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 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:

FCPX Color Correction–Using Scopes, by Larry Jordan

Great little video that shows you why and how an editor uses scopes in color correction, including some nice little FCPX surprises you may not have known.

Even if you use Color Finale (like I do), this video gives you some vital (and simple) basics that are needed to make it all work right.

Shooting Concerts as a Lone Shooter

(Published originally on the Run and Gun Videography Blog)

World Leaders and Power Seekers still 6

To best understand how to shoot a concert as a lone shooter, let’s consider how a concert would normally be shot.

Typical Multi-Camera Concert Shoot

A live concert is generally shot is with 6-18 cameras and a live cut director. (those numbers are arbitrary, but representative of most of the concerts and live performances I have shot).

Typically one frontal camera is dedicated to close shots of the main performer. Next to it is another frontal camera whose job is to cover anything from long shots of the stage plus audience all the way into medium shots of the performer. With this set-up you’re never without a close shot of the main performer even though other cameras will be shooting close-ups from different angles from time to time.

Then off to the left and right will be another couple of cameras also dedicated to side or 3/4 angles onthe main performer, but can also be assigned to other performers and solos based on the shooting plan.

There will be one or two, even three long shot cameras covering the whole stage and will be variously framed on the stage or stage plus audience and may be zooming in or out at the beginning and end of numbers.

Either additionally, or as part of the long shot camera set-up, there will be a couple cameras (or more) on cranes.

Near the stage there may be a camera set up on a dolly for lateral dolly shots.

And finally there will be 2 or 3 (or more) hand-held cameras on stage or at stage front assigned to dynamic angles, instrument close-ups etc.

That’s a pretty standard set-up and can even be tricked out with steadicam operators, wire cameras (cameras flying on wires), etc.

Ideally there is a full rehearsal with the band at which point the director determines the various camera cues. For example, when there are solos, he’ll know when they are and that he must have a camera on it and ready to go.

If no rehearsal, there will still be a cue sheet used for the same purpose.

All the cameramen will be in communication with the director (mainly for listening) via a comm system. During the show the cameramen, with their various assignments, will generally know what to do throughout the show based on their assignments (so you don’t wind up with 18 cameras all shooting close-ups of the singer), but will be assisted by the director calling out cues in advance of the live cut. For example; “Ready Camera 2 on a close shot push”, then, “Take”.  The “ready’ means you’re about to go live pushing into a close shot.  “Take” means you’re live. This doesn’t mean he’ll cue every single cut. He’ll be looking at all the cameras on his monitors. If he sees a nice shot on camera 6, he may say “ready 6….take”. When he says ‘ready’ that means he’s going to you, so that’s not the time to zoom into a cute girl or pick your nose.

And so it goes.

From the multitude of cameras of varying image sizes and angles makes editing easy, even on a live edit. Any mistakes are easily fixed in post.

Ok, so that’s NOT the scene we’re talking about for a lone shooter.

The Lone Shooter ‘Multi-Cam Shoot’

Why do lone shooters even try to shoot a concert?

Most likely it’s for a friend. And most likely it’s for little money if any at all.  And such is the case with the video samples you will see below.

When it’s a managed band with a budget, even if you are to do the shoot, you’ll be hiring extra crew and equipment–minimum two operators and 3 or 4 cameras for a small budget production and on upwards to the big budget ‘sky is the limit’ productions.

But some shooters will want to do it for a friend, do it for fun, or break into the music video business by offering some ‘starving artists’ an opportunity for better promotion with a music video for little or no money.

So how do you do it?

First of all, let’s be clear: Shooting alone is not the best way to go about it.

Shooting with only one camera is definitely the worst way to go about it.

Having at least three cameras, one of which is ambulatory (your hand-held), can make it appear to be a multi-camera shoot and will be fairly easy to edit.

More than three is even better.

Better still is having a second operator for one of the cameras…

And so on.

Ok, let’s start with a lone shooter and three cameras.

Camera Setup

Where do you set them up?

First of all, your main camera will be your hand-held and that’s the one that’s going to be getting all the close shots of the main performer. You must realise that if there is any fan-base at all, they’ll be wanting to see close shots and close-ups of their idol. They really don’t care much about cool shots of guitar strings and all that kind of fluff. Give them what they want, not what you think might be ‘artistic’.

Your locked off cameras must be necessarily on the wide side because you can not control the various changes that happen on stage while you’re running around with the hand-held, so you minimally have to cover all the performers on stage with your frontal locked off cameras.

One of the locked off cameras should be a tight shot of the main performing area of the stage.  If the stage is full, then it’s the whole stage and all the performers. If the performers occupy a portion of the stage, then it’s a loose shot of the whole grouping of performers, rather than the whole stage.

The other is on a medium shot of the main performing area from a different angle.

Balconies are a good place for these two cameras (one on either side).

I think the side angles are more interesting than a dead-on center shot, but if you have another camera, you can put it next to the sound booth or whatever center position you can occupy.

If you have a fourth camera, put it backstage shooting past the performers at the audience. It will give you nice relief shots with some nice flare off the spotlights.

Setting Exposure

You must set your static cameras to manual exposure using the highest light level of the key spot light on the main performer. (Just ask the lighting guy to give you that level and set it on someone standing in the performers position). If you don’t do that, your cameras will try to give you an exposure to the overall long or medium shot of the stage (which, on an interior stage is usually mostly black) and that will result in the main performers face being blown-out most of the time.

If you use a GoPro, just let it do it’s automatic thing. It’s pretty good about auto-exposure.

On your hand-held camera my advice–if your camera is intelligent in its auto modes like the Sony cameras I use–keep it on full intelligent auto. You’ll be all over the stage at different angles, but your shots are mainly going to be closer shots. Your camera (especially if it has facial recognition) will be able to give you good auto exposures most of the time–or at least close enough to fix in post. You just won’t have time to be fiddling with settings as you’ve got too much work to do keeping that camera’s shot useful as much as you can.

The Hand-Held Camera

The hand-held camera is the one that does all the hard work.

Because you’re ambulatory, you can get all kinds of different angles: frontal, side frontal, from the wings of the stage, and even from backstage.

Add all these angles to your static cameras and you’ll wind up with something a bit closer to a multi-camera shoot and W A Y better than a single camera zooming in and out all night long.

Be Quick But Be Patient

The trick to the hand-held camera is to hold a shot up to and slightly past what you know will be an edit point. For example, let them finish a line of lyrics or chorus and add a beat or two before changing frame. If you don’t, you’ll find out the hard way that the cut to another camera may seem awkward if you suddenly decide to reframe your hand-held camera at the wrong moment—and you’ll have no choice but to cut to another camera, because your hand-held is useless as you’re moving position and re-framing.

Once you’ve reached an edit point, you move and re-frame as fast as you can. Ideally start with a different image size. While you’re moving and re-framing, you’re covered by any one of your other cameras. But the interesting shots will be the hand-held ones, so you move as fast as lightning. All your static cameras will be shooting the same thing all night, so they’ll start to appear rather repetitive. Use them as relief, or as openers and end shots and the rest of the time run your butt off getting as many different shots as you can from different angles with your hand-held.

I mentioned above having a second operator on one of your cameras. Even if you assign him to a fixed position on a tripod, at least now he can be zooming in or out, changing static image sizes, covering a solo, etc., so now of your 3 or 4 cameras, only 1 or two are completely static. You use them lightly and give the main work to your hand-held and your other manned camera. Now it can really start looking like a professional concert shoot—even with only two cameramen.

“But I only have one camera…”

Well–borrow one or two. By hook or by crook, get at least two or three additional cameras. Fortunately most video cameras these days are HD quality. Even iPhones and iPads and the Android equivalents shoot HD.

In the samples below I had 4 completely different cameras. A Canon DSLR, a Canon XHA1, a GoPro and a Sony HXR NX30.  To say they didn’t match up would be an understatement.

I now have another Sony camera (X70), so next time I’ll be better off.

The particular show in the samples below was 1 hour and 40 minutes long. I knew it would happen eventually, and sure enough, toward the end of the show the GoPro and DSLR batteries died (even though I changed them during intermission) leaving me with only two live cameras. (That gives me the opportunity to show you what can be done with two cameras in a pinch).

Take Advantage of Breaks and Intermissions

Between songs the performers sometimes (not always) chat with the audience. There’s your chance to grab some water or make your way to an interesting new angle from the wings of the stage or wherever.

Obviously it’s best to have your static cameras on AC power, but you may need to change cards (or tape) and that you can do during an intermission or break. You can even re-frame your static cameras during a long break or intermission.

If no intermission, you’ll have no choice but to do it during one of those chats with the audience between songs. You may risk not being ready by the time they start up again, but it’s better to have that camera up and running as soon as possible than to have it dead. You’ll simply have to rely on one of your other fixed cameras while you’re tending to all that.

Of course I’m really talking about the L O N E shooter to the nth degree here. If you can get an assistant to deal with those things, all the better.

You take your sound off the house mix board. That could be run by cable to one of your static cameras, but if the cameras are too far away from the mixboard, you can simply use a digital recorder to take the audio and sync it up later. I use the Zoom H2 which I’ve had for years and which never lets me down.

Matching Disparate Cameras

Since I had 4 completely different cameras that handled color and light differently, in order to smooth it out a bit I added a ‘look’ after manually balancing the color and exposure as best I could. In this case the looks were from a Pixel Film Studios plug-in. Now I have Color Finale which, like Divinci Resolve, allows me to create any look I want.  Since this was a concert with weird concert lighting anyway, the addition of a ‘look’ just added to the whole concert thing. But mainly it served to smooth out the differences between all the cameras to some degree.

The singer sat beside me and I scrolled through the various looks I have from Pixel Film Studios. By clicking on each filter it would give me an instant live preview in the preview window. We picked one she liked and put it on the whole song. (I used a couple different looks for various of the songs). Since the stage lighting was so crappy, one good thing the looks did was crush the blacks which also served to hide the different grain levels of the different cameras.

The GoPro isn’t good at low light levels, so on the darker scenes the grain was as big as golf balls. For those few Go Pro shots that I had to employ in the edit, I used Neat Video, a pretty good piece of software for removing grain. When the grain is extreme, the result is rather severe, but, in this case it was worse with the grain. For light grain, Neat Video is brilliant at removing it rather seamlessly.

All this is unnecessary, of course, if you have closely matching cameras. That’s not to say you couldn’t add a look anyway.

Concert Video Samples

In this case, I saw no rehearsals. I was seeing it for the first time live and had no choice but to think on my feet and do the best I could under the circumstances. If nothing else, it’s a good exercise even if it doesn’t all come out the way you hoped it would. The next good exercise in that case, is figuring out how to fix it all in post. And that can be fun and rewarding too—but only if you have multiple cameras to work with—or, as I had near the end of the show, only two.

Also, in this case, I was alone. I had no assistant. So the samples below are meant to give an idea of what a lone shooter can accomplish. I don’t offer it as anywhere near ideal–or indeed what I would want if it was my band, but still, for the money, it was a pretty good promo for this particular band. And it was fun and a good exercise for me. Next one will be better, for after all, it’s from things like this that we learn.

Let’s start with one when all 4 cameras were working. (after that are samples with 2 and 3 cameras)

As the show went on, and since I didn’t have an assistant, I would start losing cameras to either dead batteries or cards filling up. I dealt with that as best I could between songs, and of course, during intermission. Nevertheless, toward the end of the show I lost one camera permanently and later lost the GoPro as well when it’s short-lived battery died.

I know all this is rather stupid–even amateur, but at least it gives me the opportunity to show what you can do with 3 cameras and 2 cameras.

The following video is comprised of 3 different excerpts from the end of the concert starting with a 3 camera shoot and ending with two different samples of 2 camera shoots.

Post Lip Sync

And finally there’s the matter of syncing a performance to a studio recording.

This is fairly doable if the performer has performed the song many times after having done a studio recording. It’s surprising how close they can be in sync to a studio version while performing a live gig.

The samples you saw above were all multi-track recordings which were subsequently mixed by the band and forwarded on to me. That’s why the sound is so good.

This was their final performance after a year on the road.

I also filmed the first performance, a year earlier, which was not multi-tracked and was so bad a live mix that the singer asked if I could sync their live performance to the studio recording.

Turned out to be not as hard as I thought it would be.

When lining up the studio recording with the live performance we found that there were only three parts of the song that drifted out of sync a few frames. So we synced up the live performance to the three sections that were in sync, and in the three sections where the sync had drifted off a few frames we used a reverse angle to cover the cheat.

That was only a 3 camera shoot: Here’s the result:

Sony HXR NX30 as an Internal Car Mount

For anyone interested, I did a short, crude test for my step-daughter who is planning on doing a short film that takes place wholly inside a car.

As it is a low budget film and even though she has access to a Red camera, I pointed out that due to the profile (length) of the Red, it wouldn’t be possible to do internal frontal mounting of the camera–or if so, due to its lens proximity to the actor, would require a wide angle lens.

I did a short test using the NX30 in full-auto using its Active mode stabilisation (which uses image processing in addition to its gyro stabilised lens).

Normally car scenes are shot with speed rail mounted cameras outside the car. (or they are shot static with green screen backgrounds). Because of the open window, car scenes are post-lip-synced which is quite an art and not all actors can do easily–especially children as would be in this case.

So I put the NX30 to the challenge.

I shot it in my Landrover 300tdi Discovery (1997) and recorded the audio with a Sony wireless lapel.

I wasn’t expecting great results on the sound (it would be better with direction microphones hand-held on booms from the back seat, but as mentioned in the video, even the lapel would have worked pretty good in a quiet car like the high-end Range Rovers or equivalent.

The camera was mounted on the dash on a guerrilla tripod and wired down. Nothing fancy. A suction mount to the windshield would have been better but I didn’t have one. (could get one for about £40 to do the job).

Turns out it did ok.

So here’s a low budget solution to shooting interior car scenes.

Note: While shot in full HD, this is a 720p upload. Try to watch it in at least that. This is the raw camera footage, untreated in post. (the filter tests at the end were done because my step-daughter wanted a ‘filmic look’, so I tried a couple of filters toward that end)

YouTube & SEO

How to Make a Search Engine Happy

The true story of how one of my videos changed everything.

 Warning: This video is 35 minutes long.  That said, if you are a video producer or business owner with a website, you’ll find the information here informative and useful. And you’ll probably find stuff you never even heard about.

It’s free to watch. There will be no, “but wait, there’s more”, or any other of the usual clues that you’re being lead down a garden path to buy something.

You can google anything I’ve said here (like “Google has been ignoring meta tag key words for years”) or any of the statistics and trends.

This is the story of how one video dramatically increased my Google profile, subscribers to my blog, YouTube channel and Facebook page in the space of one year. And how all that resulted in a dramatic increase in business video commissions on my regular business website.

I didn’t set out to do this deliberately.  Actually it was all sort of a fluke.

But since it did happen, I went back to evaluate the component parts of this success and I’m sharing it with you here.

Nothing mysterious. No assistance from Adwords, or any of the dozens of schemes out there that promise you the moon with their exclusive software.

In fact all I did was please the search engines. And the search engines were pleased because they saw that those searching for the topic of my video were pleased. And the more people that were pleased, the happier the search engines got.

How the search engines achieved this happiness in the midst of the dull drudgery of their daily, often thankless, often disparaged work, is the subject of this talk–which could have been alternatively titled, “How to Make a Search Engine Happy”.

For those businessmen and women who are going to ask, “But how is this going to help me sell widgets?”, the section after the video answers that question and covers a few points not covered in the video. But it won’t make sense if you haven’t seen the video first.

As a note, I more recently did a review of the Sony PXW X70. It was uploaded 3 months after a raft of initial reviews on the camera. It started off on page 26 of Google and in less than 2 1/2 months it reached the number 1 position–despite the fact that it was considerably longer than any other review. Why? Well, the content was considered good as measured by the engagement metrics. If you were to compare it to the other top reviews on that camera, you will see that it got far more comments and likes. Furthermore, the comments were all relevant. None of them were drivel.

 

“So how is this going to help me sell my widgets?”

Fair question.

The Sony video talked about above made it’s way quickly to the top in a very competitive market. That is, there are a lot of sites that review photographic, video, computer equipment and so forth. And generally speaking, it’s a pretty gung-ho and internet switched-on market that they are reaching.

I’ve done many videos for large industrial companies, also in a niche market. They are hoping to close multi-million pound contracts with their products or services.

So who looks at their videos?

Two kinds of people do: 1) Businessmen looking for that specific product or service, and 2) the competition.

In either case, these are not likely going to be the type of people who “share”, “like”, “comment”, etc.  They might share it via email to a colleague or boss, but that’s about it in terms of engagement.

Then how does engagement apply here?

Creating a viral video is one way and many multi-national well-known corporations can actually create a viral video with confidence. Old Spice, BMW, Volkswagen, Volvo, Redbull and many others have done this. But these cost a fortune. A group of some very clever people come up with some very clever ideas and no expense is spared on pulling off each unique concept.

If you’re reading this, I’m going to assume that kind of approach and budget is out of the question.

So what counts?

The Audience Retention Analytic

There are more metrics at play then mentioned in the video, but one of the more important ones is called “Audience Retention”. You can actually go into the backend of your video on your YouTube analytics page and see exactly minute by minute what percentage of people watched the video. In other words, it starts off at 100%. Maybe 20 seconds in it drops to 60%. You can see the percentages for every minute of the video and the overall average.

It might be disappointing to see that some people don’t watch the whole video.

For example, in that Sony video, the audience retention was 30% for the whole 14 minute video. That means, as of now, about 10,000 people watched the entire video–and that’s pretty good considering its length. Interestingly, the graph pretty much drops to the 30% mark in the first minute or two and then stays consistent right to the end. That’s very unusual. But it does tell me the audience I was actually looking for locked onto it and found it interesting and informative enough to watch all the way through.

There can be a number of reasons people don’t watch it all the way through. The primary one is it wasn’t what they were looking for. They realised early on it wasn’t relevant.  Or perhaps they realised this was about a BMW and they were looking for a Aston Marton.  And finally, here’s the real killer. If it’s a bad video (low quality production, hard to hear, amateur-looking, etc.) most people will turn it off right there–unless they perceive the content to be extremely relevant and important in which case they will grab a scotch, squint up their eyes and persevere the torture of watching the video. But that would be a rare exception.

But here’s the good news.  It isn’t the number of VIEWS that the search engines consider important any more. (they used to, but like in Blackhat SEO, people found ways to “game the system” and inflate their view counts.) Instead what the search engines consider important is the audience retention analytic. And that tells them what percentage of people found the content relevant.

So, if you think about it, your competition is in the same boat in trying to sell their widgets. Their market is not the type of market that is going to do anything more than watch the video to see if it suits their company, their needs, etc. in order to put forward a purchase order or arrange further meetings to obtain the service or product.

So if you both have videos on your respective widgets, who has the advantage?  The advantage goes to the company whose video (or other web page content) appears to be most relevant to the search and that is determined by how long people watch the video or otherwise engage on your site. If, in the case of video, it sees the percentage is 5% or lower (bad video), that’s struck off the list by the search engine. Bad or amateur video not only doesn’t pay, it’s destructive because it gives a poor impression of your company no matter how good your products and services really are.

Occasionally I used to check the views of my clients videos on their sites (not my Youtube channel where they are tagged and titled for my purposes more than theirs). One client had over 6000 views of three different videos featuring multi-million pound industrial installations in the first year of their upload, and one of the three videos at the time had been uploaded only a few months earlier. I’m not able to look further into their analytics for audience retention, etc., but that was an impressive view count for that particular product. Even a small percentage of those 6000 views leading to further contact would have meant a LOT of money for that business.

So the moral is, in terms of video, do everything I said above anyway. And make sure it’s a good, professional video that’s pure relevant content for what it is you’re trying to sell.  And that is what will rank you higher than the competition.

It still stands true that video is the best engagement object out there.

Used correctly, the return on investment will make it one of the most cost effective advertising methods you have ever employed.

 

 

Sony HXR NX30 Production Report

I’ve now used the NX30 in several productions including music and corporate.

Last week I completed an 8 minute fund-raising video in Los Angeles which I thought would be a good video to elaborate on the NX30s capabilities in “run and gun” production.

Rather than go into the subject of what I mean by “run and gun” at any great length here, I’ve decided to take that up separately in a later blog. But to be clear, it’s in this type of shooting that the camera shines. It’s a rather competent “wing man”.

This production “The Locke High School Project” was definitely run and gun. Despite requests for various things to be lined up in advance of my arrival, very little was planned. Some things that were planned were faulty in terms of permissions, and some things planned simply fell through. It was up to me to pull it all together in a relatively short period of time to accomplish the objective of a video capable of appealing to a particular prospective donor of parting with $2,550,000.

If you can, watch the video in Full HD in order to evaluate the performance of the NX30.

You can watch the video now if you’d like and then read the comments below, or visa versa (or watch it twice).

1) It starts off with a sunset beach scene. That wasn’t planned. That was an off-the-cuff solution to a celebrity endorser to introduce the video who wasn’t able to be scheduled due to other commitments.  I didn’t want to have Sidney (the client making the appeal) to be bragging about his own accomplishments in order to position himself in the beginning of the video, but when the celebrity fell through and time had run out on my stay, I told him to grab his french horn and race down to the beach with me for sunset as a back-up to the original plan.

We got there in the last minute, and, as you can image, with no time for dilly-dallying, I just parked him on the sand and told him to start playing while I shot the footage.

If you’ve read my earlier blogs or seen any of the videos, you’ll know that I’m not a tripod or camera support system fan. In the old days working with crews, I’d have an assistant who took care of all that stuff giving me the time to plan angles and so forth.  When you’re solo, and in a rush, there’s little time for all that. Plus it’s a pain in the backside to clean out all the sand off your equipment after a beach shoot.

That’s why I love the NX30. Those shots are all hand-held. Not a speck of sand on any of my equipment.  But more than that, I could just turn the camera on in full intelligent auto mode and start shooting. It locked focus on the face and set its own exposure and colour balance.  What you see there isn’t even altered in post.

2) The sit-down interview with Sidney was shot on a tripod (as were the later interview scenes) because even I’m not masochistic or stupid enough to hold the camera for a 30 minute interview.

But here again, look at the beautiful clarity of the image. No, it’s not that shallow depth-of-field DSLR look. But with nice lighting, composition and tonal separation, what difference does it make for the purpose?  That’s a serious question. If it was shallow depth of field would it make it any better in terms of communication value?

I like shallow depth of field too. But that immediately taxes your attention that much more in terms of setting and maintaining focus. In this type of shooting, I’d much rather have more of my attention available for other things and not worrying about focus. Once I start that camera rolling, I’m no longer looking at the camera or the monitor. I’m chatting with the person. Nice to know the camera isn’t going to let that face go out-of-focus if he happens to shift or move.

3)  Shooting in the school.

This video was almost a disaster. I knew it was vitally important to get permission to shoot and interview in the school which was on the list of things I required to have set up in advance of my arrival.  When we got to the school we luckily got the athletic director to take us around. Here again, the little NX30 did not get a lot of attention due to its size. Could have been a different story with a larger “professional-looking” camera.

So what I did was tag along during the tour and just kept the camera running constantly. I had a radio mic on the athletic director and wore headphones so I could hear what they were talking about, but my main objective was to grab as much footage as I could.

Later we did the sit-down interview after which we stole over to the music department for about 40 minutes and obtained what the footage there on a similar basis.

Our time was up and we had to leave even though I wanted more. Interviews with sports students for example. But when it came time to go back to the school for that with fingers crossed, we ran head-on into the full bureaucracy of requiring written permissions based on submitting script, list of shots, video distribution plans, etc.

And since the marketing arm of the school would not be keen to show what needs to be shown in a FUND-RAISING video for the school’s inadequacies, I knew that road was closed. And we were out of time anyway.

So how did the NX30 perform?  I had it in Active Mode, Full intelligent auto. None of those “steadicam shots” were processed in post. Even though one shoots that sort of shots in wide angle for obvious reasons, there’s still the chance that the camera will decide to focus on something stupid. But the NX30 was set to keep track of faces and I could see it boxing in the faces as I moved, so my confidence was high (and not let down) in terms of focus. Or exposure, for that matter.

Short anecdote:  After we left the school for the second time without permission to shoot inside, I walked around outside to try to get a shot that showed a lot of students. Unfortunately the school was fenced like a prison. Nowhere in the entire circumference of the school was I able to see inside. Then, as I completed my walk around I noted an electric driveway gate opening. I stood ready, and as soon as the vehicle left and the gate started to close, I planted myself in the opening and grabbed a slow panning shot that showed a large group of students changing classes. I had one chance and only a few seconds. One shot.  And the NX30 backed me up by taking care of all the technical details.

3)  As I was leaving we got our hands on an old year book. I needed some historical shots. I used my Canon 600 to take stills of most of the shots I wanted out of the book (animating them in editing), but there are a couple of panning shots in there I did with the NX30 in Active Mode. That’s kind of difficult to do smoothly so close up, so in this case I further stabilised the shots in post to a very nice result.

AN IMPORTANT DISCOVERY ABOUT THE NX30

In some of my earlier corporate productions (and on this one too), I would come home to find to my horror that some of my interview shots were soft on focus. It was both unnerving and baffling.

Then it happened on this production on the interviews with both the original music teacher and the current one. As I watched these interviews I could see the camera slowly drifting from foreground to background over and over. I had NO IDEA what caused this and thought I might have a camera fault to be fixed.  (this is why the interview with the current music teacher starts with an unusually long amount of B roll before we actually see him talking. Likewise, near the end of the video the original music teacher is coming out of a dissolve which hides the moment when the shot is coming into focus and cuts to B roll just before it rolled out-of-focus)

The next day when I was setting up to do the interview with Sidney, I put the camera on the tripod and did what I usually do: shut off the stabilisation. As I did that I noticed something flash on the viewfinder screen. And a little notice came up that said something like “turn off intelligent auto”.  I looked closer and saw that what had flashed on the screen was the little intelligent auto icon turning off (greying out; going inactive).

Ah ha!  Intelligent auto only works in Active Mode! Makes sense too. That’s when you really need it.

So the lesson learned is: When shooting on a tripod with stabilisation turned off, you MUST set focus manually. You can either turn off auto-focus once it’s focused on the subject you want, or just turn it off and manually focus it on the subject.

Ok, that will be my last word on the NX30. Hope it helps any of you who are looking to buy a camera.

And thanks to the 50,000 of you who, at this writing, watched the 2 Part Sony HXR NX30 review making it the most watched and highly rated video review of the NX30 on the internet.

Yeah, I heard some of your complaints about it too and agree with you, so I’ll  incorporate those points next time.

(hey, what do you know–this is my 50th blog post!)

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