How to make a
Promotional Video for your Business
The following does not talk about cool and crazy ideas, nor about your logo in an amazing flaming 3D animation. It's simply an introduction into the steps required for making a video for business.
So you want to make a video. Perhaps the boss has said "we need a video" and then added that it needs to "go viral" or something to that effect. Maybe you've got a trade show coming up or are working on a redesign of your website and want to include a video.
What follows is what I believe is the most efficient way to make your video.
You basically have two options - you can do a huge portion of the work yourself thus ensuring that you have complete control of the content and the message as well as controlling the cost and the amount of time spent. By taking on a large role in the process you can adjust the plan after it's started to accommodate new demands and as you get feedback from the process. The results should also be as close to your target as you want to make it. In this roll you are the Executive Producer as an EP's job is pretty much the same. As a "hands-on" producer you oversee the project and keep it on track, on target, utilizing the skills and talents of the Director or Production Company you hire. You should hire a director or production company because they have the technical and creative skills you may likely lack. They can advise you on time, costs and other requirements to meet your goals, offering you options, tradeoffs and a detailed plan of action. Plus they have access to the talent and equipment that will be required.
The second option is to hand off most of the project to someone else with little more than a brief description of your needs and intended use. For example you might hire a video team or even an agency and tell them "we need a 10 minute video for the upcoming show in Europe, it needs to feature our new product line, oh and it needs to be 'viral'". In this case you are The Customer. This is more of a "hands-off" role in which you as the customer are presented with as few options and decisions as is absolutely necessary.
By taking the second route you give the video team all of the responsibility which is great for their creative freedom, but also requires them to research your company and products (which you already know more about then they ever will) as well as coming up with a script, a shot list, music, and all of the details. Agencies love this freedom because it's all billable. The results could be truly amazing, or maybe somewhat off the mark you intended, but regardless it will be expensive.
I obviously favor the first option with the client acting as Producer because it results in a more effective video for the intended use and the original objectives of the project. The resulting video will likely be more conservative then setting loose the wildest dreams of a group of creatives, but it will likely be closer to your expectations and far less expensive. By being directly involved you will better understand the process and can decide when it's best to bring in other company resources, such as your sales people or management to take on some of the work such as writing the copy that will become the script.
The goal here is not to make a super deluxe PowerPoint presentation, the goal should be limited to a concise, short list of objectives, such as establishing a branding for you company and products, or a market, or to introduce a new product or even a new feature and/or service. The more you include, the more diluted the message will be.
Here is the outline of steps required to deliver a marketing video;
1) Objectives: why are you making this? Fundamentals here - who is the audience, what is the message, what do you want the audience to do with the message?
2) Format: You've decided on a video, but that still leaves lots of options. Review some of those options with production people so you have an understanding of what's required for each and what will be the most effective in delivering the results.
For example a on-camera spokesperson can bring an air of authority and even empathy to your message, but a good one will require an experienced actor. In addition there are trade-offs to the type of person you select based on how they are perceived by your audience including gender, level of attractiveness (including type of makeup/clothes), ethnicity, age, even dialect and tone of their voice. You should also consider that moving shots with talking actors requires a lot of shooting time to account for lighting, make-up, blocking (where the actor starts and finishes moving) and retakes. An alternative is to use a voice-over actor. This simplifies the production as well as the selection of the actor. A great spokesperson can bring a production up but there are many risks and whether it's great or not it will be expensive. You may also consider using a non-actor as spokesman, but be aware that this also carries great risk as bad acting will stand out and possibly undermine your message. Many car dealer ads use non-actors - consider the impression they make. For good or bad is that favorable for the image you want to portray? I recommend voice over as a nice middle ground, but consider an actor or if someone in your company has great screen presence it might be worth testing (a screen test can tell you a lot).
I also recommend that any video include both spoken word and on screen graphics with a duplicate message. Different people are more receptive to either information carried by sound or by sight and only by delivering your message both ways can you be certain your message reaches your entire audience. It doesn't have to be subtitled, but major points might be good to spell out as graphics as well as spoken word.
A video can quickly become tedious and boring for the viewer if the images do not move at an adequate pace. Pacing is set by a combination of the cut rate (moving from shot to shot), perceived camera motion (panning, zooms, or animations in post), the tempo of any background music as well as the pace of presented information; speed of the overdub speech and/or how fast and how long graphics are shown on screen. A balance must be made so the overall pace is driving forward, leading the viewer to a feeling of anticipation but not so fast as to create frustration or confusion. Also note that different types of audiences (primarily by age) respond differently to different paces - know your target audience. Summaries and light repetition (a repeated slogan for example) can be especially effective for information and branding retention.
Understand where your video will be viewed; by prospects walking past an exhibit booth, or by a captive audience watching your video intro prior to seeing an onstage presentation. The later may also apply to a website video where you may have the complete attention of the audience, but the former may benefit from frequent use of your brand and slogans throughout the duration of the video so that even brief exposure may elicit retention of your core message. Different applications may require different edit versions.
Will your video need to be streamed over the internet? While this is becoming less of an issue with greater bandwidth available keep in mind that streaming to wireless devices such as iPads and smartphones may not provide the highest throughput. Videos with lots of motion and busy backgrounds may require additional buffering or reduced resolution to stream smoothly. You may also consider planning for your video to be produced in HD (or even 4K) but to be distributed in several lower resolution and/or high compression formats (MOV, MP4, FLV) not all of which may be universally compatible to your viewers. Consider reviewing edited versions on different sized screens.
In developing content you don't want to start with a "concept" ("we'll have endless clowns exiting a small car"). You want to make a simple, concise list of the message or messages you want your viewer to leave with. Everything follows this starting point and those points must not get lost in the process.
You can start by introducing all of the messages at the beginning or gradually throughout the presentation. I recommend that you reiterate these points at the conclusion for maximum opportunity for retention.
With your objectives you can create an outline of the areas to be covered. For instance you may start with an introduction about the company and/or the product/service you will be showing in the video. The next sections may include various products, services, capabilities, client segments, capacity, global reach, etc. Each of those areas covered should start with a brief overview before delving into ever greater detail. This allows for the long versions of the video to be cut shorter by eliminating portions of the ever greater details without sacrificing the introduction or some basic features.
Once an outline is created you will have a solid idea of the amount of content to be included.
At this point and only at this point you can start addressing creative ways of presenting the content, reviewing what is required to fulfill each approach and determining some costs associated with those options. From that you can establish a budget; "if we include the shots in Budapest, we'll have to cut elsewhere to keep the budget in line" The budget should be based on the desired content to be included and the production requirements for that content. Traps best to avoid are shopping a video by price. However it is still generally true that you get what you pay for - just understand that certain options are relatively cheap and others are not if they require set building, multiple locations, elaborate effects and/or actors. Time is money once production starts.
Preproduction is the key to success. By planning everything in detail you can address every issue prior to incurring the time and costs associated with the production process.
All elements of the final video should be planned out fully to determine the time and materials required.
Many companies and even some ad agencies have at times decided to just shoot a bunch of content and cobble it together in editing. This can actually work, but the results will be mediocre at best and at worse may miss delivering your key points altogether.
Included in the pre-production is the creation of storyboards, a script for on-camera talent or over dubbed narration, shot lists, casting (if required) and the hiring of a production crew. The plan should be solid enough to hone the details and start doing some of the legwork of assembling all of the elements. A story board does not have to be a literal cartoon of each shot, just a plan for what is to be shot and it's relationship with the shots that will come before and after in the final edit. It can simply be stick figures so long as the it's clear if it's a tight shot, wide shot, what's to be included in the shot. In some cases a shot list in edit order may be enough. During production it may prove more practical to shoot "out of sequence" but with an understanding of how the shots will fit together in the edit.
The most expensive part of the process is the production so everything done in pre-production serves to make the production phase as predictable as possible for the very best achievable results.
If everything leading up to this point has been done well it should simply be a matter of seeing it through. Every detail needs to be watched and this is no point for compromises in quality. An interruption to a quality production is a money-sink so every contingency must be made to plan for the unexpected (backup actors needed? weather forecast on track? equipment failure backups? etc.)
The production proceeds from shot to shot which as mentioned before may be in edit order or out of sequence if that proves for efficient; all of the shots using an actor, all of the product close-ups, etc. So long as a check list is managed and someone is carefully watching for continuity (the guys watch disappears and it's back in the next shot!)
The production is not complete until all of the rough footage has been reviewed on set to ensure that every shot has been made and meets the quality and continuity requirements of the production plan.
6) Post Production:
This is the editing process which takes all of the elements including on-set shot footage, b-roll footage, graphic elements (logos, titles, CAD, stills, etc.), background music, voice-over (which may be recorded after the principal production shooting), and any other elements and assembles them into a rough cut version of the final video (longest version).
There may also be several steps before the rough cut to prepare various elements for inclusion; reviewing various options for background music, color correcting or otherwise processing video footage for example.
The rough cut may not include any effects, final animations, final music selection or fine retouching, transitions, etc. This rough cut is used to quickly determine the status of the production. Does anything need to be reshot? Do you need any additional elements? Can you anticipate a final version based on this rough cut that will meet all of the goals and needs of the production? It's late in the game, but this is the point where you need to review before going forward because 75% of the post production time may still be required to deliver finished videos (long and short versions? a teaser or trailer?) in the various formats (HD on external drive/thumbdrive, DVD, Streaming format, YouTube/Vimeo format, web site version, etc.) that need to be finalized and approved.
If you have an event, announcement, or release date this is your hard deadline. The entire schedule goes backward from this date. You may want to include a soft deadline a few days to a week earlier to allow for disaster or the unforeseeable. For example if your soft deadline is the Thursday before the big show opens on Monday in Chicago and the video still needs a last minute change you can take the latest version with you to Chicago knowing you may still get an updated version by Sunday night. Don't make Sunday night the deadline as there's no fall back at that point and you won't have the almost done version, you'll have no version for Monday.
Lastly a word about the "viral video". It's a myth. It doesn't exist and you can't make one unless you're McDonalds or Pepsi or Ford. That's because the predictable viral video is a two-edge sword and only a carefully planned prelaunch can ensure a priming of the well. Even then there's no guarantee as "viral" is not driven by money, it's at the whim of the netizens who may be fixated with new royal babies that week or a meltdown at a nuclear plant.
When I was at Ford Motor Co. they made their first viral video (I was not involved, just witnessed some of the fallout). A new car in Europe had an "evil twin" version used in some "underground marketing" (web videos). In one version its wipers smacked pooping birds and in another its sunroof cut off curious cat's heads. It did indeed go viral, but with negative consequences. Ford blamed a rouge ad group in England which it then fired. For those that want a viral video understand it might cost more than you think.
I hope this has been a helpful introduction to the process. If I can assist you in the development and production of your next video please let me know.