for as little as $4,000. Live action videos tend to start at about $10,000 for a video with one day of shooting, and go up from there depending on number of shoot days, length and complexity. Be careful about “we can make your video for $500” pitches. Most of the time, these videos ending up being boilerplate creations that don’t really fit the bill for most organizations.

Watch Out for Hidden Costs

Remember that either you or your production vendor must use properly licensed music or stock images.  You don’t want a DCMA takedown notice requiring you to prove you own various licenses in order to get your video reinstated. There are lots of creative and affordable libraries for this type of content, and an experienced producer can help curate just the right image or song mood to augment or support your production. If your organization produces lots of videos every year, it’s probably more affordable to purchase a blanket license, which gives you a certain number of downloads or usages for a flat rate.

Another hidden cost is unusable footage. Meaning, if you are acquiring video for multiple purposes, the best way to future-proof it is to acquire in the highest quality–4K UHD. Even though lots of organizations are still using videos on the web for online events, for example, at some point soon we’ll be back in person and you’ll want to project that video on a big screen. Footage shot at 1080 won’t look great and anything you recorded at 720 over Zoom will be blurry. So think long-term to avoid costly reshoots.

What Variables Go Into a Video Budget?

Pre-production should be one of the biggest categories for any video budget. And it’s a big red flag if a vendor gives you a budget with little to no pre-production time in it. Our team typically spends several days, if not weeks, of planning for every shoot day. If live-action videography is involved, for example, then our pre-pro time is made up of location scouting (virtually or in person), pre-interviewing subjects, writing a rough outline or story arc, writing a shooting script (which might include “fantasy soundbites”), compiling a shot list, developing our gear list, and planning for any travel.

Production categories include director and/or producer on set, audio, video and lighting crew and equipment, media cards and laptop for backing up footage.  If travel is required, most crews charge ½ to ¾ of their usual day rate for each travel day (since they are basically fully booked and cannot take other work on those days). If producing in a studio, we might add fabrication of sets, wardrobe needs, or the purchase or rental of props into our production budget.

Post-production categories typically include voiceover recording and narrator fee, editing (a minimum of three rounds–rough cut, fine cut, final cut), graphics, music licensing, sound design and mixing, and color grading. For a short nonfiction video, my team plans on at least 1 day per finished minute to get to rough cut, 1 day per finished minute to get to the fine cut, and then ½ day per minute for the final delivery. So a five-minute video could take several weeks from the start of editing to delivery.

The opportunities and the options are endless with video. So start with your big picture needs, be sure to cover your bases on licensing, and engage professionals to help get you across the finish line.

If you want more details about how to produce a video for your company or organization, try Amy’s newest LinkedIn Learning courses. If you message her on LinkedIn, she can unlock a segment for you for free!

Photo: C. Morillo, Unsplash

Each year, my team has a project that begins something like this: “Yeah, we have photos/videos of that. But we don’t exactly know how to find them.”

We are all awash in content. Every time you hire an event photographer you end up with thousands of photos. Every time you produce a video, you end up with hundreds of minutes of interviews. But to adapt an old saying, if a chunk of content lives on your network and no one knows how to find it… Yeah, exactly. So kick off your New Year with this one resolution: plan for tagging and using metadata to help you find, create, and repurpose content.

Workflow Matters

Before you start shooting photos or videos for an event, make your metadata and folder plan. As you ingest and transfer material from in-house producers or outside vendors, how will you tag groupings of images? By day? By event? By content? (Hopefully all of the above.)

If you regularly hire event photographers, go the extra step by paying them to make selects. The images will be much fresher in their minds than yours. (Your brain will still be full of event details and other follow-ups you need to make.) You still want to purchase the raw images.  But having those selects handy – and asking for a batch converted group as smaller jpgs for social — will make your post-event promotions go much faster.

You also want to ask both photographers and videographers to tag their footage in a way that makes it easy for your team to use it later. If you don’t suggest the tags you want and need, trust me you will end up with drives with folders called “Day 1” “Day 2” “Day 3” etc.  So taking the time in pre-production to let your production teams know how you want cards ID’d will really help. And they’ll be happy to add more useful information such as “DallasINT_1” “DallasINT_2” for two days of interviews in Dallas.

For an event photographer, you could ask them to use a series like PLEN1, PLEN2, PLEN 3 for plenary speaker photos at a multi-day event.

If photos are being taken on cellphones, there are ways to both add to and access the metadata beyond those long strings of numbers and letters in the file name. This article offers some helpful tools for adding and finding phone metadata.

For photos or video that’s already been shot, you can also add metadata as you import it into your photo or video editing system. For example, in Premiere Pro, there are a number of built-in tools that let you harness the power of metadata. In fact, here’s a blog post with that very same name, explaining some of the steps!

So take a few moments this year to create a system for tagging content as you create it. And make this a cost-effective, creative and Happy New Year!

It’s that time of the year. So what gift do you get for your favorite media-maker? Here are some of my favorite things (hint, hint, family!).

Low Cost, Small Cameras and Rigs

The OSMO Mobile 3 hand-held gimble can help you create motion shots with your phone.

These days, content creatives are really multi-platform producers. We are simultaneously creating content for social platforms, live and virtual events, the web, streaming channels and more. So we need as much coverage of a given shot sequence as possible, plus BTS (behind-the-scenes) for promos. Several cameras fit the bill for an affordable price. Priced under $500, the Insta360 1X2 can augment any production, giving you added angles for social media and BTS. The micro-sized Insta GO2 is another option if want a motion camera you can drop in your pocket! For $99, the foldable DJI Osmo Mobile3 gimbal turns your phone into a mini Steadicam that can give you some added motion and flexibility for video storytelling. Or for just under $350, you can get the DJI Osmo Pocket with integrated 4K camera to add extra motion and angles to your next project.

Drones!

For advice on favorite drones, I turn to my friend and award-winning producer, editor and master trainer Luisa Winters, co-owner of Mid-Atlantic Drones.  She tells me she loves her DJI Mavic Pro 2, which she uses to get those classic, cinematic shots for a wide range of clients. DJI has since come out with the Mavic Pro 3. If you don’t want the Pro price tag but still need those soaring shots, the DJI Mini 2 is a solid, affordable choice.

Here’s my friend Luisa Winters with her many drones! (The Mavic is the white one)

I love my Blink 500 that allows me to record good audio wirelessly at distance from my phone.

Sound Matters

Without good audio, picture is less than half of the story. Luckily there are plenty of great audio tools on the market today. The Saramonic Blink 500 Pro B2 is just one of those tools, and a “favorite thing” of producer/director Danilda Martinez of Datzi Media. With an 8-hour battery run time, this 2.4 GHz dual wireless system offers broadcast-quality sound for 2-people to cameras, mobile devices and more for just under $300. Whether you conduct interviews, are a podcasters or Youtuber, this portable, lightweight dual mic system includes a charging carrying case and shoe mounts for any camera. If you’re solo vlogging and don’t need a 2-person setup, I’ve been really happy with my Saramonic Blink 500 with one wireless remote for $169. They offer systems for both Android or iPhone.  When I’m not using my Blink to connect to my camera, I actually plug the lavalier into my Blackmagic ATEM Mini to record webinars and zooms. (See how I did that? Got another great item onto the list!)

The Blackmagic ATEM mini pro is a great switcher for podcasts and webinars. You’ll never “screenshare” again!

Lights, Action!

Video lighting has been getting smaller and more portable for a decade now. And there are several fixtures that can serve as a nifty last night of Hanukkah gift or Christmas stocking stuffer. Producer Danilda Martinez loves her Aperture MC lights. The MC lights are part of the Aputure M-series. This one fits in the palm of your hand and can be mounted using the built-in 1/4″-20 threaded mounting hole or—and this is pretty cool—you can attach it to metal with its built-in magnets! You can control it from your mobile phone or tablet, selecting a color temperature from the color range between 3200 to 6500K, in increments of 100K.

The Rugo mounts onto any camera or drone.

Another great small light tool is the Rugo Mini from Fox Fury. I’ve been throwing these lights into my run bag for a while now, and they are a life-saver. A Rugo can work very well in lieu of a “pepper”—the term for a small light fixture–to throw some extra love onto a background feature of a scene, or light up a dark interior for a b-roll shot. But a Rugo Mini can do so much more. About the size of your fist, these small lights come with a bag of mounts and adapters, making it possible to mount them on a drone, on a DSLR camera or on a traditional light stand. They are also battery-powered, have three interchangeable lens settings (spot, area, flood). And—get this—they’re waterproof. They are always on my holiday list.

Asynchronous Video Edit Feedback Software

Getting feedback from clients on works in progress is one of the most challenging parts of the job as a video producer. Luckily there are several tools that pre-dated Covid workflow that got even more sophisticated, to help us along.

The main go-to in the industry these days is Frame.io, which recently got bought by Adobe. One of the coolest features of Frame is Camera to Cloud, which means you don’t even have to wait for your files to arrive in the edit room to begin reviewing shots. Immediately after your camera records the originals, C2C-certifed devices capture high-quality, low bandwidth H.264 proxy files with matching timecode and filenames that live in the cloud.  (You still need to back up all your data in the field, people!)

Notes are never easy, but with Frame.io, everyone can see frame-accurate comments.

I’ve been using both Frame and Wipster.io for many years. Their integrated review panel for Adobe Premiere and After Effects means my editors can see comments right in their timelines. They can also share their work-in-progress directly from the timeline.

Vimeo has come up with similar features for reviews. But their real strength lies in the Video Library feature which is targeted at teams that may not themselves be video producers. Inside the branded Video Library, an organization can house all their videos and livestreams in a single place—divided into handy folders—so everyone can find the content they need.

 

As you can see, our industry has a vast array of wonderful tools to help storytellers succeed. I wish you and yours a very happy and healthy holiday season.

Interviewing with masks on is a real challenge–especially in a warehouse!

For all of us, it’s been a challenging 20 months. But I’m so thankful for intersecting with so many wonderful people, causes and communities through my work. I thought I’d take a moment here to shout them out.

CREATIVE PARTNERS

In the storytelling business, clients are not so much customers as partners. I’ve been lucky to create content with wonderful teams telling important stories. Generate Impact (@MikeForster @BrianGreenwald) Jewish Federations of North America (@AlexandraCoffey) National Association of Chemical Distributors (@AileenSmith @LucindaShofer). The LuminarAI team at Skylum Software (@DougDaulton @RichardHarrrington) . US-Japan Bridging Foundation (@TomMasonJr @LaraMones). I was also privileged to work with team Interface Media Group (@AdamHurst @TimLorenz @JordanaWell and more) to create a hybrid event for a foundation and a virtual event for an environmental impact organization.

PRODUCTION TEAM PARTNERS

A special shout out to video editors @CarolineAllnutt @AbbeyFarkas and @LukeBlackburn, who have made my ideas look good and thankfully have added many more great ideas of their own. And to shooter/editor/associate producer @David Godbout, who kept me sane through some challenging projects. To producer @AmyJohanson for saying yes when she should probably have said no. To @JaySchlossberg

Collaborating on an edit in person, even with a mask, is the best!

Media Central and his always excellent crews wherever we travel to film. To @ZuryHammond for making social media happen. And to @ChrisNoble and the team at Noble Transcription Services—hooray for human transcribers! Thanks to the team at Otthouse Audio for making our sound mixes rock, whether for live or remote content. I can’t wait to work with all of you again soon.

Finally got back on the road for this shoot, which was great.

TRAINING PARTNERS

Helping others tell a better story has always helped me be a better director/producer myself. I’ve been privileged to present at multiple conferences with the team Future Media Conferences. And to work on many LinkedInLearning courses with @RachelLongman at the team at RHED Pixel, where I tape and produce my classes. I’m also grateful to my publishing team Routledge Press for helping me bring forth yet another book this past year. And to my co-author @CherylOttenritter, who is also the world’s best sound mixer!

Putting together my latest LinkedIn Learning course, with Covid-19 spacing and masking.

GALSNGEAR

Back in 2016 I had a crazy idea while walking into the ladies room with no line (!) at an industry event to get more women there, and diverse women, and to amplify their work its stages. That’s grown into our #GALSNGEAR movement to empower women in media and tech, and last year we launched a Leadership Accelerator to get more women upskilled for whatever kind of leadership journeys they want. We are buoyed by the volunteer hours, financial support and just sheer resolve in the face of obstacles of so many. We’re grateful to our colleagues at NAB and NAB Show (@DonnaPage @JonathanToomey @MichelleKelly @JessicaCurtis @RachelleMuckle), at DELL (@CindyOlivo @MollyConnelly), Blackmagic Design

Check out our new #GALSNGEAR Career Accelerator for women in media/tech December 15-16 https://linktr.ee/galsngear

(@TerryFrechette), Platform Communications (@GayBell), our core team @DanildaMartinez @ESamanthaCheng @KimberlySkyrme @AdryennAshley @EllynMcKay @SusanBorke), new friends @FrancesIlla and @IsabelMcLane, and old friends and colleagues at Women in Film and Video @wifvdc . You are all amazing women and men making our industry just a little bit better every day.

FAMILY AND MORE

Of course you can’t be an entrepreneur without being grateful to your family for putting up with your crazy hours, distracted moments, and random shouts of joy. Thanks, guys, you know I love you.

Last but not least, I’m thankful to you readers, whether you’re a regular” at my blog or just stumbled here. It’s great to share ideas with you. Have a wonderful giving season, and if you’re in the states, a great Thanksgiving holiday!

 

Photo by Stem List for Unsplash

Have you heard the new buzzword? It’s Hybrid events. And yet, hybrid experiences have been around for more than 100 years.   Now we have new tools to add impact and engagement.

So no need to panic. Let’s break it down into what works.

What’s Old is New Again

My grandfather was a great lover of baseball. In his youth, if he was very lucky and could get away from work, he would attend a game or two at the old Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. Then, in 1947, the transistor radio was born. Now, he could listen from work or home—I can just picture him with the one earbud and a fist pump on a great play–while he packed boxes at his day job at the American Bible Society.  So baseball became a “hybrid” event—one that people could experience both live in the stadium and somewhere far away, hearing the play-by-play.  In fact, many people began bringing their transistor radios to the games, because they liked both watching the game live and hearing the lively commentary from the radio. Today we call this “second screen engagement” during live events—see next paragraph for details!

Help Remote Audiences to Stay Tuned In

The biggest challenge of both remote and live audience engagement is distraction. Remote audiences aren’t in the room or stadium. They have dogs barking, kids needing attention, emails to write. So for a remote audience experience to equal that of a live audience, you must work harder to keep them focused. But live audiences also have mobile phones to distract them. So why not use them? Some of the best ways to engage are with live-polling—tools like Sli.do and Mentimeter let speakers take the pulse of audiences both in the room and those joining remotely.

But not every speaker knows how to use these tools. So added speaker training and prep is incumbent upon hybrid event planners to be sure their presenters have a plan for engaging both live and remote audiences effectively.

Another strategy for better audience engagement is to keep speeches short and instead use Q&A opportunities with a host moderating. Having an experienced host interview a major headliner, rather than having that person deliver a keynote, keeps the audience engaged and feeling like they are participating. Pro hosts can also integrate questions from both your live and remote audiences (who can submit via your event platform app). Both sets of questions can be fed to a monitor on stage, thus putting the remote and live audience on equal footing.

Anchor Your Event in the Live Experience

The primary impact of any in-person event, whether it is a conference, a concert or a sports event, is that live in-the-moment experience. Even from the nosebleed seats, live participants feel that vibe of sharing with other humans in a common space. Very few online events were able to capture this energy during the pandemic because there was no live audience. The ones that did focused on these key areas: presenters who were lively, video content that was brief, and opportunities to acknowledge audience members through live chat, live polling, and post-event networking. So whatever you design, be sure that home audiences feel energized by your in-the-room experience.

Use New Ways to Engage

Sports continues to be a groundbreaking area for hybrid events and fan engagement. The NBA has embraced VR as a way for fans to be right inside the game, experiencing plays from new angles. And if you don’t have the budget of the NBA, you can host your event on 3D platforms like All Seated or Moot Up. These virtual spaces allow remote users to “walk through” spaces and meet with people, just as they would at a live event. They can join others who are connecting live.

Ask One Key Question

When building a hybrid event, there is really just one question you need to ask: what story are we telling? Whether your audience is live or remote, they will need to connect with that story.  So before you book speakers or start worrying about live-polling, consider these storytelling questions:

  • What is the story we want our audience to know after they’ve attended our event?
  • Who is the best at telling our story?
  • Are there any communities we are leaving out of our story? If so, how can we be sure they feel included?

This last question is critical. Today, AI-enabled captioning via companies like Rev.com offer live captioning for Zoom, for example, so that virtual audiences with hearing challenges can still engage with your content. But you may also want to engage a sign language interpreter to be live on screen during your event.

Whatever you do, be sure that you are creating a cohesive story that gives all audiences—whether at home or in the room–a reason to learn and connect with your brand story.

For more ideas on how to generate exciting hybrid events, check out my webinar on July 27 at 2pm ET: Hybrid Events People Actually Want to Attend: How to Craft a Compelling Experience that Engages Live and Virtual Audiences’ with Michael Hoffman, CEO of Gather Voices. Attendees are eligible for 1 CAE credit! Get your seat today!

 

 

A few days ago a colleague asked me for my origin story—namely, how did I get into nonfiction video production? I told him this story, and he said “I can’t believe I never knew that about you! You should share that.” OK, here goes.

At first, I was in the location department, here pictured with director Oliver Stone and location manager Peggy Pridemore on the set of JFK. Soon, I moved into art department research, and worked with him on “Nixon”.[/

Back when I was a young production assistant, I was working in the location department for various feature films and commercials that would shoot in Washington, D.C., where I lived. In case you think that might be glamorous, I fondly called it “permits and porta-potties” as securing different filming permits, and figuring out logistics such as where a hundred-person crew could park, eat, and yes go to the bathroom, were just some of our jobs in the location department. Through those contacts, I got myself hired as an art department PA on another Hollywood movie. That meant helping the art director source images to propel the vision of the Production Designer and Director. These images and research documents would then be used to fabricate sets, rent or create wardrobe and props, and figure out the action in some scenes. Some of the images and film clips would be used in actual scenes of the movie.

images and film clips would be used in actual scenes of the movie.

All night long, the list of requests spooled out over the parquet floor of my modest apartment (are you old enough to remember rolling fax paper?).  Ping pong tournaments in China. Running shoes in the 1970’s. Helicopters used in the Vietnam War. One requests was particularly challenging: find a clip of President Richard Nixon, who was six feet tall, shaking hands and smiling with someone also six feet tall. The background had to be fairly simple, such as one of the white shelved niches in the Oval Office, because this was to be swapped out by the team at Industrial Light and Magic.  This was back in the early days of digital compositing when we didn’t have the latitude and sophistication we have today with digital backgrounds.

After a long day of shooting Vietnam protest scenes, Tom asked me if I wanted a photo! He was gracious to everyone on set no matter our rank.

I went through dozens of silent film reels of President Nixon shaking hands with people. The White House film office didn’t record sync sound unless it was a high level meeting. The meetings gave me an entirely new perspective on the role of the President. He met graciously with ladies from the garden club. With children visiting with their school class. With spouses of visiting dignitaries. And then I found it! Pelton Stewart, Boys Club Boy of the Year award winner. He was a young African American guy about the right height and build for Tom Hanks, who I later learned was the star of this movie.  Throughout this months-long project, I was mesmerized by all the hidden stories in these film archives, old magazines and news reels. The seed was planted for me to pursue more “real people stories” in my career.

Working on Forrest Gump was a life-changing project in other ways, too. (And no, I don’t have a credit—that was back in the day when babies born on set didn’t get credits, let alone Art Department PA’s!). I discovered how much I loved a business where every single person on the team had a skill and a craft that they loved and refined daily. I worked under the watchful eye of art director Linda Berger, who started every one of our long days at the warehouse-turned-art-department during DC area filming in this way: with a slew of sticky notes on different piles of photos, storyboards, and papers with the words “ASK ME ABOUT THIS”. I did and learned so much! I was in awe of producer Wendy Finerman–at the time she was one of the only women producers working on major films—who came to the set looking incredibly cool in a beat up black leather jacket. (The seed was also planted here for my activism for more women on set, particularly in technical fields, through my leadership of Women in Film and Video and later, my #GALSNGEAR initiative.)

During filming in DC, I got to watch up close how Bob Zemeckis operated as a director—firm in his vision, but collaborating closely with many department heads and engaging their input.  He was a great role model. One day, I was working fairly close to his position on set during the filming of the Vietnam War protest scene at the Lincoln Memorial. He waved me over to his video assist monitor. I looked around to be sure it was me he was pointing to. “Come on over, kid, take a look.” Later that day, I was invited to join the team watching the dailies from scenes we had just shot, and I heard him discussing the different reasons he liked or didn’t like a particular take, and how it would propel the story arc of the film. It was one of many moments in my real world film school education. And one reason I always reach out to the next “kid” to help her propel her film career.

I worked on art department research for many other feature films after that project. But the thing that really stuck with me was my curiosity about the stories of real people – the lives and moments I unearthed from archives and film reels and newspaper accounts along the way. I’ve been lucky to document nonfiction stories throughout my career as a director and producer for many organizations. But I’ve never forgotten the journey that Forrest and I both took that year.

 

Amy DeLouise writes, produces and directs nonfiction videos for nonprofits, associations and companies with great stories to tell. Book a meeting with her here to discuss a project.

Photo by Unsplash

If you’ve been creating content for virtual meetings and events this year, then you know that you need to maximize the impact and longevity of your content, even after the meeting. In this blog post, I’ll talk about how to plan engaging content that helps you maximize impact, amp up your next virtual or live event, and ensures audiences engage with your brand even after your event is over.

  1. Ensure Video Content Fits into a (Virtual) Event Story Arc

So many times we create content for the wrong reasons. Maybe “Cherie needs to be in the video” because she’s an important stakeholder in the organization. Or a particular sponsor needs to be featured. But how do you connect these stories to the story you are telling in your event? Each event needs its own story arc, a narrative that you want attendees to come away with once the video cameras are off. So as you build your virtual content, ask these questions:

How do the various videos we want to share fit into our overall story?

Is there a way we can make them fit better?

Can we break longer videos up into smaller portions –“snackables” — to tell our story on social before and after our event?

It’s important to map that out, and find appropriate places for different narratives that feed into your larger story.  If something doesn’t fit, you might need to find an alternative. For example, often sponsors have multiple videos they’ve created about their products or services. Perhaps one fits better than others with your target attendees. Sometimes I’ve even been able to get sponsors to create a more customized version just for us. This way, attendees don’t feel like that content doesn’t fit with our bigger story. And anyone viewing your event afterwards online will also find a cohesive message.

  1. Engage Audiences as Communities Post-Event

Sometimes you need to deliver different content to different communities in different ways. That means planning ahead to create multiple versions of some videos you want to feature at your event. For example, you might share a 1-minute version of a member story for an association event, but then post-event, share the full 4-minute video. And post-event, what opportunities are you offering participants to engage with one another to share the impact and continue important conversations? Perhaps you create an event alumni Facebook group. Or invite attendees to join a monthly Zoom chat which you can kick off with a new impact story, to jumpstart the conversation. Or perhaps you want to engage your community post-event in some important policy action through an email campaign that contains links to several different content strands. Audience members are people, and your event is just one touch point to build a sense of shared purpose and continued connection.

  1. File Formats Best Practices for Video

If you are producing a hybrid or virtual event, you’ll likely have a number of different content elements to bring into your delivery platform, then share again afterwards. Most platforms are still only streaming at fairly low bandwidth depending on your subscription level, so don’t overwhelm the system by trying to play back 4K video. You could end up with audio out of sync and heavy digital drag.  If you have high resolution assets, make lower resolution compressions and test them in advance on your platform. Typically, 1080p mp4 files compressed for Vimeo or YouTube spec will play back just fine.

If you have speakers who will be sharing videos, be sure they play back these sources natively from their presentation computer (and whoever is hosting that session should also have a backup copy on their desktop.)  And don’t wait until your event to find out how they will look. Have speakers who want to share videos practice sharing in a test session. I recently attended a virtual concert where the speaker tried to play back a performance from her YouTube channel, which caused a lot of unnecessary lag and choppiness. She could have shared the source file with no problems directly from her desktop. And be sure any video content you want to play back through your event platform—such as sponsor videos, intro videos, or highlights—are also tested through the platform. You can always share higher resolution versions through your website, YouTube channel or Vimeo channel post-event.

 

Amy DeLouise is a producer/writer/director specializing in branded content for virtual and live events.

Whether you host a podcast or are creating video content, interviewing is essential. Here are some of my experiences and tips for working with VIPs, Celebrities and Experts.

Some of the most nervous and challenging subjects I’ve worked with on camera are celebrities, CEOs and subject matter experts. These are the very people you’d think are fairly comfortable in front of cameras.  Yet it’s worth remembering that not every celebrity loves cameras. The reasons can vary widely, and it’s useful if you can do your homework to be prepared.

For example, I once interviewed a brilliant scientist who shared in our pre-interview that he had ADHD, a condition which had eventually led him to a career in science to unlock the genetic secrets of the human condition. This scientist admitted that he was unlikely to stay focused for more than five minutes at a time. He was right. I had to let him get up and check on experiments and talk to colleagues in between every question. Flexibility is sometimes the key to a happy interviewee, and thus a better interview.

A brilliant conductor was another fascinating and tricky interview subject. Having worked with her for many years, I was not surprised that she almost directed our production from her seat. Allowing an expert to feel in control is often a key to creating a successful interview dynamic, even though you are always keeping track of the story arc and important points you want and need to draw out for your particular audience.

I once worked with a Very Famous TV Personality whose name shall not be included here. That’s because her on-screen bouncy persona was a far cry from her real approach, which was difficult and anxious. Her assistant was equally challenging. We had to do many takes, some of which I had to carefully cajole out of her, because I realized no one on her team was willing to admit to her that she had made some mistakes. Yet I knew that she would want a perfect take, and wouldn’t approve anything less (and frankly, neither would I). When conducting interviews with experts, VIPs and celebrities, part of your job is also managing feelings, and managing the managers.

As an interviewer, director or producer, you need to be ready for everything.  Your best weapon is knowledge. Your second is patience. And for challenging VIP’s, the crew or tech team needs to be 100% on their toes, with no chit-chat. Everyone needs to exude the confidence that you will make this person look and sound their absolute best.

 

This blog post is partially excerpted from my content creator’s guide The Producer’s Playbook: Real People on Camera (Routledge Press).