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production values!?!?

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Matthew McNultyproduction values!?!?
by on Mar 24, 2008 at 11:34:57 pm

just a survey if you will... please name some of the ways you would add "production value" to a video project that is half done and lands in your lap... without warning and accompanied by a client who is angry at the last video crew

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Jason JenkinsRe: production values!?!?
by on Mar 25, 2008 at 7:08:25 am

Is there still shooting to be done? Or is it a "make the best out of the footage you are given" situation?

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Mike SmithRe: production values!?!?
by on Mar 25, 2008 at 10:07:00 am

Clarify why the client is mad and check that you agree the crew was in the wrong.

Refocus the video on the core target audience and the objective.

Replan the video as from now/where you are, with a sketch / treatment of what you'd like to do and why, and associated costs.

Discuss and negotiate with client.

This is a clean break / new proposal starting from here approach, seeking to take charge of the project as a producer, and not find yourself reacting as an editor or an add-on to a client who may not have a clear plan for the video and has already been in difficulties with one (probably pro) production outfit....

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Mark SuszkoRe: production values!?!?
by on Mar 25, 2008 at 2:38:05 pm

The question is really too nebulous to answer effectively. Can you elaborate at all?

"Oh, you wanted to RECORD that?"

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Matthew McNultyRe: production values!?!?
by on Mar 25, 2008 at 8:13:29 pm

you are absolutely right here, but i sensed and ultimately was told time and budget is very prohibitive and it is... i now believe it is a add more spices to the current recipe issue... you follow?

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Frank JohnsonRe: production values!?!?
by on Mar 26, 2008 at 4:13:42 pm

Some easy way to add production values..

Graphics and music are probably the most common way to add production value. it can also be the quickest way to make a video look cheesy.

Informational graphics like animated maps can distract from a poorly shot talking head and add to viewer comprehension.

Tastefully done lower thirds can help

Animated transitions text treatments and backgrounds can make dry material more interesting.

Is there a voice over? Try using two voice over talents. One male and one female to add interest.

Different edit techniques are certainly over used but in the corporate world, they can still provide "wow".. Time re-mapping, occasional flash transitions with a sfx,

Change the music often, depending on the production at least once a minute.

watch other peoples corporate videos!

Dont over do it!

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Matthew McNultyRe: production values!?!?
by on Mar 25, 2008 at 8:10:05 pm

[Jason Jenkins] "Or is it a "make the best out of the footage you are given" situation?"

this is pretty much it... i think the guy wanted ILM... but on a youtube budget... the footage rates... well lit sound is solid... basically corporate interviews, charts, stills, etc. some motion stuff... frankly for the budget it currently stands up... when i asked if he was looking for heavy effect, sound fxs ore motion grfxs he was kind of iffy... pressed harder and he admitted he thought he would get something more exciting, more "production value"...

so in a way there could be more shooting but i only see adding "b" roll of facilities or folks working, perhaps a show host to help ties section together and add some graphic transitions for more flashiness

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Mark SuszkoRe: production values!?!?
by on Mar 25, 2008 at 8:54:48 pm

So if I hear this right, the pictures are fine, the sound is okay yet the video somehow stinks. Sounds like a problem I talked about here earlier in the week. The real problem is quite possibly not technical, but structural and narrative. No amount of tumbling DVE cubics or greenscreen wizardry is going to fix that. If their idea of a program is 'radio with pictures' they should not be surprised that the video is less effective than desired or expected. It very likely wound up as what someone once described to me this way:
"This is the video nobody watches, by people we never listen to and don't know, of the manual nobody reads, for the product nobody is buying".

Unfortunately the rest of us and our industry as a whole then often unfairly get tarred as ineffectual from that one poor example.

I'm guessing this thing was not scripted by a pro, but by someone in the office without scripting experience, who got saddled with it, then that script was given to the techs to execute, and they made it to order.

But like computers, GI=GO. People will spend all kinds of money on expensive HD cameras and cool effects and travel to great locations and even hire expensive actors but rarely, rarely, do they spend significant money on the first, most important step of the videomaking process: a good, well-thought-out script that delivers.

Some projects you just can't repair except in a superficial way. Bad narrative structure and a lack of a narrative point to make? Well, FCP doesn't have a button to fix that.

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Mike SmithRe: production values!?!?
by on Mar 25, 2008 at 9:23:31 pm

Amen to that! Work out a great message, credible and interesting, package it up in a fresh and appealing way, and you have a chance to make watchable video. If you take the customer's own script and try to "visualise" it, it's often downhill all the way .... except for the rare occasions when the customer has professional scriptwriting expertise to hand.

Here, I'd guess a shorter piece faster pace of cutting, with a stronger music track and some Trapcode effects might get the client back onside ...

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David HamesRe: production values!?!?
by on Mar 26, 2008 at 4:05:37 am

If you can get this client to legitimately answer a couple of questions, you'll be back on track.

1. WHAT does the client want the viewer to do at the end of the video? Buy something? Invest in something? Vote for someone?

2. WHY would the viewer buy, invest, vote as the video suggests? This often goes beyond the unique features and benefits of the "product" but includes an emotionally compelling reason for them to act. And when I say emotional, that doesn't just mean tears, it could mean passion, it could mean fear. Find the drama/conflict in it to create a compelling reason for people to act and your client will be thrilled. I think the client is saying "production value" because he wants the piece to make him "feel" a certain way, not "look" a certain way.

I don't know your skill set, but if writing is in there, you'll be fine. If it's not, consider hiring someone. I don't know how much material you're dealing with interview wise, but I'd probably budget in the $1,500 to $1,800 range to get a writer, it just depends on the amount of material and where you're starting. It would also be necessary to get the interviews transcribed with timecode notes, which runs around $125-150 per hour of interview.

If you're looking for a writer shoot me an email and I'd be happy show you some samples. If I'm out of line soliciting a gig here, I apologize in advance.


Red Balloon

films and other visual enticements

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Matthew McNultyRe: production values!?!?
by on Mar 26, 2008 at 4:31:53 pm

The piece is an internal video for a corporate "show" during a convention somewhere in texas... man getting that info was like getting my kids to pick up the f'in legos... sheeeze...

so really a PR rah rah type gig... me thinks he wants some more flashiness to the charts and graphs... thumpin' beats for the live event sound and projection system he is apparently dropping a wad on (that's where the budget went Dr. Watson... indeed Holmes)

thanks everyone for chiming in... lots of food for thought... for the future as well...

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Mark SuszkoRe: production values!?!?
by on Mar 26, 2008 at 9:32:48 pm

You can throw some Jump Backs at it, some techno-thump music, and fancier bulleted graphics builds, but that's a band-aid solution.

A very common problem I face with my clients is they want one video to do every kind of job: for an employee training video to also be a sales promo or motivational video and also a kind of annual report video for shareholders... when those are all distinct target audiences with conflicting, antithetical needs. They tend to do it from a lack of understanding of media, and from a false concept of economy: that the more "stuff" you cram into one production under a fixed budget, the more you somehow get for your production dollar. Where we would look at the above laundry list and suggest that's at least three separate scripts and productions, they often want to lump dissimilar things into one job just to get it over with and because there is not enough money to make three good short videos. So we'll make one cruddy extra-long one!:-P

I tell them the message is like an arrow, and the more topics you add onto it, the broader and flatter the point of the arrow goes until it can't penetrate a target no matter how hard you pull back the bow(read as "spending money").

Pare down the message to the essentials. Short is good. Leave them wanting more, not gnawing their leg off to escape. And of course, Know and understand your key audience, respect them, don't try to tell them what they already know. Don't lie to them. Involve them.

Something I do with my clients is ask them for five objective, measurable things a viewer should know or think or feel about the main point, after watching the program. Play the first-cut master video for some people in the target audience, with the same educational, social and cultural background as the target audience. Ask them the five questions before and after viewing. If they retain three or more, its a win. If they retain two or less, go back and try again with refinements. If they retain all five, submit the video to an awards contest!

And make sure they understand that if they are not themselves in the target audience, their perception of what is good or effective in a video may not be the best, and that they should lean more on survey data and polling to decide what to greenlight. Otherwise, what you get is, the project was conformed to impress "the Big Guy", whoever that is, but has little effect onthe actual target audience. It's much more important to risk the Big Guy not liking the show *personally*, as long as you can show him the objective numbers that the video is doing its proper job on the assigned target audience.

Steps like this kind of validation are not what non-pro's know anything about when they throw some powerpoint speaker notes into MS word and call it a "script".

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Frank JohnsonRe: production values!?!?
by on Mar 27, 2008 at 3:56:36 pm

>>I tell them the message is like an arrow, and the more topics you add onto it, the broader and flatter the point of the arrow goes until it can't penetrate a target no matter how hard you pull back the bow(read as "spending money").

That is a great way to explain it... I'm going to have to borrow that from you.

The trouble is tat during the discovery processes, I'll try to convince my clients to focus on a target audience.

"Who are we designing this video for End user, Sales Reps, Recruitment, Training, Orientation."

90 percent of the clients will say "YES!, all of them"! They interpret a diliniation of videos as an attempt to sell them more videos.

Often I try to convince them to break up the project into a few small 1.5 minute videos instead of one 6 minute videobut this is often the result:

'All I want is a video"

"But Mr, customer, I'm trying explain that there are different videos for different purposes"

"My boss said he wants a video"

"Errr... OK"

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Mark SuszkoRe: production values!?!?
by on Mar 27, 2008 at 4:24:38 pm

Ah, yes, the dreaded: "General Audience" specification. Morley goes into great detail about this in his book. What you might try next time is to act stupid, and ask some leading questions:

"When you say General audience, do you have a lower and upper age limit?

"Would these people be assumed to have what level of education, at a minimum? And what maximum?"

"Are they predominately one particular ehnicity or gender?"

"And roughly what kind of income level are we talking about, in a broad sense?"

You keep whittling away at these "general" specs until you can define the target down to something manageable:

"So, what I hear from you is, we're aiming for young, single, primarily English-speaking men of any race, living in cities of 50 thousand population and up, between ages 25 and 35, with at least a high school diploma and at least 2 years of college, making between 20 and 50 thousand a year, who like outdoor activities and who rent their current home or apartment, and have a bit of money saved they might want to invest in either a home purchase or another type of investment."

You now know *something* about whom you want to reach, you now have some basis to start designing the message. That is not a "general" audience we just listed. You just saved a LOT of time and money for the client that might have been blown on creative approaches that would have been wasted on non-qualified target audiences.

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Frank JohnsonRe: production values!?!?
by on Mar 27, 2008 at 7:29:42 pm

Playing stupid is good advice. Especially when working with marketing managers as opposed to a non-marketing person or business owner.

Many marketing managers often feel threatened and like to call the shots.

Most videos I work on are in the 25,000 - 65,000 range but it's amazing how many clients, even those with a decent budget, still want a video that is all things to all people.

Accessing the person you're working with is key..

Are they a real decision maker?

Are they really interested in a quality product or are they covering the bases cause their boss told them told too?

Are they willing to "go to bat" for a good idea?

What is their background? Maybe they have more video experience than you!

Are they looking forward to the project? How can you make it fun for them?

How can you make them look good?

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Timothy J. AllenRe: production values!?!?
by on Mar 28, 2008 at 12:58:33 am

Great ideas, Mark. Stripping down everything that isn't core would be my key goal... and you absolutely have to keep the audience in mind when you do that.

Even though the jumpbacks and graphics suggestion may not actually make it "better", that may be what the client *thinks* he wants. If that's the case, the first thing I would look at would be color grading. Some Magic Bullet film filters can do wonders for clients who are looking for cheap and quick ways to "improve" videos. I hope you can tell by my quotation marks that I see the magic bullet filters as band-aids that won't save a bad script or bad acting, but color grading and a subtle (albeit emulated) film grain does at least show that there was some extra effort that went into the video.

At least it can help get you away from that "cheap soap opera video" look.

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