More than once I have been filming on location – invariably at an event – and noticed other videographers in action. Naturally I’m always interested in what equipment they are using, and to some extent how they are using it. One particular thing I find curious is those operators who are not using professional grade monitoring headphones. They may have a professional camera (often something like a DLSR), a proper tripod, a shotgun microphone and even a wireless microphone setup. Yet they are listening to the recorded sound on iPod headphones. This feels like a dangerous practice. Why spend all that money on gear and then eschew the final £200 or so? Events can be noisy places. Undertaking an interview amidst all this means that a videographer needs a reliable indication of what is actually being fed into the camera. Cheap or iPod headphones just aren’t up to the task. Closed-cup headphones are a must, to cut out all the background noise reaching your ears and purely listen to the sound you WANT to hear – that which is coming from the microphones. In the past I’ve been filming in such situations and the client – who is often next to me and posing the interviewee questions – asks me whether I can hear OK. Yes I can. Everyone else is hearing all sounds equally, so it seems like the important voice is being lost in the background. I’m listening to JUST what the radio microphone – which is 6 inches from the subject’s mouth – is picking up. The loudest sound by far that it can detect is the subject’s voice. It had better be – or I’m not doing my job! The whole reason I’m using a radio mic is to focus on the subject. Using the camera’s built-in mic would be pointless. As would using open headphones – it muddies the waters. What if it’s a quiet environment? About 20% of our work is recording presentations. In this instance the camera is usually receiving sound from the venue sound desk. Yes, the audience will be quiet and the camera microphone will pick up the presenter easily – but perhaps distant and echoey. I’m interested in the sound coming from the lectern mic. Is there a buzz or a hum on the line? Are loud sounds clipping or peaking at source? I know I would not be confident in detecting these with substandard headphones. In non-live situations – like filming interviews for corporate videos – good sound and the avoidance of errors is important. Filming on client office premises often means there is potential background noise – traffic, phones, air conditioning systems, doors closing, voices. But it’s not just these ‘obvious’ things that anyone in the room may hear. It can be a split-second of interference on the microphone. The gentle rub of hair or clothing. Professional headphones allow decisions to be made – am I hearing ONLY what I want to hear? I won’t hear some things that others in the room consider intrusive, because the mic won’t pick them up to a level which is detrimental to the video. But I will hear some things that they won’t – things which do jeopardise that ‘take’. A client tends to ask for example – how was the noise of that person walking past? I’ll say it was fine – but the subject accidentally rustling the radio mic with their hair was not fine. The bottom line for me is that I don’t want to have to fix problems in the edit – and I very rarely have to. I don’t want the client to think a Take was fine when it wasn’t, and them be disappointed later. Equally I don’t want to have to redo something on the shoot when the issue was only perceived and not real. It all costs the client time and money. Compared to price of the all other video equipment, professional headphones are not expensive. Failure to invest in one of the key parts of production process means that a videographer is not caring sufficiently about the details or his craft. As video becomes more democratised and the volume of people offering it as a service grows, it doesn’t mean that the bear minimum really cuts it. More than once, when I’m trying to pack the gear as efficiently as possible, I wish I didn’t have to lug around bulky headphones. But I could never countenance not using them, as I’m duty bound to deliver the best I can for my customers.
In the 7 short years since I moved to focussing purely on 'corporate' video work, the video marketing world has simply ballooned. Not a day goes by that there aren't more upward trending stats, more advocates, more success stories. The volume of video being created by businesses of all sizes is reflected in our own figures on the retention of customers and the portfolio of the work we're being asked to do. I remember thinking when I moved out of the wedding market and into the b2b space that 'at least there will more than 1 transaction per customer'. However in the early days, there wasn't. It was predominantly one company overview then goodbye, but this was understandable. Yes, there were customers who needed semi-regular event work - many of whom continue to this day - but there's not a lot of creative or marketing value to add from my perspective when filming e.g. a seminar. It's just about turning up on time, with the right gear, and getting the basics right. What is important to us is trying to be one step ahead by e.g. reserving the likely event dates well in advance by checking client websites or looking at booking patterns. In terms of promotional video work, the rise of content marketing has shown the importance of relationships with clients - moving past the 'transactional' to be a trusted supplier. We've certainly seen that, with many more ongoing video content programmes - and not just for larger businesses. Instrumental to the success of these engagements is getting under the skin of our clients and having a 'marketing hat' on. I think one of the best illustrations of this is the client who has been with us nearly 4 years, growing rapidly through that time. Internally, staff have come and gone, suppliers and even marketing managers, but they have continued to feel they can rely on us to be on the right wavelength and make the process of 'doing video' relatively painless. We have discussions with marketing managers about new websites and how video might relate to that. How to turn one requirement for a video into an opportunity to do more than one with greater reach or better targeting. How a recent survey showed that keeping videos under 3 minutes is not the hard rule that it once was. How the move to new premises gave an opportunity to refresh the content with something much more aligned to the current position of the business. How using one visit to the client's office for a seminar shoot also leant itself to getting B-roll footage for inclusion in the corporate video, rather then coming back on a second day at additional expense. By building relationships with our clients we are emotionally and creatively invested in their video journey. For them, it fosters new opportunities for content, offers economies, and allows us to be more responsive to short notice requirements. As businesses increasingly outsource specialisms, I’d like to think that videography / video production – whatever you want to call it – should be given more of an equal footing. The inexorable rise of video as a marketing tool means that relationships with these suppliers are as important as with designers, web providers, marketing consultants etc. Seven years ago we were being introduced on location as ‘the videographer”. Nowadays it’s more likely to be “our videographer”. I think that must mean we’re doing something right.
Producing good video content is often reliant on having good audio to go with the visuals. We have a testimonial that often comes to mind, from a client who recognised that we were focussing as much on audio as video. For the type of work that we do it often isn't rocket science. For corporate work it's about close mic-ing and our weapon of choice is the lavalier (lapel) mic. Have you ever noticed on e.g. BBC how the microphone is pointing down and not up? That's a tip we got many years ago and always mic this way - I think the BBC is not a bad role model. We also do the usual things around trying to avoid phone interference and using spaces with good acoustics and low background noise where possible. When we're shooting events we carry gear so that we can get a direct audio feed from the sound desk or in-house PA wherever possible. We also have radio mics positioned in the most effective place, as well as the on-camera mic. read more
When it comes to getting your promotional video in front of its audience, be it the corporate video, the explainer, the vidcast etc., an important question is whether a “pull” or “push” approach is favoured. This is one of the things we think about and advise on at the earliest stage on the project as it can have an impact on not only the video itself but on wider things within the client's business. We've seen it first hand. read more
Making films and videos is a discipline where creativity is important, but not at the expense of technical & other skills and knowledge. When implementing video marketing for a business, as well as areas of grey (like creativity where anything is possible) there are places where there are right and wrong answers. I thought I'd have a pop at trying to identify some of the ingredients of a business video. You may want to hire for 'creativity' or on the basis of price, but there should be a lot more going on. read more
It is said that one of the best marketing tools is branded merchandise because it is paid for once and then remains in the hands of potential clients for a long time. You probably have a branded ballpoint laying in one of your desk drawers. Low unit cost, high longevity. We think business video marketing scores well on potential cost per view, cost per lead, and longevity. Let's have a look at some of the competitors. read more
Sometimes a video brief is created in a silo where a lack of relevant knowledge and/or consultation can be damaging. Expectations can be set incorrectly within the business and for the video provider. The impossible can be pre-sold. The brief can be dramatically misaligned with the budget. Stakeholders can be omitted at various stages, leading to specification changes, shoot postponements or cancellations. Failure to recce a location, seek required permissions, or keep appropriate persons in the loop can lead to disappointments. Government by committee can risk pleasing all and pleasing nobody. Here are a few examples of it not being "alright on the night"; read more
We consider that good execution of preproduction is important in the success of the video project. The list of things that can come under the umbrella of preproduction is not only huge but also very variable depending on the nature of the video project. Items on the clients tick list are predominantly of a marketing planning nature, or should be, and ours are mostly technical or creative, but the sweet spot is where all align towards the end goal. read more
This week I spoke to a prospect who had been disappointed by the previous video that his company had had produced. It is not the first time that I have heard about a company using an agency or provider who have jumped on the video bandwagon to the detriment of their client’s satisfaction. I am a firm believer in specialisms. Marketing is a discipline made up of many specialisms, and so is video production. When a client asks for a voiceover, I don’t do it myself. My overriding aim is to produce the best product I can, not to think I can do everything and charge handsomely for it. I hire a specialist. read more
Ok. I’ll own up. This blog is not going to tell you where to host your corporate video. Or any other video content you produce for your business. What is actually more important is where NOT to host your videos. I’m a passionate believer that it is not the shooting of the video that leads to more business, it is the viewing of it by the target audience. In fact, it stands to reason. That doesn’t mean that the way a video is shot, its ‘quality’, its message, its running time etc. are not important. What I mean is that the most well-crafted piece in the world is a marketing cost until it generates ROI, when it then becomes an investment. read more