Posts filed under ‘video’
You’ve got to shoot and interview and ask the questions. How do you get the best from your interview subject(s)? How do you prepare? These four steps will improve the process every time.
- Research. I don’t just mean your basic Google search or Wikipedia page look-up. I mean actually reading something your interview subject has written or watching a speech they have given so you can a) learn from it and b) refer to it and build rapport. Also read articles about your person, so you understand where they come from and what they do. Talking to people who know them well–a spouse, assistant, co-worker–can give insights into their style, character and personal history.
- Pre-Interview. Have a phone conversation several weeks in advance of your interview. Weeks not days, because you don’t want someone saying “As I said to you yesterday…” in their answer. I find phone is better than Skype or Google Hangouts, because people are more honest when they can’t see you. If you don’t have the time or ability to pre-interview, then talking to someone who knows this person is even more important. You don’t want to be blindsided by a strong viewpoint, a difficult to understand accent, or some other element that you could easily prepare for in advance.
- Create a Story Arc. Everything is story. Even reality. Find the challenge that your subject had to overcome. This is the high point of the story, and you can work backwards from it as you develop questions to lead up to the main high point. Also think of what might hook in viewers to this story. How can you elicit that bit of the story arc? Then think about how the story ends. What’s a good way to help your subject get to this conclusion?
- Reverse Engineer Your Questions. Reviewing your research notes, your pre-interview notes, and your draft story arc. Then build questions that can elicit those answers and topics. The goal is not to control every moment, but to help support your subject as they reveal their story. people always ask me if I send interview questions in advance. Absolutely not! Send a list of topics, sure. But don’t give away your questions that are designed to elicit a story arc or you will find yourself interviewing someone who has over-prepared. If someone tells you that you MUST send questions, send three or four but write them related to themes. Get into the specifics on site.
Look, we all know that nothing is ever set in stone when you conduct an interview with a “real person” (i.e. not an actor or someone highly media-trained) on camera. Good preparation makes the shooting and editing process go much more smoothly.
This blog post is based on one of the chapters of my new book The Producer’s Playbook: Real People on Camera (Focal/Routledge). Order copies here. For more details on specific interviewing techniques and post-production strategies for working with interviews, see my Lynda.com courses here: Amy’s stuff on Lynda.com
Trick question. The important query is WHY? Why will this information be better conveyed through graphics than through, say, a more documentary approach with powerful interviews or a personal story? Why will the audience care more about the content when this infographic ends? Once you’ve answered why, you can get to WHAT.
Info-graphics for Issue Advocacy
Sometimes, infographics can be used to tell a powerful emotional story that must convey facts and figures but also turn that data into advocacy. In this wonderful piece called The Girl Effect, music plays a powerful role in drawing us into the story line. By the end, we want to take action!
Info-graphics to Inform
Sometimes the goal is actually to DE-personalize highly emotional or difficult content, so people can absorb it and act on it.
In this info-graphic video I produced for a children’s hospital, we decided to use animated characters rather than interviews with doctors and nurses. Our goal was to help parents of very sick children admitted to the Pediatric ICU understand how to better participate in their care. Our creative team and consulting parent advisory group decided that parents already see enough “talking heads” in the ICU, so that our piece would take a different approach with friendly characters and a friendly, soft-spoken voice-over. We also wanted to be able to translate the graphic into multiple languages. The finished info-graphic appears on monitors at a child’s beside, part of an internal “TV” system within the hospital.
Infographics for Branding
TIAA (formerly TIAA Cref) decided to hedge its bets and use both the personal story approach and an infographic one to roll out its new brand. Here’s a look at the TIAA brand story using real people and commercial-style footage:
Here’s the same brand in an info-graphic approach:
Right away, the first difference you notice between these two cuts is the music. While one approach is poignant, the other is in your face. My guess is the creators decided there were two audiences to reach—one an older person thinking about the next generation, and one a younger person looking ahead to their future. The two distinct approaches work well for each audience.
One of the great things about infographics is that you don’t necessarily need to make way for a narrator. As with the TIAA piece, a brief story told entirely without spoken words can get across not just your message, but your brand personality. In this case, the creators are trying to tell us “TIAA is an up-to-date institution. This is not your father’s TIAA.”
Whatever approach you decide, infographics require a very specific and disciplined workflow in order to stay on budget.
- Define the Look. You need to decide the approach, which might take a few rounds of “look boards” before you come to a decision.
- Define the Specs. It’s important before starting any video project—animation or otherwise—to determine the output specs from the start. What is the screen size and frame rate? Will you be showing this on a big screen from a ProRes file or on the web from a Quicktime or H.264 file?
- Whether or not spoken words are involved, there is still a written script that tells the animator exactly what happens in each frame. I often use approximating clip art or stills to help the artist understand what I’m going for.
- Key Frames. These are still frames that map out the entire story line before it’s animated. Settling on the right key frames for each part of the story will save you from costly re-animating expenses.
- If the story has a narrator, this must be tracked as timing with animation is precise to fractions of a second. If there is only music, this still needs to be settled on so the timing works precisely. (If there is going to be a post-score, then the artist may still want to work to what is known as a “temp track” or even a “click track” to keep the pulse exact.)
- Once script is locked, soundtrack is in and script is approved, you’re ready to start animating your sequences. There may be several approval rounds within this step.
- Final output and mixing. Getting back to those first specs, you’ll need to output whatever versions you need for live events, online, email campaigns, etc.
Amy DeLouise is a director/producer and author of the book The Producer’s Playbook: Real People on Camera (Focal Press/Routledge).
Who isn’t intrigued by the storytelling capabilities of Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR)? My friend and colleague Danilda Martinez shares some of her experiences exploring this new frontier of media-making. Check out her post!
VR and The Quest to Free Local Space from its Boundaries
By Danilda Martinez, guest blogger
My partners and I founded Immersive Spaces earlier this year with the goal of bringing a seamless VR offering to our local community and businesses. West Palm Beach, Florida has both a warm local vibe and a swank international appeal all at once. We knew that whatever we brought to market here had to feel world-class, not clunky, and accessible. Immersive Spaces started mainly with real estate tours, and we’ve organically evolved into other spaces like galleries, and entertainment.
The challenge was that producing 360-video through a traditional production approach is time-consuming and expensive. Not many local businesses have this kind of budget for marketing and content creation, especially for something as new as new virtual reality. So we had to find acquisition and editing technology that would work for our budget. We also had to consider lighting, and tried to take advantage of the best possible ambient lighting since moving lighting fixtures in and out of shots can affect the ability to “stitch” them together efficiently in post.
Exploring VR Tools
With that in mind, we approached the whole process from the end-user and client’s perspectives, which lead us to focus on acquiring technology that would produce fluid intuitive feeling tours for the end-user, and speedy turnaround for our clients. After researching options for gear and services we chose to work with Matterport, a turn-key solution which has proven to be the most effective solution for our start-up, offering affordability and quick turnarounds for us and our clients. Rather than shoot everything with a traditional 3D set up, using production cameras or Go-Pro rigs, and Cinema 4D or Kolor for stitching, we purchased Matterport’s camera and use their cloud service to stitch and manage the 3D scans. The “Dollhouse” is a feature our clients and their audiences love, and it is essentially a 3D birdseye view of the space that can be interacted with so you select where to go next in the space.
While we wouldn’t use Matterport for producing traditional 360 video narratives because of its limited options for shooting flexibility and post-production, for now we can get VR projects going while we take our time exploring other in-house options. At the heart of it all, we’re just having fun with new VR technology while connecting our community to the world both virtually and literally. We have an exciting year ahead of us as we constantly look to push the limits of how our local community uses VR in telling its stories through exploring space.
Danilda Martinez is the Chief Space Agent for Immersive Spaces in West Palm Beach, FL Her work can be found at www.ImmersiveSpaces.com and at facebook.com/immersivespaces.
Through the wonderful serendipity of conferences, I got into an extended conversation with a film educator about what film students, and particularly young women, can do to better position themselves for careers in the technical fields of our industry. As someone who hires production teams regularly, and meets many starting out in our industry when I speak at events like NAB Show or interact with my online students on Lynda.com, here are a few ideas to consider.
Credit others, too. When you are just getting started, you are probably not the Director unless it’s your student film. So, if you were the AC on a shoot, be sure to identify the production company and DP (we probably know them and may want to contact them to verify your work).
Be concise. One of my students recently sent me a draft resume of 3 pages, which I reduced to one. He’s got terrific camera department credits, but he’s only been working for 4 years, so one page is sufficient.
Provide references. This might seem self-evident, but your references should say nice things about you. I had a young woman once provide my firm as a reference when she had quit her summer internship with us about a week into it, and not shown up to an important shoot. Hmmm.
Social media. Remember prospective employers will be checking out your Twitter feed, your Facebook page, your blog. Since a lot of millennial crew members use Snapchat, someone on the team might have seen your posts there, too. I’m not suggesting being someone other than who you are, but think about how these reflect on your personal and professional brand.
Apply for appropriate jobs/Help others. I recently put out a call for a Set PA on our DC Women in Film and Video list-serve and got dozens of resumes from DP’s. I’m not likely to consider these folks for DP work, since they didn’t seem able to read instructions. Only one of them prefaced their email with “I realize you’re not looking for a DP for this shoot, but…” etc. Even that is not really a great way to market. I was much more excited about an email from a DP telling me about a Set PA she thought was terrific, and giving me that person’s contact info. You’ve been helpful to me so now I’m going to keep you on my short list or try to be helpful to you in some way. Karma!
Send only as a PDF. ‘Nuff said.
Balance student work with paid work. Make sure you are posting those clips that best represent your best qualities. A brief line of explanation is helpful—i.e. “I was able to bring this low-budget feature in on time, and on budget, with a team of 6.”
The sizzle reel. I have mixed feelings about these. They can be overly selective and not representative of your work. On the other hand, for aspiring DP’s, editors, and graphics designers, they can be very helpful in demonstrating to a prospective client/employer your unique voice or style. You need to update regularly, so that can become costly/time intensive.
Offer links on your resume. You can include links to your work on company websites, YouTube or Vimeo pages, just be sure to make clear what your credits are on the show.
Be polite, be bold. At conferences, workshops, guest lectures, go introduce yourself (especially you, young women!). Don’t apologize. Don’t brag. Make a Specific Ask. For example, would you review my resume? Would you speak to me for 10 minutes by phone about a job offer choice I have? (Do not ask to take us to lunch or coffee!)
Say where you want to go. “I’m working towards being a DP and currently working as an AC…” “I’m a production office PA but working towards becoming an editor…” This helps the person you’re speaking to understand the big picture quickly and how they might (or may not) be able to help.
Amy DeLouise is attending the University Film and Video Conference, where she’ll be speaking on Tuesday, August 2nd at 11:30 AM about Multi-Platform Production Strategies (6P La Sirena III). Her new book, The Producer’s Playbook: Real People on Camera (Focal/Routledge) is available in the Vendor room.
The Republican Convention has been getting flack for a rough start. As someone who helps produce live events, I feel their pain and know the challenges involved. Because while participants might feel the event is just a series of speakers, if produced correctly, the experience can actually be a cohesive narrative. Attendees should come away with a positive feeling, some new information and a commitment to action, never knowing all the logistics, security sweeps, food deliveries, changing of speakers, and other details that are happening under the surface.
How is a live event a story?
A live event is a story with a main character which in most cases is not a single person but rather a company or cause. There are supporting characters, too—usually people who can help shed light on a particular aspect of the company or a particular example of the cause in action. And these characters all fit into a story arc with an introduction, a crescendo (for each plenary if there are multiple ones) and a finale. There might be break-out sessions, receptions and mixers where participants get to learn more and meet one another. And there should also be videos and multi-media elements that help elucidate key themes help the audience get to know the main characters. But at the end of the day, it’s still a story.
What are the key elements for a good live event?
Entertainment. Talking heads never win the day. You need to build in some excitement and fun. This means more than just simply bringing out a musician on stage here or there. Because even a performance must connect to the main story thread. So if your event is telling the story of homelessness in America, then the musician might be an artist who was formerly homeless. If your event is about women’s empowerment, you might create a live-on-stage showcase with cutting-edge products created by women-owned businesses. Whatever can transform the experience of the person in the room and entertain them, while also helping to make an emotional connection to your theme.
Drama. This often relates to having a big-name speaker. But it can also mean keeping your timing tight so that speakers, videos and other elements move towards a crescendo to your climactic speaker of the session. This means vetting speeches—always challenging with VIPs—and being sure they don’t overlap in content, and are as short and thematically interconnected as they can reasonably be. The last thing you want is a tired audience (or one that gets up and leaves), which is exactly what happened to Iowa Senator Joni Ernst when her speech got pushed well past prime-time and almost at midnight during the Republican Convention.
Stories. Stories are most often anecdotes from speakers that elucidate the purpose or theme of the event. As speechwriters, our first job is to interview speakers to be sure we understand their stories, which ones fit into the narrative arc of the event, and how best to write in the person’s natural voice. This is why Melania Trump was so ill-served by whomever wrote her partly plagiarized speech–Googling “first lady speeches” is never a great way to begin the writing process. It must always begin with the individual and their own story.
Video. Video is a way to tell compelling stories weaving together archival video clips, photos, interviews, music. Video can move an audience to tears, or make them rise to their feet in applause. It can tell a more textured story that a speaker can do about a cause or a person. Since I started this post talking about the Republican Convention, I should mention one of my first projects was researching a few of the archival images for the famous A Man From Hope video produced by Linda Bloodworth-Thomason that introduced Bill Clinton to the Democratic Convention in 1992 (minus the 3-min introduction now on YouTube that was not part of the original piece).
Audiences today wouldn’t be able to sit still for a 15-minute video at an event today, but this film is still a stand-out for its ability to introduce all the main characters in this family story. It helped audience members see Clinton’s vision and values within a historical context, such as his growing up in the poor south during the civil rights era and the impact of the Kennedy assassination on his vision for the future. When we produce videos for today’s events, we try to keep them to under 3 minutes, which means we don’t get to develop the texture and depth of those older interview-driven pieces. But the goal is the same: let the audience see a more intimate side of an individual or a cause, and evoke an emotional connection in the room.
Producing live events is always a challenge. And national conventions are some of the most daunting. At the end of the day, the best story will win.
Amy DeLouise is a writer-director-producer who creates content for live events. Her new book The Producer’s Playbook: Real People on Camera (Focal/Routledge) is available on Amazon.com and the Routledge website.
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.