Category Archives: Project Planning

A Macro Minute – Battle of the Cams

I believe that multi-functional technology is generally over rated when in comes to image creation.  If you want good stills, use a still camera.  If you want good video, use a video camera.  They are built to do their respective functions very well.  Video cameras, on the consumer level, are not meant to take great photos.  The fact that they come with that feature has limited functionality.  I usually advise not to depend on it for superior print quality images.

I put that to the test this week.  I used the still feature on my Sony handheld camcorder to take some macros and see how they fared against the stills from my dedicated Sony still cam.  With macro setting on and in full sunlight, the results were pretty impressive.  See below.

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I had taken similar photos closer to dusk with both my video cam and still.  The still camera handled the low light better than the video camera, giving me more usable images to work with.

Even my iPhone under the right conditions garnered some good results.

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I still believe in dedicated technology for quality productions.  However, if you set aside the time to really learn the settings on the gear you have and the best conditions they operate under you can develop technique that will allow you to do more than you think you can.

Copyright 2013 Digital Design Digest

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Filed under A Macro Minute, Getting the Right Gear, Photography, Project Planning

Digital Marketing on a Budget

Do not let a tight budget keep you from rolling out a digital marketing plan.  In the digital information age and a lousy economy constant, consistent communication is key.  You don’t need the best gear to accomplish this.  You can do more than you think with consumer level gear.  Technique and planning is what matters most.

Check out this video on basic photo editing with iPhoto.  As described, the photo was taken with a point and shoot camera on macro setting.  Care was taken to make sure there was sufficient lighting, though not at any great expense.  The background used was a basic white poster board and white paper.

A good practice to get into is to photograph everything on the highest quality setting your camera will allow.  It is easier to scale down a large image for web and video than to try to scale up a lower quality image for print.  It also gives you more flexibility in cropping an image and still maintain print quality size.

Mastering your marketing media on a budget is all about keeping your options open.  With that in mind I leave you with one last piece of advice: do not edit your original photo.  Make a backup and edit the copy.  That way you can go back to the original and repurpose it more easily.

Copyright 2013 Digital Design Digest

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The Multi-Camera Field Shoot

One camera is better than none when trying to preserve memories or information from an event.  Some events lend themselves nicely to the one-camera shoot where zooming in and out occasionally gives you everything you need for visual variety.  There are other events where having at least a second camera, is beneficial if not critical to the mission.

Why Multi-Camera?

It’s all about choices.  In scripted videography you have the benefit of being able to shoot the same shot at multiple angles and as both a close-up and wide-shot.  Event videography does not afford you the same opportunity.  There are no do-overs.

The multi-camera setup allows you to have at least one camera set on a wide-shot all the time and another camera roving on close-up shots.  Editing is where you marry the two together in what will hopefully be a visually more appealing video than if it were a one camera shoot.  The wide shot is your base shot or safety shot where you know you will not miss any action.  Your additional cameras are your b-roll capturing the same activity close-up and at different angles.

The Plan

I am writing this for producers who intend to edit their footage later rather than mix on the fly during the event.  The plan still has applicability either way, but it is written with editing in mind.

The Cameras

You’ll need to know how many cameras you are running ahead of time.  Determine your position for each of the cameras relative to the action and decide which camera / operator will do the wide shot and which will do the roving close-up shots.  Yes, you really should have a camera operator for the wide shot. If for no other reason than to make sure the camera does not get knocked into in a crowd and ruin the shot. The other reason being that you will hang your main audio off the wide shot and will need a knowledgeable crew member to monitor audio during the show.

If you are just running two cameras you can have them run side by side. If you were to add a third camera you would want your wide shot in the middle and a camera angled on either side for roving close-ups and pan shots.  Make sure each camera/operator is assigned a role and sticks to it. The last thing you want to find out in editing is that both of your cameras took the exact same shot.

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Audio

As mentioned above, your wide shot camera will capture the main audio.  You will want to make sure the person running that camera is also comfortable in monitoring and adjusting audio levels.  You will want to make sure that the other cameras in your setup can capture some level of audio.  This audio is important for syncing all the footage from the various cameras in editing, but will be discarded from the final product.

Syncing

The final piece to this setup is syncing all the cameras.  This is extremely important.  All the cameras must start and stop at the same time and at the same intervals so they have the same time code in editing. For example; if you know your event is to begin at 7:00pm, make sure all your cameras start recording at 6:55pm.  The cameras should not stop recording until two minutes after the event has ended.  This buffer of time at the beginning and end of footage from each camera will allow the editor to sync all the footage once and proceed with editing.  If one of the cameras stops for 5 minutes in the middle of the show and the others keep recording then there will be a sync issue somewhere in the middle of the footage.  That will result in extra time for the editor to find the issue and re-sync additional points in the footage.

Prepping for the Event

Heading into an event, videographers will want to ask the event planner several questions;

  • Can you describe or provide a diagram of the layout of the room?
  • Are there power outlets available?
  • How much flexibility do I have for camera placement?
  • Depending on camera placement, how much traffic will be moving round the cameras?

The more information you can get up front the easier it will be to plan for gear needed and prepare your crew for the event. Setup will go smoother if you can walk in with a game plan.

Copyright 2013 Digital Design Digest

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Filed under Project Planning, Video Production

Social Media – Prior Post Planning

I am not a spur of the moment person.  I take my time, think things over, have a cup of coffee and think it over again.  My process would seem contrary to the live stream, immediate gratification model of social media.  Social media thrives on the think it post it model where posting occurs while the thought is still in progress and not fully fleshed out.  I sit down most days with the intention of coming up with something witty to post on these global broadcast streams always to come up short.  The question I always ask myself is…”Why would anyone care about this?” The answer most of the time is, “They wouldn’t care.  It’s just digital noise.”

“Why would anyone care?” is a good question to ask before posting.  Just like in video production, social media has an audience, and you need to know who your audience is and what they care about in order for your posting efforts to mean something. Embedding meaning in anything requires some thought, which requires time, which results in seemingly less spontaneity.

To start, take an information inventory of items your audience could be interested in.

  • Upcoming events
  • News articles
  • Videos
  • Pictures
  • Tips

Open up a Word document and write out each item as its own paragraph.   Each paragraph could easily be it’s own Facebook post.  Pared down, most could also be posted on Twitter with an accompanying link.  As a consumer of information I find posts with links most gratifying since Twitter posts in general do not relay much info. With only 140 characters available you have to love your links.

Many of these information nuggets can be reposted in the course of the month.  Why?  Most social media is a news-feed model.  Post it and in no time it moves down the feed, out of site and is replaced by newer information.  Not everyone will see the post the first time you post it.  For timeless information or events that are further out on the calendar you can re-post.

Participating in this inventory exercise at least once a month will get you in the habit of regularly putting your marketing hat on. The exercise need only take an hour or two total to come up with your inventory sheet of posts, complete with relevant links where appropriate.

With list in hand, set a schedule for yourself of what you will post and where.  The rest is just a matter of copy and paste, rinse, repeat.

Copyright Digital Design Digest 2013

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The Field Shoot Backup Plan

Part of planning for any production is identifying your vulnerabilities and having a backup plan should something go wrong.  The last thing you want is to waste a client’s time and money because something did not come together the day of the shoot.  You cannot reasonably afford the overhead of purchasing doubles of all your equipment.  There are, however, some key pieces that are worth the investment of owning multiples and traveling with them during every shoot.

Audio Cords

An item that connects your microphone to your camera or audio mixer.  You would not get sound without it, and it is likely one of the least expensive items you will own in a field setup.  This cord is made of wire and pins that will age over time or is subject to damage from being bent or stepped on.  When it fails you will get static, intermittent sound until you get nothing at all.

On a field shoot bring one cord for each microphone you will use and at least one extra in case there is a failure.  If you can afford it, bring additional cords.  Audio cords can be daisy chained together to provide extra length.

Microphones

If well cared for microphones will last a long time.  You will replace audio cords more frequently.  If your budget allows for it, an extra microphone or two will not only assure you are covered if there is a failure but it will also add a great deal of flexibility to what you can shoot.  There are different microphones for different purposes.  As you add the number of people for whom you need to capture audio you eventually need to add microphones to assure the highest quality sound.  A few extra microphones in the field kit will have you prepared if people are added to a shoot last minute.

Power Supplies

Identify all the gear that requires batteries.  Make sure you travel with extra batteries for each item and that they are fully charged. Don’t use battery power unless you have to.

Always travel with the power cords to your gear and use that as your first option.  Battery power should be reserved for the times when power cords are not an option such as:

  • Tight, crowded spaces where cording is too hazardous.
  • Outdoor footage.
  • Other locations where there is no easy access to an outlet.

Go into each event fully loaded with all of your power options.  Shoots sometime go longer than expected, accidents happen and things get dropped and sometimes atmosphere can drain a battery down more quickly than at other times.  You may have been told outlets were going to be available to you, but then the location changes last minute or it turns out the plug does not work.  Stay flexible by building options into your gear.

Blank Media

Tapes, DVDs, and SD cards. They will fill up quick if a shoot goes longer than planned or there is just more great footage to capture than anticipated.  Sometimes you end up with a lemon that won’t record anything.  You can’t make lemonade out of that.  If you don’t have a backup you don’t have a show.

Tripod Shoes

It is the thing that attaches the camera to the tripod. They are just so small that it is easy to misplace one.  Your backup plan without a tripod would be to film handheld, which would produce shaky video or try to construct a make-shift support last minute which would limit your ability to pan and tilt for shot adjustment.  Better to purchase a second shoe as backup.

In general, it is a good idea to test your gear out once a month and again before every shoot.  You can still address issues the day before a shoot, even if it is to reschedule it because there was a major failure, like your camera.  This is not something you want to discover as you set up for the shoot, if you can avoid it.

Copyright 2013 Digital Design Digest

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Music First – Using Music to Set Tone and Pace in Business Videos

Music can make or break a production.  If used correctly it can set a tone for each scene and carry the viewer through a video.  If not given proper attention, music can dull the emotional effect of a production and become more of a distraction and detractor from the content.  This is as true for box office productions as it is for documentaries and training videos alike.

Many of my productions are documentary and training videos and music is always forefront in my mind, even in the early phases of scripting. It is these early stages where tone and pace are often determined and music can play a big role in driving and enhancing those elements.

First Impressions

Regardless of the type of video being done, I like to introduce a production with either an energetic, upbeat piece or at least something mellow but cheerful.  Even if some of the content is going to be difficult to digest later on (there are tunes for that) you want the introduction of the video on the whole to be inviting to your audience. Choose introductory music that will make a good first impression and invite people in to the viewing experience.  This will also likely be the closing score to your production as you summarize content seen and run closing credits.

If the video being produced is part of a series than choose an opening score that will remain the same for all videos to be produced in the series.  You may want to use different music for introducing videos that are not part of a series.  This sets them apart in some ways and creates a different identity.

Traveling Tunes

Some productions lend themselves nicely to having a permanent score run softly underneath the main dialogue of the video.  Such traveling tunes should never compete with the dialogue.  The base score can change from segment to segment in order to maintain an appropriate tone, but it will likely not be as dramatic as if it were the main audio.

Music as Main Audio

It is possible to tell a story or grab attention with great music and visuals.  If you get music with a solid, distinct beat you can sync up your images to change with the most definable beat of the music.  Different than the traveling tunes, this use of audio sets music as a truly defining element of a production.  It is a dynamic way to condition the viewer that with each beat of the drum, the image is going to change, bringing new information, and emotion.

Transitional Pieces

Any video that has multiple segments usually has one consistent transitional audio piece that signifies the end of one segment and the beginning of another.  Usually this audio is accompanied by a graphic that visually introduces the segment at hand.  Transitional audio can start out running very low at the end of one segment, fade to full volume at the graphic and fade out heading into the next segment, or, it can be more succinct and stay within the confines of the transition graphic.

Transitional audio can be a shortened version of the introductory score or a different composition altogether.  Depending on the type of video being produced, transitional audio may even be more of a sound effect.

Give music its proper place in production priorities.  Move it to the top of the list and be thinking about it during the scripting phase of a project.  Music can be a viewer’s first impression, it can tie together a whole production and set the mood for each segment.  Check out this blog post on using royalty free production elements and work from other artists in your next production. Video preview below.

Copyright © 2012 Digital Design Digest

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The Value of Going Viral On a Local Level

Many viral videos often happen by accident, not by design.   Videos are posted to YouTube by the casual videographer with a little social network promotion, but the intent is to just sit back and see who watches.  Every now and then such random videos go viral – attracting millions of views from around the world very quickly.  It makes news headlines, is circulated through social media as the newest discovery and creates a flurry of wonder over why and how it got all this attention (Justin Bieber?). Most of the time a viral video is no more than pure entertainment.  We all need a good laugh (Mentos & Coke Fountains) or some inspiration (Susan Boyle).   When a video comes along that fills that need we are more likely to watch it and then share it with our social networks, who, will then share it with their networks. If you are a business, a non-profit or an individual with something to share your main goal should be identifying your audience, their needs and the networks that will get your video circulated. Going viral, on a global scale, is not the goal.

Your Audience and the Relativity of Going Viral

Not every video is meant for a global audience or even a national one.  A small clothing business may choose to highlight its spring line by creating a series of fashion demo videos such as scarf tying, color combinations and accessorizing.  This small, brick and mortar operation may only conduct sales in-store.  It will use their online presence to stay connected to their customers by sending them useful information about fashion and how their product ties in with that information.  Hopefully the information is dynamic enough that it is shared and results in a draw into their store and, ultimately, some sales.

 View Quality, as Defined by Your Audience, Counts More than View Quantity

A video is not going to help your business just by posting it on YouTube.  Video is another tool in your marketing arsenal to help make your audience aware you exist.   A small clothing business with one or two locations in its home state is mainly concerned with targeting an in-state audience.  The fact that their videos are viewed overseas does not do anything for their domestic sales, especially if this small business does not do overseas commerce.  What matters more is that the video is circulated in areas within close proximity to the place of business.  The video should be

  • posted on the company’s website in a conspicuous place;
  • sent to existing customers in e-blasts;
  • posted on the company’s social media such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn pages

YouTube has a great statistics feature that not only shows when and how many views a video has but also location demographics right down to the state it was viewed.  If a business really wants to know if a video made a difference, offer a small discount to anyone who purchases something and mentions the video.  The point of the video is to draw more people to your business.  You are not going to get a sales conversion from global viewership if you are catering to a much smaller demographic.  Build and market your video to your target demographic. Two hundred views from your target demographic means more than two thousand from anywhere else.

 The Needs of Your Audience

Now that you have defined your demographic audience you need to figure out what their needs are and how a video can satisfy that.  More often than not, the biggest need is for that of information.

Product demos are a great way to give your audience a 360 degree real world view of the product.  Keep the information centered strictly on product how-to and product characteristics.  Talk about materials that create the product, do a walk through of product setup, and cover all the ways the product can make the consumers life more efficient.

If your product is more service oriented or instructional, consider filming a short lesson. Ask each instructor to film a short demo video that can be posted and shared via the internet.  What you are giving is the opportunity for the consumer to experience your service and decide if it is a good fit.

Do not burden the video with weekly sales information.  People do not want to be sold something.  They want to know if it will meet their needs, will it last and how it works.  Let this timeless information be the main objective of your video.   The most important company information you can include in a video is how a customer can contact your company to inquire about the product.

Sales information can be added independently in the webpage, tweet or post. This method allows the video to get more mileage by keeping the content timeless and relevant to the product.  The video can be worked into temporary sales campaigns or used in other marketing without additional editing.

 It All Comes Down to Networking

 A video is another tool in your marketing arsenal; a proxy that allows you to represent your business, product or idea to the masses when you cannot be in multiple places at once. Video can only do this if people know it exists.

  • Start by making it known within the network you have such as your website, social media, chamber of commerce and e-blasts.
  • Remember to repost the video periodically, especially if it fits in with various marketing campaigns.  People will not see everything you post the first time you post it.  It may also not be relevant to some viewers during the first posting but will be on the second or third posting.
  • Ask your current followers to share the video with anyone in their network who may be interested.

It is important to let customers know they can get the best price from you.  Video marketing is another form of customer service that also let customers know you are the place to go for solid product information.  Both types of marketing require frequent exposure to be effective.  Persistence and patience is key.

In an economy where the consumer wants assurances on the value of their purchase it becomes more important than ever for a company to show consumers where the value is well before a purchase is made.   The mission here is not to post a video that is an overnight global sensation, but to produce a video that meets your audiences needs and makes it easy for them to tell their social network that you can meet their needs as well.

Copyright © 2012 Digital Design Digest

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