It’s brand planning time! Photo by Unsplash.

“We should do more with our brand” is the lament of a lot of busy nonprofit, corporate and association communication professionals.  Here are three ways to boost your brand engagement this  year.

  1. Engage Stakeholders in Social It’s not enough to have staff schedule regular social media posts. Build ways for your donors, your customers, your board members to engage with your brand story. Give shout-outs to the people who help your organization deliver on its mission, and be sure to tag them. Give tutorials to members of your leadership team who might not be as comfortable with social on ways to engage across platforms. Send emails to board members with a link to your latest LinkedIn post and ask them to comment on it and share it to their channels. Every share expands your community and the impact of your brand.

 

  1. Ask Influencers to Share. The social tag is the modern equivalent of getting an autograph, but actually more useful for your brand. When one of my nonprofit clients gave a hospital tour to Justin Bieber (and encouraged him to tweet about it, which he did), they got 10,000 new followers in a matter of hours. Find out if any key personalities or well-connected board members are already known to your institution and encourage them to make a social mention or tag your organization. You can’t hit them up every time, so make thoughtful decisions about when it would be most important to have this extra amplification, such as before a major event or fundraiser.

 

  1. Create Platform-Friendly Content. If you want your content to be mobile- and web-friendly, make it a priority to upgrade your acquisition and output specs. For new video content, shoot in High Def, at a minimum of 1080p (29.97 frame rate, or 24fps which looks nicer in many cases and saves you some file space) but optimally at 4K for maximum flexibility and image quality. This larger acquisition size takes up more space, but storage is cheap. And you can easily make 1080p versions of content for web distribution. Whereas having your fabulous year-end video look dated and pixelated on your social channels when 5G is fully in place is an expensive mistake. For photos that you might want to re-purpose in videos, be sure you prioritize horizontal framing, not vertical. And if you want to post photos to IG, then you’ll need to collect vertically-framed scenes, too!

Merry Branding in this (relatively New ) Year!

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!

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.

What is “B-roll?”
B-roll is the footage essential to visually accompany the story that may be told through audio on the “A-roll,” which is traditionally interviews. If you want a good laugh, this ancient YouTube video “We Got That B-roll” still resonates throughout the industry. (You gotta get all the way to the famous section at :55 where he explains what is NOT b-roll. And he makes a great point. If your shot list is “too specific” or a historical moment, you might need to turn to archival stock footage. More on that in another post.) All laughs aside, there’s nothing worse than getting into the edit room and realizing you don’t have enough b-roll.

How Do You Plan for Great B-roll?
B-roll doesn’t just “happen,” especially if you are shooting on a particularly time-table. My rule of thumb is to shoot three to four scenes of supporting material for every one to three minutes of finished minutes of story. This general works out to a day of shooting b-roll for every day of shooting interviews. By pre-interviewing subjects so you know what they might be referencing during an interview, you can plan to gather relevant b-roll to cover the story.  This is called a Shot List, and should identify each scene you need to include in your video. One scene generally requires multiple angles of coverage, such as a wide shot, medium shot, and various tight shots.  In addition, on-camera subject(s) also need breaks. So to expect that immediately after wrapping an interview someone will want you and your camera following them around to get b-roll may be unrealistic and stress-inducing.

Scheduling Well for B-roll
Build your budget and schedule so that you give your on camera subject(s) time to decompress—perhaps while the team is picking up an establishing shot that doesn’t require your “talent”. Plan key scenes well in advance: “we’d like to get Sarah hanging out with her school friends—can you invite them all to come to the house at 4PM on the day of our shoot?” And try to work around existing opportunities—“Since you told us you have full office team meetings every Monday at 11AM, can we be a fly on the wall this Monday? And can we get into the room a little in advance to put up a few lights?”

By strategizing in advance, you can ensure you have the optimal footage to tell your video story.  For more detailed approaches, check out my courses on LinkedIn Learning. Or feel free to book a meeting with me to discuss your next video project!

 

Photo by Sophie Keen for Unsplash

Navigating career transitions is always a challenge, especially in an evolving business climate. But it’s possible to put your best brand forward in a way that allows you to pivot to a new area of work as a creative professional. In this blog post, I’ll cover four key areas for ensuring you have the ability to pivot quickly and effectively.

  1. Define Core Values for Your Brand

As Jendi Coursey discussed in her guest blog post here last month, customers are embracing values as a focal point in decision-making. Businesses and individuals who offer a values-first focus are more likely to get repeat business. And, I’d suggest, when you embrace a mission connected to values, you are able to develop a different pricing structure, because you are building a long-term relationship with that client or customer, not just a quick deal. When pivoting to a new market vertical, or to an entirely new business model (aka, virtual workflow, etc.), you are better positioned to move fast if that mission focus is still driving your decision-making. So, for example, in my business we pivoted from creating content for live events to helping our clients produce virtual experiences. While the end product was different, our core values of quality, a focus on authentic storytelling, and audience impact were still at the heart of our work.

  1. Conduct a Personal SWOT Analysis

Now is a great time to do a personal SWOT assessment—Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. If you need more information on how to get started, check out this article from SCORE—the Service Corps of Retired Executives, a volunteer organization that allows experienced retired executives mentor younger business owners. You can use this SCORE Checklist to help you narrow down the questions to get at your SWOT analysis. The benefit of conducting a periodic SWOT is to help you define your brand, create marketing tools that position your business or service appropriately, or help you define a new business angle, product or service.

  1. Develop Big Hairy Audacious Goals

One of my favorite takeaways from the book “Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies” by James Collins and Jerry Porras is the “BHAG”—which stands for Big Hairy Audacious Goals. Every entrepreneur needs these goals to ensure we are looking past the day-to-day to some significant long-term objectives. And even if you work on staff inside a company, it’s worth targeting your BHAG to be sure you have a life-changing target that can drive your professional development plan. I keep my BHAGs on a white board over my desk, which also contains all my company’s ongoing projects and proposals. By having my BHAG there–both business and personal–I’m mindful of not losing sight of my long-term goals and strategies in the flurry of daily work.

  1. Tips for Transition Marketing

As the market transitions from virtual to hybrid and then to frankly who knows what, it’s important to be mindful of how your portfolio, your social media, and your resume position you for what’s next. Be sure your social channels are aligned with where you want to go. (So often I see headshots with sexy poses or pictures of beloved animals, which don’t really help me know who this person is professionally.) If you are job-hunting as a gig worker, be sure to highlight your soft skills when posting on platforms like LinkedIn. These include your ability to work with a team, your ability to use new tools or software to get the job done efficiently; and your willingness to manage your own time to deliver quality outcomes. Software and hardware tools and certifications are great, but these change constantly. It’s your work ethic and ability to be function as part of a team that makes you hire-able again and again.

The future of work post-Covid is still evolving. The best we can do is be ready for it.

Amy DeLouise is an entrepreneur, digital storyteller, and trainer. Check out her panel of creatives who pivoted their careers during the Post|Production Online conference April 10-13.

Storytelling and technology continue to be intricately entwined. From the very start, the ability to capture images was dependent on evolving tech. Those in the storytelling biz have always been understood that creating great content is a multi-layered, complex process that requires a combination of creativity, artistry and technology. The latest technology to transform content production is 5G.

What is 5G?

5G is the now rapidly emerging next generation mobile network. What makes 5G networks unique the powerful combination of low latency, high network bandwidth and ubiquitous connectivity. Data can be uploaded at speeds up to 10 Gigabits per second and downloaded at peak speeds of 20Gbps. This is 10 times faster than today’s mobile networks. It is the ability to download a 3GB video in 35 seconds. Over today’s 4G networks, that same 3GB file would take 40 minutes to download.

Why is 5G important for production? In short, it removes limitations.

5G and Live Events

When it comes to live events, 5G reduces costs while increasing efficiency and flexibility of remote production. While many stadiums have fixed locations providing the fiber connections needed for TV cameras, broadcasters have had to invest time and money to lay down miles of fiber to connect cameras to OB truck. 5G gives camera crews the freedom to roam wherever they need to get the best shot – and upload high quality 4K in real-time. Sports broadcasters around the world have been testing 5G since 2018. This summer’s Tokyo Olympic Games are expected to display the broadest set of commercial uses yet.

Scripted Content in 5G

So, it’s easy to understand the benefits of 5G for live events but what about scripted content? How can 5G transform Hollywood storytelling? 5G changes the game even before the cast is assembled and shooting begins. Location scouting is now simplified by 5G enabled drone cameras capturing shots and enabling teams to quickly review options. The sky, pun intended, is now the limit as it becomes more cost effective to send crews to check the viability and desirability of locations.

Once filming starts, the pace of production can now be accelerated. One of the biggest sources of delay has been transmitting large high-quality video files (aka “dailies”) for review While the adoption of digital has accelerated this process, 5G can provide even greater improvements. 5G’s fast speeds allows filmmakers to transfer massive video files to editors very quickly without the restriction of access to wireline connections.

In the same manner, collaboration between editors in multiple locations and time zones becomes more productive and reliable. Video files can be shared, edited, re-shared and reviewed. 5G also improves the viability of cloud-based workflows thanks to its low latency requirements. Imagine files being uploaded to the cloud while still shooting. Workflows will be accelerated; networking costs will be reduced. Even more importantly, 5G can truly democratize post-production – allowing the best specialist talent to participate in projects without concern for location.

The Future of 5G

The future promises even greater creativity and audience immersion. Thanks to 5G’s ultra-low latency and massive data capacity, storytellers can unleash their AR, VR, 3D Holographic enabled imaginations. South Korea, a longtime leader in adopting advanced mobile network technologies, released this 3D holographic + 5G network enabled dragon in 2019! Live events, visual interactions, and storytelling as we know it will change forever.

We can only imagine how content production will evolve as 5G is deployed globally. 5G enabled smartphones and 5G enabled professional cameras are available today with 1.2 billion connections projected by 2025. Get ready for a new wave of creativity!

Peggy Dau is an independent consultant working with media tech companies to help them connect the dots between technology, market trends and business strategies. Peggy is also a co-founder of Women in Streaming Media, a not-for-profit organization which exists to increase diversity, and provide greater visibility, to women working in any role within the streaming media technology sector.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Socially distanced panelists filmed in studio for a virtual event feed – courtesy Interface Media Group 

As part of my continuing series on producing virtual events,  I caught up with Steven Yerman, Vice President of Operations, and Nick Mueller, Studio Manager at Interface Media Group in Washington, D.C. [Full transparency—I’ve hired IMG for their great studios, and they’ve hired me to produce virtual event content.]

Amy: What are some of the pitfalls of planning virtual events?

Steve: Even more planning goes into virtual events than live events.  Typically, a live awards event might take 6 months of planning, but the same group will only allot a few weeks to the same event happening virtually. And yet there are so many more technical components.

What takes the most time in pre-production to make sure the event succeeds?

Nick: Running technical tests takes time – you want that time with all of your “talent” to be sure their connections work right, video and audio look and sound good.

What are audiences expecting, now that we’ve had almost a year to develop virtual content?

Steve: The audience is expecting more than a Zoom meeting.

Nick: You don’t want to have a talking head for 60 minutes. People want dynamic content.

Steve:  You need to think of these events as television productions. The audience wants content that looks tight, like a real broadcast, with higher quality video and graphics.

So how are you taking the risk out of creating that kind of “broadcast look”, especially when most of the people speaking are not on-camera professionals?

Steve: Often we pre-record key segments. Let’s say it’s an awards event. We’ll mail the person the award in advance. We then record them saying their remarks. We’ll edit that nicely, with lower thirds and logo graphics, then bring it into the live event.

There are loads of different platforms for bringing an audience into a virtual event—Zoom, WebEx, Skype, Bizzabo, Hopin, Aventri, etc. (I will cover these in another post). What unique tools do you bring as a broadcast studio?

Nick: We can use Talk Show VS4000 which allows us to bring in four guests via Skype.

That’s a multi-channel video calling system designed to simultaneously connect you with up to 4 remote sources and give you full audio and video control over the signal and what happens next.

Nick: Correct. So this is a great tool for a talk-show type format.  We also use the Tricaster.

You’re talking about the broadcast switcher?

Nick: Right. It can take a signal and push it to YouTube, Facebook, a website, or an external encoder. It will work with Zoom, WebEx, Teams or Skype and can also ISO record audio and video. And it can handle mixed format inputs.

Just to clarify for our readers, ISO means “isolated” audio or video signal—meaning, a separate record that doesn’t mix in the other speakers and visuals.

Nick: Yes. So we have those “clean” sources if we need them to tweak a session after it has been recorded live.

That’s incredibly handy, because mistakes happen and we don’t want the permanent recording to contain any! So how do you bring the client into the picture, so to speak?

Steve: We’ve been using a conference bridge for the client and tech team, so we can communicate offline and not interfere with what is being recorded.

What’s the biggest challenge that gets overlooked when planning for a virtual event that is bringing different speakers and panels to the audience?

Steve: You need to think about the maximum number of feeds and what you will show during the transitions. Another one of the challenges to space out the show correctly to have the pauses to make those technical transitions.

That’s where a show writer like me comes in handy. Just like I do for a live event, I write what’s called a showflow that anticipates those transitions, so we have every segment timed out and also have video content ready to fill any gaps, like prep time for speakers.

Steve: Exactly. You need your speakers on the line 15 minutes to a half hour before they go live, and we keep the connection open while they get ready.

Nick: Because if you wait until 5 minutes before hand and you have technical issues with their connection, you have no time to fix it.

How are you mixing virtual and live, in-studio feeds?

Steve: We’ll often have an on-air “talent” hosting the event from one of our studios, and then we’ll have panelists in the other studio and also coming in remotely from multiple locations. Plus roll-in videos and Skypes from earlier in the day.

And does that work?

Nick: We make it work. The only problem we had once was a guy in his car in a parking lot. He really didn’t have the best connection so I had to go to a different guest.

Steve: But we plan for that. We have a photo of each guest and a name slate ready to go in case we need to switch to audio-only.

What you’re describing is a lot like television, but also it isn’t.

Steve: Yes, guests (panelists) need to understand that once you get going there is no stopping the train. We can’t drop out and go to commercial break.

It’s been an interesting ride so far. What’s next?

Nick: I really see [remote and in-studio production] staying even if we “get back to normal” because of significant cost savings like hotel and travel.

Steve: I think people will still want to get together and give awards in person and see each other face to face. But you’ll see more panel discussions with a remote interview added into the panel. And folks will still want to produce segments in the studio where you have a controlled environment, good branding, and a good looking set. But virtual opens a whole new world to engage people from anywhere in the world.

 

In an episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show (“Boy #1, Boy #2,” CBS, 1965) Rob casts their son and one of his friends in an episode of his TV show. The results aren’t as anticipated. He confesses to the two moms: “Those kids can’t act, they’re terrible…When they started out they were almost fair, but the more they rehearsed the worse they got!” When the moms remind him the kids aren’t professionals, he responds “Yeah, because professionals get better!” So true. One of the big differences between trained and untrained talent is that repetition and self-consciousness about being in front of cameras and crew often degrades rather than enhances their “performance.”  And each time you make your reality player self-conscious about the camera, chances are high they will be less natural—the very reason you wanted them in the first place. This, in turn, can radically affect your schedule and budget.  In other chapters, we address specific techniques for re-introducing a question during an interview, for blocking a re-enactment, or getting that scene from another angle for a documentary, all without making your subject feel awkward.  To keep your production schedule and budget on target, you need all the help you can get to minimize retakes and set-ups. Even if you are masterful at keeping your subject from feeling pressure during the shoot, every minute you spend in shoot planning will be paid back in decreased time and costs on the post-production side.  Since you never entirely know how a “real person” will react to being on camera, the following are some strategies you can use to minimize unpleasant surprises and budget-busting problems, while you maximize creative opportunities.

  1. Be sure you discuss options for on-camera clothing before the shoot. Bring extra ties on set. If green-screen, be sure your subject is not wearing any green!
  2. Have enough crew. A production assistant is worth their weight in gold to help move gear in place quickly, or handle the back-end of recording remotely. Non-actors are not used to the “hurry up and wait” pattern of production life.
  3. Give non-actors a break by shooting b-roll.  I often shoot a little bit of b-roll to warm them up to the crew, before sitting the person down for an interview.
  4. Use Locations Familiar to Subject to help them be more comfortable. If you need to move objects around for a better background, ask permission. (You may need to have the person themselves move things around for remote interviews.)

Excerpted from my book “The Producer’s Playbook: Real People on Camera”.  I love directing “real people” on camera. Please sign up for my additional tips ——–> see sidebar!