Videotape to MP4

Videotape to MP4
Videotape to MP4 conversions – what’s it all about?

There’s been a massive sea change in the past six months in our videotape conversion work here at Video Artisan. At the beginning of this year we were almost exclusively converting VHS, VHS-C, 8mm and DV tapes to DVD. That’s still a significant part of what we do, and DVDs are going to be with us for many years to come, but our customers are starting to appreciate the convenience and benefits of having their videotape collection converted to MP4 files and supplied on USB stick.

So what is driving the change of videotape to MP4?

USBs are the "now" format!
USBs are the “now” format!

Videotape to MP4 conversion has many benefits over and above conversion to DVD. Without getting too geeky, MP4 (which is a digital video file format) has the potential of displaying much higher resolution images. However, this aspect is really only important if you have high definition videotapes that need converting. As with most things in life, you get out what you put in – so your never going to get high definition video from a VHS tape original. Sorry, but that’s a fact.

Where MP4 is extremely clever is that it compresses video more intelligently than the compression format used on a standard DVD (which, for the geeks amongst you, is MPEG2). Without any appreciable loss of quality you’ll only get around 2-hrs of standard definition video on a single-sided DVD (which has around 4.7GB of storage capacity). In MP4 format you can compress the video much more efficiently enabling you to get many more minutes into less storage space at a similar quality.

However, as clever as this all sounds the main benefits which our clients really like about our videotape to MP4 conversion service are:

  • Easy to view
    Most modern TV’s have the ability to playback MP4 files directly from a USB stick. Yes it’s true.. look on the back of your TV set and you’ll see a socket/s which you’ve probably not used before. Pop the USB stick in and select it from the source on your remote and, hey presto, the MP4 video files will play back just the same as they would if played from a DVD. MP4 files will also play back on BluRay players, mobile phones, tablets, media servers and more!

    USB socket
    Go on, dare you! See if you’ve got a USB socket on your TV set

  • Easy to copy
    Whilst it’s easy for us geeky people to copy DVDs, not every customer wants to download ripping programs from dubious sources and fill up their computers with rarely used programs. Just pop the USB stick in your computer and it will appear like any other drive. Drag and drop the MP4 files on to your hard drive and it’s all backed up safely.
  • Easy to share
    Not only can you easily make additional copies on USB sticks (or we can do it for you), but you can also upload your MP4 files to the likes of YouTube and share them with the rest of the world (or at least family and friends). Simply open a YouTube account and start uploading! If you don’t want to share them with any Tom, Dick or Harry use YouTube’s privacy settings to restrict viewing to the audience you want.
  • Easy to edit
    MP4 files are also a doddle to edit. Most computers come with basic video editing software – and for those that don’t there are some neat and very cost effective programs that will allow you to chop out the bad bits, add titles, music and effects that will make your home movies much more enjoyable.
  • Easy to store
    Finally, USB sticks take up much less space in our ever-more cluttered lives. They’re certainly much more compact than the videotapes we’ve converted for you.

Costs of converting videotape to MP4

What our clients like most about our videotape to MP4 service is that it costs about the same as converting to DVD. For details on our pricing structure please visit our website section here –

A Recruitment Film with a difference

Recruitment Film Title
The story behind our Recruitment Film for Siemens Financial Services

A Recruitment Film with a difference

Earlier on this year we were approached by Siemens Financial Services (Region North) to produce a recruitment film which detailed the cultural changes that had taken place within their business. These changes were introduced in 2010 as a response to a challenge from Siemens’ Global CEO and resulted in the division increasing their profits from €47M to a staggering €61M in a little over four years.

But this wasn’t simply a case of producing a trumpet-blowing recruitment film – this film had two distinct goals to achieve. Firstly, each year the Siemens group of companies run an internal awards program to celebrate the successes amongst their many divisions – and Siemens Financial Services felt that a video submission would be a brilliant way to show their successes off to the judging panel. The film therefore had to reveal what changes had taken place in the business, the challenges this cultural change presented to the management and the impact that it has had on its profitability and, more importantly, the positive effects it had on productivity and self-worth of the staff working within the division.

With a looming deadline for entries the awards submission became the immediate requirement, but the longer term goal was to produce a recruitment film that would show potential employees what would be expected of them if they became part of the Siemens Financial Services team. Having developed a culture of trust and high levels of engagement, they wanted everyone to fully understand and commit to this before applying for a post with them.

Briefing for a Recruitment Film

An assignment such as this takes a lot of consultation with the client in order to ensure the film meets it aims and objectives. Siemens Financial Services had already been drawing up a list of things that needed to be covered in a written awards submission before considering commissioning a film. By the time they had approached Video Artisan they were very clear on what aspects and milestones within the culture change project were important, but didn’t have a clear idea on how this could be conveyed within a short film.

Our suggestion of producing a presenter-led investigative documentary was quickly adopted, and their response to our proposal of using radio and TV presenter Mary Green to front the film was equally enthusiastic. The idea, which we believe we have realised, was to produce an in-depth news report from a neutral perspective with the story being told through a series of interviews with management and staff from Siemens Financial Services.

Filmed over two days at their Stoke Poges HQ, our approach was to single out those employees who were most effected by the cultural change and those who had been influential on specific initiatives. The main storyline was drawn from a long and detailed interview with CEO James Gearey but, equally important (and in line with the cultural change itself), we gathered interviews with employees from every level within the business to demonstrate their buy-in on the initiative. Quite often in these situations you can experience resistance from staff members to being interviewed, but such is the success of the cultural change and sense of ownership amongst everyone in Siemens Financial Services, that we were really spoilt for choice for willing and capable candidates.

recruitment film volunteers
Never short on volunteers to interview for the Siemens recruitment film

Going forward with the Recruitment Film

Whilst this was a very rewarding commission to work on, it is tinged with a little disappointment. Unfortunately, despite their entry being received very positively at global board level, their awards submission was up against incredible competition entries from other Siemens divisions and therefore wasn’t selected for the finals. On the positive side, and as testament to our treatment of their main objective, the film now plays a pivotal role in their recruitment programme.

Are you thinking of commissioning a Recruitment Film?

A recruitment video is an incredibly powerful tool in attracting and retaining the right personnel to your organisation. The production process itself can help you to develop and share your core values and business ethos – therefore pre-qualifying candidates by revealing your expectations of them. Furthermore, it can also be used to share your ideals and ways of working with existing and potential clients.

If you would like to explore the possibilities for your organisation, please contact us today for a no-obligation consultation on 020 3602 3356.

Team Building with Video

Team building with video
Discover the benefits of using video for team building

Video Team Building for M&IT

We’ve just completed another M&IT Agency Challenge event, this time held at The Lensbury in Teddington. This is the fourth Agency Challenge event we have covered for M&IT (Meetings and Incentive Travel) but our remit goes way beyond just producing a short documentary on the event. M&IT are well and truly sold on the value of using video as a team building activity for their delegates and it is often quoted by them as the most memorable and fun part of the event.

Team building events and activities come in all shapes and sizes. Some are purely a means of getting people within an organisation together in one place to network, share ideas or simply get to know each other better. However, the more effective ones are those that get groups of people thinking and working towards a common goal or achievement – and often taking part in a challenge which is way outside their usual area of work and expertise. A good team building activity will also challenge their creativity, develop leadership and demonstrate the true benefits of collaborative effort.

Why Video Team Building works

Using video for team building, where teams are assigned a task to create a short film or sequence as their exercise, has many benefits. First of all it can be a whole load of fun. We find that many delegates relish the opportunity to get in front of, and behind of, the camera and “make movies”. The filmmaking process is, after all, a very collaborative process which involves technical and creative skills in bringing a story together on the screen. It has the potential to serve all types of characters – from those who have a longing to perform and act, to those who enjoy hands-on activities (camerawork, sound recording or lighting) through to those who want to lead the creative process through script writing and directing. We also provide delegates with coaching on the filmmaking process too, so they’ll also come away a little better informed about framing, composition, sound recording and how to tell a story using video.

Teams on team building
Having fun – building teams

M&IT use video team building very effectively with teams assigned to make a short commercial about one of the presentations made to them during the main body of the event. It is the team’s choice, but it has to be based on one of those subjects. In M&IT’s case these presentations are made by suppliers to the meetings and incentives industry (airlines, hotel groups, national tourist boards etc.) and the delegates are made up of representatives from agencies who are likely to book their services. This results in the delegates paying particular attention to their presentations as they might have to make a short film about them when the video team building part of the day starts. They also combine this with ongoing quizzes throughout the day, again based on the content of the presentations, so by the time the event finishes they are extremely well informed about various suppliers, locations and facilities available to them.

Team Building for any occassion

This formula can be easily adapted to any business event or conference where you want delegates to come away better informed; for example, when running a sales event at which you are introducing new products or services to your sales force. Pre-warning your delegates of the forthcoming video challenge will guarantee they listen during briefing sessions where the new products and services are introduced. The other benefit of using video for team building is that it can also give a focus to the end of an event, using it to screen the edited films and announce the winning entry. This is generally very entertaining but, more importantly, gives yet another opportunity to share the message.

There are also further benefits to using Video Artisan to provide this activity for you. At little additional cost we can also produce a short film about the event. In the case of M&IT the following short documentary is used to promote future events to delegate attendees and sponsoring companies wishing to put on presentations.

If you think your next team building event could benefit from incorporating a video production exercise then please get in touch. Whilst this can be extremely beneficial, and lots of fun too, it does require a fair amount of planning and experience in order to get the most out of it. Please call 020 3602 3356 to talk though the possibilities – and see how you can use video to bring your teams together.

Confidential Video Production Service

Confidential Video Production Service
Video Artisan – for a truly confidential video production service

No, it’s not what you’re thinking! As someone who loves to blog about their latest video production exploits it’s not always possible for me to share with the world what I’ve been up to. The last few months are typical of this. Whilst this can be frustrating at times, it does go to show the expanding areas where video production is finding its perfect application. Let me tell you a little about our confidential video production service.

Really Secret Video Production Work

Top Secret
Security cleared video production specialists

The work I carry out for Crown Media is a more obvious example of a confidential video production service. The privilege of working with the British Armed Forces and NATO on their training exercises obviously comes with obligations of confidentiality. You simply can’t get involved in this level of work unless you are signed up to the Official Secrets Act and have obtained NATO Secret Clearance. It’s not exactly James Bond stuff but needless to say that what goes on on a Crown Media assignment, stays on a Crown Media assignment.  But providing a confidential video production service is not all cloak and dagger stuff.

Not for Public Consumption

Client confidentiality and restricted distribution of my video production works creeps in to many other areas business-to-business communications these days. For instance, I’ve been involved in many team building events in the past year and the vast majority of these never get publicly aired – and for good reason. These events are sometimes all about employees letting their hair down and revealing their inner-self to their colleagues; a very important process of team building which fosters trust and helps people work as a team towards a common goal. Breaking down barriers and connecting division within a business helps everyone understand and appreciate each other, and the video production process is an excellent example where different roles, skills and talents come together to form the final product. It’s also normally a whole lot of fun too!

Other confidential video production assignments which are never destined for public screening include internal communications material. Whilst these can sometimes creep out of their intended audience circle (not by me I hasten to add), they are generally produced just for the eyes of those who need to know. This includes staff training films, financial reporting, top-down management policy messaging or motivational content on general or specific initiatives. Whilst these might not be truly confidential video production assignments, there will be occasions where they contain information or techniques which my clients do not want to share with their competitors.

confidential video production service
Keeping it under our hat!

Commercially Sensitive Video Production

There are also video production projects which are confidential for a given time. When launching new products or services businesses will normally want to have a full arsenal of marketing assets available to them on launch. With video content playing such an important role in marketing these days businesses need to work with a video production company who appreciates this and is will to sign (and act according to) NDAs (Non Disclosure Agreements). Providing a video production service in these situations will mean being privy to all sorts of information which the client does not want released until the right moment in time – and sometimes information which they never want released at all!

Uncredited Video Production

My freelance work for other video production companies often ends up being uncredited too. This might not be a truly confidential video production service but it does have elements of confidentiality. Unlike some others I have no problem with this as long as I’m duly rewarded in financial terms. I’m sure I would be a bit miffed if someone was claiming my work to be theirs but, thankfully, that’s not happened to me. Being part of a team will often result in no individual recognition or bragging rights, but the fun and rewards of working on a collaborative effort far outweigh this.

Trust us with your confidential video production needs

So, mum’s the word. If it’s to be kept under wraps then we are the people to trust with your next confidential video production project – and we’re ready to work under any reasonable and achievable conditions you want to impose on us. Based in Loughton, Essex – we are within easy travelling distance of Central London and regularly travel throughout the UK, Europe and happy to take on assignments worldwide. Call 020 3602 3356.

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.