The Story of Common Effort

Common Effort Signing Ceremony
Common Effort culminating in the signing of a community statement

One of the great things about freelancing for Crown Media is the variety of work you get involved in. Whilst much of it is rapid turn-round news simulation or media training for the MOD and NATO purely for internal use, every once in a while you get to create something for a wider audience. Whilst the media simulation stuff is great, and exceptionally valuable to the client, creating content which has to inform and motivate an audience in a specific direction is rewarding on a completely different level.

Dominic Valitis (TV reporter) and I (Camera/Edit) were picked to work on the 1GNC (1st German Netherlands Corps) ‘Common Effort’ exercise by Crown Media earlier this year. Organised by 1GNC, the purpose of these exercises is to bring together military, humanitarian and civilian organisations (referred to as ‘actors’), outside of a crisis situation, so they are better connected and informed to deal with a real life scenario. These organisations will often be working alongside each other in conflict or natural disaster situations, so Common Effort’s goal is to help develop personal links and a framework that will make their individual efforts more effective.

Held over four days in Berlin, Common Effort consisted of a range of workshops and academic sessions where the actors collectively developed plans in dealing with a recent period in history based on the South-Sudan crisis. Using this real-life scenario brought an additional level of realism and historic fact and known outcomes to the exercise – and, to some extent, the benefit of knowing how things could have been played out differently. The event culminated in the signing of the first ‘Common Effort community’ statement – a high-level ceremony involving the German Minister of Defense.

Common Effort Press Conference
Dr. Ursula von der Leyen press conference at Common Effort

Background Pieces and News Packages

Our Crown Media assignment was split into two parts, the first being back in March this year with the production of a “start of exercise” film with David Bennett (one of Crown Media’s proprietors) presenting a background story piece on South Sudan up until a specific date in history. This was carried out at 1GNC’s headquarters in Muenster, Germany and was to be shown to all delegates at the start of Common Effort in May to give them an overview and starting position of the scenario they would be working on.

The Story of Common Effort

The second part of our assignment was carried out at the event in Berlin and consisted of creating three daily news packages which told the unfolding story as the delegates worked their way through the scenario. These were to be screened each day of the main exercise and consisted of a studio link to a report from the field by Dominic with interviews and archive news footage. We were also commissioned to create a story of the exercise film for 1GNC to use post event.

It was this “story” film that was somewhat different from anything else I’ve worked on for Crown Media so far as it was for public consumption. The aim was to give viewers an insight into the event and its purpose but, more specifically, to try and attract a wider participation from civil and humanitarian organisations at future events. Though it was never intended to be used at the event itself, as we managed to complete the edit in time it was also screened on the final day to all attendees as part of the close of exercise session. The reception it received was extremely positive.

This was my first Crown Media job that required NATO security clearance and I hope it’s not the last. Whilst you see stories in the press all the time about civil unrest, natural disaster and humanitarian crisis in which NATO and international organisations are involved, it is extremely difficult to get an understanding of the amount of planning, resources and logistics which are needed to effectively deal with them. I’m not pretending that, from my view behind the camera lens, I understand even a fraction of it – but I’m certainly more aware of the complexity of these situations and the range of actors that are involved.

AKM Music – Video Tutorial #02

Video tutorial number 2
Guidance on producing a video tutorial series

I completed the second video tutorial for AKM Music last week – this time on how to find the right piece of royalty free music for your films from their extensive library.

Producing a video tutorial

Commissioning a video tutorial is a great way to spread the word about your products and services – as well as supporting your existing client base. They don’t have to be complex or lengthy. In fact, the shorter the better as the YouTube generation’s attention span is becoming shorter and shorter!

Whilst the temptation is to produce an in-depth and lengthy video tutorial covering advanced techniques and processes, you should always start by covering the basics. Beginners video tutorials are far more valuable in getting your customers hooked into your brand and products from an early stage. Breaking your process down to small junks not only makes it easier to produce, but it also makes it easier for your audience to follow. Advanced users will also have a need for a video tutorial, but they are more likely to already be established customers.

Serialising your video tutorials will also help build an audience – and will give you a regular excuse for reaching out to customers with some good news. Trickle feeding a video tutorial series will also help with your search engine optimisation efforts as each video released will be indexed on search engines separately. There’s nothing search engines like more than indexing regular and relevant content – and feeding that out to a video-hungry audience.

Should I produce a DIY or a Commissioned Video Tutorial?

Whether you produce a video tutorial series in-house or commission a professional video production company to produce them for you will generally depend on three things.

Firstly, does it matter if the end result looks home-spun or polished? The answer to this will greatly depend on your brand identity and the market you are serving. If you are a premium brand, offering a premium product, then a cheap looking tutorial video is not going to give the right impression.

The second thing to consider is your return on investment. If produced correctly, how much additional revenue could a video tutorial series generate for you? This isn’t the easiest of questions to answer, but if your product or service has a substantial retail value and profit margin then it might not take many additional sales in order to pay for the production of each video tutorial. Likewise if your product or service is high volume.

The final consideration is how much value you place on your own time, or those within your organisation who would be assigned the responsibility to produce your video tutorial? Whilst the process of creating a video tutorial can be fun and creatively rewarding, the main benefit of using a professional video production company is that they should be able to do it quickly and with less drain on your resources. This is not to mention negating the need to invest in the filming and editing equipment needed to turn out a professional looking video tutorial.

If you’ve not joined the many organisations sold on the value or commissioning a video tutorial series then now’s the time. Please contact us today for a no-obligation consultation on 020 3602 3356.

Employee Video Profiles

Employee Video Profiles Title
Have you started thinking about using Employee Video Profiles?

What are Employee Video Profiles?

For many years now businesses and public sector organisations have understood the value of profiling their employees on their website. Giving customers the opportunity of “Meeting the team” has long been recognised as both a valuable marketing asset and a means of attracting new employees of the right calibre. In the main, these pen pictures have been just that – a brief written outline of the person, often written by someone else within the company, and sometimes accompanied by a photo. This is all well and good but these are not exactly engaging pieces of website content. This is why more and more organisations are turning to Employee Video Profiles – and for many good reasons.

Who benefits from Employee Video Profiles?

Employee Video Profiles deliver so much more than text versions – benefiting the organisation, their clients and their employees – both present and potential. They are relatively easy and cost effective pieces of video to create – albeit daunting and alien to those appearing on screen. However, the rewards for all those concerns far outweigh any challenges they present. Let’s take a closer look at the benefits of Employee Video Profiles to each stakeholder, starting with the most important group – the Website Visitors.

Website visitors are far more receptive to messages and information shared through video these days rather than having to read through reams of text-heavy web pages. It would be easy to say that website visitors have become lazy, but the truth is that there’s so much content online these days that everyone is looking for the quickest and easiest way to gather information and form an opinion – and nothing comes close to video in achieving this.

The target audience for Employee Video Profiles is going to be wide and varied. There will be those who are simply trying to find the right person to speak to within the organisation – be they customers, suppliers, investors or those looking for employment. Whilst all website sections offer relevant information to various visitor types, a section marked up as “Meet the team” or “Our people” has relevance to everyone visiting the site. Even though we often transact in a faceless world these days, people do still buy from people – so any chance a visitor has of making a personal connection with those within the organisation is often grasped at. No matter what their enquiry is about, having a named person – with a real face and personality – makes the process that much easier.

The flip side of this is one of the benefits to the organisation. Employee Video Profiles should help them ease navigation for website visitors so they get to the right person first time and thereby reduce the strain on other resources in the business in dealing with misguided enquiries. Employee Video Profiles, if planned and executed correctly, should also give the organisation an opportunity to promote their business or objectives and company ethos through their employees. Bright, happy and welcoming employees will give the impression of a bright and welcoming organisation. In other words, nice people to do business with – nice people to work for – nice people to know!

For the employees themselves, gaining experience in front of camera is increasingly important and valuable. Whilst this might come easy to some people, if you’re working with an experienced video production company on your Employee Video Profiles this should also come with a certain level of media training. You should be given guidance on scripting, body language, backdrop design and performance. This training will not only help junior members of staff, but should also be valuable to everyone up to director level in helping them with their on-screen performance.

Employee Video Profiles Set
Greenscreen sets are compact and make your Employee Video Profiles look like they were shot… well, anywhere!

And of course, let’s not forget those who are looking for employment. Their objective is to assess whether your business or organisation is one that they should be working for. Nothing can compete with hearing from other happy, contented and personable people who already work for you. Well produced and delivered Employee Video Profiles are as good as personal recommendations from someone you know and are far more likely to appeal to precisely the type of person you are trying to attract to your organisation.

Distributing your Employee Video Profiles

Whilst the distribution platform of your Employee Video Profiles will primarily be your website, they also provide the opportunity to expand your social media content. Hosting your own YouTube channel is the obvious place to start. As part of the Google platform, YouTube content features highly on search returns and will augment your general Search Engine Optimisation efforts. But don’t stop there. Separately uploading your Employee Video Profiles to your company Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Vimeo accounts will also help the videos gain traction – as well as sharing them on Twitter and alike. You should also encourage participants to share their performances on their own social media accounts – again adding to the potential audience and helping to raise awareness of your brand and business.

The cost of producing Employee Video Profiles

As I mentioned towards the beginning of this article, Employee Video Profiles are relatively cheap and cost-effective to produce – if scripted and planned for properly. With the use of greenscreen backdrops, professional cameras, lighting and audio recording technology, these can easily be filmed at your premises with little interference to your operation. If the participants are well prepared and rehearsed, it could be possible to film more than ten profiles in a day with a single-man video crew. Post production should take a couple of days to make them perfect, giving you a unit cost of around £150 per employee at this volume level – and possibly less if you want to create more.

If you are thinking about producing Employee Video Profiles, please give us a call today 020 3602 3356.

Case Study – Video Artisan has recently produced six employee video profiles for Galliard Homes.  Watch their profiles below…

Video Tutorials – the benefits

video tutorials title
Why should you consider commissioning video tutorials?

This week we’ve launched the first of a series of video tutorials for AKM Music – the UK’s leading producer of royalty free music for use within video and multimedia productions. These short video tutorials give guidance to newbie video producers and videographers looking to make the most of AKM Music’s vast library of royalty free music (AKA copyright-free music). The aim is to release one of these video tutorials each month, covering the technical and creative aspects of auditioning, editing and mastering the music score for video productions.

The subject is very close to home for us being regular users of AKM Music’s excellent repertoire. We also regularly review new albums for them for this blog and other print publications, so I guess producing the video tutorials was a natural progression for us.

The benefits of video tutorials

Producing video tutorials benefits all the stakeholders. The consumer benefits because video is simply the best medium in which to absorb and understand the processes being explained. Printed instructions and websites are fine, but nothing comes close to watching someone demonstrate a process on screen. Viewers can pause and repeat video tutorials as many times as they like, leaving very little to misinterpretation. Video can also be delivered easily over the internet to any viewing device – be that mobile, tablet, PC or large screen displays – and downloaded locally for playback and reference at a later date.

The commissioning company can also benefit hugely from producing video tutorials. They help build customer loyalty by adding to the customer experience of buying their product or service. Apart from educating end users and customers, video tutorials also help those within an organisation understand the products better and, probably more importantly, the customers who are buying them.

But, above all, populating your website with relevant and valuable video tutorials will help with your search engine optimisation and engage your website visitors more effectively. The longer someone spends on your website the more likely they are to identify with your brand, trust your advice and buy from you. Video tutorials are also perfect material to share via your social media channels and, if your audience sees the value too, they’ll also happily share them with others with the same interests.

If you have a product or service that could benefit from having video tutorials produced about their construction, use or maintenance – please get in touch and we can talk you through the process, costs and then develop an implementation plan to help you start benefiting from them too. Call 020 3602 3356.

Note: Type in ‘copyright-free music’ into the search box at the head of this website to see a range of reviews we’ve published on AKM Music albums.

Filming an Awards Ceremony

Filming an Awards Ceremony Title
M&IT Awards – Filming an Awards Ceremony

Filming an Awards Ceremony

Earlier on this month we were filming an awards ceremony at Battersea Evolution in the heart of London’s beautiful Battersea Park. The M&IT Awards were organised by Meetings & Incentive Travel magazine and celebrated the very best of those from within the business meetings and travel industry – including airlines, hotels, conference centres and those providing specialist services to the industry – both in the UK and overseas.

The awards consist of 19 main categories, plus a special award celebrating the M&IT Personality of the Year. What makes these awards even more credible and extremely valuable to the participants is that they are voted on by the customers of the nominees and independently verified.

Filming an awards ceremony can come in various guises, but in this instance our brief was to produce a short video diary which captured the essence and excitement of the event. Whilst serving as a memento for the organisers and participants, the main purpose for the film is to show potential sponsors just how glamorous and spectacular the evening is, highlight the profile of the entrants and help convince new sponsors that it’s an event which they should associate their brand with. Whilst they are never short of organisations wishing to enter the awards, the film should also demonstrate the value of winning an award and ultimately help them to continue to attract the very best entrants within the industry.

In addition to the main video diary, we also filmed short interviews with the winners of each of the main categories as they came off the stage. These interviews were editing together with the winner’s stage presentation and packaged as standalone films which the winners could purchase from M&IT to use as publicity tools and further promote their success in the awards.

The Challenges in Filming an Awards Ceremony

With nearly 1,300 attendees at the event, and various entertainment features taking place throughout the evening, the main challenge was in ensuring we obtained adequate coverage in order to tell the story and show the event off in the best light. During the reception period and up until the first presentations we were running three DSLR cameras. Light levels were very low during the drinks reception so DLSRs were the obvious choice.

Three shots from a single camera position
Three shots from a single camera position

During the main presentation we had one camera position front of stage operated by Dilip Patel – from which he was recording on three separate cameras. The main camera was our JVC GY-HM650 which was used as the main follow-action camera for the stage presentations. The second was a Canon 5DMkII capturing a stage wide shot. The third camera was a JVC Action camera looking back at the audience to capture reaction shots and red carpet walk-ups.

The JVC was recording ambient sound from its internal microphone plus a front-of-house mix from the staging company’s mixing desk back stage – fed to the camera via our Sony UWP-D11 radio mic system. The AV company was running several radio mics on stage so during set-up we worked with them to set our system to a frequency which wouldn’t interfere with them and gave us perfect sound – even though we were transmitting through the stage to our camera position which was about 50 meters away.

Back stage we had a black drape studio set up which the winners were directed to once they’d been presented on stage. The main camera here was another Canon 5DMkII with a Canon 550D used to capture a “dirty-two” of the set just in case I needed a cutaway at the editing stage (it turned out to be a godsend!). Live sound here was recorded using a boom directional mic connected to our Tascam DR-60 recorder which fed back into the 5D for synchronised sound. A safety back-up was also recorded on the Tascam in dual mode giving us an additional two levels of recording just in case there was any peaks in the main mix.

The back-stage set
The back-stage set

The costs and benefits of Filming an Awards Ceremony

There’s no standard rate card for filming an awards ceremony because each commission will vary according to our clients requirements and the resources needed to achieve it. However, for a simple one-camera shoot this could be as little as £1,000 for a single-camera 1-day shoot and 1-day edit. Whilst this is feasible, more extensive coverage from multiple cameras will give you a much more comprehensive result and is more likely to represent the event more accurately.

Capturing the celebrations backstage
Capturing the celebrations backstage

The benefits are manifold, but the main reason companies choose to invest in having the event filmed is to use it to promote future events and attract sponsorships and entrants. Whilst still photographs are great for organisers and winners alike, recording the event on film is far more engaging and useful.

If you are thinking about filming an awards ceremony, and would like to talk through the various levels of service we can provide, please give us a call on 020 3602 3356.