Monday, December 15, 2014

Putting together a promo video part 1

One of my bigger projects this summer was working on a series of web
promo videos for the University of Alaska. I learned a lot from doing
this job, as it was one of the 'bigger' jobs I have undertaken. Now that I
have approval from the client to post the videos online, I thought it might make
for a good series of blog posts, showing what it is like to undertake a project like this.

It all started when my 'network'  let me know that there was a potential job which was to promote the University of Alaska's Tech Prep programs. As usual, I asked the potential client to view my demos and then set up an initial meeting with them.  I went into the meeting thinking they wanted a generic Tech Prep 'promo' video. So, I did a little research. First, I looked up 'UAS Tech Prep' online and didn't really find anything new or exciting. Just a normal University offering Tech Prep programs. Next I did a quick YouTube video search for 'Tech Prep Promo' videos. this is interesting. These videos TOTALLY, ABSOLUTELY STINK!  I apologize if someone out there has made one, maybe I didn't see your video.  But my goodness, the Tech Prep Promo videos I found online, are really about as exciting as watching the rocks dry off after a rainy day in SE Alaska. Now, I have something to go on. Not a lot, but I am guessing that this potential client also is not enthused by the prospect of the 'normal' Tech Prep films that I am seeing online from other Universities.

So into the meeting I go. I usually go armed with three main questions.

1. Who is your intended audience?
2. What feelings would you like them to feel while watching the video?
3. What action would you like them to take after viewing your video?

After asking these questions I usually ask one final question.
'Show me an example of a good promo film online.'

So at my meeting, I found out a few things. My potential client was relatively
new on the job and wanted to 'shake things up' a bit. As I suspected, she did
not like the current normal fare of 'Tech Prep Promo films'. But more than that,
she actually wanted a series of videos. Up to this point, I thought I would be making
one video. Now I found out that the project involved three different videos, each
intended for a different audience. So my questions above had to be 'portioned' out.

Video 1 was to be aimed at high school students. It needed to be 'hip' and
convince students that Tech Prep programs are cool. The client compared this to
a military recruiting video

Video 2 was to be aimed at parents of high school students throughout SE Alaska.
Parents in these small towns, have a lot of pride in their small, Alaskan communities.
In the past, most children had to move to one of the bigger cities to get work after
high school. But now, UAS is offering Tech Prep Programs to these high school
students, targeted at the kind of jobs they could get in their own community.
So this video aimed to tug on parent's pride in their community, and hope for their children to
be able to stay close to home after high school, It was obviously going to be more

Video 3 was to be aimed at administrators of high schools. UAS was hoping
for more participation from high schools in the area. Yet some were not
working with UAS to offer the Tech Prep classes. So this video was to
be filled with 'dignitaries in Alaska' talking about how important Tech Prep
programs were. The idea was, to convince school administrators that the 'movers
and shakers' in Alaska feel the program is important, and they should jump
onboard as well. Another minor theme was that there isn't really that much work,
for you, the high school administrator to do, so why not participate?

Now the University of Alaska Southeast has campuses in several communities.
Juneau, Sitka, and Ketchikan. The client wanted to make sure that I didn't
just stay in Juneau, as she wanted it to appeal to the parents and students in
the other towns as well. She also wanted me to go to a SE Alaska town which
did NOT have a UAS campus, but whose high school participated in the Tech
Prep Programs. So, I put together a bid, taking into account flights to three locations,
hotels, rental cars and so on. I was awarded the bid and finished the mounds of paperwork,
wrote out a contract and all the boring, but necessary business stuff that one must do.
Luckily, I specified 25% payment up front as the flights, hotels, rental cars and meal
expenses were not going to be cheap. I packed both both my cameras (Sony FS700 and Sony
VG20) a bag of lenses, a couple tripods. slider, lav mics, batteries, chargers, and lots of
SDHC cards and got onto the jet. Now I live in Alaska, but what many people don't realize,
is that the part of Alaska I live in is not particularly cold. But it is wet. It rains.
And rains. Usually about the time everyone is starting to quack, we will have a break from
the rain for a solid two hours. That's what we call a 'partly cloudy' day. So that made it
all the more amazing when I had pretty much solid sunshine for the whole week I was on the road.

Anyways, after a week full of 14 hour work days, I came home with about 200 gigs of footage.  As this was for the web, and I had to be fairly mobile, I shot this all to internal AVCHD on the cameras, which honestly looks way better than it has any right to. Being on the road, it was perfect to be able to carry 8 32 gig SDHC cards in a case about the size of a pack of cards. And the SDHC cards cost about $35 each and will hold 3 hours of video. Once I was home, I started working on the postproduction.  Because of the client's stated desire for something that high school students would think was 'cool', I made
extensive use of the slow motion mode of the Sony FS700 for this first video.  Now each on of these three videos in the series
was different.  Obviously, there would be a lot of similar footage, but each video
was aimed at a different audience.  For this blog, I am going to include a 'client brief'
which is a short summary of what I wrote down for each video after meeting with the client.
Most of the stuff in these briefs are DIRECTLY from the client.  A filmmaker may have
their own ideas how to do a commissioned film, but as always, the client is the one paying the
bills so it's good to have a short brief down in writing to explain what it should look like.

The client brief for the first video is as follows:

Video 1)Student
Totally directed toward the high school student.  It should outline some of the programs 
offered but has to have an amazing 'wow' factor in the way the video and music are put 
together.  Students want to be involved in programs they can be proud of.  It's all about 
bragging rights.  Probably no longer than 3 minutes, they don't have a long attention span. Teenagers, especially those who don't enjoy traditional schooling, don't feel as young as
they are.  They have a mindset that they are more mature and advanced than their peers.  
They don't want to be talked down to or listen to explanations. 'Shock and awe' works well 
with this group.  Listening to other teens talk about their experiences won't work, unless 
the other teen is deemed to be as 'cool' as they are (and no one is as cool as they are).  
The self-esteem of young people is generally pretty low.  We want to show them what they 
could become.  We have to present the information in the future tense.  Maybe a bit with
students doing awesome hands on work, but also clips of actual work in the field.  Young
people sign up for the military many times because of their recruiting films that showcase 
troops in the field 'The Few, The Proud, The Marines'.  Students wouldn't sign up if they saw
boot camp videos!! 

So there is the client brief.  This necessitated some 'staging'.  I didn't want to just show what
kids may actually do in these classes (although I wanted to show some of that as well) but
to show what it may be POSSIBLE that they could become if they kept following the career
paths these classes would lead them towards.  So, as you can see in the video, the CNA
student probably would not be performing CAT scans on patients or scanning through
X-rays.  The EMT and fire trainees, would not be responding to a fire, and so on.  But the
client brief directed the course that I took in the video....which really is the most important
thing.  If the client likes the video, then they hire you again, say good things about working
with you and all that stuff which is very important if you like eating actual food and paying your mortgage.

Anyways, take a look at the completed film below after reading the client brief.  Hopefully you can see how the two of them go together.

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them below.

Gabe Strong
G-Force Productions Digital Cinema

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