If you have ever watched a webcast on the subject or looked into expert articles in the field, video marketing can seem pretty intimidating. You not only are expected to promote a product or service but you have to make it engaging to an audience within a limited time frame, have decent production value, clean editing, and a well planned campaign to market it on the Youtube or Google Display channels.
When these essential video marketing checkpoints are listed, rarely is budget or experience taken into account. The encouraging truth is that when time, budget, or experience are tight, small-scale, in-house video marketing can still be a reality. Of course this level of video marketing will be very basic and limited in comparison to top companies with nearly unlimited resources, but it is still effective for creating buzz about a product or informing customers about product application and benefits.
Being that I, an intern at the office, have only participated in the production of a handful of very simple videos and still have much to learn, I hope this piece will be taken more as an encouraging story of how video marketing is possible for even humble resources and expertise with a few tips thrown in, rather than an all-and-out guide to professional video marketing. I also intend this to be a more in-depth look into how Red Devil has approached production advertising and video marketing.
The First Milestone: Getting the Right Camera
(Image owned by oneslidephotography.com)
First of all, when it comes to video cameras for this particular purpose, it is best to have in mind what editing application or software you will be using to give a finishing touch to your videos. This is even more crucial than the resolution or visual specifics in my opinion, especially for the initial corporate camera. This is due to the tedium and sometimes complete incompatibility that can result from a camera that doesn’t sync up with your editing software or computer.
We use a very specific editing program so I had to find a camera that explicitly promised to work with this software. Surprisingly, many cameras could only suppose or generally claim to work with popular editing software so it may take reading into reviews, blog posts, forum, or other sources of web community input and experience with each camera to confirm its application.
The second priority was finding one that had a quality built-in microphone system and several sound modes. Red Devil really needed a camera that could be multi-dimensional and perform several roles where external equipment would typically be needed. Mikes and sound stabilizers can get pretty expensive.
Within these specifications, I was able to narrow the choice to two cameras. The marketing department ended up going with one that was perfect for the context of high quality, low budget, in-house video marketing because it is capable of up to 200x digital zoom for up close product shots, it has an easy to use touchscreen interface, five sound modes for any amount of noise/narrator control you need, auto smart modes that adjust to most lighting, sound, and composition, and a great auto focus for moving shots.
Tales from the Script: Writing the Production Screenplay
I don’t follow any formal system for the Red Devil scripts. This is mainly because so many re-writes and trimming happens in the beginning that simplicity and clarity are better to keep track of spoken lines and editing notes. The most exposition will most likely be in the production notes which are for the purpose of planning out what a scene will accomplish visually and what editing will need to be done. The production note also tags which editing note belongs with which scene. Here is an example of what this looks like: [Production]: Scene 10- Cuts without transition to a still image (without any Ken Burns effect or zoom initialization) of a person or a group of people painting or repairing a wall. As the narrator references product information, this information is listed on screen in centered, bold, colored letters. There is a large still image of the Patch & Prime spackling just under this font.
When it comes to the content of the scripts, there is usually no storytelling involved, but rather a focus on what a product is capable of and how to use it effectively. This is actually a very appropriate approach for a limited amount of production resources. Video marketing with a high degree of cinematic storytelling with a clear conflict, action, and resolution is best for a medium-large budget because actors, animators, professional screenwriters, high-end editing, or outsourcing to video marketing production houses may be required to get the end result that will attract and engage an audience on web video channels. This is not to say that it is impossible to get creative on a limited budget, but it may be more of a challenge then an informational approach.
Within the scale of basic product information and application pointers, including official product ad-copy at the right points can help. This could be general things like “easy cleanup” or what materials an adhesive can be used on. These points may be reiterated at the beginning and end of a video to drive home the selling points of a product. Here’s another example, [Narrator]: Scene 10- What I love about it is that it reduces indoor air pollution, accepts latex or oil-based paints, and cleans up easily with water.The middle of a video is usually the best time for demonstrating the correct application of the product or going in-depth into what differentiates our products from competing products or methods.
As I stated in the beginning, there will be many rewrites involved in video advertising and marketing, so do not get too attached to one particular version of a script. Product info that was relevant last month may be obsolete next week. Towards the close of production, I usually have about three versions or more versions of a script. The original, the revised, and the narrator’s version of the script.
Capturing the Magic: Filming the Video
(Image owned by rinteractive.net)
This is actually one of my weak points and I’m fortunate to have really supportive marketing superiors in the department that help me to adjust a shot and setup the composition of a scene correctly. What I plan to do in the future and what I highly recommend that aspiring, non-experienced video marketers like myself practice, is putting together thumbnail sheets or panels (like a comic book) of each shot that needs to be captured. Each thumbnail should effectively capture the composition of a shot needed for the intended impact or message being communicated. If the correct composition of a shot as scripted is confusing even at this point (as it can be for me) you can use example pictures from the internet as an example if they are relevant and close to the intended shot ideal. You could also have your supervisor or superior verify your thumbnails several times before shooting takes place. This will make setting up a shot that much easier and effective as well as prevent wasting time and camera memory on throwaway shots.
In addition to this prep for production set-up, it is a good idea to have several copies of a list of production materials needed for the shoot beforehand. The key here is to think ahead on every level you can think of regarding what is being shot and how that can be accomplished. It is also a good idea to consider worst-case scenarios and variables or mistakes that may occur. In general, this list will include in-shot product materials, application/product context materials, set design materials, camera set-up materials, and clean-up/or touch-up materials. I wouldn’t recommend stepping a foot towards your shooting location without double-checking the list and gathering the materials to be used.
If your editing software doesn’t include an option for turning live shots into still images, make sure you capture as many still shots of the overall script context as possible. There will be many times where a relevant still image can complete the needed overall processing and transition time of a video as well as clarify meaning.
It also helps if your editing software has audio layering capabilities, because this will allow you to shoot audio and video separately. This is not the only way to approach shooting and layering audio, but it makes it easier to edit and organize these files later on, helps the narrator/actor’s focus, and gives it a quality finish. In addition, this makes it easier to augment poor quality line readings without disturbing the overall video flow.
Lastly, don’t forget to adjust your camera’s capture features to appropriate levels for the environment you will be shooting in (florescent lighting, sunlight, etc.), desired audio focus (100% sound pickup vs. dictation audio feed), or scene composition (extreme close-up, movement, stabilization, digital zoom, etc.). As an alternative, your camera may have a reliable auto-adjust for simple videos.