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?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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.

 

%d bloggers like this: