When The Interview Is Just Too Good

I covered pretty extensively in the book Run ‘n  Gun Videography–The Lone Shooter’s Survival Guide the secret of interviews and how to edit them.

The problem, of course, is that most of the people you’ll be interviewing have either never been interviewed before or they’re marketing people who have tons of ‘talking points’ stacked up in their heads that they just roll out when a questions seems somehow vaguely related.

In the first case, if you don’t handle it right, they will come off weak and unconvincing because the person is introverted and not speaking from the heart.

In the second case they will come off weak and unconvincing because the viewer will instantly recognise the marketing hype, immediately reject it and go to the ‘user review’ section to find out what real customers think about the product or service.

In either case, editing becomes the task of creating a narrative that best forwards the marketing message. And in both cases, this is achievable–sometimes better than other times.

Anyway, we ran into an unusual situation recently.

For starters, the production executive in charge of the multi-million dollar installation was surprisingly young. He was also very well spoken.

The 25 minute interview for the 3 minute video was almost 100% usable just as he said it.

What to do?!!

First off, this was a testimonial-driven corporate video as most of mine are. In other words, we are interviewing the client’s client. The video is for Company A who have produced a product or service for Company B. We don’t bother interviewing Company A (the producer) because of course they are going to say their product or service is wonderful. But is it really? Let’s ask their customer–and that’s the strength of corporate videos based on customer reviews. The viewer doesn’t have to scroll on down to the user review section because this video IS a customer review.

Anyway, turns out it was very difficult to cut this one down to 3 minutes. There were so many options.

Usually I have bits in there at the beginning and end talking about the producer of the product or service (our client). And in the middle a bit about the actual product or service.

Every version of the edit using that template was just too long.

In the end I opted to have the interview only talk about the producer (our client), not what they produced (and industrial automated conveyance and sorting system).  Even that was hard to get down to 3 minutes.

This does pose a small problem: Normally the B roll in the edit should roughly correspond to what is being said. That’s integrated story-telling and easy to follow.

In this case, while he talked about the company that provided the service, I had no choice but to show in the B roll the actual system that was produced. Of course the two are related, but he’s not talking about what I’m showing.

Marketing Viewpoint

In an upcoming update of the Run and Gun videography book mentioned above there will be a few more chapters that I wrote a few months ago. One of them is called ‘Marketing Viewpoint’. In essence, one has to assume the viewpoint of the eventual target audience you are selling to. It’s what they want to know that’s important, not necessarily what the video client wants to say. The video is for future customers, not the board room executives.

In the case of this video we knew that the potential customer for a multi-million dollar automation system would well know what such a system looks like and does. He’ll have done his research. So he’ll be far more interested in what an actual user thinks about the product than having the system explained. The purpose of the video is to get him to contact our client for more information. It is then that he can ask more questions or arrange a meeting. Job done as far as the video goes.

As you, reader of this blog, are probably not in the market for warehouse automation, most of this might go over your head. So you might have to watch it twice. First listen. Then watch. You’ll find, in both cases, that the video showcases our client’s service, but it is the narrative that is doing the real hard-sell.

The following videos were directed and produced by Leapfrog Marketing (Alan Myers – 0116 278 7788) in association with The Video Whisperer.

2fer

(Two for the price of…)

After the shoot the client requested of Leapfrog that I send them the raw GoPro footage unedited. I did.

They like it so much they asked for an edit (you know, take out a few of the bobbles and add some titles).

I decided to take my chances and do something a bit different, so I crossed my fingers and we sent them this:

 

A Great Cartoon Program from FCPX Effects.com

Apologies for being quiet lately.

Anyway, I recently had an interesting project. Kind of a hybrid ‘white board video’ but using live action.

In this case, the client wanted, in part, to show off their new facility–an innovation center where new clients can come in and be advised on specialised packaging using multi-functional computer screens, 3D printing, small scale models–and just about anything they’d need to determine the precise packaging they will require for their products.

As this would be the sort of video that would play on a loop in reception (in addition to being a sales tool), it was decided to have no spoken audio track.

Instead the ‘actors’ would more or less pantomime while white-board-style hands would write on captions and the speech content would be in cartoon ‘talk bubbles’.

Not being a fan of pure ‘white board’ videos, I thought this was an interesting challenge.

It was my thought that to come off it should have a bit of a cartoon aspect to the live action, so I tried some existing programs I had from Pixel Film Studios, but found they were limited in parameter controls.

Eventually I found a great company with lots of cool FCPX programs that are very rich in parameter control: FCPX Effects.com.

I bought and tried out their ‘Cartooner’ program and submitted a version.

The company opted for the version without the effect, so I’ll show the full approved version first, followed by a short sample of the same video with the cartooner effect for info as I think some of you may find this useful either for production purposes or just for a bit of fun.

The following video was directed and produced by Leapfrog Marketing (Alan Myers – 0116 278 7788) in association with The Video Whisperer.

Cartooner Effect Test

 

Upselling

tcc-grab

Giving a Client More Bang for the Buck

Many months ago I recall making mention of a project I was working on with Leapfrog Marketing that was particularly rewarding. But I wasn’t able to share it or any of the additional videos that resulted at the time because their public release was predicated on the culmination of a marketing strategy, including a new website.

On a hunch, I checked their website tonight (having done so several times over the past few months to no avail), and viola!  Their new website is now up with a couple of the videos embedded on the home page that played very nicely. I was impressed. After a quick check I saw that all 9 videos were on the site.

So now that they’re public, it’s fair game and I’ll share them with you here.

As most of you who follow me probably know, I’m a video guy firstly. Marketing is not actually my strong suit. But since video is all about MESSAGE and marketing is all about MESSAGE, it is inevitable that even I can turn one video commission into multiple ones.

So I called this post ‘Upselling’.

Honestly, it’s something any sales person would do in almost any circumstance. And many of us find that quite annoying.

But this is really about educating a client who may not fully realise how unique or valuable his product or service is and offering him a way to maximise the value of a video commission. It’s a win-win situation.

In this case, the client wasn’t actually my own. It was the client of a marketing firm, Leapfrog Marketing, that uses my services. But no matter if it’s my client or the client of a Marketing firm, (and I do this in both cases) if the initial brief for video services indicates to me that multiple properties can be obtained from the main shoot for the benefit of the client, I would be remiss to not mention it and the potential economy and benefits in doing so right at the outset.

In my experience, in most cases, the client goes for it.

The math is simple.

One shoot day, one video.

Or one shoot day, 3 videos obtained from the same original shoot material at a considerable discount.

It requires planning, and the additional cost of the additional editing, but offered up front as a package discount, suddenly your one video becomes 3 and your $2000 becomes $3000 for an additional two days work. (Those numbers are completely arbitrary, but give you the idea…)

In this case, with Leapfrog’s client Total Community Care, it became evident to me almost immediately that their brief had the potential of multiple video products from the requested shoot of a single video that would be to THEIR benefit.

I don’t remember if I mentioned this straight off, but certainly once I shot the initial video (several interviews and relevant B roll), it became evident to me that at least 3 more testimonial videos could be edited from the same material.

They agreed.

So one video became 4.

They were so pleased they requested a second video; this time at their corporate headquarters featuring the executives.

This time I noted that they had enough material from the executives for the initial video they requested PLUS 4 more videos from those same interviews that answered Frequently Asked Questions (FAQS).

They agreed.

One video commission grew into 9 videos.

So that’s it on how to increase your income.

Now back to ‘video guy’.

The reason this project was so enjoyable was because the people were so interesting, and interesting people make for an interesting story.

As in almost all my videos, they are interview driven.

I (or we, in the case of Leapfrog Marketing) go there with no preconceptions of what should be said and we just interview the people.

It is my job to take the hours of interview and distill them down into the marketing story.

These videos were mainly about a Care Company that specialises in caring for paralysed patients with spinal or brain injuries.

My only opportunity for B roll was to shoot as much footage as I could of the interviewees whenever I could in the limited time they were there. That was made slightly difficult since they were often arriving during another interview (and all I could really shoot was arrivals, departures and whatever activity occurred in the lounge when I was not shooting an interview). So whenever I was between interviews I ran around like a banshee shooting whatever I could. In the end, I used every last scrap of it.

The primary video (the original one asked for) was 7 minutes long.

Might seem a bit long, but here’s where you just don’t get stuck on some arbitrary time limit like you read about on internet forums? Consider your intended audience.

If you’re paralysed and are looking for a care company, the length of a video has absolutely NO BEARING on whether you are going to watch it or not. It’s the content that matters. You have nothing but time.

It’s not that I made it unnecessarily long. I feel I made it long enough to get the point across with clarity, conviction and emotional impact. I made it for the potential new client for Total Community Care.

Marketing is a subject designed to CREATE WANT. Time (‘videos must be 2 minutes or less due to attention span, blah, blah, blah’) is irrelevant.

Make up your own mind. If you were paralysed and unable to get out of bed or go to the toilet without assistance, much less go shopping or go to the pub, would you watch this?

Primary Commission video

All of the following videos were directed and produced by Leapfrog Marketing (Alan Myers – 0116 278 7788) in association with The Video Whisperer.

(Shot on Sony PXW X70/Sony HXR NX30, Edited on FCPX, with Color Finale)

 

And the videos derived from the two shoots:

Testimonials

2nd Shoot, TCC Execs

And the FAQ videos derived from that shoot

Confessions of a Run and Gunner

The Ritz

 

Warning: This is an 11 minute video. The  subject is St. James’s Square, London, one of the most historical and prestigious districts of London.  All of the following will be of no value at all if you don’t plan on watching it. This is for those of you who plan to.

This video is not typical of what I do, but I treated it like any other that I do. And all that is covered in the book Run ‘n Gun Videography–The Lone Shooter’s Survival Guide.

It wasn’t typical, because it is long (11 minutes).

In the book I talk about how to do and edit interviews. Up until now, I’d say for an hour of interviews, I cut out on average about 50% or more. That means all of my questions and all of the answers that I know I won’t use. What’s left is what I use to construct the narrative.

In this case, I had just over an hour of interview, and with my questions cut out, over 95% of is was totally usable. That’s never happened before.

This was a case of a very educated, experienced and articulate Brit. There are many like him. I just never got to interview one. And I’ve done over 1000 interviews.

I already knew I was going to produce multiple properties from his interview, but when it came to the first one–an overview of the St. James’s Conservation Trust, when I got it reduced down to about 11 minutes, I felt I couldn’t cut it down any more without losing.

Sure, he didn’t say it all in the order your hear it, but in crafting an overview and knowing that it’s first showing would be to a prestigious event in St. James Park attended by a lot of very important people, I felt I just had to work with that 11 minutes and make it as visually interesting as possible.

That was what was different about it.

As to the rest, it was all hand-held, except for the interview of course.

Why is that worth bringing up?

Well try going around St. James Square and in the vicinity of a working palace and other important clubs and high-end shops in the heart of historic London with a big camera and a tripod and see how far you get.  The client was even concerned that I get all the right ‘permissions’. I told him, “don’t worry about it”.

All that B roll was shot with my teeny weenie Sony HXR NX30 hand-held.

The interview was shot with my Sony PXW X70. And guess what? I somehow screwed that up, inadvertently shooting with high gain.

Though we were in the offices of the Ritz Hotel, we weren’t able to get a suite in the Hotel for the shoot. I was your typical white room. So to get that interview look I had to 1) apply Neat Video de-noiser to it, 2) use Color Finale to get the best separation from subject to background (after doing my best with foil to keep spill lights off the back wall) and , 3) Used the vignette tool from Digital Rebellion (it’s awesome–much better than the FCPX tool, because you can manipulate it on all axises, control its shape, ctc.)

TIP: When using Neat video, get your look, then disable it. It’s very processor intensive and whenever you change an edit it will want to re-render again. So get your look, disable it, and when you’re all done, re-enable it and let it render everything one time.

The other regular practices were shooting tons of B roll and how I found a stock music piece that worked (two in this case) and made them seem like they were written for the video. Seriously, if you manage to watch it once through, try again and just listen to how the music plays to and enhances the narrative. It was pretty magical–considering it’s stock.

B roll:  As much as I preach about shooting TONS of B roll to cover your edits, even I, in this case, did not shoot enough. In fact I made 3 trips to London in all. And still didn’t shoot enough. There was just SO MUCH covered in more than an hour of interview, I was lucky to scrape by in order to produce this one (and the next one I’m working on now). More properties will probably develop from this, and when that happens I’ll edit the narrative first and then get back on a train to London with a list…

Shooting handheld:  Shooting hand-held is one thing. You should also know that for almost all of these hand-held shots I applied 50% slow mo. And in most cases ALSO added stabilisation. Some from FCPX and some using CoreMelt’s ‘Lock and Load”.  Also (did you know?) that once you apply any kind of speed change in FCPX, you can then select a video standard of either ‘frame blending’ or ‘optical flow’. I used optical flow which smooths it out just a little bit more. Also, in some case (shooting those wall plaques), I shot them both as stills (on the NX30) and as slow zooms. In the edit I wound up animating the stills rather than using the zooms. And finally, (as dictated by the edit and conformity with surrounding shots, i.e. continuity), I also often applied manual key-framed zooms to my shots.

Marketing yourself: Also covered in the book. Relevant here is this: Sometimes you do something for cheap with malice aforethought. I had done another video for an organisation that had often asked but never hired me. Finally I did a birthday video for the daughter’s 18th. That was so well received I was asked to do one for the organisation–for cheap. I did it because I knew their upscale clientele would see it and it would likely get me more business. It got me two commissions worth £6000, including this one.

Now you know all my secrets.

Ok, so this is run’n gun. As covered in the book, it ain’t perfect. It won’t stand up to the scrutiny of the various film geeks out there. But it does the job and the stuff that the geeks will gleefully point out won’t be the things that the intended audience will ever see or concern themselves with.

The test is, does it get the message across with clarity and impact.

 

When Marketing and Video Don’t Mix

 

IMG_2440

I thought that title might get some attention. Doesn’t seem to make sense, does it?

Well don’t worry. It doesn’t apply to all. This may have been written in a moment of frustration, but there’s still a lesson to be learned.

But some marketing people just write marketing hype. That’s what they do. They write stuff they think you and I want to read or hear. They don’t write or talk like real people yet somehow think these perfectly phrased key words will get you to buy something. I hate to tell you, but those days are pretty much over and have been for some time. No one believes it any more and they can see it coming a mile away. If they manage to sneak up on you, you can hear it in the first few milliseconds. It rings false. It’s like listening to a merchandising politician.

What happens when these type of marketing people are around when you’re trying to do a video to effectively MARKET their product or service is that they drill the people you’re going to interview into what they are SUPPOSED TO SAY. They fill up their heads with bullet points, slogans, marketing speak and other drivel. You suddenly find the person in front of you is not really communicating with you. Instead they are frantically trying to remember what to say and desperately searching for their notes where these gems were written down. They talk fast and nervously. They interrupt themselves when they realise they haven’t said it right. They say, ‘oh I can’t say that’ and other nonsense. In short, they come off like robots and would be better off just sending off their promo to people who won’t read it anyway.

Just to be clear, there are professional marketing companies that can do both. They write good copy showcasing the quality of the product or service in real terms and are also able to talk to people on a level that connects with reality. In fact, I work for one. And that MD is the one who conducts the interviews for many of the videos I have produced. And there are also marketing departments that come up with very clever and effective video campaigns, but they are usually based on humour or unexpected and entertaining approaches to selling. But that’s what they specialise in. 

Just don’t ever let someone dictate what they think the interviewee should say or talk about. If the person you’re interviewing knows his or her job (and they should if they’ve been selected to be interviewed and so represent the company), you can get it out of them just by talking to them. And when you do, you’ll get natural real responses. If you detect that they’re slipping into the ‘company speak’, just follow up with, ‘Well what do you think about that and carry on in a line of friendly conversation that gets them to tell you what they think, not what the ‘company’ thinks. You’ll very often get surprising gems that are perfect for–you guessed it–marketing the product or service (because it’s sincere).

These days videos give you a golden opportunity to give a face to an otherwise faceless business. They give you an opportunity to meet the actual people of the business, warts and all.

When you shop on line for a product, what’s the one thing you almost always do before buying? You read the customer reviews. You get the feedback from real people. “Yeah, sounds great, but let me see if your customers really think so”. The hype might get your attention, but you know well enough to not believe it without questioning and will go to great lengths to verify if it has any real merit.

When I do marketing videos, my approach has always been to interview the key people involved. I don’t even really need to go in very prepared. If I’ve got the MD sitting down in front of me, I’m pretty sure he can tell me just about anything about the the products or services he offers–along with the history of the business, why he gets up in the morning, why he’s passionate about it, and so forth. I don’t care if that’s 60 minutes of material to trim down into a 3 minute video.

It’s MY job to edit it in such a way as to effectively sell his product or service. In other words, it is MY job to market them with video. But before that, my job is to get them to talk to me like they would talk to any friend. I think I went to great length discussing this process in the book Run ‘n Gun Videography–The Lone Shooter’s Survival Guide.

Like I said, I haven’t had to go through this often thankfully, but recently was faced with 5 interviews of people who were prepped by marketing people (despite my advance warning to not do so). Interestingly, after the local marketing person was finished running the first interviewee through all the questions (meaning trying to prompt the answers she wanted to hear), she asked if I wanted to ask about anything else. So I asked the girl something like, “You seem to really like your job here. What makes you get up in the morning?” The answer was pretty good, but the most remarkable thing was that her former almost frantic delivery was gone. She slowed right down and started speaking naturally. And it was sincere and believable. And that’s what you, the consumer, look for these days, isn’t it?

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Good Corporate Video Sample

corporate video

(from the Run and Gun Videography Blog)

The Lone Shooter: One day shoot, 2 day edit

I think this is a great example of a corporate video combining many of the chapters of Run ‘n Gun Videography–The Lone Shooter’s Survival Guide including:

  1. Message
  2. Using local talent
  3. Interviews
  4. B roll
  5. Music

The Message

The message is clear by the content of the narrative (which was distilled from about 40 minutes of interview), but also by choice of B roll. Yes, the use of relevant B roll shots is standard in editing this type of interview, but additionally there are shots in there one might not realise are important–unless you are in this business and know what you are looking for. And for those potential business clients, they will have seen what they are looking for: the top tier German machines in use at the plant. That’s why you see their names prominently in some of the shots.

Local Talent

As to local talent, in this case we used the co-managing directors who are brothers.

To my surprise, it was the younger brother (who appears first) who was the most put off by the camera. In fact, in looking at the footage I noticed his head appeared to be physically straining away from the camera as if to get as far away from it as possible. Correspondingly, there was a lot more to edit in his interview (pauses, ums, ahs, stumbles, etc.), all of which is hidden under the B roll. The end message of the video, however is carried entirely by him. And there’s a reason for that: He was asked the magic interview question at the end. I pointed out that they had a very successful and growing business in a niche market and that they had been at it for a very long time, growing all along the way. “So”, I asked him, “What makes you get up in the morning? What is your passion for this business?” (or words to that effect). His response is entirely uncut. I let it roll even despite a few long pauses because it was so obvious that he was completely sincere. And his message was in perfect alignment with the message of the video in its whole.  Who wouldn’t then want to do business with this guy?

B roll

It might appear, in some cases, that the B roll was shot after the interview to fit so nicely with a few bits that were being said, but no. It was all shot first. But I shot so much that I was able to fit shots very nicely to what was being said as if I had shot it afterwards or to a script.

Music

I must have spend an hour and 1/2 looking for a suitable piece of music for this video. Thanks to the search parameters of Audio Jungle (and now Audio Blocks) which allowed me to search for a pretty exact length, I was able to preview dozens of potential fits. Then I found this one. To my absolute amazement, I laid it down and didn’t have to do a thing to it. No editing. No adjusting. It’s entirely uncut. It fits the beginning and end titles, and, if you listen carefully, it even does several things along the way that would convince you that it was scored specifically for this video.

I liked this music so much that when I was editing a promo video for my sculptor wife I had it in the back of my head to see if it would work. Turns out the same thing happened. It just dropped right in as if it was written for that video too. That’s one magical piece of music.

Other Notes

It was a one day shoot and two day edit.

For those interested, it was shot on the Sony PXW X70 in AVCHD mode.

The interview lighting was done with 2 LED Flexlites which I reviewed in this blog. The ‘kick’ you see on the side of their faces would appear to be from the background windows, but was actually created by one of the Flexlites dialed way down. The frontal fill was another Flexlite opposite the backlight. Fill was simply ambient light in the room with the intensity of the key light being set to achieve a 2 1/2:1 contrast ratio with the ambient fill.

Edited on FCPX. Color balanced with Color Finale.

Oh, and did anyone notice I added the sky, clouds and sunbeams to the opening shot? (it was a lousy day in Leicester that day)

The following video was directed and produced by Leapfrog Marketing (Alan Myers – 0116 278 7788) in association with The Video Whisperer.

And just for a bit of fun, here’s the video I did for my wife with the same music:

Corporate Video Sample

(originally published on the Run and Gun Videography Blog)

In the book Run ‘n Gun Videography–the Lone Shooter’s Survival Guide I went into some length to describe an atypical approach to shooting corporate videos which I’ve done successfully for several years now. In short, it’s a method of deriving the narrative content (or script) from an interview.  And it does take some knowledge of how to do an interview.

Anyway, I recently completed a 2 day shoot from which I produced 11 different videos. This company produces a diverse range of product protective covers as well as cotton bags and what was wanted was an overall video for the site’s home page or ‘about us’ page, several short narrated demonstration videos on their best selling products and a few more narrative driven ones, also on their best selling lines.

The sample I’m showing here is one of the latter.

This series is now one of my favorites, and the reason is that this guy was so likeable and sincere, even self-deprecating, which, oddly enough, is perfect for the UK audience which responds better to soft-sell than hard-sell.

Even he was very nervous about the whole being on camera thing and I really had to twist his arm. But he was so easy to talk to that he easily forgot about the camera and just continued to be his normal, likeable self. This, and several other short videos like it, was produced from only about 40 minutes of interview, and like any other narrative script derived from an interview, it was pieced together to create a seamless narrative even though it wasn’t recorded in the order you will hear it.

Now maybe this isn’t fair, but in the process of uploading his videos YouTube offered up some ‘related videos’ which are some of his competitors.

I’m including a couple samples–the first which I think is rather typical and the second which is simply a home-made video for a business. Please do not comment or do anything to criticise them. Rather just notice the differences and learn something from them. This is why I wrote the book Run ‘n Gun Videography–The Lone Shooter’s Survival Guide.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=leT4TveP6Nw

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wcf2oCXSc4E

Now, to be honest, despite what I wrote in the book, it isn’t always as easy as I describe.

The project previous to this one was an example. Very nice guy, but very self-conscious. Though I managed to break him out of it part of the time, I had to use interview material that was a bit more stiff in places, including the beginning. That one was a 12 minute video meant to replace his frequent need to take clients and brokers on 90 minute tours of the factory. It was a 2 hour interview, which tells you how difficult it was. Most of the time he was covered by B roll and for those moments he was in good form I’d bring him back on screen so you could see the passion and get a feel for the continuity of his talk (which was really created from 2 hours of interview to appear to be a seamless 12 minute talk). If you ever wanted to know how coal briquettes are made that video is last on this page. It’s titled and tagged so as to not come up on searches for that company, and is offered here only for education purposes in the context of this post.

 

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