This Video Isn't Working For Me, And Here's Why

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I was re-watching The Avengers the other night and as the climactic battle sequence raged, I couldn’t help but compare this sequence to a similar scene in another super hero film, Man of Steel.

If you haven’t seen either The Avengers or Man of Steel, warning: minor spoilers ahead.

In The Avengers, an army of alien invaders makes their way through a space/time portal and descends upon New York City. It’s up to Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Hulk, Hawkeye, and Black Widow to team up and thwart the villainous alien plan to take over the Earth and install Loki as ruler. What follows is a spectacular action scene right in the heart of lower Manhattan that causes millions and millions of dollars in property damage.

In Man of Steel, General Zod and his army invade earth, looking to capture Kal-El. They descend upon Metropolis and use a world-building engine to terraform earth into a carbon copy of Krypton. Zod wants to restore Krypton on the Earth. It’s up to Superman to save the day. And, like in The Avengers, what follows is a spectacular fight between two superior alien beings that wreaks havoc throughout the city. And again, there is millions and millions of dollars in property damage.

Now, to my point.

Both films show cities getting demolished in the wake of superhero battles. And yet when Man of Steel was released, some of the criticisms I read about the film centered on the level of destruction in that final battle scene. It seems like an unfair criticism to me. So, I posted my thoughts to Facebook and got the conversation started.

In the discussion that followed, people brought up different issues they had with Man of Steel, like tone, character development, plot devices, and character motivations; all valid points, most of which I can get behind. Here are some of the comments I received:

All that destruction is part of the continued story line. Increased regulations, heroes turn on each other, etc.


Yeah, but that’s actually addressed in civil war. The destruction in that and avengers two kinda sets up that storyline. Plus the tones in both action scenes are vastly different, making the audience have different reactions.


I would go back to tone to explain why people accept avengers a bit easier. The action is very light-hearted and fun. You can’t say the same for man of steel. It wants the audience to take it seriously.


Isn't part of it that audiences believe Superman could have more easily directed the fight (which involved him and a few adversaries of relatively equal strength, mobility, etc) away from people than the Avengers (who were facing a small army of people and monsters vastly more powerful and mobile) could have? It was for me.


At least in Avengers the heroes show concern for civilians and make an effort to save as many as possible. Superman showed none of that.

These responses got me thinking…:

Maybe it wasn’t the destruction per se that some viewers took issue with. Perhaps there were other legitimate criticisms people had with the film and they couldn’t quite adequately express their thoughts and so they fixated on the destruction aspect.

And that led me to these thoughts pertaining to client relations…

  • Sometimes a video you’ve produced for a client doesn’t receive the response you anticipated.

  • There’s something about the video that doesn’t quite work for the client.

  • The client, however, can’t articulately explain what it is about your video that he/she doesn’t like.

  • In his/her attempt to explain what’s wrong, he/she fixates on a particular aspect of the video that, to you, seems a bit unfair or irrational.

If you encounter this with a client at some point in your career, don’t get frustrated. Your job at that point as a video producer is to find out the core issue that bothers your client. Like a medical doctor in an emergency room setting, you need to rule out other possibilities and get to the root of the problem.

For example, I once delivered a human interest short documentary to a client for approval who told me that, tonally, it was one of the darkest stories she had ever seen and that it wouldn’t fit with the other videos she had already released. She was ready to scrap the whole project.

I knew, however, that my story wasn’t nearly as somber as others. So it wasn’t tone that concerned my client.

But what was it?

After listening to her concerns, speaking with her, and then rewatching the video a few times myself I realized that the issue was with my main interview subject. This individual told a personal story in a very matter-of-fact way, so any emotional sound bite I used in the piece didn’t feel authentic, because the interview subject never really got emotional. It was the perceived inauthenticity of my main subject that created the issue.

To solve this problem, I went back through the edit and just let the interview subject tell the story. I removed any sound bites that were editorial or emotional in nature. And you know what? These revisions worked for the client.

So the next time you receive feedback from a client that confuses you, or just feels arbitrary and without merit, take the time to have a one-on-one conversation. Talk through the edit. Find out what’s really going on.

The issue may not be the fact that you decided to level Metropolis.

Can You Say 'No' to a Client?

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There you are, sitting in a meeting with your client, listening as she reads a list of revisions she wants for the video you are currently producing. With each item, you can't help but cringe a little on the inside, because you're really proud of where the edit stands. When she finally finishes the list she looks up at you, asking for your input. What do you say? Can you tell your client "No?"

The short answer is, "No."

Never come right out and tell your client you refuse to do something. That looks bad on you and you can really damage the relationship you have with your client by doing so. No one wants to work with a difficult person. However there are a few things you can try the next time you're faced with a challenging approval process:

  • Let the client say "No" for you. It's incredibly important that you have a written contract with your client before work starts. And that contract should always include a clause about how many rounds of revisions you're willing to do before the price of the video goes up (usually three). After all, you've budgeted a certain amount of your own time in the original price of the video. If no revision limit has been set, you might find out that you're spending a lot more time on the video that you originally thought. When your client knows ahead of time that she only has three rounds of revisions, she will be more strategic about edits she wants you to make. Then, after those rounds are used up, she might be the one telling you "no," when you politely remind her that any more revisions will cost more money.
  • No, but... There's a central idea in the world of improv acting. It's called "Yes, and..." It means that you should always take what your improv partners give you and run with it, adding to it, building from it. Never close yourself off to your fellow actors, or the scene will have nowhere to go. I would say that when it comes to client revisions, turn this concept into "No, but..." If a client asks you to make an edit to a video that you know for certain won't work, don't just say "No," but instead offer up an alternative. Find out what the central problem is and come up with a solution that the client will like. "I can't do that, but I can do THIS..." For example, you might not be able to crop in on a shot like the client is asking you to do, but you may have another camera angle with the right composition that will work to the client's satisfaction. Always offer up an alternative. After all, you and the client both want the video to be its best.
  • Show, don't tell. Sometimes it's difficult for clients to understand why a certain edit choice won't work, until they see it on the screen. So, if a client is insistent that you make the changes she wants (and you know that it won't work), make the edit anyway. Then when the client sees it on the screen, she'll understand why it was best to leave it alone.

These are three ideas that might help you the next time you're facing a challenging approval process. But, here's one last thing to remember:

You are working for the client.

Ultimately, they are the ones paying you and they are the ones you need to please. Don't take their notes as an attack on your personally, or on the caliber of your work. Revisions come with the territory. Take it all in stride and always maintain a professional, courteous attitude. It will help you a lot in your career.

Do you have any post-production stories to share? What challenges have you faced when working with a client? How did you resolve them? Leave your thoughts in the Comments section.

Video Isn't Working

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Video isn't working. That's what many publishers have come to realize, according to a September article in the Columbia Journalism Review, written by Heidi N. Moore. Ever since first reading the article I wanted to post some of my thoughts here, and am now finally getting around to it. But first, if you're interested in journalism and/or video, please go read the article. It's very well-written and worth your time.

Before diving into my thoughts on the article, I want to point out that I will be approaching this from the perspective of a video producer. I'm a storyteller, but not a journalist. I'll leave it to the journalists to discuss their own experiences (and please do). But speaking as a video production professional, I agree with Moore's observations. Allow me to highlight four of her points, along with my commentary, and some takeaways.

Video is Expensive

Publishers have laid off writers and turned to video, thinking that somehow they'll save money in the process, while driving up their readership and revenue. But it costs a lot of money to produce unique, quality video. Even in 2017 I still have to educate others about the costs of video and why it's so expensive. I don't know what the root cause is for the misconception (perhaps it's the democratization of the equipment and the low barrier to entry), but it's a misconception that has led many people to believe that incredible video can be produced cheaply. Click here to read more about video production misconceptions. 

Consider this quote from the article:

Video is the most expensive and time-consuming of the multimedia disciplines. To cut a 30-second video can take hours of detailed work—which requires a good eye, good physical reflexes to capture the right moments, enormous patience, and the ability to time images, sound, text, and graphics seamlessly.
— Heidi N. Moore

Takeaway: Just like any professional in any industry, an experienced, reputable video production company will charge the going market rate for services. Don't expect quality production work to be done cheaply, or for free. We don't ask that of any other businesses, as the following video points out:

Video is an Investment

Today, more and more brands are taking their work in-house, opting for their own marketing departments and video production teams, instead of working with a traditional agency. And, as Moore points out, media publishers have also. They've decided to get rid of their writing staff in favor of video. But here's the main problem for publishers, and the main lesson for those brands who want to do everything in-house: You have to invest in video and give your team all the resources they need to produce good work. Moore emphasizes "low-quality video production and weak technological support for video content" as two of her four reasons why the pivot to video has failed.

As Moore writes, "Many publishers’ pivots to video are ill-considered, and thus they have deployed minimal investment in resources, studio space, equipment, or salaries. This won’t help video grow."

Takeaway: If you're going to do it, do it right. If you currently have an in-house video production team, or are making that transition, give them the very best tools to do the job. Don't expect them to produce masterful videos with one hand tied behind their backs.

Video Requires Planning

Clients and internal partners like the idea of video, but many times they don't have a clearly defined strategy for video. The notion of "let's just go out and capture it and then figure out what to do with the footage later," is not a well-defined video strategy for reaching your marketing goals. Video is more than grabbing a camera, running out to the location, and pressing Record. Consider Moore's observation, "The biggest problem with the pivot to video is that it’s not well-considered strategy. Instead, it’s been born of desperation." 

Of course Moore is talking specifically about media publishers, but the same can be said for many businesses who are using video. Considerations must be made when diving into video. One size doesn't fit all

Video Should Be Good

If all of the above considerations are made, then your video will be good. But if you rush into video without the right plan, the right tools, or the right investment, you will be left with video that just, frankly, isn't very good, as Moore writes, "Publishers who pivoted to video have forfeited the majority of their hard-won native audiences in only a year of churning out undifferentiated, bland chunks of largely aggregated 'snackable' video. That’s no one’s idea of success." Differentiation comes when the proper value is placed on the process itself.

There's a place for video. People still want video. Moore isn't suggesting that publishers abandon video, but rather incorporate video into a, "balanced multimedia approach...that includes well-written, well-reported stories, strong data and graphics, and good art."

Two Things You Shouldn't Forget When Planning Your Video Shoot

You’re set. You’ve hired a video production company to come into your retail store, restaurant, medical practice, or other place of business. The goal is to capture footage that will eventually be used in an online marketing piece. Everything is good to go. You and the Director have hammered out all the details. You have scheduled your interview subjects. The shot list is ready. All that’s left is to shoot the video.

But have you really thought of everything? Could there be something that you overlooked?

If you work in a location with constant activity (i.e. a retail store, restaurant, salon, etc.), there are two main items on your pre-production checklist that need to be handled before the video production company arrives to set up.

  • Audio – If you plan to record live audio while on set, background noise will be a major concern. You need to take proper steps to ensure that you can capture good, clean audio. Ideally, you will want to shoot the video on a day when your business is not open to the public. This will eliminate sounds like customer chatter, footsteps, doors opening/closing, etc. You can ask friends, family, and loyal customers to volunteer their time to come in on the day of the shoot and stand in as background. This ensures that you maintain control over the set. If this isn't possible and you are forced to shoot during a normal business day, try the following:
    • Shoot during non-peak hours. This way, customer traffic should be at a minimum.
    • Use c-stands and spring clamps to hang sound blankets around your talent to help deaden the ambient sound.
    • Post a public notice to all customers that filming is in progress and that all chatter should be kept to a minimum.
    • Look for places within your location that may not have quite as much foot traffic.
  • Release Forms – It’s important to lock down the area directly behind your talent, so that no one wanders into the background of your shot. If that isn’t possible, bear in mind that any customer that wanders into frame will need to give you his/her consent to be in the video. You will need to have release forms ready, in case this happens. If your business has a lot of foot traffic, it may not be feasible to stop every single customer and have each one sign a release form. In that case, you will need to place a public notice at the entrances to your business and around the camera crew which indicates that you are in the process of shooting a video. It will also need to clearly state to your customers that by walking throughout the store, their likeness may be captured on video. Release forms are especially vital when shooting in a hospital, medical practice, or clinic. HIPAA regulations and standards must be followed to protect patient privacy.* 

What other advice do you have for shooting in public places? Leave your tips in the Comments section.

*Information in this section should not be interpreted as expert legal advice. These tips are simply good practices based on my personal experiences. If you have any questions pertaining to the legality of what you may or may not shoot during the course of a video production, please consult a legal expert.