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!

The Transcriptives Premiere Pro plug-in allows editing video with text (courtesy Digital Anarchy)

Transcripts rule. If you are a video content creator like me, you know that getting transcripts of interviews, and even transcribing b-roll audio, can massively speed up the video editing and publishing process. Here’s how.

Faster Video Editing. If you’ve ever scrubbed through footage listening for soundbites, you know it’s time-consuming. Even listening at double speed. It’s much faster to scan through an accurate transcript, then pull your top pick soundbites together into a timeline for final selects.

Making Your Selects. Once you have your interviews in hand, it’s time to log your best takes.  Thankfully there are great digital tools to make the transition from field shoot to final edit seamless. In FinalCutPro, you have the Lumberjack system, which lets you live log on your shoot and tag soundbites in the field, and also set up your top soundbites for editing. For those working in Premiere Pro, the Transcriptives plug-in from Digital Anarchy is a great way to go to simplify the soundbite-tagging-to-editing process. And these systems also speed up your captioning and subtitling workflow.

Blogs, Websites and Social Posts.  Be sure everyone in your communications department has access to your interview transcripts.  Transcripts are great source material for pull quotes that can be sourced for social media posts, blogs, publications and e-newsletters.

Captioning. Once you have accurate transcripts, captioning is a breeze. You can output your final transcript of a show and upload it directly into a publishing platform such as Vimeo or YouTube. Or you can create your own captioned version. (Processes like Transcriptives captioning workflow makes this extremely simple.) My preference is for the latter.  After speaking to many users for the accessibility chapter of my book Nonfiction Sound and Story for Film and Video, I learned that auto-captioning can not only be inaccurate, but also poorly timed. If a caption comes too early, for example, it can give away a story line without letting the viewer draw those conclusions for themselves.

Where to Get a Good Transcript.  These days, you can get fast turnarounds on transcripts—often in a matter of hours. For straightforward and brief interviews, I’m a fan of automated services like https://www.rev.com/. For people with accents, those who speak very fast, or lengthy interviews, I prefer the human touch with a service like Noble Transcriptions. Don’t count on the YouTube automated tool. For $1-2/minute, accurate transcripts are your best tool for storytelling.

Amy DeLouise is a video content creator helping organizations tell a better story.

You’ve got some interviews lined up for a company video. Maybe you’ve already got a list of questions. But will you be able to turn those soundbites into a compelling story? Before filming, you may need to do some brief writing. Namely, a short creative brief, conduct some pre-interviews, and develop a story arc. As a professional video scriptwriter and producer, here are a few of my top tips for some writing that will help your video end product.

  1. Creative Brief. What’s the look and feel you want to convey? Who is your target audience? And what are you trying to get them to feel and do after watching the video? What are the delivery specs and what platforms will it play on? Who has final approvals? What’s the budget and timeline for delivery? Detailing the answers to these questions is essential before you roll on any footage. Often, I like to add storyboards to my creative briefs, so everyone can discuss looks and agree on a visual style. You can use tools like Storyboarder Plot or the more high-powered Frameforge. You can certainly reference other videos on YouTube, but be careful. If you don’t know the budget and timeline of those projects, you could be setting a goal you can’t achieve. And don’t forget that even a crappy sketch can help everyone on the team visualize the look!
  2. Pre-Interviews. Whenever possible, conduct pre-interviews. If you’ve pre-interviewed someone, you can build rapport in advance of lights-camera-action. You can also get a sense of key stories and anecdotes and how to approach your questions. You’ll also get a sense of their personal style, which will again help you conduct a better interview. A solid story arc drawn from these interviews should include a brief introduction or back story, a key challenge or turning point, and a resolution. And ideally also an opening hook. (I’ll leave that for another post.) By pre-interviewing your subjects and thinking through your story arc in advance, you’ll get better soundbites and avoid missing an important element.
  3. Story Arc. Now that you’ve got the lay of the land in terms of who your main characters are and the stories they can tell about your subject, you can start to lay out a possible story arc. This doesn’t mean you can’t stray from this idea once you are in the editing room. But a solid story arc can help you decide which questions are most essential when you have limited time for interviews. You can also start to understand what additional visuals you might need to tell the story, whether they are stock images, archival content, or b-roll.  For my video projects, I like to have these elements in my story arc:
    1. An opening hook—something to grab the viewer and get them into the story.
    2. Background – an extremely brief explanation of what we’re talking about—which can come from interview soundbites or a narrator.
    3. Central challenge or conflict – every story needs some tension, even nonfiction. What created change in the central character’s life? What did the product do to change the world of the customer?
    4. Resolution – Some final thoughts or a resolution of the central challenge gets you to the end.
    5. Call to Action – If you are making a fundraising or advocacy video, there may be something you want viewers to do after watching. “Get involved by clicking this link” etc.

You don’t have to be a Hollywood screenwriter to make your interview-based nonfiction story better. But you will find that doing some writing in advance of filming will improve your video storytelling and impact. In an upcoming post, I’ll talk about taking the story arc plan and transcripts and turning them into an editing script.

For more details on video scripting, see my LinkedIn Learning course http://bit.ly/HowtoScript

Well produced videos are essential for informing and engaging audiences during virtual and hybrid events.  In this article I’ll take a look at some best practices to ensure your pre-recorded videos support the success of your virtual event.

1. Make Video Content Snackable – At a live event, you have a captive audience. Plus the dynamic that occurs when everyone is together in a room.  In this world, a 5 minute or longer video can keep the room engaged. Not so for virtual events. Everyone who tunes in has other distractions in their immediate area—children, pets, emails, and work on their desktop that needs attention. Enter snackable content—short videos that engage, entertain and inform, while propelling the theme of your meeting or event. Roll-in videos for live events, with the exception of panels—and we’ll talk about them in a moment—should be no longer than 2 minutes.  Better yet, a series of 1:00 spots that work to set the stage for a particular session, or act as transitions between sessions.  This length will also allow your video to be hosted natively on Instagram during or after your event—an added social media bonus.

2. Video Transitions are Key – At a live event, when a speaker is late, you can ask your MC to take a few more questions from the audience. At a virtual event, remote feeds can fail and tech problems can result in your team needing more time.  If you lose your audience now, you might not get them back. Having a few videos of various lengths available to you to play at any time can be helpful. This could be a Year in Review video, a light-hearted video put together by staff, or a promo montage of upcoming sessions. Having at least two videos of 2-3 minutes in length on standby each day of your virtual event will give you a little breathing room for those unexpected moments. You should also create a little animated “We’re having technical issues but we’re working on it!” video that you can play if all else fails. After all, you are effectively putting together a broadcast and you don’t want any dead air.

3. Ensure Your Video Plays Back Properly – It’s amazing how often organizations spend tons of money producing great video content, but forget to test the delivery formats prior to output. If you are streaming your event from a platform like YouTube, be sure your video is optimized for that platform rather than asking YouTube to convert your specs. The conversion process will introduce garbage—technical term!—that you don’t want in your video.  Unless your platform is a professional 4K streaming system or specifies otherwise, I’d recommend a frame rate of 30fps and 1920×1080 as your video delivery size, with an audio sample rate of 44.1Khz and bitrate of 128kbps.

4. Provide an Engaging Home for Your Videos – Where will your videos live after the event is over? Can you set up a hub on your website or the event site? You can still host the videos elsewhere, such as your YouTube or Vimeo page. But putting the videos on your website—with and without subtitles—can ensure more hits post-conference. Be sure you have already created written content that explains the context for each video, and any action steps you want the audience to take after watching. For example, if your event was a fundraiser, a video featuring one of your organization’s projects can include a link to a Donate Now button. Don’t wait until after your event to set up your video hub. Be sure to write the copy and links in advance, and have it ready to go.

While we hope for live events to be back soon, virtual and hybrid events will be the norm for the future. And well-designed pre-recorded video content will be a big part of those events.

Amy DeLouise is a producer, interviewer and moderator for live and virtual events and videos.

Virtual events and interviews are here to stay. And if you’re tapped to conduct an interview remotely, you’ve got a big task ahead of you. Prepping to host a virtual webinar or remote interview has some similarities with doing it live, but also some major challenges and differences. I’ll share a few common obstacles and how to solve them in this article.

  1. Curation is Key. One of the keys to a successful remote interview or panel is being sure you have the right person for that conversation. Just because someone is a subject matter expert, for example, does not make them a great interview subject, particularly in the virtual environment. Whenever possible, I pre-interview people—a “screen test” of sorts—via Zoom so that I can see if they will work well in a virtual environment. Some questions I want to answer during this brief 20-minute video call are:
    1. Is this person lively and engaging?
    2. Do they have good examples and stories to tell?
    3. Does their topic fit into a larger story arc for the panel or event?
    4. Will they need a lot of cueing for answers?
    5. Do they tend to go on too long in their answers? (Cutting off someone in a virtual interview is much more difficult than in a live event—you’ll have to literally interrupt them, which is not ideal, as opposed to using body language in a face-to-face setting).
  2. What Will the Audience See and Hear? Thinking through in advance what the audience will see and hear is critical to making any successful video content, but especially for virtual or livestreamed events. When your audience isn’t captive, they can easily switch the “channel” and consume some other content if yours isn’t compelling. So how can you convey the story and keep them engaged?
    1. Does the interviewee have good lighting, audio and camera setup? If you are not shipping a camera-in-a-box setup or having a local camera operator film the interview, you may need to rely on Skype or Zoom. Someone who looks like they are in the witness protection program will need your help to get their lighting better positioned for their face.  I’m a fan of the Aperture M9 LED, the Fox Fury Rugo, and the Lume Cube Mini as affordable options that you can ship to an interview subject. I’m not a fan of ring lights, by the way, as they do make the “devil eye” look for most people, and don’t work well at all for those with glasses. For audio, I love my Saramonic lavalier. I have the Blink 500 because I can also pair it with my phone for social media recordings (if buying this system, be sure you get the correct version–there are ones for Android or iPhone). The MPOW headset is a decent low-cost choice, if you don’t mind a headset in your shot. Or the Rode smart lav if you prefer a lavalier. Remember that computers and drives have loud fans, so be sure your subject is as far away from them as is practical when you are ready to record.
    2. Does your “talent” have some visuals to share? What format are they in? If a Powerpoint, can you view slides in advance and make suggestions for what will be most engaging? (Often I suggest some top selects, and we can provide the entire deck as a downloadable resource for registered participants afterwards.)
    3. If this is a video interview rather than a panel discussion, will we have access to photos or video clips to intercut into the interview at a later date? Sometimes I will even have the interview talent record a side-angle shot of themselves with their phone for some of our questions and send that to me, so I have an angle to intercut with the primary shot. (Teach your interviewee to use WeTransfer.com or Hightail.com to share large files so they don’t eat up your Dropbox or Box drive space.)
  3. Be Prepared. As an interviewer, the pressure is always on us to be more prepared than the interviewee(s). Most importantly, we need to set the subject at ease, and ensure that they feel they are coming across well. Here are some ways to be sure you are prepared.
    1. Create a flow or outline for the conversation—one that will make sense for the audience and your event theme. Be sure to share it in advance with all panelists, including which questions or themes you are likely to ask which people (which is based on your pre-interview and research homework).
    2. Have at the ready a primary set of questions that follow your flow, but also a secondary set of questions ready to go in case the audience isn’t highly interactive.
    3. Teach less experienced interviewees how to speak directly to their camera, rather than to their screen. This will make an enormous difference in how the audience responds to them. And as interviewer, remember to do the same. I put a sticky note with a smiley face just below my web camera lens as a reminder. (For more tips, here’s a LinkedIn post I wrote about looking better on your next virtual call.)
    4. In a webinar format, be sure you take advantage of the “green room” feature and give panelists a custom link so that they can enter the webinar early, get a chance to chat with each other and with you. You can take this time to review the format and agreed-upon flow or outline, test microphones, adjust lighting, and be sure everyone’s internet connection is stable (turning off notifications—here’s how on a Mac and here’s how for Windows 10, disengaging Dropbox syncing, and disconnecting any VPN). And don’t forget to take a group screenshot for PR purposes!

Moderating virtual panels and conducting interviews in virtual settings can be challenging. But with these strategies, you can make the experience fun, engaging and rewarding for you, your interviewees and your audience.  In a future article, I’ll get into the tech side of remote video recording. I’ll also be doing a post on how to get the audience engaged in a virtual panel discussion, so stay tuned!

Amy DeLouise is a digital media expert and producer/curator/moderator for virtual events.

Photo by Gabriel Benois, Unsplash

Brands deliver value. To customers (a consistency of brand promise, or “knowing what you’ll get”). To shareholders (increased revenues, a shorter sales/conversion cycle). To employees (motivated and brand-engaged employees have less turnover, higher satisfaction, and deliver better on KPI’s).

So if the ROI of good branding is so high, why is it always so hard to keep the brand at the center of strategic focus?  One simple reason is cost.  If the opportunity cost of NOT branding effectively or efficiently isn’t factored in, decision-makers often think it is too expensive to expend time and financial resources on brand-building exercises.   Here are four strategies that are cost-effective ways to keep your brand alive and well.

1. Mine Your Own Content

A tool everyone has, but rarely maximizes is your own media library. Maybe because it’s not so much a library as a mish-mash of files that are not indexed, so no one can find them. Every graphic, photograph, video clip, newsletter article or blog post you and your team have created are already sunk costs. Properly archived and tagged with metadata, they can be repurposed and reused in multiple ways to put your brand front and center with customers, clients, employees and other stakeholders.   The key is to use a DAM (digital asset management system) or MAM (media asset management system–often for larger files like video and audio) and build workflow best practices into every time you create a digital asset. Create a consistent system that works for everyone in your organization, with anywhere anytime access–vital with teleworking–is essential, so that you can build and share branded content that everyone can access, not only the intern, editor or photographer who first created it. A photo DAM system can help you avoid those awful automatic names (IMG_001) for photos, for example, by batch renaming name on ingest. But always maintain the original name in the data. Adobe Bridge, Google Photos (heads up–free is over June 2021!) and Adobe Lightroom are tools for managing photo content. LuminarAI is out in Beta from Skylum* and has a number of great photo management tools built into its AI-powered creative engine. For video, there are a number of DAMs (digital asset management) systems out there–from Imagen to CATdv by Squarebox.  (If you are looking for a MAM, this is a handy guide.)  There are also brand-specific systems, designed specifically for the marketing department (as opposed to a video production company or broadcaster) such as Brandfolder, Bynder, and Cloudinary.

  • Bottom Line: If you can’t find it, you can’t use it. So whether you use a sophisticated archiving system or a spreadsheet, save money and create your own “stock” library of branded content to tell your organization’s story.

*disclaimer: I do some writing and marketing work for Skylum. I do not receive any fees related to sales.

2. Video Sells

According to IndieGogo, “Crowdfunding pitches with video content raise 112% more than those without.” Video certainly is one of the top-most searched items on the web. But producing a branding video in-house can be daunting. It’s a time-consuming process, and commissioning one to be made can be costly. With just the investment in a Zoom H4N digital audio recorder, a SONY FDR-AX100 4K Ultra HD video camcorder, and some basic audio recording/mixing software like Blackmagic Design’s DaVinci Resolve, you can quickly share useful branded video clips to your target audience. Or consider building your community by sharing useful content with a podcast. For a quick rundown on the latest podcasting software, check out this review.

  • Bottom Line: Build video into your brand strategy. It works.

    Photo by Sam Mcghee, Unsplash

3. Show Not Tell

So many people want to say WHAT it is they do, before really explaining HOW and WHY they do it. This is the core of your brand, and that’s the story you want to tell through any platform, whether it is a speaking engagement, podcast, blog post, or branded video.  BTS, or “Behind the Scenes”, is some of the top-shared content online. Why? Because as humans we are naturally curious and love to know what makes things work. So build “How to” or “How we made that” into every production or project.  That means adding a BTS camera. At the low end, could be a mobile phone. But for under $300 you could add a LOT of quality and pizzazz with a tool like the 4K DJI Osmo Pocket Gimbal Camera. Or if that’s too pricey, throw your mobile phone onto a gimbal with this little number, also from DJI. In a future post I’ll talk about good lighting and sound.

  • Bottom Line: Make shooting and sharing BTS part of your brand best practices.

DJI Pocket Osmo Camera in action

4. Email Signature is Free Branded Space

Lately, most of my incoming emails from systems like MailChimp and Constant Contact are going into my Spam and Promotions folders. So those are lost efforts to convey branded content. Why not supplement those efforts through a free space your contacts see every day: your e-mail signature. What a great opportunity to do a little brand storytelling!  A signature line doesn’t just give you a chance to tell your name and title, it gives you space for a blog link, twitter hashtag for an upcoming event, or YouTube link to your latest video.  This simple free advertising can be employed unilaterally—and uniformly–across your organization. (Send a “signature of the week” email to everyone in your organization with easily copied information and links.)

  • Bottom Line: Creating an email signature strategy builds brand awareness for free.

Using these four strategies, you can gain ground with your brand, and decrease the cost of creating or trying to find existing content to share with your audience.  More story. Less hassle. And that adds to your brand ROI.

 

Amy DeLouise is a video and virtual event producer, brand strategist, author and speaker. 

Covid has changed video production, possibly forever.  Elements of remote workflows will likely remain, even when we “return to normal.” Let’s take a look at some options with respect to post-production collaboration (editing, audio mixing, color grading and effects).

Realtime Collaboration

Ensuring that real-time collaboration happens has always been a challenge as teams have become dispersed, and often include a mix of staff and freelancers. For years, we’ve had a remote-team setup in my production company, but have always liked being “in the room” for final edits, audio mixes and color grading. One tool that brings creatives “into the room” remotely is Streambox . Check out colorist Robbie Carman’s article on remote set-up using Streambox software for synchronous color-grading sessions with his clients. Sound designer and mixer Cheryl Ottenritter, of Ott House Audio also uses Streambox when offering remote synchronous client-supervised audio mix sessions. Cinesync, Evercast, Source Live and Session Link Pro all offer low latency, high quality synchronous reviews of video productions. Evercast also includes pre-Vis options, such as streaming Maya or other animation platforms. A slightly different post-production tool for the work-from-home user is BeBop.  This system was designed to help avoid costly individual hardware and software purchases, and allows the user to remotely access a powerful virtual computer in order to create VFX projects, edit media files, animate, process images, or collaborate in real-time.

Photo: Matthew Kwong, Unsplash

Frame Accurate Reviews

Other collaboration tools for reviews and feedback that were once “nice to have” are now becoming essential. Frame.io, Vimeo and Wipster all provide frame-accurate client reviews and the ability to share comments back to the team. I’ve been a personal fan of Wipster—that’s my affiliate link in the previous sentence–because I think they’ve been especially responsive to the needs and interests of the post community. Project management software such as Basecamp, Slack, and Teams is even more vital to keep teams and projects organized across different time zones.  I’m also becoming a fan of Milanote for sharing storyboards, vision boards, deliverables lists and more at the early phases of a project. Rich Harrington recommends using these kinds of tools, but reserving a Slack channel for quick-turnaround internal discussions that need to happen outside the channels with clients.

Wipster side-by-side comparison feature

Fixing Flaws, Speeding Up Delivery

While we are capturing some less-than-ideal footage these days, there are some fabulous tools to solve problems. Three great tools from Digital Anarchy can really help. The first is Flicker Free which removes flicker and rolling bands out of footage. The second is Samurai Sharpen, a plug-in that does just what it says–helps to sharpen out of focus footage. The third tool is Transcriptive, which will rock your world if you haven’t used it before with interview-driven content. I have other posts on this topic, so won’t delve into it today, but this plug-in transcribes footage, makes it searchable by words, and makes your captioning workflow a breeze.

Editing with Transcriptive from Digital Anarchy

Tapping Your Archives

I started my career delivering archival content to feature films.  And while the internet has certainly made digging easier, the process of tracking down rights holders can remain elusive.  Just because you find an image on Google doesn’t mean you can get the sync rights. And even images you source from a well-known archive like Getty may still require tracking down certain rights holders. If you need to source outside content, consider buying a package plan with the highest level of usage clearance, so you can use the shots for multiple projects. Shutterstock is currently offering several specials. And don’t forget national treasures like the Smithsonian Digital Archives and the National Archives collection, which often contain federally-created content that is free to use, or historical content that is no longer under copyright (but you still need to check!).

Remote video production isn’t as fun, frankly, as collaborating together in a room. But it’s workable. And some tools and workflows are improving quality and efficiency along the way.

Amy DeLouise is a writer and digital creative director working from home.  She has authored a variety of LinkedIn Learning video courses and a new book on nonfiction audio from Routledge Press.