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So-called “real people” can add power to a video story. For testimonials, someone who actually uses the product can be compelling. If the story focuses on a charity, someone who has lived the day-to-day impact can help raise funds more effectively than an on-camera professional host. A person who works in an organization might be the very best at explaining a new process or tool.
But here’s the catch.
Using real people as opposed to actors affects the bottom line costs of your video, in both production and post. Often executive producers focus on the cost-savings of not having to hire actors–no actor fees, no casting fees, no pension and welfare payments (for union actors). However, pro’s bring their ability to hit their marks every time, to become characters convincingly, and to deliver a particular line the same way in the wide shot, the closeup and the shot that gets done after a lunch break.
So if you are using real people, you need to focus on 3 areas to minimize the budget negatives:
- Casting. While you may use an informal process, you’ll still need to “cast” people to be sure they can work with you, they have an interesting story, and to build a relationship prior to the day of taping. While actors can step onto a set filled with strangers and go, most regular folks can’t. Always avoid using someone solely on the recommendation on another person. If you will be the day-of-production interviewer, producer or director, you’ll need to talk to them yourself to be sure you have a good rapport.
- Scheduling. Build extra time into your shoot schedule. Not just for each angle or shot, but also breaks for your “talent.” Unlike pro’s, who can muscle through a long day, most regular folks need some time out of the lights. Plus they will likely need to make calls, check on the kids being picked up from soccer, etc. I’m always surprised how often I’ve got someone telling me they’ve “blocked out” the whole day for our shoot, and then when we arrive, they’ve actually got several hours of phone calls, errands or other work scheduled. No one outside of production understands that what we do is a really focused, full day or more type of job.
- Post Workflow. Your post-production workflow will also need to be adjusted. If you are conducting interviews, be sure you get transcripts made (from mp3 or wav files of the interviews) so that you can make a preliminary set of selects and then choose from those for your final edits. This will save massive amounts of time slogging through footage to find soundbites. If you are creating a re-enactment or a direct-to-camera video, you’ll need excellent field notes via Adobe Live Logger, Google docs, Lumberjack, etc. that allows you to correct for the usual mistakes and changed dialogue or non-matching action that commonly occur when using non-actors. Again, this will save massive amounts of time and frustration during editing.
I’ve built some handy templates and other prep, shoot and post resources into my new book The Producer’s Playbook: Real People on Camera. Use code FLR40 at checkout for 20% off (not available on Amazon). Let me know any other tools you think I should add here on the website.
It’s been a cold, rainy spring here in DC, the perfect weather for planning and strategy (not so great for outdoor shoots). And post-NAB Show, it’s a great time to re-assess workflows, consider new technologies, and tidy up that digital media library.
So what key steps do you need for great video storytelling? It all comes down to Three Essential Questions you need to ask yourself when planning your edit.
Wait, you say. planning my edit? What about my script? My shoot? But let’s face it, the story all comes together during the edit. And when is the optimal time to start planning your edit? Is it a few days before you step into the edit suite? Is it when you start digitizing your media? Not surprisingly, the answer is well before you even shoot the first frame. Working in the digital media space now often means drinking from the firehose of assets–millions of frames to choose from as we acquire with more and more flexible cameras. So it’s even more vital to be prepared before you start working with all of that content. Ask and answer these questions before you shoot, and you’ll be ahead of the game for your edit:
- What tools can I use in the field to help my edit go more smoothly? (Tip: any tool that allows you to identify best takes and best soundbites–use Adobe Live Logger, paper notes, or Google docs with notations on your script. And don’t forget to metatag camera footage with more than just date and time–for example camera operator initials or some code that tells you where this footage fits into the story line)
- What workflow can I use to ensure that the media gets transferred accurately? (Tip: use the 3-2-1 backup system–make two additional on-site copies of digital media files so that you have 3 in the field, travelling back from the shoot have 2 identical copies (and the one original stays behind). When you get back, ingest one of your two copies and check for accuracy before blowing away the original field cards. And yes, it costs a few more dollars to have extra cards–which is way less than a re-shoot and lost time will cost you!)
- What other assets can I collect before or during my shoot to augment my edit? Think about field sound clips, archival photos and other visuals. (Tip: always collect as much as you can in the field–I’ve even brought a mini-scanner on site and scanned old photos after conducting an interview.)
Every ounce of planning will deliver impact on screen. Go for it!
Amy DeLouise is a producer-director, speaker and author. Her new book The Producer’s Playbook: Real People on Camera (Focal Press) is available here at a 20% discount for blog readers! Use Code FLR40 at checkout!
From Las Vegas, NV NAB Show 2016 –
I’m just back from NAB Show where I was privileged to co-host #GalsNGear Live! by Women in Film and Video (WIFV-DC) with Adryenn Ashley of Crowded TV to help showcase the amazing women working in production and post-production in broadcast, feature films, docs, commercials, branded content and more. Live-streamed by Broadcast Beat, we featured Megan Donnelly, DP and Camera Technology Specialist with AbelCine; Rose Fadem-Johnston, DP, Luisa Cassasnovas Winters, Drone Operator/Adobe/Apple Certified Trainer; an iZotope demo by Cheryl Ottenritter, Senior Mixer/Founder, Ott House Audio; Katie Hinsen, Senior Finishing Artist, Light Iron (on TWO Oscar-winning teams!) who is also a founder of the Blue Collar Post Collective; and Jillian Arnold, Video Engineer, Local 695; Lucy Seaborne did a demo for us at the Snell Advanced Media booth, and Christine Steele of Steele Pictures also conducted #GalsNGear interviews with Victoria Nece, Adobe After Effects and Alissa Johnson, Adobe Anywhere as well as Stefanie Mullen, the impressive woman behind the effects of Rampant Design. Christine also took time to make us an animated logo bumper. What an impressive crowd!
Terrific GNG graphics for our signage, logo and buttons were created by Deborah Humphries of True Color Chrome.
Shout-out to our amazing sponsors, including our lead sponsors Black Magic Design and Media Central! We had more than 100 people watch the show live, and thousands more watched online. Sponsors gave us more than $4,500 in giveaways–everything from cameras to graphics packages to audio software and tickets to creative conferences. Let’s do this again at another industry event! How about Cinegear, IBC, Sundance, Cannes?? Let us know what you think!
While I’m out at NAB Show, I thought I’d share a guest post by Matt Barker, a self-described tech geek, filmmaker and entrepreneur. He is a co-founder of getfilming.com, where he manages the online course production and the filmmaking community.
By Matt Barker
As the owner of an online start up, I spend a lot of time online. Some would even say I spend too much time online (my wife, mainly). I have to admit, staring at the screen all day long can become a little tedious but I wouldn’t change it for anything. I love what I do and I love how the tech and the internet has opened up a whole new world of possibilities. A particular favourite innovation that the online world has brought with it, is online education.
Gone are the days when you’d enrol for a course at your local college or university a year in advance and just wait for the learning to start. You can learn anything online from coding to filmmaking, from algebra to cake decorating and the best part is, you can learn from anywhere in the world, instantly and on your own schedule.
Lots of people reading this post will have enrolled in lots of courses online already. They would have learned a ton of information from expert tutors both on sites that house a plethora of courses like Skillshare or Udemy and from more specialist sites like Team Treehouse or GetFilming, an online Film School. I urge anyone and everyone to at least try online learning but if you still need some convincing, here’s five reasons why online education will help you succeed.
Unlike traditional learning, when you enrol in an online course you get to choose who you want to learn from. There’s such a huge demand for online courses that there is an endless supply of new tutors, courses and schools opening every day. What this means is that working industry experts are realising that they can make a lot of money selling their knowledge. In some cases, they can make more teaching a subject online than they can make practising it in their day job – but this also means there is a lot of competition. To make decent money from teaching online, they have to produce a complete course for a specific topic that is better than any other course online. Having experts compete with each other to provide amazing education for us, is a great thing.
Netflix and other streaming services introduced us to the world of on demand video. We’ve been spoilt and now everyone wants everything yesterday. Fortunately, it means if you decide you want to learn any topic, you will be able to find a course straight away and start learning instantly. If you’re thinking of a career change you can find a relevant eLearning site that caters for your topic and find out if that career is for you in a few days. How many people have spent years in education only to realise they don’t actually like the career they have invested so much time in?
Community of Learners
When you learn online, you don’t just get an expert tutor teaching you what they know. You have a whole community of people learning with you. This is great for motivation, for help if you get stuck, to find recommendations on other courses and it’s also great for networking. That all important element of any career path. It’s all about who you know and by learning online, you instantly connect with a community of people studying the same topic and who knows, maybe that person who helped you with your course can also be the person to give you your big break.
The real beauty of learning online is that the curriculum isn’t static. Let’s take creating websites as an example. If you go to college to learn how to code a website, chances are that by the time you finish your course, the technology you have learnt will be outdated. With online courses, it is not just important but necessary for the tutors to keep the content up to date. Any new technology that replaces old technology will be updated in the course to reflect the changes, almost in real time.
Something for Everyone!
The more you look into online education, the more you will find courses in topics you didn’t even know existed. Every single person can find a course that suits them to either learn a new hobby or to completely change their careers. Some eLearning platforms like Skillshare try to cater for every taste (and they do a very good job). Skillshare is more for the casual learner, someone who perhaps wants to develop their skills or make themselves more attractive to their boss. There are subscription learning portals such as Lynda.com, which started out as a platform for office software learning, but has rapidly expanded with hundreds of courses on Photography, Video Production and more. Then there are sites like GetFilming, which is an online film school and community. They specialise in teaching you everything you need to know to pursue your dream career as a filmmaker, whether that’s as a director, screenwriter, VFX artist or any other job in the Film and TV industry.
There are many reasons to want to learn something new. Personal development is a privilege we now have at our fingertips, so I say let’s take full advantage of it. Traditional education for years has been an exceptional way to teach and to learn, there’s no denying that. But if you are thinking of learning a new topic, I would highly recommend looking into online learning.
It happens more often than we’d all like to admit that inexperienced speakers are selected to deliver important information directly to the camera. Whether they are the head of a department, the leader of an initiative, an enthusiastic volunteer, or the child of the executive producer, this person might not be all that comfortable with a teleprompter, or might not work with cameras and crews every day the way professionals do. That doesn’t mean you can’t direct a confident delivery. But your approach will need to differ from how you’d work with an actor or an experienced on-camera speaker.
I Need to Direct My Boss on Camera, Now What?!
One strategy for encouraging a natural delivery from your speaker is to do a quick Q&A with them off-camera first. I often stand farther away than is truly necessary, and lean forward. This is to encourage a slightly louder speaking voice from the talent. It forces us both to connect on purpose, not simply by default. It’s surprising how often this Q&A approach works quite nicely, and feels natural.
Another strategy is to suggest in advance of your shoot day that the “host” practices a bit by recording themselves with their phone. Even though I have spoken before rooms with hundreds of people, before I taped my first Lynda.com course, I did the same thing. Speaking to a lens is vastly different than talking to people who react in real time. The first thing that struck me about my pre-recording was I didn’t smile enough. Even thinking about smiling helps the delivery seem more natural and congenial.
What About a Teleprompter?
Most folks aren’t aware of how much skill goes into reading from a teleprompter. Some people also do better with bullet points, rather than full copy. If you intend to use a prompter, you will need to add 30 minutes to your recording time for several rehearsals, to let the person get used to reading the words naturally. Most people trip up on one major issue: that the prompter follows them, not the other way around. They will get progressively slower as they read, waiting for the prompter to “catch up” when the prompter is actually following their speed. You’ll also need to add some big gaps to force people to slow down their read.
How to Work with Kids for Direct-to-Camera Videos
Kids are naturals. Don’t over-coach them. Do give them examples in advance from kids’ shows they like to watch. Remember that audition pre-interview? Ask a few questions about shows they like, so you can reference them just before and during the shoot. Encourage kids to practice with their i-things at home. But the best thing you can do with kids is be a supportive cheerleader. Use the same tools for keeping parents out of sightlines that you use with other gatekeepers: give them their own monitor, preferably out of the room. But check in periodically to be sure they’re happy. Because a happy parent will be a great ally for you as you create a positive experience with your production team
This blog post is excerpted from my new book The Producer’s Playbook: Real People on Camera (Focal Press/Routledge). Purchase the book here Buy Real People on Camera. Or if you are coming to #NAB16 please stop by my Post|Production World session on getting the best with real people on camera – info Amy at NABShow on Real People.
Most people focus on visuals when working on video storytelling. It’s a natural instinct. Our world is dominated by visuals-rich social media like SnapChat, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter and more. But the audio track for your video is a critical part of your storytelling toolkit. There are two options for music for video: original scoring and licensed stock music.
Original Music Scoring
A professionally composed score-to-picture, which usually includes at least one set of revisions, will run you a minimum of $2,500-3,500 for a 30-second spot, at least $3,500 for a 5 minute video, and upwards of $8,000 for a half-hour documentary. Name-brand musicians can cost you much more. Fees for session musicians (a band or orchestra) are extra. And don’t think about using your friend who plays an instrument–session players are pros who read every type of music imaginable and have perfect intonation on the first take. Many composers can do without live musicians for smaller-budget projects by using good quality sampled sounds. And most composers will negotiate on fee based on how busy they are right now, how quickly they think they can do your project, or simply because you are offering an interesting challenge or a distribution exposure that interests them.
Before you give up on an original score because of cost, remember that this music works PERFECTLY with every visual on screen and creates EXACTLY the kinds of moods and transitions you need from scene to scene. Trying to find stock music that fits the bill requires hours of your time to audition tracks, and then more hours of editing time to mesh them together and finesse endings that are usually not right for your visuals. So for many projects, an original score is well worth it.
What’s the Original Score Workflow?
- Cut Scenes to “Temp Tracks”. This means finding music–even pop songs you can’t license, since you are going to replace them–that are the right tempo and mood to edit your scenes. I might use three or four temp tracks in any given short form project. Or nine or 10 for a half-hour show. This would be a mess to edit, but we will simply replace all of these with our custom score (a process called “laying back”) once the original music score is finished.
- Get “Picture Lock”. Before you can score, you need a 100% approved video, with all the images and voices and “sound-ups” (where you hear what someone is saying during a piece of background footage) in fixed locations in your video timeline. Any slippage by even a few frames will mean adjusting the score with the composer.
- Output Video to Composer’s Specs. Most composers want a video file that has a visible time-code window, so they can be sure they are achieving perfect synchronicity with your show. Depending on the type of software they use, a composer will request a particular type of video file they like to work with.
- Talk! You’ll want to discuss with your composer what goals you are trying to achieve with your film or spot, and what different moods you want to create with various scenes. If I have a particular genre or style of instrumentation that I want, I will also share temp tracks as examples.
An experienced composer may be able to write your music to picture for a very short film in a single day. Depending on how I’ve negotiated the fee, we’ll usually go through at least one round of tweaks before we get to a final score and go to lay back.
Using Stock Music
There are many online sources for good stock music, which can range in cost from $35 per cut to $500 per cut, depending on the source and the kind of distribution license you need. Be careful to purchase a license for online distribution, even if you have other ways of getting your video out, because YouTube now regularly pulls down videos for lacking the proper music license.
Premium music libraries that offer better-sounding orchestrations, a wide range of musical styles, and different lengths and underscore versions of tracks include www.apmmusic.com www.killertracks.com and www.audionetwork.com . A great feature of Audio Network for me as a musician is that they list the key the music is in. That allows me to search for a related key for a transition from one piece to another, rather than having an ugly transition between two keys that don’t sound good together, or are identical. There are also lower-cost libraries such as www.premiumbeat.com and www.audiojungle.net which have plenty of great tracks to choose from. My only issue with their music is that the mixes are often muddy and require additional audio adjustment work in a sound studio if you plan to use them in a large room for live event playback.
Why Music Matters
Whether you go with stock music or scored music, you need to create the right mood for your message. I recently had a client send me a series of cute kid testimonials in a series of promo videos that they had shot. Something in the rough-cuts of these video just wasn’t working. They wanted me to help re-arrange the soundbites for a more compelling story. But the first thing I did was send them the same cuts but with new soundtracks for each. Presto! You see, their corporate music track was completely undermining the quirky, real-world comments of the kids. With just a little bit of re-tooling, I had a much happier client, and a better video story.
Amy DeLouise is a video director/producer who is passionate about great music. Her new book The Producer’s Playbook: Real People on Camera comes out this spring (Focal Press/Routledge).