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Ideas for new style of edutainment web videos?

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Bill MooreIdeas for new style of edutainment web videos?
by on Mar 20, 2008 at 6:45:31 pm

Hi folks. I work for a marketing company producing short web videos for a website that they are creating. The website has aspirations to be sort of like CreativeCow, but for Marketers instead of A/V people.

When I was hired, the videos they had produced were terrible, and I am happy to say that with some work, I have helped them reach a new level of professionalism in their content. But I still think we can go further. So I am looking for ideas or insight from this creative community.

Currently, the videos are basic talking heads, staff from the company talking about trends, technologies, etc. They are shot on a greenscreen, with some animated backgrounds and graphics, spinning logos, animated screenshots. Basic boring corp video. Here's an example:

I would really like to push this format to a higher level, but I can't think of much off hand, and I'm having trouble finding examples of any really innovative corporate web video styles.

SO, I am imploring upon you: the radically awesome creatives that you are, to point me in the direction of some innovation in this field.

Are there any ideas out there, or should I just shut my brain off and continue pumping out redundant mediocre videos forever?

Any help will be greatly appreciated and will receive kudos and good karma and whatever else I can provide!!!


Bill Moore

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Mark SuszkoRe: Ideas for new style of edutainment web videos?
by on Mar 20, 2008 at 10:58:58 pm

Bill, the sample looked pretty. That's not your problem. IMO, what you have is a WRITING problem.

That presentation was basically written to be a person reading the brochure to you. I can read a heck of a lot faster than that lady can speak. THAT's why it bores me. I don't need to be read to in linear fashion, its boring and condescending. And the script is just kind of too passive and pedagogical.

For example it is also entirely too pedantic to use my time to get me up to speed with dictionary definitions in the way that video presented them. A better technique would be to super brief blurbs underneath or in a corner as the lady talks, so the people that already know what "social whateveitis", IS, don't have to wait for the newbies to catch up. Plus, you've just made the video that much shorter for everyone, always a good thing.

The presentation's structure is the problem, not the eye candy and effects which look fine and professional. The presentation in the link would be more effective IMO if done as a .pdf file or hyperdocument than a video. At least the .pdf file or a web page is self-navigating: if I want to skip the dictionary definitions and get right to the part I need/want to know, I can go right to that page, in whatever order suits me. I think hypertext and self-navigated content are faster and better as well as cheaper and more efficient means for many such communication needs.

This video of yours maybe should not have been made in the first place because it is not leveraging much of what video is good for. This is an argument I make with clients all the time, when all they want to do is read over powerpoint slides and call it a video.

I have told clients before: "I may sound crazy to be turning down your money to make this video, but I wouldn't feel right if I didn't tell you that IMO a video is not the best or most cost-effective way to tell this message, you should save your money and do this another way". Surprisingly, they respect my honesty the times I've said this. I have never lost repeat business over it, even when I've been overruled, because I'm obviously working in their best interests as far as I'm concerned.

So anyway, regarding your videos, Is this just "radio with pictures, or a true synthesis of image and words? To get that synthesis requires much more work and commitment than to just write a lecture and then drop images over the audio track, cool as they may be, until it's covered end-to-end and you are "finished". Which is why too few people take the effort to do that extra work. And why so much content done this way is utterly forgettable.

You can have the ugliest-looking content in the world, but if it is vital and unique information the audience actually wants, they will forgive and ignore the warts. Conversely, no amount of glitz will make an audience stay with a program that doesn't engage their brain and gut at the same time. Video is good at emotions, subjective information. It conveys a perceptual framework. It is not very good for long grocery lists of objective data. Often the best synergy is a video that generalizes and ancillary materials that convey the detail.

I would say at this point,you already know how to shoot and edit the videos well; your best investment would be to find a real professional writer to collaborate with on the scripting process for future materials... and to help you focus on what messages are best served by which media.

Use the channel and format that best serves the communication need, and that is not always a video. This is why marketing happens on so many platforms, each customized for the specific task and audience.

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Bill MooreRe: Ideas for new style of edutainment web videos?
by on Mar 21, 2008 at 2:51:29 am

Thank you! This is exactly the advice I was looking for, and I agree completely. I was grasping for the words I needed to explain this to my boss, and now you have armed me with some powerful talking points. I guess I still have the tough job of figuring out a better method of getting these written! The scripts have been written by other people in the company, and then handed to me to make a video. I don't think they will hire an experienced video writer, so I will either have to try to get the writers to understand this concept, or try to take this responsibility myself... Either way, I'm going to need to figure out a better way to present the information. Ugh. I'm not a writer dammit... I'm an editor. Oh well. Looks like I have some work to do this weekend. Wish me luck!

Bill Moore

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Mark SuszkoRe: Ideas for new style of edutainment web videos?
by on Mar 21, 2008 at 3:32:57 am

You don't need luck, you need fourteen dollars and an membership:

This corporate scriptwriting book book by John Morley is exactly what someone in your situation needs. Morley is to corporate TV production what Syd Field is to Film script writing. It's helped me make a living at this ever since it came out. Fast, easy reading, excellent practical examples, case studies, checklists, etc. You can't go wrong. I have TWO copies, one of my own at home, one at work, I consult it annually to refresh myself. This is your "secret weapon". Don't tell anybody else; it will just be our little secret


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Bill DavisRe: Ideas for new style of edutainment web videos?
by on Mar 22, 2008 at 1:15:22 am

I'm sorry, but the "buy this book" approach will, in my opinion, elevate your results from poor to mediocre. Probably no farther.

I know everyone thinks they know how to "write." And "writing" is taught in every school in the land. But what is actually taught is business writing for the eye. Stuff to be visually read off a page and comprehended at it's basic informational level.

That same style of writing will always get you exactly the problem you're facing here. Dry, lifeless, one-dimensional "talking head" scripts. Put that kind of writing in a video and you're lucky if the audience doesn't fall asleep.

REAL writing for a video performance has to go WAY beyond writing for the eye. It needs to incorporate rhythm, expression, coloquialism - it needs to make ROOM for visual clues like the actions and expressions of the humans delivering the message. It is writing for the EAR - and that's a far different kettle of fish. (A colloquial phrase I might put to great use in a a video script - but would expect to have CUT from any printed training manual as useless puffery.)

I'm always surprised at how companies figure that anyone who can write decently in a general business context can simply be re-tasked to write good video scripts.

It's like saying the because someone can press a piano's keys, that means they can actually play the piano. Or perhaps to expect that since someone has advanced at the keyboard to the level where they can play pop music chords competently - they should ALSO be able to suddenly play JAZZ well.

It just doesn't work that way.

These are skills based in training, talent, and practical experience.

Like all the rest of us who produce video, you need to find PEOPLE WITH TALENT. In both scripting and on-screen presentation. Without identifying and recruiting those kind of people, results beyond what you're getting right now will likely remain beyond reach.

My 2 cents, anyway.

FCP since NAB 1999
creator: muti-track movies

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Mark SuszkoRe: Ideas for new style of edutainment web videos?
by on Mar 22, 2008 at 1:41:02 am

Bill, with utmost respect, you have not read this book, and so your opinion in this particular case may not carry its usual and rightful weight.

This book will show a producer how to become the kind of writer you're talking about. If you decide you don't want to write yourself, it will also help a non-writer to have the right tools to communicate with hired-gun writers with a capital "W".

Fourteen dollars for a used copy is a very good gamble, considering where he's starting from. I'll stake my miniscule reputation on his satisfaction.

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Bill DavisRe: Ideas for new style of edutainment web videos?
by on Mar 22, 2008 at 8:21:23 pm


Don't mistake my intent. I'm ALL FOR someone reading any and everything they can get their hands on.

Learning is ALWAYS a good idea.

But I thought the original post was from someone who is trying to produce these NOW - using a variety of non-pro talent - and yet wishing to generate professional results.

In my experience, a script written incorrectly (which is to say a script that is needed to be read aloud, but written in the same style as a document designed to be read visually) is nearly ALWAYS the weak link that pulls the rest of the project down to it's level.

No different from composing a wonderful polka - then expecting people to waltz to it.

Writing for the eye, and writing for the ear - are two separate disciplines. Just like playing basketball and playing baseball. And remember, even an ultimately superb athlete such as Michael Jordan had significant trouble switching from one to the other.

We ask people to respect our learning and craft as video creators and not expect to get the same results that we do by simply buying a fancy camcorder, mics and lights. Because we understand that it is the knowledge and experience that matters.

Same thing with writing. So asking someone who doesn't regularly write video scripts, to sit down and do a great job of that simply goes against common sense.

I do agree that books, articles, and other resources are a great place to START. But respectfully, not if you're on deadline!


FCP since NAB 1999
creator: muti-track movies

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Bill MooreRe: Ideas for new style of edutainment web videos?
by on Mar 23, 2008 at 1:08:50 am

Thank you all for your suggestions and advice. I don't have an extremely tight deadline per se. I need to have a conversation with our new VP of Marketing about the videos, and I want to get her on board with a better way of doing things. Unfortunately, since videos are not a big part of our business, and we are not a huge company, I highly doubt I will be able to convince anyone to hire a full time video writer. I think they are expecting me, the editor, to do the job ultimately... along with shooting, graphics, web design and a bunch of other stuff that shouldn't really be my responsibility, but that's the market.

So I need to find a way to get up to speed as quickly as possible. I have had script writing classes, and have written scripts, but they have always been narrative fiction, never business type videos. I'm pretty sure I can do it, but what I really need to see is some examples of well written videos in this field. Does any one have any examples of some well written corporate videos? I bought that book, thanks for the tip. And thanks for the explanation Bill, I will use alot of that in my discussion with the new Marketing director.

So if any one has any good examples of well written videos, send em my way!!!

Bill Moore

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Frank JohnsonRe: Ideas for new style of edutainment web videos?
by on Mar 27, 2008 at 9:01:20 pm

GREAT input guys...

It may come down to budget and ability but...

I'd rather see the whole thing in graphics/animation and much shorter. The talking head, at least for me doesn't do it. She appears to be "trying" to act professional. If you're going to use an on-camera person, the talent needs to either be an expert speaking to the audience or a someone the viewer can relate too.

I think she's too dry to be relateable and she doesn't seem comfortable enough to be an expert.

She's very attractive but perhaps she wasn't the best choice for this role or maybe she was directed to be serious and wasnt given a chance to show much personality.

An After Effects artist could have a great time with this project... as long as it was kept to 60 seconds!

I agree that much of this information wold be better presented in an interactive mode. Perhaps a Flash presentation with examples and links to real word examples.

I was producing it, I'd pitch a 30-60 second animated introduction video followed by a flash presentation with examples.


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Marc BrakRe: Ideas for new style of edutainment web videos?
by on Apr 8, 2008 at 7:41:10 pm

We did a pretty neat 'edutainment' video recently, if that's what you wanna call it :-)

For a government office that's about to upgrade their website & online service, we did a cool little three minute puppet movie. Shot HDV in a real, great looking old puppet theater with a puppeteer, we had the puppet (an old washerwoman) literally beat the dust out of the old website (printed on a piece of cloth) with a carpet-beater, and then wash it out with all kinds of detergent such as 'user generated content', 'web 2.0', 'call me back buttons' and all kinds of new features that would be on the new&improved website. A storyteller-type voiceover explained the story of what was going to happen to the website ('once upon a time... there was a website'), and the puppet would comment on that. Worked out really well, and very fun to do.

Another example, when that same office introduced a new software, we did a couple pretty straightforward before-after type videos, illustrating the hassle of the old system vs. the more efficient new way. What made it fun, though, was that the 'before'-piece was shot all silent film/comedy capers style, with the really crappy old sped-up b&w film look, title screens instead of dialogue and soms slapstick humor, whereas the 'new way of doing things' part was really futuristic. Corny? Definitely, but funny too, and people still come to me because they liked those videos and it's been over a year and a half.

I could continue, but i think the point is: try to make it enjoyable for yourself, and try to do something new with every new video you deliver, to keep it interesting for yourself. It will show. And: humour works.

By the way, I will also give you a book tip. Not a how-to for writing corporate video, but a very interesting book about how to bring a message across in such a way that it sticks with people. Not surprisingly, it's called: Made to Stick, by Chip and Dan Heath.

Hope all this helps. Good luck!

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