About a month ago I was asked to speak to a group of marketing professionals about the benefits of using video content in marketing campaigns for independent schools. The event was hosted by The Association of Delaware Valley Independent Schools (ADVIS) at LaSalle College High School. If you’re interested, here is a Link to the event page on the ADVIS website.

The event began with an excellent keynote presentation by Rob DiMartino from Finalsite. Rob talked about the many ways schools can benefit from using video content in their marketing strategy. For those of you who haven’t heard of Finalsite, I encourage you to explore their website www.finalsite.com. While you’re there, read up on some of their blogs. Here is a link to a blog I found particularly interesting as it pretty much in line with Rob’s keynote presentation. Following his keynote we heard from another Rob. Rob Johnson is the director of multimedia and social media from LaSalle College High School. Following Rob number two, we heard from Melissa Tassoni, the former associate director of marketing and communication at Shipley School. All of the speakers presented a wealth of information on the topic of using video in school marketing and each presenter spoke through the lens of their unique qualifications.

I very much enjoyed the free coffee and tasty treats at the cookie bar, but even more than the caffeine and the calories, I appreciated being part of such an inspiring event.

Before the day of the event I prepared some notes to use as my talking points. What started as a few lines of chicken scratch in a composition book began to take shape, as what I like to think, as solid advice for people and organizations who haven’t worked with a production company before. I thought these notes could be useful for more than just those who could make it to LaSalle that day, so I thought I’d type them up and share them. I hope that some of my notes can be helpful for you when planning to create dynamic and engaging video content.

Working with a Production Company Versus Freelancers

Freelancers can be a good option when you’re working on a shoestring budget, but sometimes what seems like a good deal can end up being more work and expense in the end. If you’re working with a freelancer be sure to ask for his or her  demo reel and a couple of references.

Working with an established production company can potentially offer a few additional benefits including the following

  • A production crew is used to working as a team. There are a lot of moving parts when creating a compelling video. It’s more than just lights, camera, action. A company that is used to working together as a crew is super efficient and reliable.
  • Production companies tend to have a crew each member has their individual specialties in various aspects of video production such as a sound recordist, director of photography, and light specialist. Each of those roles require a lot of knowledge and you will tend to get a higher quality product when the crew is focusing on their individual strengths.  
  • Production companies tend to be more available than freelancers. A production company works at production everyday, they usually have a staff that can jump on a last minute shoot.
  • Production companies will have more expensive toys to boost your production value. A good production company doesn’t just work as a team on a shoot, but also for the days they are not working. A lot of research and training goes into working with complex production equipment like jibs and drones.

Not all Production Companies are Created Equal

I’ve worked in many production crews and I’ve been lucky to have worked with mostly knowledgeable, good people. However, I’ve definitely had my nightmare scenarios while on a shoot. Here are some qualities I’d look for when picking a production company.

  • Hopefully they are people you get along with. You will be spending an awful lot of time with the crew and shoots can be stressful. It’s important to keep the mood on set light and fun. It’ll make your interviews better and at the end of the day you’ll have good memories of making your video instead of vowing to never do it again.
  • They will take the time to learn your school’s culture. Every school has it’s own vibe and messaging. The longer you work with a production company the more clearly they can capture the imagery and direct interviews that will give you the content that best represents you.
  • They have the correct equipment for the job and they know how to use it. You might not need a 4k video camera for every shoot, but it’s nice to know what the limitations are for the company you’re working with. Also, if you plan on having a shot that they don’t have the equipment for you can always consider renting it. I’d want to make sure that the production company has practice on that equipment first.
  • They think outside of the box. It’s a competitive world of marketing out there. When you work with a production company they should be part of your marketing team. They’ve done this before and may have some creative ideas that you have never thought of. I like to see creative examples of their work, even if it isn’t related to school marketing videos.
  • They carry an up-to-date insurance policy. It’s pretty darn important that the production company keeps their own liability insurance, that can also cover damage to your property. Don’t be afraid to ask for a certificate of insurance with your address and information on it. It’s relatively easy to obtain if you give the production company a few days notice.

Let’s Think This Through Before We Shoot

Think about what you want your video to look and sound like in the end. There are so many options when considering the look you want for your videos. You should discuss these points before shooting your first scene, or interview, to be on the same page with your production crew.

  • Interview Style – Will the interview subject be looking at the camera or looking off camera? Who will be conducting the interviews? Will there only be the interview subject on camera or the interviewer as well? Will you be using more than one camera angle on the shoot? Will someone be reading off a teleprompter? Will there be camera movement in every shot and if so what should it look like? I know these are a lot of questions but a good production crew can usually help navigate these waters pretty easily.
  • Color / Tone – Do you want the video to look more cool and blue or warm and amber? Finding color examples, or even movie scenes, can help everyone see the same vision. Also realize that the production company may be shooting everything “flat” which means that the image may look washed out or gray at first. Most professional production companies will using separate programs to color the footage as a last step before handing off your final video.
  • Lighting Considerations – Will you be using available or natural lighting? Are you shooting inside, outside, or both? Knowing the locations and the lighting conditions you’ll be dealing with will really help the crew to be prepared with the right equipment for the job.
  • Sound Quality – So many production companies overlook good sound. It is much easier to watch a subpar image with good audio than a beautiful image with terrible audio. Audio quality is paramount to creating your video and when choosing where to shoot. Maybe an interview next to a busy highway isn’t the best place to shoot.
  • Music – There are plenty of royalty free websites like musicbed.com and pond5.com,  when choosing your music for your video. I suggest using those services so your videos aren’t blocked on youtube for copyright infringement. Also finding a few music choices, or examples, in advance can save the editor time which equates to saving you money.
  • Specialty Shots (eye candy) – This is what production companies live for. And, the best part is that using specialty shots can really set your video apart from the rest. Here are a few options to consider when creating your video.
    • Drone
    • Slider
    • Time Lapse
    • Hyper Lapse
    • Slow Motion
    • Jib / Crane
    • 360 degree camera
    • Green Screen
    • Special Effects & Compositing
  • Content management and the importance of maintaining a library of footage – Who will be maintaining the library of video footage you capture? Make sure you will be backing up the hard drive where the footage lives and whenever possible be sure that the production company can organize the b-roll footage so you can reuse the content in future videos. You’ll find that the longer you work with a production company the less expensive each video will become because of being able to maintain a library of footage.  

The Video Making Process

Making a video is fun, especially if you know about what it takes to do it professionally and efficiently. Here is a rundown of how we like to work.

  • Pre Production
    • Free consultation
    • Writing a treatment – What is the story being told?
    • Defining the video’s audience – Where will the video be presented?
    • How long should the video be?
    • Set clear and realistic budgets and deadlines
    • Scripting/Storyboard
    • Gather branding materials – Make sure that the branding is consistent and you provide the production company with those assets early. This can tremendously speed up the postproduction.
    • Location scouting and test shooting – This can save you a lot of time during the production phase. It will ensure that there are fewer surprises and that the production company brings the right gear for the shoot.
  • Production
    • Scheduling
      • When will the crew arrive?
      • Who will be interviewed and where?
      • Beware of over scheduling – Don’t forget that people need food, water, and a brain break. Also if the shoot is running behind we’re used to shooting through lunch or staggering breaks.
      • Multitasking and efficiency – If we’ve done our homework during the preproduction phase, then the crew can work more efficiently by doing things like setting up the next location while shooting another or tracking down the talent for the next interview.
  • Post Production
    • Editing – Who will decide on the content to be used in the video? Sometimes we will offer the interview to be viewable online with timecode burned in and protected by a password. This way our clients can tell us what parts of a video they would like us to use in the edit.
    • Editing graphics and school branding – the editor will need spelling of the names and titles of the interview subjects as well as the graphics that will match the branding of your school. Some of the graphic components might include lower thirds, titles and introductions, fonts and your brands colors.
    • Motion graphics – Will there be an intro graphic, outro graphic or both? This can depend on where the video will be presented. If you are posting on Facebook and other social media you may find it more effective without an intro video.
    • Closed captions – You may want to add closed captions to your video for the hearing impaired or people watching with the sound turned off.
    • Sound mixing and mastering – Sound is very important to your video. Audio mastering helps smooth out the dynamic range, equalization and compression of your audio. In essence audio mastering is awesome! I’m biased. It’s my thing!
    • Coloring – Depending on the type of cameras used in filming you may need to color the final clips used in your video. Color is a key component in how the viewer feels when watching your video. Consistent color grading will make interviews shot in different locations and light conditions match and therefore give your video a more overall consistent look.

Well, those are the notes I had scribbled down in my dusty old composition book. I hope you got some good ideas from them and if you have any thoughts or questions please don’t hesitate to contact us. We live for this stuff!