Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Video By The Numbers

Over the years I have produced, directed and written many videos, ranging through commercials, television programs, corporate videos, documentaries, dramas, and more. I have been producing video projects since 1985. I worked in television as a producer a number of years as well so what I am about to say is drawn directly from real experience!

Fewer good videos are being produced today as most clients are blinded by a fascination with online experiences, limited budgets, little or no experience with the medium, an idea that today’s videos are low cost (because of cheap equipment), a feeling that anyone with a camera can produce video and the infiltration of the idea that reality TV is the future and its low cost.
A couple of quick observations before I get onto my main theme here …good videos still have to be carefully planned, good interviews are often a result of good interviewers, great footage demands a good eye for composition, understanding the audio mix, i.e., music, sound effects and voice are essential to completing  a  great video. The final significant factor in producing good video is having a director who the ability to see a video in his/her head. For me it’s like running a movie in your mind, images are crisp, bright, inspiring, unexpected, warm and human…telling a story that is compelling and always leaving your audience wanting more. It’s a lot more than a commodity.

That is why it’s so frustrating to see organizations, most institutional, breaking video projects down to numbers while ignoring the vision of a video and its powerful ability to persuade.  Films and video can inspire, incite action, and create a range of human emotions from pride to hatred. Video is and remains, a powerful medium with the potential to create change. 
Most videos today are produced by large organizations who have the budgets and the need for this medium. They are often used in a variety of ways both in events and online interactive presentations to maximize their effectiveness. They are planned in a boardroom and often bids are solicited through bidding portals such as Biddingo, Buy & Sell or Merx, to make sure that budgets get “the best band for their buck” ( sounds reasonable doesn’t it).  Most solicitation for bids come from institutions like schools, cities, various levels of government, health care institutions, national organizations, etc.   

Now this is where things begin to go awry … in boardrooms, purchasing managers, administrators and subject matter experts define the RFP using the same RFP that an organization might use to order medical equipment, sidewalk construction or bathroom tissue dispensers, mostly to protect their investment and minimize risk? The timing of the RFP governs when and how a video is produced. For example, for most government organizations in Canada, budgets are developed and reviewed between late fall and early spring, they are then submitted before March 31, year end for most public sector organizations, budgets are then approved and finalized by early summer and money trickles down to each department by mid to late summer. Most staff organizations then solicit RFPs in late summer early fall and budgets are then exhausted before year end March 31.  
Now what does this have to do with producing a good video you may ask? The natural world is an important part of any video, whether we are talking outdoor locations, geographic settings, exteriors, water features or public access facilities. The amount and quality of daylight usually have an important role to play in a video. Also, a region and its unique landscape & features often help define history, culture, the mood or emotional state and our level of engagement …and by reason should be included in any “good video”, but because of the nature of the process, however, most videos are reduced to being produced in winter. The funding formula, along with administrative processes dictate how a video will look and ignore what is best for this unique medium. As a result, most often videos are produced in winter.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I like winter but it does not hold a candle to summer when it comes to producing a video. Over the years I have produced many videos for real estate companies for example; who you would think, because they are not fettered by the government RFP process would want their development projects portrayed in the best light. Generally all are shot in the winter and stock footage is used to carry off summer settings. Orientation videos for new hires and staff for public sector organizations are all produced in winter… in fact winter is when most videos are produced in Canada, unfortunately. Canada has many varied landscapes, weather, geographic and historical sites & locations that add a great deal of dimension to a video. This is true with most videos.
It is important remember that video is an artistic medium  that is a powerful tool and to squeeze the best out of it… we often need to consider more than just numbers in the formula for great videos!   

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