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:

 

Color Grading Tools for Hogwartians

Color grading is relatively new to me, so I’m not an expert, but so far it has enabled me to not only make shots look better, but has allowed me to dramatically improve the look of interview shots.

Denver Riddle of Color Grading Central originally introduced me to the whole subject when he released Color Finale for FCPX. It’s an invaluable tool and I highly recommend getting it.

FCPX has some powerful grading tools itself in its Color pane. It’s more powerful than many people realise, but I’m not going to attempt a tutorial that others would be much better at.

Instead I want to show you a couple recent examples, starting with a little contest Denver Riddle posted on the FB Color Grading Central page.

I’m also going to tell you about the amazing vignette tool from Slice X and show you how and why I used it in grading a few shots. It is definitely way better than the built-in FCPX tool because you can infinitely manipulate it.

I’ll put the links to all these things at the bottom of the post.

First, here’s what Denver posted and asked people to grade:

boy+meets+girl_1.1.1

And here’s what I did with it:

Boy Meets Girl

Hundreds of people posted their grades in response to Denver’s challenge. Mine seems to be one of the few he commented on directly saying it was a nice color balance. I was kind of chuffed, though he said there was too much separation from subject to background. On that I had to disagree. It is one of the primary things I try to achieve with lighting first, and grading afterwards because it creates more depth and 3 dimensionality. But in fairness, I didn’t spend that much time on it and there were still some things I wanted to do to improve it. He might have had a point. Too much separation? Anyway…

I did this grade using both the FCPX color pane and Color Finale. The FCPX color pane, amongst other things, gives you the ability to isolate shapes which you can then adjust independent of the surroundings. In this case I isolated their faces and graded them separate from the background. Most of the color work on the background was done using Color Finale which allows you to independently control the hue, saturation and brightness of the  main color components (along with many other things).

Finally I used Slice X vignette to direct attention to the subjects.

All of these things are key-framable. Since this is a still shot, key-framing was not necessary of course.

SLICE X Vignette Shape Mask

Here’s a screen grab of Slice X Vignette in use:

Slice X

Unlike most vignette tools, including the one in FCPX, this one is infinitely controllable in terms of shape and axis. Like all the others, you can also control the density, size and softness of the vignette. But this is the only one where you can also shape it and change its axis. Here are the properties that you can vary from within the inspector in addition to the on-screen controls you see above:

Slice X Inspector

Ok, now for real life.

For those of you who read Run and Gun Videography–The Lone Shooters Survival Guide, you’ll know I covered the subjects of lighting both generally and specifically in regard to interviews. Lighting is the lifeblood of cinematography and is much more effective in creating that ‘cinematic look’ than shallow depth of field alone.

Here’s an interview shot I did recently as it came out of the camera:

Peter ungraded

It was not without some problems.

While I did manage through lighting to effectively separate him from the background in a white room (turned off all overheads, closed the window blinds, skimmed the back wall with a light to give the impression of of an off-scene window while controlling the spill from hitting the opposite wall as much as I could and gave him facial modelling and a backlight–both of which I had to severely control with black foil to avoid spill). The trouble with white rooms is that light bounces all over the place. So this was pretty good and I could have left it as it was, but there was another problem I hadn’t realised at the time. It was shot with relatively high gain (unnecessarily) and so is a bit grainy. You’ll see what I mean if you click on the picture to see it full-sized.

Here’s what I did with it:

Peter grade

 

Grading was done with FCPX and Color Finale. Then I added the Slice X vignetting tool subtly. I also used Neat Video to de-noise it. The result, I think, is that the shot has more depth and dimension.

And one final sample and a small test:

 

Duchess ungraded

Duchess grade

The first one was out of the camera, the second one graded. But what may be of more interest is the lighting. See that big window in the back? Well, there were three more to the left which effectively lit up the whole room. I closed the heavy curtains on the side windows. Then I placed a softbox in the floor in the background (left) to create a fake light from the (now dark) window being sure to keep it off the walls. Now I was able to light her with a relatively low intensity softlight and have her more dramatically separated from the background. I gave her a backlight and a little frontal fill which also gave her eye lights.

As I told Denver, this is what I try to achieve with almost any shot–separation of subject from background which can be achieved with focus or lighting or both. (In this case lighting was going to carry the job as the focal length was wide and the depth of field too great)

.

I could have done it more telephoto (which can also be more flattering), but chose this because she is a Duchess in a castle and I felt the grandeur of the room was important to include.

Now for the test:

Did you notice the microphone in the shot ?

(I didn’t think so–which is why I left in in there rather than crop the shot)

Because of the depth and because of the directing of attention to her face, what is it that you look at when you  see this shot.? Her face, right?

Our little secret.

 

Links

Color Grading Central Facebook page

Color Grading Central Website  (where you can get Color Finale)

Slice X Vignette Shape Mask

Neat Video De-noiser

Run ‘n Gun Videography eBook

 

 

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.

 

Free Book Offer: Run ‘n Gun Videography–The Lone Shooter’s Survival Guide

Run 'n Gun Videography

I’ve decided to enrol in KDP Select which gives me some promotional options including making the book available for FREE for 5 days.

So that’s what I’m going to do.

I’m doing it for two reasons.

  1. I’m locked into KDP select for 90 days during which period the book can only be available on Kindle. So that gives me a sort of deadline for making the book available in soft cover and putting it on other platforms. I can’t promise it, but it’s a good target for me because I’m going to be pretty busy before then anyway. Plan is to update it and make it available in hardcover next fall.
  2. Though the book has sold a few hundreds copies, it’s only gotten about a little over 30 reviews between the UK and US markets. They’re all good reviews, but I’d like to see a lot more reviews.

The Free Download Offer is NOW LIVE on Amazon and runs through Sunday.

I hope that most of my subscribers here who don’t have it yet will take the opportunity to download it.

In exchange I have a humble request: Please review it on the Amazon page once you’ve read it.

US Amazon Link

UK Amazon Link

Available world wide.

Using Photographs in Video

(From the Run and Gun Videography blog, for those of you who don’t follow that one). Thought I’d repost it here as I haven’t posted anything in a while (super busy!)

Belvoir Castle's Capability Brown Landscape thumbnail

Nothing revolutionary here, but I haven’t posted in a long while.

This could be titled ‘Making a Silk Purse Out of a Sow’s Ear’.

It’s Spring here in England, but with cold weather lingering, Spring has been struggling to arrive.

The gardens at Belvoir Castle are open now and the Duchess of Rutland wanted to promote them in a timely fashion–that is, promote them to potential visitors.  There’s another good reason to promote these particular gardens. This is the 300th anniversary of the birth of England’s most famous landscape architect–Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown (who designed the landscapes of over 170 of England’s mosts famous estates) and Belvoir Castle was his last project. It was never realised while he was alive and never completed.

A few years ago his plans were found in the Castle archives and the Duchess of Rutland set out to complete them. It was the subject of a 3 hour television show here in England last Autumn, and now that it’s Spring and the gardens are open, it’s the perfect time to promote them as such.

But Spring has been stubborn in it’s arrival, so there would be no live footage of the beautiful gardens and landscape.

What to do?

I suggested to the Duchess that we use the photographs from her book on this very subject and update the video later with live footage that I can take over the next few months.

Now that it’s done I don’t think I’m going to do it, because I like this video the way it is. So I’ll probably just do another video using some of this interview material and other bits I didn’t use.

Very often I make a video that exceeds my own expectations, given the production circumstances. This was one of them.

There’s not really much to say about how to use photographs in a video. Many go for the ‘Ken Burns’ effect. I just manually animated them very simply. The real trick is choosing the right photo that helps forward the narrative.

There are two other things that make it a good video in my opinion. All these techniques and approaches are covered in detail in the Run ‘n Gun Videography E Book (centering around message, of course), but in this case–since it was really only an interview and still photos, the strengths were lighting to make her look good in an appropriate environment (her home at Belvior Castle) and music.

The lighting is what it is. 3 lights used judiciously in a large space. But in this case it was the music that really did it’s job. In the book I covered the subject of using ‘stock music’. The trick is to make it appear to have been specifically scored for this specific video. Music has the role of forwarding the messages as much as any other technical subject does. Too many people just tack on music for no reason and to no advantage. I won’t go over my procedure in detail here (that’s covered in detail in the book), but I would like you to note how the subtle shifts of music sync up to the narrative and pictures being shown. That’s the real magic as far as I’m concerned. Because that composer had no idea that his music would be used for this video. Yet I think anyone would be hard pressed to think that it was not. How this is done, I’m afraid you’ll just have to read the book.

Sorry for the shameless promotion, but this blog is meant to be a supplement to the book anyway.

For anyone interested in the Capability Brown story, several months ago I did another video. This time it featured your truly, the Video Whisperer.

It’s a fund-raising video and I really thought it should be done by an English person–but that got too complicated, so in my brash American approach to getting things done, I said, “well fine, I’ll do it myself”…

By the way, the sculptor Laury Dizengremel, is my wife. The statue has, since this video, has been cast in bronze on our dime. So if you’d like to contribute ANY amount–whether you’re an Engishman or just a follower of the Video Whisperer, any donations will be appreciated. Just go to to the link at the end of the video to donate a tuppence or two.

YouTube Analytics

YouTube analytics

I recently produced a short promo video that performed surprisingly well in its first 5 weeks online. In fact, it’s out-performed any other video I’ve produced like it.

When a video performs well or badly, YouTube analytics is a handy and comprehensive tool to determine why.

You’ll find the analytic metrics in your  YouTube ‘video manager’.

The metrics I tend to be interested in are, 1) traffic sources, and, 2) Audience Retention. There are a lot more metrics being tracked including views per country, viewer demographics, etc.

Traffic Sources

Traffic sources tells you if the video is being viewed from the YouTube watch page (organic search), as a suggested video by Youtube (someone watched something else and Youtube suggested yours to watch next) from an embedded website, etc.

Audience Retention

Audience retention can be viewed as ‘absolute retention’ or ‘relative retention’.

‘Absolute’ tracks every minute your viewer watches your video. It shows you where they start dropping off and also tells you if they watch it more than once or watch certain parts over again (indicated when the retention percentage exceeds 100%).

‘Relative’ compares your video’s performance with other videos that YouTube deems similar to yours. Here you can see if your video is performing average, above average or below average.

As I mentioned in the book Run ‘n Gun Videography–The Lone Shooter’s Survival Guide, it is folly to expect that 100% of people watch your video all the way through. Even popular viral videos probably don’t achieve that. For one, there are those who click on it and click right off realising it was not what they were looking for. For two, they tend to click off when they perceive it is done if they do watch it all the way through, but may not stay on for any ‘end credits’. For three, people may stop watching when you’ve ‘sold’ them on whatever it was you were trying to do (in the case of business or fund-raising videos, product videos, etc.) –and that would be the purpose of the video in the first place.

“Attention Span”

This is not a metric, but it bears mentioning that you’ve all heard that videos should be ‘such and such’ a length due to the ‘short attention span’ of people. This is simply false. A video can be as long as it keeps the attention and interest of the intended audience period. Any other datum is simply the confession of video producers who produce crappy videos.

As an example, my most popular videos (the NX30 and X70 reviews) were both long videos. 14 minutes I believe for one and the other was even longer. Yet between them I think they’re well over 175,000 views with tons of engagement (comments, likes, shares, emails to me, etc.) and the audience retention is about 35% which I think is quite good. Look at it this way: 60,000 people watched the entirety of both videos.

But my recent promo for the Belvoir Castle shoot exceeded even that.

It appeared that Belvoir Castle uploaded the file I gave them directly to their servers, so that was not a source of the views counted by YouTube. The other site it was embedded on was Guns and Pegs (which was a YouTube link), but I doubted it was delivering that many views. So I had a look to see what was happening.

Traffic sources

Turns out only 21% came from embedded websites. 43% came from the YouTube Watch Page and 1/3 of all views were because of YouTube suggesting the video when someone was watching something else similar.

Thus, nearly 3/4 of all views were the result of an organic search.

Next I looked at audience retention.

Absolute retention

Here I found there was a very high retention rate (73%). Roughly 3/4 of all viewers watched the entire 4 minute video.

Relative audience retention (how the video performs compared with similar videos), showed it to be ‘above average’ through most of the video.

Relative retention

How did they find the video?

That is attributed to the relevant title, tagging and description I gave it. (mind you, this is for a targeted public–those who are interested in paying big bucks to shoot on a country estate, and to a lesser degree, those generally interested in the subject of shooting or Belvoir Castle).

Why did they watch as much of it as they did?

That can only be a measure of the quality of the video to get and keep their attention.

As you can see, using these analytics, one could go back and modify a video to improve it by seeing where attention drops off, evaluating what caused it and then remedying it. As for me, I usually just let it go if it seems to be doing its job.

There’s a chapter in the Run ‘n Gun Videography ebook that goes into greater detail on how to optimise videos for YouTube, and even then, there’s much more to it than I covered. But I did cover the essential basics based on my own experience.

Message

Message is a big subject in that book and it might interest you to know that when I produced this particular video, the client had quite something else in mind. It took some fancy dancing to go ahead and produce it the way I did and then get them to watch it with a looming unalterable deadline facing us. After all, it was their interest I had in mind, not any desire to make myself look good. They loved it, so again, the point made in the book about the seniority of message was well proven as the video’s performance in the first 5 weeks has been very positive. You just have to understand and be able to clearly communicate the intended message and disregard ideas to the contrary.

Slow Brew Compilation Edit

Laury Dizengremel

(from the Run and Gun Videography Blog)

Not exactly a key-word-rich title, but I kind of like it. Just came to mind as I sat down.

My wife is a sculptor who has worked on many prestigious projects and hobnobbed with some important people and celebrities over the years.

Occasionally I’ve been around and was able to get an interview or two on tape to add to a growing list of B roll shots I had been accumulating in the past few years.

Finally, with 3 interviews and some recent interesting footage with the Duchess of Rutland and Alan Titchmarch, I thought it was time to throw something together that didn’t require interviewing Laury. I’d just let these other people do the talking this time.

As I usually do, I edited the interviews to provide the narrative that would drive the video, then added appropriate B roll, titles and music. Pretty standard fare. For those interested, it was all done on the Sony HXR NX30–except a few rocky shots that were shot in China by someone else.

Something interesting happened though–of no great importance, but interesting just the same.

I had recently completed a corporate video. I spent quite some time searching for the right piece of music for it on Audio Jungle (my favorite music site) and finally found a piece that was not only perfect for the video, it was the perfect length. Double perfect. It was the only time I ever added music that I didn’t also have to edit to fit. It just fit perfect and, unbelievably, did all the right things in all the right places–just as if it were written for my video.

I really liked that piece of music and, in the back of my mind as I was editing Laury’s video I hoped I might be able to use the same piece of music–something I don’t normally do.

As I got the final length established (by the narrative along with beginning and end titles) I glanced down at the total length. Amazingly, it was the same length as that last corporate video I did, and amazingly that same piece of music dropped in on this video without any need of editing.

Quadruple perfect.

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