Archive for the ‘Web Video’ Category

Video for Private Equity Annual Investor Meetings

May 28, 2013

This is the time of year when many PE companies and PE divisions of larger companies are designing the content and activities of year-end annual investor meetings. Significantly, few industries are as friendly to the fashionable storytelling tool of video as private equity. Each portfolio company brings an engaging narrative of its roots that flourished over time and are expanding as a result of the vision, strategies and assistance brought by its private equity partner. Producing high-end and fast-paced yet short and comprehensive videos to showcase examples of companies in a portfolio that are encountering success is a great way to convey the information, break up the pace of the meeting in a popular and pleasing way, and encourage participation in future funds the PE firm will roll out.

The themes of the videos will depend upon the emphases of the companies or divisions. There is no one formula; decisions are tailored to the firms and their investor audiences. Here are some examples of videos created for The Riverside Company, the largest global firm investing in the middle market, for their 2012 Annual Investor Conference. The goal of these videos was to highlight the different funds:

North American Fund Portfolio Company: Baby Jogger

European Fund Portfolio Company: Reima 

Asia-Pac Fund Portfolio Company: Learning Seat 

North American Microcap Fund Portfolio Company: Yourmembership.com  

V&V has been working in PE and related industries for over a decade with clients such as The Riverside Company, the former AIG Investments, Private Equity Investor, and Duane Morris LLP. We also count as our clients pension funds investing in PE such as the Texas Teachers Retirement System.

Please contact us to brainstorm ideas about ways in which video can provide added value to your annual investor meeting.

Returning to Uganda

March 4, 2013

 

I remember the first full day of our initial trip to Uganda in October 2006 to produce a documentary about Mirembe Kawomera (“Delicious Peace”) Coffee Co-op. After three days of travel (one from NY to Europe, the second from there to Entebbe Airport, and the third by car up to the Mbale region), we enthusiastically showed up at the entrance of the coffee co-op’s clay-constructed storefront. We were eager to meet the legendary farmers who had formed a collective to bridge interfaith differences and generate economic development through a Fair Trade partnership with California-based buyer, roaster and seller Thanksgiving Coffee Company. Since we had been in touch via email for several months and the executive board had invited us to come, we were ready to break out the cameras following the handshakes and dive into work. Instead, the farmers asked that we sit down for a four-hour meeting that began with the question: “Why should we let you do this?”

At that moment, Curt looked at me and said, “You are the attorney. You can negotiate this. I’m going outside to take pictures. They may be the last ones we get!”


delicious peace, documentary, coffee, fair trade, Uganda

Now here it is, six and a half years after that meeting and three years after the premiere screening of Delicious Peace Grows in a Ugandan Coffee Bean, and we are returning in two weeks for our fifth trip, this time (as the last) with a group of friends in tow.  Dual goals motivate this journey: (1) adding an extra 15-20 minutes of footage for a one-hour TV release focused on co-op updates and the impact of climate change on the farmers’ crops, and (2) introducing more American consumers to the work of the Mirembe Kawomera co-op, helping to spread awareness about their truly delicious coffee and the myriad families whose lives orbit around it.

In many respects, the first aim parallels corporate video production shoots we do around the world for many clients. We have done our homework and know what we want to record, all the necessary equipment is packed and ready to go, a basic schedule is in place, and we have the contact information for folks who will be crucial data-providers.

This assignment, however, comes with advance bonuses. We already have established friendships with farmers in the co-op, who are excited to help with the new phase of the project by devoting days of time when we are present to providing assistance; they understand and appreciate our role in helping to publicize their messages. And – New Yorkers — you know that excited feeling of being with out-of-towners who arrive in New York for the first time and stand in transcendental wonderment upon their initial ascent out of the subway? We will have the opportunity to experience that feeling through the eyes of our trip participants, multiple-fold, beginning with the moment our friend/tourguide Samson drives our group out of the airport onto the streets of Entebbe.

delicious peace, documentary, coffee, Uganda, fair trade

In response to the farmers’ initial question in 2006, I promised a long-term, mutual partnership in which success would be shared. I promised we would produce, complete, and screen the documentary. I said this would be an important avenue to spread the message of the work they are doing to bridge interfaith differences and educate coffee consumers about the hard work of farmers dedicated to specialty coffee production so that purchasing decisions reflect that knowledge. I told them that a successful documentary will trigger interest in their coffee. I told them that we have always established long-term friendships with the people who are the subjects of documentaries we undertake – as we have often done with our corporate video production clients.

Almost seven years later, the documentary has screened (and continues to do so) at over 35 international film festivals with a TV debut in the near future. We have partnered with a distributor committed to creating local educational “Peace Party” screenings around the country. Countless people have watched the program and learned about the important work of the farmers – many are busy talking about it on social media avenues everyday. And we are going back again to visit our friends and continue to develop the informational base.

We’re grateful the farmers took a leap of faith with us and proud to have earned their trust. Uganda, here we come!

 

Telling Stories With Video

February 27, 2013

Every corporation is built and sustained by individuals with stories to tell, and those stories can be effective marketing devices. (See “Endless Stories” blog.) Using internet video to tell those stories is particularly impactful: Audiences today watch more than they read, and the place they watch most is online. Consequently, introducing staff via video posted to websites and other online venues gives current and prospective customers a more personal – and therefore positive — feel for the companies with which they are or could be doing business.

One way of ensuring that online videos of staff are up-to-date, reflecting changes in personnel as well as the positions they occupy, is for corporations to build in-house video production studios designed for recording simple sound bites. The existence of such facilities at a company would enable each new hire  immediately  to record and post a video bio introducing himself or herself to the client base and the rest of the staff – or to record something else highlighting personality traits or interests, excitement about the company or its product, etc.  — depending upon the corporate culture. The initial investment in the studio is returned in the ability to inexpensively produce endless short and effectual videos.  


Once videos are edited, companies should consider posting them first on their own Youtube channels, then using those links to post them on their firms’ websites and other social media sites. This methodology will help boost  search engine optimization. YouTube is the second-largest search engine after Google and Google owns YouTube, so enhancing a corporate presence on this social network is important. There are several key elements to optimizing videos on YouTube, which will greatly influence the rankings and quality of search results. Saving video files with keywords as well as tagging keywords when uploading videos are two important pieces to a much more complicated puzzle. (For more pieces, see post on Video SEO).

Designing In-House Corporate Video Studios

February 11, 2013

An in-house corporate video studio sans extra hires: the perfect solution for a constant and affordable flow of new video content with a professional look.

A little over a year ago Cisco predicted that within three years (now one and three quarters) all Internet traffic will be video. While that may be an overly ambitious timeline, there is no question that video is overtaking the web as the communication vehicle through which companies are (and increasingly will be) required to express themselves. It is also by now recognized that the DIY videos that seemed acceptable when Youtube first burst on the scene in 2005 are not professional reflections of the entities they represent. These facts are part of the larger shifting landscape of corporate messaging, mandating creative responses and re-created budgetary line items.

Among the most resourceful recent solutions to this conundrum on which we have had the opportunity to work came at the request of our client EisnerAmper, one of the largest accounting firms in the US, with almost 1,300 employees. Working with clients hailing from a broad spectrum of industries and providing a range of services, EisnerAmper has unlimited topics to discuss on a regular basis, for which ever-new online video posts would be a great asset.  When their expansion induced them to move their New Jersey headquarters into a new space subject to complete redesign, they contacted us about helping them build a studio for the purpose of recording simple sound bite videos as frequently as desired, then turning them around for rapid posting to their website and other online sites.

Basic keys to success of this project included designing the space effectively and efficiently; properly laying out the IT, lighting, audio and other technical needs; identifying high-end equipment on which non-professionals can be trained; and providing the training. The exercise requires a combined knowledge of professional cinematography with relevant engineering and architectural understanding.
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Our VP Curt Fissel met with the EisnerAmper marketing team to determine their wish list of video needs and goals within the context of the available space dimensions. He also spoke with the project manager and architect. Curt is our Director of Photography and Senior Editor. At heart, he is an artist and a complex model builder, so the opportunity to work on the video studio enabled him to combine a lifetime of personal strengths. Curt used a soft polymer clay that hardens when baked to design a model of the room to scale. Even the tiniest details were highlighted in the model he created, such as the precise placement of the electrical outlets on the walls and the track lighting across the ceiling. Curt then photographed the model from many angles, pasting the images into a document onto which he wrote technical explanations of the requirements.

As the project moves forward, Curt will be available for ensuing needs, such as helping EisnerAmper choose appropriate equipment; configure all the studio elements to enable the production of optimum appearance; and teach staff who will be assigned to this job how to use the gear, which is intended to stay locked into place. Upon the conclusion of videotaping, EisnerAmper will have the ability to edit the material in-house or upload it to a cloud accessible by an off-site editor.

The video studio will enable EisnerAmper to produce and post constantly changing, simple and professional-looking talking-head videos responsive to the news of the day or even the hour, as well as a litany of additional information the firm would like to share – all at no extra cost for field (and possibly post) production once the set-up is in place. While their totality of video needs will also undoubtedly require more complex productions utilizing the help of professional corporate video producers, the use of the studio will ensure that EisnerAmper is at the lead of the pack of businesses as the Cisco-like predictions regarding the proliferation of video grow into the reality.

Corporate Video: Endless Stories

January 31, 2013

When I got into the corporate video business over 15 years ago, clients wanted productions that were informational in content. They sought videos that would outline the work of the organization in all – or at least most – of its elements, even when the details required 12 minutes to roll out. Whether the video was to be used for marketing, HR or other purposes, an objective presentation of the nature of the entity was the fashion of the day

That tendency mirrored the appearance projected by news outlets at that time. Remember when the “fourth estate” was all about fair and balanced portrayals of facts based on research and widespread interviews with folks taking a diversity of positions?

Times have changed, and social media has played a critical role in this new world of information presentation. Today news correspondents can take the form of activists on the front lines of a revolt tweeting their eyewitness accounts on their smartphones in 140 characters at a time, reporting from the spots where they stand, unaware of the battle looming around the corner. Subjective by definition, they may nonetheless have more followers than nightly news stations, in large measure because audiences today are attracted to individual stories – real people, real events, real drama, real emotion.  The storytelling methodology resonates.

(One example of such a “story” we told through a video we produced for private equity client, The Riverside Company)

And it has influenced corporate video production. That extensive informational video style is passé. It has been replaced with short stories, endless short stories, each of which can stand on its own in a video or be grouped with others, depending upon a variety of factors including length of time needed to convey its heart. Stories can be about the company, such as the impetus that led to its founding or some cool community event in which its staff participated. They can focus on employees relating personal stories that integrate elements of their characters with aspects of their jobs. They can highlight a company initiative from the perspectives of those charged with implementing it, following the process through from idea conception to presentation. Endless stories.

While each video might max out at two minutes (often less), there may be many to produce, so ultimately far more time will be devoted to this format – and often watched by the viewers — than the single 12-minute piece in which the company invested 15 years ago. Yet unlike its old-fashioned predecessor, each piece will present only a slice of something related to the company. The viewer who watches a series of videos the company provides on its website and/or other social media sites may gain the larger umbrella perspective the company would like to portray. But the person who stops after the first will walk away with neither depth of understanding nor the larger picture perspective of the company.

This is the new communication reality. It is incumbent upon corporations still hesitant to find their video voices within its parameters. That may present some challenges, but a successful initiative will be worthwhile. Individual stories will resonate.

Investor Relations Videos

January 17, 2013

Funny thing about the category of “investor relations videos”: it does not enjoy the popularity of other adjectives associated with video, like “marketing video” or “web video.” The expression just doesn’t seem to have search engine appeal – at least not in this particular three-word combination.

Perhaps that is not so surprising. Traditional industries like financial services clothe themselves less in fashionable (or any) video than other business types. And digits – while long known to possess magical qualities that might make the stuff of a good story – often seem most legitimate when presented in typed black numbers on sterile white pages.

Certainly the nature of some types of financial services companies is less amenable to colorful storytelling than others. But investors today are presented with unlimited opportunities in a market that is still recovering economically. They have the difficult job of distinguishing between a wide array of different kinds of funds in which to invest as well as companies to trust with their investments. In a world in which people prefer to watch rather than read, why not enliven the marketing pitch with a compelling video?

www.riversidecompany.com

Storyline is key here.  Private equity and venture capital firms have an easier job than others in the industry since they are comprised by definition of companies in an array of industries that have wonderful stories about their origins, growth and substance.  But even traditional investment firms can unearth good stories to share with their investors. For instance, a new policy roll-out that is investment-friendly would be of interest to current and potential investors and could be presented in a creative way. Or a video created for a different purpose – such as an HR video – could be modified to focus on the skill sets and personalities of staff who play key roles in successful outcomes (and therefore impress investors).

An investor relations video can be a very helpful tool, especially in an industry in which this type of marketing initiative has not yet come of age, but the ages of younger investors see the world in visual motion.

Video Production From the Road: Flying Tips 2

October 12, 2012

Having become a semi-learned student of the airline rules, I wield them like constitutional rights.

Last year I chose to become an APP (my designation for the 25,000 plus mile status) on two airlines: United and American. The former is part of the OneWorld network, and the latter is a member of Star Alliance. Since my home bases are Montclair, NJ – 10 miles from Newark Airport – and Los Angeles, the most convenient airline for me to fly in the US is United, which has the Newark-based hub of its recent mergee, Continental.  American sometimes flies out of Newark, but more frequently its NY flights originate in and go to JFK and LaGuardia, making it a second choice for me.  However, the Star Alliance has more airline partners than OneWorld, and they fly to many more destinations, so I’m glad to have at least the APP-1 (more than Any Passenger and less than Any Passenger Plus) benefits.

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I write this blog now aboard a flight from Melbourne, Australia to Hong Kong. I am traveling with my husband/business partner Curt. We are videotaping for a corporate client in both locations. The decision to do the shoot happened late in the game, so arrangements were made last minute, when few flights were still available.  The only feasible and affordable option required traveling with Cathay Pacific from JFK to Hong Kong, then Hong Kong to Adelaide, Australia, then Adelaide to Melbourne, where we worked for three days. This flight goes from Melbourne directly to Hong Kong, where we will stay for two nights. The next leg is to San Francisco, where we will work for a day. The last segment will take us from San Francisco back to Newark.

Cathay Pacific is a Star Alliance member. With our American gold status, we are classified as Ruby travelers on Star Alliance, going through the first and business class check-in and security lines, and boarding earlier in the game than other passengers. Since the economy class tickets had been sold out for the eastward bound flights at the late time of our booking, we purchased the next level: premium economy. That gave us a little more room and an APP+ status. But here is how being a partner airline APP member served as an advantage: The flight from NY to Hong Kong was 15 hours; the one from Hong Kong to Adelaide was another 9. When we arrived in Hong Kong, a ticket agent was waiting for us, informing us that we had been upgraded to business class. With open seats on the plane, priority went to us instead of others who had bought premium economy tickets since we had a combination of those slightly more expensive tickets and APP status on another Star Alliance partner airline.

Business seats on these eastern airlines are amazing for a number of reasons, but best of all, the seats fold down flat like beds. As someone who has a hard time sleeping in planes, I slept more than half of the journey, waking up refreshed enough to work for the afternoon in Melbourne. It made a huge difference!

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Director of Photography, Curt.

The seats en route back west are only economy. But because of our APP status with Star Alliance member American, Cathay Pacific was able to offer us bulkhead seats, ie, front row in economy, with unlimited leg room.  For non-ruby passengers, these seats would have cost an additional $100 each, but our status ensured we could get them, and at no extra charge. We have reserved the same seats for the trip from Hong Kong to San Francisco.

The last leg of our trip will be provided by United, enabling us to return on a direct flight to Newark Airport. Checking over the seat availability, it seems we will be doomed to the last row. But as APP members, we stand a chance of getting upgraded, if anything is available.

I am well aware of the disadvantage of accruing miles in more than one airline per year. By this year’s end, I will have accumulated just short of 100,000 miles on all my flights combined. Had I stuck with one airline or partnership and taken a few extra trips to reach that mile marker, I would have been a lifetime status holder. Instead, the status I’ve earned over the last 10 months – which in another three weeks will be APPP on United and APP on American – will be good only through 2013. Come January 1, I will have to start all over again for 2014. But the offerings didn’t leave me much of a choice. The flights that gave me the most miles were available at specific times on particular airlines. At least I will enjoy my status in the coming year, always keeping an eye on changing rules and new opportunities.

Read Flying Tips 1.

Corporate Video on the Road

October 3, 2012

The end of the calendar year brings corporate meetings of all kinds. In today’s visual world, a constant flow of intermittent video throughout the course of these lengthy gatherings ensures more interest and participation, which ultimately translates to greater success for hosting firms.

Enjoying fish soup in the Traveler’s Lounge in HKG Airport (Hong Kong).

As a full-service corporate video production company working in this world, autumn ushers in a heavy travel schedule for us at Voices & Visions Productions as we work this year in Australia, Hong Kong, France, Finland, and various cities in the US – all in a single month.

Success with a schedule as hectic as this requires a deep-seated knowledge of how to travel as lightly but completely as possible to ensure the video captured looks as beautiful as it does when we shoot in our home territory.  Another important factor in preventing plane and road burn out is knowing how to plan the travel experience on a limited budget, to ensure comfort and even playtime in the after-work hours (when they happen). Over the coming few weeks, I will write blogs that address a bunch of video tips on the heavily traversed road.

Traveling with Equipment

September 21, 2012

curt, photography, video production, lighting, voices and visions, corporate video production, professional video production

This week’s tip is for businesses who travel with equipment and comes from our director of photography, Curt:

“When you travel as much as we do, it’s crucial to ensure our equipment can take the abuse of the road. I would never check a camera underneath an airplane, but a lot of the rest of the equipment can be thrown around if it’s well protected. I recommend investing in a hard, waterproof, protective case for microphones and other delicate equipment. I remind myself that these are my tools and I need to make sure they’re going to be in proper working order when we arrive on the job.”

Professional Videos Vs. DIY Videos

August 24, 2012
When Google bought YouTube in 2005, video on the web exploded, and sometimes it came in the form of pets walking across kitchen floors. For a short time, audiences became accustomed to amateur videos, which seemed to give license to uploading nonprofessional productions even as the face of companies and organizations. More recently, however, this impression has changed. Just as a DIY newsletter filled with grammatical errors and a disorganized presentation is not as effective as one created by professional writers, the viewing audience has come to appreciate the superior value brought by videos created by experts. There are several important details, often overlooked by amateurs, which separate a DIY video from one produced by a professional video production company.
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The setup before our shoot with the Riverside Company

new jersey video production, lighting, professional video production

This is what the shot looked liked inside the camera

Lighting
Lighting is a delicate but crucial step in the interview process. Often shot in interviewees’ offices or corporate boardrooms, it is the Director of Photography’s job to “paint” with light, transforming a plain white room into an interesting and relevant interview space. For Curt Fissel, V&V’s seasoned DP with 30 years of experience, expert lighting is in his DNA. “I don’t like shots that are either over-lit or under-lit,” he says. “Poor lighting tenchniques will result in a longer time in post-production and even then may not yield the appearance sought.” Curt thinks proper lighting is often overlooked because today’s cameras can be so forgiving. Nonetheless, he believes lighting plays a vital role in separating a home movie appearance from a commercial video look.
Audio
When a video has good audio, most people don’t notice, but when sound is poor, it may be the most prominent aspect of the production that most people remember. While amateurs may become complacent with the abilities of editing equipment, professionals, like Curt, know a video is only as good as its audio. “Digital filters can help improve original audio recorded, but to ensure the sound is as pure as possible, it needs to be captured cleanly,” notes Curt.  This is the case whether one or multiple microphones are utilized on a particular shoot. To demonstrate the emphasis placed on audio amongst professionals, Curt recollected: “I went to a seminar years ago called Audio is more important than video, which I don’t quite agree with, but I do think they are close to being equally important.”
Depth of Storyline
The quality of an interview has a huge impact on the depth of the final video product. Writer and producer Ellen Friedland draws upon her journalistic background when preparing for an interview. “What’s crucial is to really understand the underlying concepts of what it is we’re videotaping,” Ellen begins. “If we go into a medical device company, I do a lot of research about that medical device. This way, even though I am not a scientist, I can prompt interviewees to share more profound points that will be reflected in the final piece.” Video production is, at its heart, storytelling.  Notes Ellen: “If the interviewer does not probe for a more multi-layered understanding of the subject, the story will have more of a superficial feel , often lacking a consistent thesis or message.“