Archive for the ‘Nonprofit video’ Category

The Evolution of Video Production, Part 2

July 23, 2012
As the video industry continues to evolve at an exponential rate, it becomes increasingly important for video production houses to stay ahead of the curve. Evolving with the market is no easy trick, but it’s also not a foreign concept to Voices & Visions’ principals Ellen Friedland and Curt Fissel, who’ve been in the business since the nineties. They’ve successfully made the switches from linear to digital and from SD to HD, and they are excited about the latest turn: video going social. video production new jersey, video production new york, curt fissel, ellen friedland, voices and visions, corporate video production
As an active user of LinkedIn since its inception, Ellen names it as her top network, stating, “I listen to a lot of conversations happening on LinkedIn and read articles showcasing statistics about everything related to video, which keeps me up to date on trends in the industry.” Ellen uses this information to inform her conversations with clients. “We make sure that what we do and what our clients do is in harmony with the latest marketing information related to video,” she says.
A big influencer in the social video world is YouTube, and since it is owned by Google, it serves as its own search engine for video. “Google values quality and substance in its text and videos,”  Ellen notes. “Pre-Google’s ownership of Youtube, home videos of people’s dogs walking across the floor were acceptable, and even companies grew accustomed to the unprofessional nature of many of the video postings. Today people recognize that they need to have professional videos.” The quality of the videos is not the only trend Ellen has noticed Google preferring; she believes the quantity of videos matters as well. “It’s my understanding that Google pays attention to sites that post numerous substantive videos,” she tells clients. She adds that additional videos need not multiply the costs of production. Says Ellen: “The amount of video captured and the time spent editing may be the same whether one longer video or several shorter videos are produced.”
This shift to shorter, more numerous videos is just another in a long line of industry transformations for Voices & Visions’ senior editor, Curt, who considers the changes all part of the job. He names professional seminars, conferences and active involvement in user groups as his primary sources of information gathering. While these activites are very time-consuming, Curt recognizes that, “this is the profession I’ve chosen to immerse myself in, and I want to stay on top of it.” His reference to staying current is focused on both the changing styles of video production as well as  the software editors use to produce them.
After the switch from linear to digital, Curt became proficient on the AVID editing system, which he used for 10 years. Several years ago he made the switch to, Final Cut Pro, to which he now feels a strong alliance. “The ease of Final Cut Pro, when working with a Mac, made the transition necessary,” he says. Curt is, however, open-minded to ever-new technologies, which is how he’s been able to stay ahead of the game.
At the most recent National Association of Broadcasters conference, it became clear that industry choices have expanded to include other systems, like Adobe Premiere. Curt appreciates the creativity of all the new offerings and never opposes adopting new software that improves on the old.
Conferences like the annual NAB and sites like LinkedIn help small businesses to gain footing in the never-ending tidal waves of industry shifts.. But that’s not enough; it also takes a willingness – and excitement — to be ready to learn and implement the next best products and services.
Read Video Production, Part 1

Tip of the Week

July 19, 2012
This week’s tip comes from our writer and producer, Ellen:
ellen friedland, voices and visions, new jersey video production, new york video production
When traveling to other cultures, learn about the culture to which you’re traveling:
Back in 1995, when we were doing a lot of work in Poland, I went to the store and bought a Polish language audio cassette. I decided if I was going to be in Poland, I needed to know certain words and expressions: Thank you, please, where is the bathroom, right, left, straight. After many rewinds, I learned some of the basics, which made it so much easier to get around. People also responded more helpfully and enthusiastically because they realized I was trying to take part in their culture.

The Evolution of Video Production, Part 1

July 17, 2012
It seems that humans have always possessed desire to record events: from cave drawings to great artistic masterpieces, to photographs and motion pictures. This need to convey stories has evolved with technological innovation, presenting ever-new opportunities for industries in the storytelling business. Corporate video production, of course, is one such  industry.
curt fissel, ellen friedland, voices and visions productions, new jersey video production, new york video production, video marketing, professional video production
“This has been an extremely challenging industry as there have been a number of huge shifts: first from the linear world to the digital world,” said V&V’s Chief Producer Ellen Friedland, referring to the days when editing a video for clients meant only two options in transitions: cuts and dissolves (generated with special machinery). “Digital editing is a completely different ballgame than linear editing was and required completely new skills,” said Ellen, who relied on V&V Senior Editor, Curt Fissel, to master the new possibilities.
Evolving with the changing technology has been an ever-present theme throughout Curt’s career. “When I started in television news, we were shooting 16mm film and we literally had to cut the film,” he said. “At V&V we moved over from linear editing in 1998, which is when we got our first AVID editing system.” The next big shift in editing came with the jump from standard-definition video (SD) to high-definition video (HD). That was when Curt leapt into a then-newer new technology: Final Cut Pro. “The ease of Final Cut Pro, when working from a Mac, made the transition necessary,” he said, demonstrating another defining personality characteristic: the ability to adapt.
new jersey video production, new york video production, video editing, post production, curt fissel The Internet also played a major role in shifting the landscape of the video production industry. Says Ellen: “In 2005, which was the year that Google bought YouTube, everyone began to recognize that video would have a real place on the web.” As we know, this did not necessarily mean that professionally produced videos would be highly valued. In fact, the high volume of unprofessional videos initially made it harder on professional video houses. “For a little while there was a sense of ‘DIY videos are fine’,” Ellen said. “But now people recognize the value of professional created video products.” Ellen credits this in part to Google’s evolving algorithms, which rank  substantive videos higher in search results.
Curt offered this colorful metaphor with regard to DIY videos: “You can run a coat hanger down a stuck drain, or you can call a plumber. Same thing with video production.” With the constant evolutions in technology and marketing, it pays to find professionals who are committed to staying ahead of the curve. “It’s really important to be aware of where the industry is transitioning and to be knowledgeable and equipped to move in those directions,” said Curt.  “It will never be stationary.”

Read Video Production, Part 2

Tip of the Week

July 11, 2012
This week’s tip comes from our Director of Operations, Krystal:
voices and visions, director of operations, krystal sancho
Encourage a policy of openness in the office

From the get-go, make communication a big part of your culture. If an employee has an issue, he or she needs to feel like you are open to listening. Be understanding about important events in employees’ lives that occur outside of the workplace. When people feel valued they work harder and are more willing to help out in the event of a crisis or setback.

Corporate Video Production: An Idea A Day: Day 9

December 9, 2011

Last in the series of nonprofit video productions that I have written about this week, today’s blog is not accompanied by video because it focuses on a client who runs a battered women’s shelter. This is a sticky area for video: Always reliant on substantial funding, organizations like this require video to make emotionally moving points, yet ensuring the absolute privacy of their beneficiaries is paramount. Our video production company was delighted to have the challenge of aligning these seemingly contradictory needs.

We advised the client to focus solely on the stories of three of their clients. We understood that the video would have impact if viewers got wrapped up in the unfolding of events as told by the women who underwent them. No statement by an executive of the organization telling viewers in a third party way about their clients’ tales of violence or directly making a pitch for funding would be nearly as effective as hearing the obvious needs from the victims.

Finding the spokeswomen, of course, was up to our client. They opted for two women who had already had successful outcomes in their experiences with the organization and were now on their own as well as a third who was newly admitted to the shelter. The first two were comfortable being seen on camera with the understanding that the video would only be screened to a select group of donors. They were extremely grateful for the help they had received and felt that they would have talked to the contributors in person if asked, so video was a natural extension. The third woman wanted to remain anonymous. For the purposes of the production, however, we did not want the screen to simply be black while viewers listened to her voice. Rather, we interviewed her in a room that we set up with bare lighting that put her in a dark shadow, completely unrecognizable. We knew that in the final video we edited, the viewer would be able to see some movement as she moved her arms, for instance. It would be enough to keep an audience fixated on the screen at the same time as they heard her relate the frightening circumstances that had given rise to her decision to reach out to the shelter. Indeed, the shadowy backdrop would add to the drama of her story.

We were also cognizant that for this video to be successful, we would need the women to open themselves up in emotionally challenging ways — on camera! It is a complex art of interviewing to get beyond the superficialities of a first meeting in a short time and dive so deeply into a person’s heart that she (in this case) feels comfortable enough to reveal some of her most vulnerable memories. That was the task before us, for which we are able to lean on our vast experience in documentary production around the world interviewing a broad range of people in different cultures who confront countless types of situations. Yet every situation, every person, is different. Sometimes the right approach is difficult to gauge. Particularly in situations like these, each person must be treated tenderly and empathetically; at the same time, we need to be focused constantly on getting the sound bites and eliciting the emotions that will be effective in the final script and expressed in a way that will ensure smooth cuts in the editing stage.

The video we ultimately created had three segments of under two minutes each, one segment for each of the women. The opening faded from black to the name of the first woman the client wanted to highlight. Dissolving out of the black to a close-up of her face, the viewer was able to see the intensity of her eyes as her story unraveled. At its end, the screen again went to black, then immediately up to the name of the second woman, with the same pattern for the third, whose identity was written in an anonymous way. Some necessary cuts to accomplish the storytelling succinctly yet passionately required b-roll cover-up with the two women who agreed to be seen on camera. We were able to videotape a small amount of b-roll after each interview, and they provided us with a few personal photos to use. Cuts with the woman cast in shadows did not require b-roll cover; the dissolves between shots were so subtle that they were unrecognizable, and the viewer stayed focused on the scary screen image.

We received excellent reports from our client about the effectiveness of this fundraising video after they screened it privately to their select group of prospective donors. We are confident that it was successful, since a few weeks later, a member of that group called us for a quote for another organization with which she was involved!

 

 

Corporate Video Production: An Idea A Day: Day 8

December 8, 2011

Nonprofits with budgets for annual events too small to work on high-end professional video productions are not precluded from using video to enhance their causes. Indeed, many types of creative and affordable productions can be crafted that have strong impact, and there are few tools as powerful to achieve that result as video.

Recently a nonprofit client approached our corporate video production company a few weeks before its gala. The event was to be relatively small, and costs were an issue. One of the projects in which the organization had been involved over the past year was a joint choir with children from both its suburban membership and an inner city school. The interaction of the kids, conveyed through their beautiful voices singing in unison, was an extremely powerful expression of the values of the two organizations.

While a performance of the choir at the gala would have been ideal, it was not logistically possible for all the folks who would have been required to be present. Consequently, our client organized a performance one day after school and requested that we videotape a single song carrying a significant message.

Even with the set-up and breakdown of the lighting, microphones, and cameras, the shoot was only a half-day. V&V used two cameras, but kept one as a wide shot sitting on a tripod so that only one cinematographer was required with no other crew members. The presentation was repeated several times, ensuring that we would be able to use different sets of shots (close, wide, steady, moving, looking up, looking down) in the editing.

The final nonprofit video production was very moving. While the performance was only two minutes in length, the editor ensured the visuals change between the various shots, moving from broad sweeps of sweet, diverse faces to close-ups of eyes and lips, singling with passion. The strong harmonies fill the spaces into which they are projected, and the sound of music is the only audio throughout the film except hearing the kids greeting each other as the credits roll. Nothing more needed to be shown at the gala. The children’s beautiful voices said everything without the need to add talking heads to interpret or insert extraneous information veering the audience away from the impactful moment. The client accomplished its goal without breaking its budget.

Corporate Video Production: An Idea A Day: Day 7

December 7, 2011

A nonprofit for which Voices & Visions Productions created a series of videos several months ago is New Hope Community, an organization in the Catskills Mountains that supports people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities to cultivate a lifestyle of self-determination through teaching, coaching, encouragement, role modeling, independent living, and participation in the wider community.

One of NHC’s special projects is called the Supported Work Program, which secures employment for individuals at NHC bolstered by on-the-job supervision, training and job coaching, and support services. Employers benefit by receiving reliable, consistent services; programmatic administrative and onsite oversight; and tax incentives. Through the SWP individuals have opportunities to grow and succeed, businesses have opportunities to benefit from employment and tax benefits, and the community has opportunities to develop into a more cohesive body.

NHC wanted to inform the wider community about the existence and advantages of the SWP with the hope that additional area employers will choose to participate. To this end, they retained V&V to produce two series of six videos each. The videos in one series were 60 seconds long, produced for broadcast on the local cable TV station (TV commercials). The videos in the second series were 1.5 to 2 minutes and created for posting on the web (video web clips); in essence, they were the more detailed versions of the shorter TV-bound clips.

Six employers who had been involved in the program for a number of years agreed to participate in the video series. They included the Woodbourne Fire House,

local eatery Bum & Kel’s,

the South Fallsburg Public Library,

Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp Resort, Thunder 102 radio station, and M&M Ford dealer.  V&V videotaped on the grounds of each employer when the New Hope Community personnel and job coach were present, interviewing employer, employee, and coach and recording visuals of the daily work activities. Each of the videos produced begins with the employer’s description of the work performed by NHC individuals, followed by the job coach discussing his or her supervisory and support roles, moving to the individual expressing the aspects that he or she most enjoys about the job, and ending with the employer noting that the SWP is a “win-win” situation for everyone. Graphics on the screen list a myriad of benefits for employers.

The TV spots have begun their broadcast, and several of the longer clips now live on Youtube and Facebook, easily accessible in any sales pitch to the intended audience.

Corporate Video Production: An Idea A Day: Day 6

December 6, 2011

Continuing this week’s theme of blogs about nonprofits for which we have created video productions over the past several months, I now turn to a local NJ affiliate of a national organization.

With just over two weeks before this organization held its gala fundraiser, one of the honorees approached us with the request to shorten the long video the national organization had created and customize it to the NJ event.

The first challenge we confronted was that the material provided to us was in its final, compressed version – right for presentation on a DVD or the Internet, but not helpful for editing purposes.  This formatting meant that all the layers of visuals and audio were permanently compressed together, so any attempt to extract sound bites, for example, could cut off a musical score smack in the middle, or a preference for a different musical selection could not be accommodated since the audio was embedded in the original version.  With the inability to remove entrenched layers, the title cards naming individual speakers were also unalterably fixed.

We brainstormed with a key spokesperson for the nonprofit client who had strong opinions about some of the revisions and who sought help in figuring out how to accomplish those details given the challenges inherent in the video formatting. Here are the solutions we fashioned:

  1. We identified a core chunk of the original video that contained enough substantive quotes about the organization to paint a passionate picture of its importance without all the preceding or subsequent embellishment. This segment was under two minutes in length.
  2. We excised and maintained as a unit this core segment from the video, discarding the remainder. The in and outedits had to be made at spots where the music had natural interludes. The second or two of video tags on the bookends of the core were covered by black dissolves.
  3. We created a new title slate for a person whose position had changed since the time the first video was produced. In the original piece, titles appeared on opaque cards, which we could replicate. While we were not able to get information about the specific font that had been used, we were able to find one so similar that any differences would not be recognizable.  We created a new card and inserted it as a layer on top of the single, compressed layer, so that the correct title came up.
  4. We built a new opening with simple graphics tailored to the local affiliate. We wrote copy to provide a meaningful introduction and utilized archival black and white images that we had in our video library. (It helps that we also produce documentaries!) We added new music under this opening section. The intro was under a minute and ended with a fade to black that dovetailed – like the musical score — with the core section of the original video.
  5. We created a new closing that drew together the local and national using the music that had opened the piece, the graphics, and some stock photos descriptive of the larger message this shortened video (around three minutes) was expressing.

The final product was a big success at the gala, with the details of the editing surgery eluding the several hundred people who attended.

Corporate Video Production: An Idea A Day: Day 5

December 5, 2011

Over the last several days I have detailed different types of corporate video productions that came out of one video initially envisioned by a CRM client to provide a “who we are” introduction from video captured at an annual customer event. We found that the extensiveness and nature of attendees provided material for three additional videos: a ‘core values” video, an employee video expressing enthusiasm about the nature of the work, and a testimonial video.

Now I am moving to videos we have created for nonprofits in the last few weeks, each of which presented unique challenges. The video I will address today was produced for a national organization. One of their members had ensured the realization of a mission abroad for which sparse video was shot, much of it not useable. The outcome of the trip was extremely positive on many levels, and the organization wanted to highlight its success at their annual fundraising gala in a film of three minutes or less. To complicate the task, we were asked to create the production only a little over two weeks or so before it needed to be screened at the event!

Despite the time and material constraints, we wanted to ensure that the video was more interesting than a narrator’s voice telling the audience what to think or a collection of sound bites without much additional context. After some brainstorming, we decided to focus on the four words that comprise the name of the organization, all of which are important descriptors of their mission. Our motion graphic artist created four separate slates, all opening with the organization’s logo, but in each, a different one of the four words popped out, providing the conceptual background to relevant sound bites that would follow for the next three-quarters of a minute (plus or minus). We then called together a handful of people who had participated in the mission, gathering them at one locale against a beautifully lit draped background, and we interviewed them in depth about the four topics we knew we would be highlighting. We also videotaped them interacting – encounters that were filled with warmth since they had all shared meaningful experiences on the trip together.

We pulled the best quotes and placed them appropriately behind the motion graphics leaders of each section. We used as much b-roll as we could muster from the footage shot on the trip and from the clips of the participants interacting the day we recorded them; with a dearth of choices from the former and a desire to touch emotions from the latter, we relied on slo-mo effects. We set all of this to relevant rights-free music, and voila! The final production told the story through the graphics and the sound bites, which were expressed with the kind of experiential passion that imparts genuineness. The three-minute film was a huge success at the gala and a source of pride to the participants and the organization.