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Impact Video: Finding Value in Your Media Archives

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Today I bring you a great case study demonstrating how you can bring impact to a very short organizational story–in this case, for an awards event–if you know where to find your archival media assets. This case has all the classic elements: a quick turnaround deadline, a large quantity of assets to mold into a seamless 2-minute story, and me digging through boxes of old archival sources that no one imagined would be part of a future video. I thought I’d deconstruct the process for you, and shed some light on how you can up your game by mining your own media archive to create content for your organization.

Fulbright Prize Introduction from Amy DeLouise on Vimeo.

The project is a motion graphics opener I just produced for the Fulbright Prize event in Berlin, where this highly regarded international prize was given to Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany. As these stories so often start, we had brainstorming meetings about how to tell the history of the prize in 2 minutes. In addition, we wanted to show the breadth of the work of the association giving the prize. Also, we needed to list past prize winners and years. Oh, and show all of their images, some of which were not available in the organization’s archives. Also, we needed to include quotes about the importance of the prize and the value of international exchange from well-known people and prize winners. And…we also needed to incorporate the thematic blue color of the organization’s logo, and create a look and font style that could be incorporated into the print, social, and other materials for the event.

This is all great stuff and just the kind of thing that gets my creative juices flowing! So here was our process:

Step One: Identify existing content that helps tell the story. This involved digging into archives for old footage, transcripts of old speeches, and old newsletter articles. Also pulling together archival images of past awardees, and more recent digital images of association events. We determined in this phase that the quality of archival clips were not good enough to pull footage (and it would make the show too long anyway), so we would look instead for quotes that told the story.

Before the magic begins, we start with raw materials–archival content from a variety of media sources

Step Two: We boiled down the best quotes from the broadest representation of past prize winners, and people who had spoken about the importance of the Fulbright international exchange program, and shaped it into a script. (Note: Scripts don’t have to include spoken words.)

Step Three: We identified the best images of awardees, and then we had to license and request some additional ones, so that we had a full compliment of images of past awardees at the high resolution required for large-screen HD presentation.

Step Four: As part of the image curation process, I pulled together those “action shots” I thought best exemplified the work of the association–as a convener, educator, and source of ongoing cultural exchange.

Step Five: I selected several cuts of music–pacing is critical for animation, and we “cut to the music”, so we have to choose this first. We settled on a piece we felt had rhythm, excitement, and momentum. I also like to lean towards more full orchestrations for videos that will air live in a large space, with quality speakers.

Step Six: Since this was airing abroad, which has different frame rate specs than the US, we sent a test file to the A/V company at the on-site location, to be sure it worked well from their end before we started to animate.

Step Seven (really steps 7 through 10): My graphics team and I went through multiple drafts of the story, honing and tweaking until we–with our client–felt we had the best representation of the story.

Step Eight: We rendered out our final files and shared them, making sure they had been proofed (so many names!)

Step Nine: We delivered the final files via link to the company in Berlin who was running all the A/V at the event.

Final Step: This step hasn’t happened yet, but we need to have the video audio-described, so that a blind or visually impaired viewer can still access this content. Accessibility is not just a matter of captioning, though captions are essential for videos with spoken words and narration.

Here’s the big takeaway: saving your archival assets is essential–you never know when you will need them. Digitizing them at high quality, retaining the originals, and metatagging them with important information is even more important. Your media archive contains gold, if you know where to find it.

Amy DeLouise is a video producer, author and trainer, helping organizations tell their best stories. She has a new LinkedIn Learning course out on Multi-Platform Storytelling, will be giving workshops at NAB Show this Spring (see Speaking page).

The Future of Story: A View from Shanghai

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Maryann Brandon, editor of STAR WARS, discusses visual effects edit workflow.

I just got back from China, and the nascent NAB Shanghai conference, where I was moderating the Global Innovation Exchange thought leaders event. The sessions on 4K, UHD, and 8K were packed. Speakers talked about how they are building new audiences through OTT, and how they are developing storage and workflows for complex, multi-platform delivery.  And not surprisingly, the VR track was packed with speakers presenting on this new and evolving format.

But what really impressed me was the focus on STORY. Yes, we need ways to move massive data packets around for a consistent streaming and viewing experience. Yes, we will continue to improve picture resolution and screen quality. Yes, we will continue to evolve the immersive experience. And yet we know that what leads to success—whether of a social platform, a webisode, a feature film or a game–is a good story. Characters that are memorable. Authentic moments that make us laugh or cry. A connection to emotions that make us return and share, again and again.

Maryann Brandon, editor of STAR WARS: The Force Awakens, STAR TREK: Into Darkness and the new release PASSENGERS, talked about how through all of the special effects, her focus is always on story.  If the story isn’t working, effects are not the answer.  Her goal and that of the film’s director is always to make an emotional connection with the viewer. Michael Uslan, the producer of the DARK KNIGHT, THE LEGO MOVIE, and many other films, TV series and games, spoke about what compelled him to cobble together the financing to buy the Batman franchise while still in his twenties: “Batman’s greatest superpower is his humanity.”

This could be said of our entire media-TV-film industry. We are of course always taken with technology. Technology enabled us to create the first photographs, the first talking pictures, and the first color films. Technology brought the moon landing into every living room and built the networks that allow CNN to report from around the world. And now technology is bringing us social media experiences, virtual reality programming and AI characters. The future is exciting.

But technology without humanity is nothing.  So as I watched speakers from around the world sharing and learning from one another, talking about the kind of stories that truly engage, I was encouraged. Through all the high tech, we must keep our focus on the stories worth telling: those all around us, and those we have not yet imagined.

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On my way to Shanghai, I stopped over in London for the IABM conference with broadcast manufacturers.  Here’s my talk on the challenges of Transmedia Production.

Tips for Branded #Storytelling with #Video

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Storytelling through video can help you advocate for a cause, raise awareness and money, train, and motivate.  And with video engagement levels and distribution platform options at an all-time high, charities, associations, government agencies and corporations are producing more reality-based short video content than ever before. But many communications teams launch into producing videos without a solid script. That can throw up unnecessary roadblocks to success. With a plan for your  nonfiction story arc and a script-to-screen process, producers can lower their overhead costs and improve storytelling impact and audience engagement.

Identify Characters: Be sure you’ve identified a main character (protagonist), which might even be your organization. Are there supporting characters? Those might be other people who can speak about this person or product or initiative.  Don’t use more than 3 or 4 characters in a less than 5-minute video, or you’ll overwhelm viewers and confuse your narrative.

Write a Script: You wouldn’t build a house without a blueprint. Don’t shoot a video without a script. Even if your video is largely based on real people interviews, you want to have some kind of game-plan going into those interviews so you can craft a compelling story. Your script can include bullet points for the topics of potential “soundbites”–something that helps you create your interview questions and craft the story line on paper before you start spending money in the field or studio.

Create Storyboards: Particularly if you’re producing a graphically-driven piece, you will need storyboards to help guide the way before you invest in animation.  For other types of videos, your storyboards can be as simple as stock images in a Powerpoint with a few descriptions beneath each one. These visuals can really help you when you’re faced with choices of how to light, shoot and edit your production.

Get Interview Transcripts: If you are interviewing people for your show, get transcripts made–a very small investment of a few dollars per minute–so you can select your soundbites on paper before spending time and money editing clips together.

Build an Editing Script: Once you’ve inserted your favorite soundbites or options into your initial script, you’ve created an editing script. Add in your selections or options for stock music and other visuals, such as stock or archival photos, videos and graphics, and you’ve got your guide-posts for a streamlined post-production process.

For more detailed tips about how to create an effective short-form branded stories on video, try my new Lynda.com course in nonfiction Scriptwriting.

Amy DeLouise is a director/producer, speaker and author who makes branded short-form videos for impact.

The Art of Storytelling: Alive and Well in Vegas

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I’m just back from Vegas for NAB—the National Association of Broadcasters Convention. What an awe-inspiring assembly. By the numbers: more than 92,400 attendees, with more than 24,000 from around the world; 1,600 exhibitors in 900,000 net square feet of exhibit space; plus 1,700 press.  The people were broadcast execs, Directors of Photography, audio engineers, producers, directors, and more. Exhibits ranged from DJI Phantom mini-helicopters to suspend Go-Pro cameras to the latest Black Magic pocket camera , plus the latest in Digital Asset Management systems, sound systems, lighting rigs, you name it. Over at Post Production World, where I was teaching, packed classes included Digital Publishing, an all-day Time-Lapse and Panoramic DSLR workshops at Red Rock Canyon and Nelson Nevada Ghost Town.

What does it all mean?

The art of storytelling is alive and well. For a while, we thought the internet killed stories. It certainly made it harder for print newspapers and nightly news shows to compete with a new 24/7 news cycle. But now, the digital revolution has democratized the art of creating content. And NAB is proof that there’s a storyteller’s tool for every price point. And while the conversations were about new gear or bandwidth or asset management or distribution platforms,  at their heart, the discussions were about how to get great stories to audiences who are consuming them at an exponential rate.

Sure, we can sometimes let the newest gadgets distract us from the Real Tools of storytelling:  great ideas, great scripts, great interviews, a dab of decent project management (some of the things I taught) to be sure we’re telling the best stories in the most compelling way.  But the accessibility of low price-point cameras and editing tools had clearly made its mark. I saw a new generation grabbing the reins and putting their content out there (mini shout-out to Kanen Flowers here) with or without the traditional distribution channels that used to comprise the “broadcast” industry.

My only complaint about NAB? No lines at the ladies rooms!  (Seriously—they’re like empty caves at all hours).  As a past president of Women in Film and Video/DC, I’d say that there’s still room for more women at the table, especially in broadcast management and the technical fields. Just sayin’.

So if NAB was evidence of a Renaissance in the Art of the Story–and I think it was–then thank goodness what happened in Vegas won’t stay in Vegas. Adapting what our fondly missed film critic Roger Ebert always said, I’ll see you at (or behind) the movies.