Every marketer has heard about the power of video. But for many, the experience looks something like this: You spend five figures, shoot for two days, give the project weeks of your attention, and you get just one video out of it. Even if you can do it for under 10K, people look at that as cost prohibitive and question its value.
But what if you could get more for your money? You can, and you should.
By planning ahead and leveraging every step in the video-making process, you can come away with one primary video and a set of media assets that you can use in multiple ways. To do this, you need to think strategically, and get clear on your objectives. That starts with answering some basic questions:
Why do you want to make videos?
Is it because everyone else is doing it? Because Google and social media platforms love video? Because you’ve heard the ROI is so good?
Not surprisingly, you need to be more specific. Why do YOU want to make video? What would be a good ROI for YOUR company? It may or may not include increasing sales. It may mean getting shortlisted on a project. It could be to recruit new talent, particularly people that are fresh out of school. It could be to connect with the community, or to elevate the company’s brand. Or all of the above.
Who is your viewer?
For most businesses, there are multiple audiences — clients, prospective clients, journalists, analysts, employees, and prospective employees. Why not think of all of them from the start rather than as an afterthought? If you’re making a video to sell investors on the company, why not plan on a different edit that’s targeted at prospective employees?
What type of video do you want and need?
There are four main types:
1. Talking head interview.
You're interviewing people on camera — company leaders, key employees, or satisfied customers. There’s no scripted voice over (VO) narration; instead, one or more interviews drive the story. You could go without B-roll footage, but it’s usually more interesting with it.
This type of video comes across as authentic, and is ideal for situations where it’s advantageous to see the interviewees as they speak — either because they are a recognizable “face” of the brand, or because their on-camera delivery will make an emotional impact.
Shooting involves a multi-person crew. In addition to the producer/director conducting the interview, there might be one or two camera operators, plus a lighting technician, sound recordist, stylist and production assistant. There’s also the challenge of finding the appropriate locations for filming the interviews — quiet places that are also visually interesting.
2. Scripted with voice over.
As the name implies, the story is driven by scripted narration that a professional VO talent will read. This format offers more control than the talking head interview and is best suited to situations where you need to explain something precisely and concisely. Typically you write the script first and then develop a detailed storyboard that maps out the visual sequences. You will use the storyboard, or at least a shot list, to plan and implement the B-roll shoot.
3. Animation and narration.
This could be 2D or 3D animation, and will typically include ample motion graphics (animated text that complies with the client’s brand style guidelines). In addition, to augment the animation, you might incorporate client-provided archival still photography or footage. From an approved VO script, you create a detailed storyboard that will guide the animation production.
This type of video is best suited to subjects that don’t easily lend themselves to videography, such as abstract concepts, inner workings, and multi-step processes.
As the name suggests, this type of video combines elements from two or more of the other types of video. The messaging might be conveyed both by interview soundbites AND scripted narration. The visuals might intercut on-camera interviews or B roll with animated segments.
What is your budget?
It’s not uncommon for people to ask, how much will it cost for a two-minute video? That’s a little bit like asking, how much will it cost to build a two-bedroom house? It depends a lot on your specifications. Are you hiring talent? Is there travel involved? Multiple locations? How elaborate is the animation? Do you want original music? Without being more specific, it’s impossible to give even a ballpark price.
The real question should be, how can we get the most for our video budget? When you understand why you’re making videos and who they’re for, you should take a look at what’s normally the most expensive part of the process — the shoot or the animation production — and think about maximizing the impact of that key investment. You want all your audiences to be entertained, engaged, informed, and inspired. The ideal recipe will vary by purpose and audience. For example, it might be one cup each of “engaged” and “informed” and a quarter cup of “inspired” for a how-to explainer video directed at engineers, but two cups of “entertained” and “inspired” for a company-wide sales meeting.
Getting More Value
Let’s take a look at a possible scenario for getting more from your next video project. Having clarified your objectives and your audiences, you’ve determined your primary video will be a two-minute talking head interview that features three interviewees and B-roll. You’ve gone into the shoot knowing you’re going to make auxiliary clips and alternate edits, so you’ve included some questions for each interviewee that you know aren’t going to make it into the two-minute piece but would be perfect as a standalone 30-second soundbite or as part of an alternate 60-second edit. It’s likely that each of the three filmed interviews will yield about 30 minutes of raw footage. Even with half of that going immediately to the cutting room floor, you’ve got 45 minutes of valuable content. Plus, we have high resolution still photography that we’ve taken during location scouting and throughout the shoot.
In every interview-based video project, one thing that we always do is transcribe the complete interview. Then we edit the transcript to construct the narrative arc for the primary video and for each of the supplemental assets we’re planning to create. We also listen for repurposable audio material and extract MP3 or WAV files to use in a podcast, send to a reporter, or post on social media.
Companies today need photography for social media, for the web, and even for print, and most don’t have enough. Screen grabs from the video footage are usually good enough quality for digital communications, so we create some of those, and we also create print-quality image files from our best location shots.
Now all of a sudden you’re getting a two-minute web video, three 60-second versions for targeted email blasts, six 30-second cuts for social media, four audio clips for a podcast, and a dozen stills. Doesn’t that sound like a better value?
And More Value
You can get even better value working with what I call the “audio first” approach. It’s proven to be efficient and cost effective, and a particularly appropriate production method during the COVID pandemic.
Essentially, the “audio first” approach is creating a radio show or podcast first, then “illustrating” it with B-roll and/or animation. What we’re doing is transforming a fully-baked audio narrative into a carefully-crafted visual story.
I conduct the audio-only interviews on my own, with no camera or crew present, and with minimal digital audio recording gear. The interivew can take place in person in a socially-distanced set-up, or remotely using podcast software. Once the interview is completed, we handle the content the same as we would for video, i.e. the transcribe and paper edit process. With the paper edit client approved, we make an audio edit that gives the client a sense of the pacing and performance of the sequenced soundbites. Then comes scouting the B-roll locations, capturing framing and camera angles our crew will use in filming the footage. Those still photos will be used in creating the storyboards that will assist the crew AND our post-production team.
What makes this more cost effective? You’re cutting out all the time and resources involved in a talking heads shoot — finding an attractive, quiet location; loading in gear and crew on the interview shoot day, setting up lights and from one to two cameras, and of course making sure the people on camera look their best on camera. Then of course for each interview, you have to reset and possibly move to a new location.
If you do audio-only interviews all in the same room, you can knock out about five of them in four hours. Lighting and shooting five interviews with two cameras will take one to two days. With audio interviews, you don’t have to do them all in the same day. You will have much more flexibility in scheduling. And it’s been my experience that interviewees are more relaxed in the interview/conversation when cameras and crew are not in the room.
Because there’s less time and less of a footprint taken up with the interview part of the project, it allows more resources to be allotted to the B-roll filming, so you get to capture more visuals and that will strengthen the story and generate a greater impact on the audience. It also helps to streamline the B-roll filming because we know exactly what we’re going after.
The audio-first approach isn’t going to be right for every video project, but, it’s certainly one way to get more bang for your video bucks and that is the key to a satisfying, sustainable approach to video creation.