Posts filed under ‘video’
Thanking donors through video has become increasingly popular. Too bad this effort from my alma mater falls flat. Here are 4 ways to improve this student “thank you” from Yale. You can easily incorporate these strategies in your next video project.
1. Authenticity. If the purpose of the video is to make donors smile, then it’s a fail. That’s because the students have obviously been asked to “look at the camera and say ‘thank you’.” We feel their awkwardness. Even throwing in the mascot dog doesn’t help. There’s a much better way to coax great performances out of non-performers. Have some conversations before you start filming. Don’t tell them exactly what to say. Give them context. Ask them some other questions first. Ask questions that elicit the answer you need (“what would you tell a donor who made it possible for you to have heat in your dorm this winter?) rather than asking the subject “when I say go, say thank you”.
For more interview techniques, see my course on Lynda.com (The Art of the Interview). Here’s a snippet about building rapport.
2.Depth of Field. Every shot has students plastered against the same stone wall. What a missed opportunity to show off the campus and the students in their “natural habitat”! Lenses aren’t just fancy add-ons. They are vital storytelling tools. By adding context in the background of a subject, you convey meaning and increase impact on the viewer.
3. Energy. Adding motion to the camera, and multiple camera angles, makes a HUGE difference in the energy and impact of a video. Who knows why the Yale videographer felt he or she couldn’t move from that one spot. But one easy way to add energy would be following some of the subjects down the walkway (which would automatically create depth of field as we’d see action in the background). I love having subjects talk while walking (or driving). Having different students pop up in a variety of places–the library, from behind a tree, from inside a classroom–would have added all kinds of energy to this piece. Plus alumns would have had a fun walk down memory lane seeing all these locations. In this video about a Rabbi, we shot him walking, driving, leading prayer, on the telephone—all things he does in his very busy days.
4. Music. Music has a big impact on the impression your video makes. It affects edit pacing and rhythm. While the laid-back guitar vibe of the Yale piece is nice for a Friday afternoon Frisbee game, it doesn’t convey the dynamism of student life. A catching music theme–and more variety in camera angles– leads to (millions!) more views of this flash mob video from Ohio State (though I’m guessing they didn’t get music licensing rights for the song)
So before you launch into a “quick” video for any purpose, think about how you can use these 4 simple tools to add impact.
Amy DeLouise is a producer and consultant who has created hundreds of videos for fundraising and education.
When SilverDocs became AFI Docs, the once highly successful documentary festival did more than change its name. It changed its brand. And not in a good way.
For over a decade, SilverDocs was a roaring success. The public-private partnership between AFI and Discovery Channel brought groundbreaking–and often future Oscar-winning–nonfiction films to the silver screen in a well-regarded documentary festival that supported the active local DC area film community, while drawing thousands to a newly renovated Silver Spring, Maryland cultural district. As a member of that local DC production community, I have been proud to see colleagues’ films screened, and see them debate with nationally known mediamakers on panels and in hallways. Our local chapter of Women in Film and Video, with 900 members, played an integral role in many of the events surrounding SilverDocs. Sky Sitney, the passionate and gifted director of the festival, took it to new heights of nonfiction program content and relationship-building.
Flash forward to the creation of “AFI Docs presented by Audi”—which already sounds like so many other corporate sponsorships such as FedEx Field and PNC Bank Arts Center. The festival turned away from its warm hug of the film community and became a more “industry-driven” project, according to a Washington Post interview of Nina Gilden-Seavey, Silverdocs founding director. The result was not just a damaged brand in the eyes of the local community. It was a bad employment brand, because the new mission was one its visionary leader couldn’t support. So Sitney has quit to pursue other ventures.
Rebranding can be a tricky endeavor. It’s a balancing act between where you’ve been and where you want to go. The trick of any rebrand is to avoid New Coke syndrome. You want to be sure that your community, and especially your leadership, can come along for the ride. (Hint: If you’re still being called “Formerly known as…” a year after your rebrand, it’s time to rethink the plan.) That’s not to say that change and progress aren’t a good idea for institutions. But an organization without its people won’t succeed in today’s interconnected brand landscape. And it takes more than sponsors to make a good nonprofit run well. Let’s hope AFI Docs will find its way to rebranding its rebrand, before it isn’t any brand at all.
Amy DeLouise is a multimedia producer who consults on branding and marketing for businesses and nonprofits. You can reach her at amy [at] amydelouise [dot] com.
1. Start With a Talking Head—Start your viewer’s experience with some words from your CEO or other corporate leader, preferably speaking directly into the camera, and not looking as comfortable as s/he would like. Not!
SOLUTION: If you have to put in your CEO, try using snippets from him or her during a recent speech. These can be used to “voiceover” parts of your video so you are not spending a lot of time looking at someone’s head. Here’s an example in a USDA video
ANOTHER SOLUTION: If you’re leadership are really brave, and you’ve got a good writing team either in-house or with your production agency (and that’s a big if!), you could try what IBM successfully did with its Mainframe marketing launch. They spoofed The Office using their actual Vice President of Worldwide Sales. It’s still one of my favorite corporate vids of all time, and it garnered enough industry and mainstream press to skyrocket sales. As an added bonus, by showing the company’s hipper side, the video improved IBM’s employment brand, with increased high quality applications to jobs in the mainframe unit.
2. Avoid a Unifying Concept. If you really want to confuse your viewer, be sure to include 4 or 5 or 6 or even more main ideas in your video. Not! Three ideas is plenty. One is even better. A written script is essential (even when there is no voiceover), to map out the framing and delivery of your Main Idea.
SOLUTION: Here’s a great video from Facebook that starts with the concept of the Chair. The images are stark, beautifully composed, and devoid of the generic “b-roll” flavor of most corporate videos.
3. Make a Music Video – Everyone wants to use their favorite song as the score to their video. No problem! Except that you need to purchase the music “sync rights” and know how to direct and edit a music video—which is harder than it looks. Aside from choreographing every movement and person to a specific beat, you need to convey content that is relevant to your message.
SOLUTION: If you have a motivated staff person with the time to map out every move, then shooting your own music lip sync video can let everyone in the organization participate and have fun—which might in of itself achieve your communications goals. Here’s a really cute (although sometimes odd and sad) lip sync video by a retirement home that I think succeeds in showing they have spirit and might be a fun place to hang out
ANOTHER SOLUTION: If you have more complex goals to accomplish—like a training program—they you may need a professional team to help you map out the shoot and edit. This safety training piece I produced for a children’s hospital took quite a few weeks of planning, in order to tie in with a full training program. We shot a lot of it against green screen so as to include the maximum number of people without interfering with patients in the hospital. And yes we licensed the music for the correct usage rights.
Thanks for taking the time to consider three things to avoid when you make your next corporate video!
If failing finals is an indicator, then they are. In my county—with some of the highest-ranking schools in the nation—we just learned this shocking data : 61% of our high schoolers failed Algebra 1, 62% failed geometry and 57% failed Algebra 2. Wow. The thinking goes that since these are the “on-grade-level kids” (aka “losers” in our lovely system), they are less motivated to study than their “above grade level” peers, and therefore more likely to fail. But look at the stats we are presented with for these supposedly more motivated kids taking honors courses: Geometry: 36% fail; Algebra 2: 30% fail. Seriously?
Here’s my worry: too much relying on testing, which feeds into kids getting branded as certain types of students, which leads to their loss of self-confidence, which is then fed by not receiving the best possible teaching.
On a personal level, we got a little dose of this with our high schooler. One semester, his (young and inexperienced) math teacher refused to take questions in class because she couldn’t do this and still get through all the to-be-tested material. A previously favorite subject suddenly became a world of lost confidence. We were lucky enough to be able to work with a tutor, who answered questions and offered the missing support. And the result was our student did just fine. But while he was struggling, the guidance office–where we were already signing up for the next year’s classes–was already ready to demote him to the dreaded “on grade level,” suggesting he couldn’t hack math. Fast forward to a new math teacher in the next semester who was more experienced and fielded questions in class, and voila, test scores improved.
How many other kids is this happening to every day? Probably plenty.
At a national education conference, I interviewed Salman Khan, the founder of Khan Academy . He shared his theory about how kids get branded as certain types of students and what we can do about it. You can watch his video answer to my questions here…
Khan’s ideas have been revolutionary in changing the school systems that have adopted his platform. One of the many changes his method has brought about is the “flipped classroom”—that is, where teachers let kids work on material in advance, often using technology to access tools and materials. With the outcomes of this work (Khan can provide metrics), teachers learn what their students’ strengths and weaknesses are BEFORE they plan their lessons, then plan and teach accordingly. Children who need more work in a particular skill can then continue to do that work both inside and outside the classroom. That way, more students gain mastery of the material, the teacher becomes a guide rather than someone spouting facts, and students learn strategies they need to overcome challenges in the subject matter.
Wouldn’t it be great if my county could get on board with this new approach to helping children succeed as lifelong learners?!