Good film interviewers are storytellers, asking the right questions in just the right way, weaving together a seemingly spontaneous narrative. The best interviewers also make their audience think – they’re debaters, researchers, orators, and thoughtful listeners. Interviewing someone can feel as alien as, well, being interviewed. Capturing the process on film is even more daunting.
Consider Martin Bashir and Larry King. They may make strange bedfellows, but they’re both examples of engaging interviewers, having built careers by asking the right questions. Here are a few considerations to help bring out your inner Larry (or Martin) and ensure a smooth video interview.
Before the interview
Your interview should start weeks ahead of time. Interview legend James Lipton employs his own researcher, also spending hours watching movies, reading biographies, and pouring through articles before coming up with hundreds of “blue cards” for his interviews. Interviewing someone on camera takes a good deal of forethought and preparation; great interviews aren’t the kind of thing you want to try to wing.
- An interview is a conversation, but it’s a conversation that takes some significant thought. Planning is an opportunity to think about your goals for this interview. These goals will influence your questions and will dictate the tone of the interview. Your approach in talking to your Gran-Gran about her childhood is likely to be different than that of an interview with a controversial city official. If your goal is to capture a thought-provoking debate or provocative conversation, you’re going to have to pay attention to the sequence and structure of your questions. Other considerations should be the setting of your interview, as well as your own role in the finished product. Whether sitting side-by-side on a couch or across the table from one another, different settings elicit different feelings and senses of formality. Much like the office of a therapist, the setting of an interview has psychological bearing on the behaviors and interactions between an interviewer and their guest, even helping promote self-disclosure. Further, give some thought to your own screen-time. 20/20 wouldn’t be the same without Barbara on camera. However, it’s less common to see the interviewer in documentaries, as the subject is the main focus.
- One of the biggest mistakes an interviewer can make is not doing background research. I recently watched an interview on a mainstream news station that shall remain nameless. Interviewing a scholarly author, the anchor had clearly not read his book. The interview was painful to watch. Become an authority on your guest. Research their background and experiences. If your interviewee is an expert or author, you should have an understanding of their area of expertise or have read their books/articles. If they’re commonly interviewed, get your hands on those interviews. Remember, in their own way, this person is an expert in some way, whether on their own life or a particular subject. Once the cameras are rolling, you can’t fake having the insight that research will give you. Further, the best interviewers are genuinely curious about the people they’re interviewing. Use research to spark your curiosity.
- Write Questions Ahead of Time
- Take time and put thought into your questions. That means writing them well ahead of time. Let your research fuel your questions. A few common tips for writing thoughtful questions:
- Avoid asking yes and no questions. This is a golden rule of interviewing. Instead, write questions that make will make your interviewee describe an event, situation, or opinion.
- Write a few interesting warm-up questions that will get the interviewee talking. I was once on a job interview in which the interviewer neglected those important warm-up questions. I would have loved to be asked about my lunch, or my cat, or my background. Instead she jumped right to the situational, skill-based questions and I found my normally calm demeanor shaken and stirred. The same courtesy holds for filmed interviews. Even if you’re pressed for time, do not skip out on these questions.
- Consider the order of the questions as well. Good interviews are well-paced, with questions building upon one another. Think about how your questions will encourage discourse and create a narrative.
- Write a handful of novel questions. This tip is especially important if you’re interviewing someone who has become accustomed to doing a large number of interviews. Make your video stand out with unique questions that they haven’t been asked before.
- Practice your questions on someone. See if your questions generate the kind of conversation that you want. Take the opportunity to go back and revise questions so that they’re polished.
- Build Connections and Manage Expectations
- Build your connection with your interviewee early. A lot of our interview-based anxiety comes from uncertainty. Help sooth these jitters by giving your interviewee an idea of what to expect. You don’t have to invite them over for tea, but set the stage so that they’ll feel more comfortable disclosing information during the interview. This is an opportunity to let them know what to expect. For most interviewers, the goal is to film a natural conversation– a stunned, stumped interviewee does not make for great video. Providing specifics about the interview is another way to manage expectations. Let interviewees know what you want them to wear, what the set will be like, and how long you expect shooting to take. Finally, get some information from them. Don’t be afraid to confirm their credentials or ask for fact sheets.
- Plan Your Shoot
- You have some decisions to make. Aside from impromptu street-side interrogations, interviews are incredibly staged. In some ways, filmed interviews are so difficult because of the un-naturally staged setting. The nature of interviews is not necessarily a bad thing, but does lend itself to a number of considerations.
- Furniture and placement: Give some thought to where you want to stand or sit, as well as the positioning of any furniture. Are you going to appear on screen or stand next to the camera? Will you be using chairs, sofas, tables, or stools? If using chairs, make sure to face them so that you can the faces of everyone in the shot. Consider if you want your interviewee looking at you or at the camera– are you filming an intimate conversation or do you want the interviewee speaking directly to your audience? Your set is going to dictate how closely you sit to the other person, indicating the level of intimacy and formality.
- Lighting: Thought should go into lighting, where you want lights to be placed, as well as what kind of lighting you want to use. Try to avoid placing lights in spots that can be harsh on the eyes or lighting that magnifies an artificial-feeling environment.
- Cameras: How many cameras do you need for the interview? Do you want to capture multiple angles or do you plan on going back to re-shoot different segments? Depending on the length of the interview, it could be beneficial to capture more than one angle to keep the video fresh and your audience interested. Planning your shoot will help you to determine if you need to enlist some talented volunteers or acquire a few more trusty tripods.
A few days before
- Remember, it’s good to think about interviews as a conversation. You want to sound natural and be able to recall all of that research you did. Practice with a friend and try to keep the conversation going. You might be a video veteran, having logged hours in front of the camera, but your interviewee may not be - anticipate talking to someone that may not have a similar comfort level. Practice how you’re going to get them talking, keep them talking, and move the conversation along when time necessitates. You should also get a sense of the pacing of the interview. Place a clock behind the interviewee so that you can keep an eye on the time and move questions along.
- Contact your Interviewee
- This is also the time to make sure you are in contact with them. Provide them with detailed information about the time and location of the shoot. Try to avoid making them feel out of the loop. They’ll feel more comfortable talking to you that day if you’ve been thoughtful and in contact prior to the interview.
- Test your equipment
- Test, test, test– especially if it’s just you and your tripod. Make sure everything works: lights, tripods, cameras, batteries. Do some test video at your location to make sure your set and lighting are creating the ambiance you want. Also, practice interacting with the camera.
- As with all shoots, you don’t want to wait until that morning to get everything together. Treat this as an international trip — pack ahead of time. Remember spare tape, batteries, and chargers. Bring camera-friendly make-up for your interviewee, as well as wardrobe options in case they show up needing a bit of help. Don’t forget to pack bottles of water. There’s a reason Leno and Letterman always have mugs for their guests.
- Creature Comforts
- Use this time to get your interviewee comfortable. This may be your first time meeting them in person– make a good first impression. Being friendly and personable before the interview starts can go a long way once the cameras are on. The camera is like a magnifying glass for tension, so even if your questions are written to encourage debate, you want the interviewee to feel comfortable, not intimidated by you. Also, don’t be afraid to give them some direction. To ease jitters, give interviewees instructions about where to look, especially if you want them to avoid the camera. Having a clear sense of what you want will not only make them feel more comfortable in front of the camera, but can also help save you a bit of time in the editing room. Another helpful trick is to encourage them to re-state your questions as part of their answer. Repeating questions aloud helps to keep a nervous brain focused and on track.
During the interview
- This bit of advice seems like common sense, but after all the planning and research you may find yourself focused on the delivery of the next question. The best interviewers listen intently to their guests, letting them finish their thoughts before following up with the next question. Listening makes a huge impact, distinguishing a scripted interaction from a thoughtful conversation. Further, their answers can completely change the game, creating unexpected tangents and interesting paths of discourse.
- Good interviewers are like cats. Howard Stern is a great, albeit controversial, example of an interviewer who can think on their feet. Stern not only asks interesting questions, but understands how to respond to interesting responses. Read: your interview will probably not go according to plan. Your guest will likely answer questions before they’ve been posed. They will make points that need clarification. They will tell stories that will compel you to find out more. Gran-Gran will have skeletons in her closet that you didn’t see coming. You will have to toss out prepared questions, editing as you go. Improvising is what makes interviews interesting. Go with it. Embrace it.
- As the interview is closing, steer the conversation towards concluding thoughts and statements. This can be an overlooked interview element. You’ve just lead your interviewee on a sort of journey, and like all good tales this one should have a proper ending. Make sure that you leave time for concluding thoughts and summations, as well as final comments from your guest. Do your interview justice by giving it some closure.
Summer. “What an amazing opportunity to do some videos,” you think. With all the good weather, sun, popsicles, fireworks, and pets doing watersports, summer can be a great time to do some filming. Let’s back up a bit: sun, weather, and water. These are all elements to consider when planning your summer shoot. Here are a few tips to help you maximize the rest of your summer shoot fun and come out with a video that looks like it was shot by a pro.
Summer is a great time to film because of the sunlight, however the sun can also provide some challenges for cameramen. Shadows, glare, and brightness are all concerns when shooting in the summer. There are a few professional tips to help manage these concerns.
- Try to schedule shoots for early mornings or late afternoons. Summer afternoons can create wonky shadows. Light is easier to manage and manipulate during these times. If you’re concerned about heat, mornings can also provide some temperature relief.
- When doing research on camera filters, you inevitably run into the sunglasses analogy, and for a good reason– the analogy rings true. Your camera is essentially an extension of your eye. During the summer a tremendous amount of light enters your eye. Your pupil can only do so much– you need sunglasses to filter out all that extra light coming from the sun. Camera filters help neutralize light for your camera, stabilizing the amount of light that enters the lens. Neutral Density filters allow you to control how much light is entering your camera, which can help you shoot throughout the day. Polarizing filters can also help to keep reflections in check while keeping colors looking saturated.
- Lighting is another consideration when it comes to the sun. When possible, shoot with the sun to your side. This will prevent backlighting and keep actors from staring into the sun. Before you start shooting, do some legwork. Go to your shoot site and do some tests. Figure out which angles work best during specific times of day.
This summer has been particularly toasty… everywhere. While the heat shouldn’t keep you inside hugging your AC unit, you should take some precautions for hot shoots. Just like you’d take care of yourself during the summer, take care of your equipment. All those excessive heat-warning labels are there for a reason. Protect your equipment by keeping it out of the car and insulating it from heat. One pro suggests packing gear in cooler bags, sans the ice, and wrapped in towels.
It’s hard to stay away from the water during the summer. Oceans, lakes, pools, sprinklers, and open fire hydrants capture the essence of summer, and are perfect locations for commercials and short videos. Be careful not to get too much of summer’s essence near your gear. There’s no planning for a sudden gust of sea-spray. Take measures to keep your equipment dry. Another professional tip? Have plastic bags on hand, using them to protect equipment between uses. The same bit of advice goes when filming on location at campsites. Condensation tends to build up in tents, leading to soggy gear. Keep it bagged and keep it safe.
We’ve established that it will likely be a bit hot while you’re filming. Take this into consideration when planning the wardrobe for your shoot. Even putting together a short, two-minute video can take hours of filming. During those hours in the heat, your cast is going to get hot and they’re going to sweat. And if you have to do a lot of editing, there are going to be some wardrobe continuity issues if you’re piecing together a scene shot in the morning, when actors are fresh, with one shot towards the end of the day after everyone has gotten a bit… gross. The trick lies in making summer costumes simple. Now is not the time to do that Victorian themed video you’ve been dreaming of. Put your cast in simple, lightweight layers, in colors that are going to reflect the sun and the time of year.
Nothing can bring out the cranky in people like being hot, hungry, and thirsty. You don’t have to arrange professional catering, but you should put some thought into keeping everyone on set hydrated and satiated. Above all, make sure you have plenty of water on hand. Jugs of water are cheap– fifty to seventy cents cheap. Figure out how much water you need and then bring a bit extra. You also don’t want to send your crew into afternoon food comas. Bring foods that are light and filling. Watermelon: check. Sandwiches: check. Salads: check. Popsicles: check. Goulash: keep at home.
- the health benefits go without saying. When you’re out in the sun, you should be wearing sunscreen. The effects of prolonged exposure to the sun also present unique concerns for video producers. Tan lines and sunburns can create the same issues as sweaty garments in the editing room. Make sure that you have sunscreen on hand and that everyone is wearing it. Further, find sunscreen that is camera-friendly. Sunscreen can be greasy, messy, and hot, all reasons why so many of us hate wearing it. The camera magnifies these qualities. Try to find a brand that is light and oil-free. Remember, no one likes a greasy, sweaty cast and crew.
- Lots of it. Sweat is going to be an issue. Powder is a solider against shine. Make sure you have a sheer, colorless powder on hand to minimize moisture for those who are going on camera.
- Keep a stash of hand towels around for people to use. Just being able to have something to wipe perspiration off with can be a nice relief. Fans are also a nice touch. Hand fans are cheap and effective.
Yes, there are a lot of considerations for summer shoots, but you’re outside for a reason. Summer scenery isn’t just beautiful, it makes for powerful imagery. These locations paint a vivid picture for your audience, memories of the cool relief of a pool or colorful summer festival. Take advantage of your surroundings and give them ample screen time. Treat your surroundings like a character in your video and make sure to capture aspects that are going to resonate with your audience.
Just Embrace It
Yes, it’s hot and sunny, but you can work the heat and sun in your favor. Westerns wouldn’t be the same without the gritty setting. The haze of the heat meeting the ground is almost iconic. Good directors have utilized these elements to enhance their films and add context to their stories. You can also let the heat and the sun work in favor of your brand. Making a commercial for a sports drink? Perfect! You’ll have a sweaty cast ready to go. You’ll easily set the scene for needing some thirst-quenching goodness on a hot summer day. Use the elements as tools, helping to tell your story or create a need for your product.
Lastly, don’t forget to take care of yourself during your shoot. Wear light clothing and sunscreen. If you’re drinking coffee, make sure you have a bottle of water by your side. Remember to eat! We tend to forget our needs during the middle of projects, but neglecting yourself during summer filming can have more significant consequences than simply missing a few hours of sleep.
Now that it’s the beginning of the end of summer, you have probably already shot outdoors so add your own tips for your fellow videographers! Share with us here, on Facebook, and on Twitter at @SproutVideo!
Good for you! Your script is written. The journey is almost over. Almost. Editing your script is the final, very tall hurdle. Editing can be a gut-wrenching process. But, out of the ashes a better script will rise. Really, it will rise. Here are a few tips of wisdom to make the process less daunting.
Walk away from your script. In fact, put it far into the recesses of your deepest closet. Get a beer and head to your porch. At this point, it’s simply time to put away the pages of your script, pages that are discolored by your blood, sweat, and coffee. Take a breath and walk away. Go back out into the sun and enjoy your life. Taking some time away from the project will help you to clear your head, detach a bit, and come back with a more objective mind. So, to start, just give yourself a break. You’ll thank yourself.
Read it out loud
Set up a table. Bring in the chairs. Take that script to Kinkos. Wherever you wish, gather your friends and read it out loud. Yes, this might induce some cringes as you go around the table, but this is an important first step in figuring out what works on paper and what works in reality. Having your script read aloud will point out dialog that needs to be worked on. This is also a great opportunity to get some feedback.
Scripts have two main foci; dialogue, which the audience is privy to, and action, all the visual elements of your story. Your audience either needs a piece of dialogue or an action to understand why something is happening. If your speaker is laughing on camera, your audience either needs to hear or see what was funny. If a product needs to be demonstrated, make sure to include the action in your script. Even though your audience is never going to read the actions of your script, they still need to be edited. How do you edit an element that needs to be acted? Visualization. Make sure that you can see that action happening given the directions of your script. If not, you need to continue to develop that part of your script until you can clearly see the scene in your head.
This one’s a toughie. Dialogue is important. Editing dialogue can be difficult. Your dialogue helps move your video. Dialogue should be strong, yet realistic. Because your video is short, dialogue will help set up context and bring in outside information. When you’re editing dialogue, start by looking for generic lines that aren’t integral to the scene or pitch. Remember, avoid stale dialogue and limit rambling. Especially when it comes to shorter videos, dialogue should be to the point and relevant.
Include vs. Exclude
One of the hardest, and most important, steps of editing any document is figuring out what really needs to be part of the final product. Editing is not just about fixing comma splices, split infinitives, and obnoxious misspellings, editing is about figuring out redundancy and parceling out what should remain in your manuscript. This can be especially challenging when it comes to scripts. Sometimes your story needs irrelevance and whimsy to provide comedic relief. Sometimes your script just doesn’t. Look for lone actions and dialogue that are unnecessary.Again, this is a good reason to read your script out loud. The extraneous parts will beg to be liberated from your narrative, and if you don’t realize it, someone else will. When dealing with time constraints, this step can help you to keep your video short and sweet, while maximizing relevant material.
Don’t Ignore Grammar
Yes, that point up there mentioned something about grammar not being the most important part of the editing process, however it should not be ignored. A comma here or there can completely change the meaning of a sentence. Ellipses are going to indicate to your actor that they need to take a beat… or that your period key was stuck. A misplaced comma can be the difference between life and death. An apostrophe can indicate a contraction or a slow, Southern drawl. Hunting for typos is important no matter what document you’re editing, but it’s even more important when those grammatical marks are indicating how something should be read aloud by another person.
Revise. Revise again.
Editing is not fun. The process is meticulous and slow-going. Editing is nerve frazzling and you aren’t going to be done in one shot. You are going to have to butcher your script, dismembering it again and again. After you’re done with a revision, see step one. Take a break and start on something new. Knit. Paint. Bake muffins. Take up Kendo. Then come back refreshed, full, and less frazzled.
Don’t edit alone
One of the best tricks of editing is having someone do it for you. No matter how many times you step away from your manuscript, you’ll never come back with a completely objective mind. The blood, sweat, coffee stains, and unnatural attachment will always be lurking. Find someone who can tolerate your madness and who you feel comfortable taking criticism from — this is important. Having someone else edit your work can be draining for both parties, but it’s important to have that objective set of eyes go through your script. They’ll find redundancies and superfluous material that you would never have caught. No matter how short your script may be, getting some outside editing will only help refine your script and your writing.
This is another element of editing that often goes overlooked. Make sure that your script and your story are consistent. The initial writing process is a whirlwind of creative energy. Sometimes we lose ourselves in our ideas during that initial write-up. Now is your opportunity to make sure that the elements and themes of your script are consistent. Ensure that the parts make a whole. Look for parts of your script that may seem inconsistent and work to make them fit in with the rest of your narrative. If you can’t seem to make them work, work them out.
Do not ignore formatting. You’ve put a lot of hard work into this script. Make sure it’s acted and directed the right way. Edit your formatting, making sure that actions are clearly actions and dialogue is clearly dialogue. Your actors should know who is speaking. Your script should be clean, clear, and professional. This may seem simple, but chances are that as you were scrambling to pen your ideas, formatting became a rather low priority. Do your script justice. Take the time to format it.
It can feel like a marathon to get through the editing process but if you come away from it with a beautiful script that practically ensures a great online video, it will have all been worth it. Let us know what you think of our tips here, on our Facebook page, and on Twitter @sproutvideo!
Writing a script can be hard- You have all these ideas floating around in your head but putting words to paper is tricky. Here are some tips to help you turn those ideas into an online video script.
Even though the words of your script will never be seen by your audience, a script has to be well-teased out, just like any novel. Get yourself a nifty dry erase board so you can scramble down ideas like a maniac. Make flow charts and diagrams. You probably have some great ideas floating around in that head of yours, but there are likely some gaps you need to fill in. Involve your friends. Our natural inclination is to keep the details of these types of projects top secret, but your friends and family are a great resource. Their feedback is valuable, especially when they might point out parts of your script that don’t make sense to an audience. Also, the simple act of voicing your ideas aloud can help you tease out your plot, devices, and character development if you are telling a story in your online video.
Loglines are short synopses of a plot. They sum up the entire script in about 27 words. A logline is basically a plot abstract. Writing a logline is important for several reasons. Loglines are lifesavers for marketers. The single sentence helps them to sell the movie or talk about it to the press. Loglines are also good for you — summing up your film concisely will help you to avoid getting muddled up in your ideas or straying from your main ideas.
Outline your paper. Writing a framework for your script will save you when your thoughts begin to feel like a mental omelet. An outline will work to visually show you how your story is going to move and help to organize your thoughts. You can even make yourself a storyboard. Your outline is going to be an anchor when you finally start writing your script. Further, outlining will help you to pace your story, which can be especially important when you’re working with a very specific window of time.
Beginning, middle, end.
Writing is daunting, getting from the beginning to the end can be grueling. But, the guy who said that bit about the “journey” was right—it really is important. Frodo would still be stuck in the shire if he hadn’t gone on a ridiculously long journey. When you’re writing your script, make sure you consider all of these parts of your storyline, even if your video is relatively short.
- Your beginning needs to grab your audience, especially since your writing for an online video. Your audience hasn’t shelled out money to be there. They have the freedom of moving on… quickly. Getting the plot moving quickly and developing characters are ways to get your audience vested.
- The middle can be the most challenging part of your script to write. You’ve hooked your audience, but now have to keep the story interesting. In fact, the difficulty with many scripts is the middle. How do you keep your audience sitting in front of their computers? Engage them. Surprise them. Make them feel things. Here’s where that outline comes in.
- The End
- You don’t have to write a happy ending, but you should think about how your ending can satisfy your audience. Sometimes we do want to see the guy get the girl, but sometimes we want an ending that challenges our beliefs and conventions. If you’re writing for a series, consider what questions you’re going to leave unanswered and how you’re going to get your audience vested enough to watch the next installment.
Mood, setting, point-of-view, transitions. You have a lot to think about. These are the elements that are going to serve as the glue that binds your story together. An online video can be similar to a novel in some ways, however completely different in others. Details like scene transitions are things you’re going to have to think about. How is your video talent going to exit the video? Is the room you’re filming in a traditional office or a modern living space? Do you want to use excessive sepia to convey a tone or setting? The foundation of your video is your plot, but all these details are going to bring it together.
Forcing yourself to write can be… taxing. One of the hardest parts of writing is getting the thoughts in your head to sound intelligent on paper. You have all these obstacles in your way: writer’s block, work, a migraine, your cat. Not all of us are blessed with the ability to squirrel away for a few days, fueled by a force of divine inspiration. Everyday, every other day, every other week. Make time to write and just do it. Even if the words you’re putting down aren’t your final version. Just do it, because your cat, latest Gordon Ramsey show, or phone call from mom are always going to get in the way.
Time and context.
Context is one of those things that you probably don’t think about when you’re watching a video. Unless you’ve mastered the art of avant-garde filmmaking, work context into your script. You want to give your audience a clear understanding of your script’s world and conditions of that world. Context can be subtle—a character dressed in black lets your audience know they’re in mourning. A particular skyline indicates location. What’s the weather outside? What are your actors wearing? These small touches make a huge difference and will eliminate unnecessary dialogue. Why say something that you can show.
Emotion: Once more with feeling.
One of the most important elements of your script is going to be emotion. Emotion is the human condition. It’s at the heart of all good movies, books, songs, and commercials. We connect with characters. We feel sympathy for them. We feel unfathomable hate towards them. We want our heroes, or antiheros, to win. Or lose. For many of us, we watch movies because we are emotionally vested in the plot. We are right there with the characters. Emotion isn’t just added in by actors, it’s written into the narrative, waiting to come to life. Think about how you’re going to develop emotions, both in your characters and your audience.
Have any scriptwriting tips of your own to share? Have specific questions about the process of scriptwriting for online video? Leave them in the comments section below, on our Facebook page, or tweet us at @SproutVideo!
Online video contests are a great way to get amateur filmmakers interacting with your brand. However, asking people to send you videos isn’t as easy as it may seem. Here are a few considerations when asking people to send videos your way.
Rules have a bad reputation, but in the end they’re going to make your life a lot easier. You don’t have to write a comprehensive manual for contestants, but even the most basic competitions have some stipulations. The world of competitive eating is a testament to the importance of rulemaking. Often contested, hotdog-eating competitions have strict regulations on beverages, separation of dog and bun, and half-eaten hotdogs. Rules will help you to narrow down the playing field, hone in on a subject matter, or set time lengths. Establishing guidelines will also make the competition fairer for contestants and give them a reference during production. Rules don’t have to be a bad thing; they can be fun and inventive. Ask contestants to incorporate your brand in a creative way or stipulate that there must be a unicorn cameo. Here are a few tried-and-true considerations when it comes to the art of rule-making:
- Time length
- How long do you want videos to be? Establish a maximum length so that contest videos don’t become overwhelming cinematic works. These rules are helpful to contestants during production and prevent judges from becoming overwhelmed.
- Who and how many
- Who do you want your contestants to be, and how many people do you want making a single video. Some contests want to restrict entry to young adults, while others set a cap on the number of people who can be involved in the production. While these types of rules are optional, it can be advantageous to your brand, helping you to attract certain age demographics or focus on collaboration.
- An often over-looked consideration is production. Guidelines over production value are really set up for the good of your contestants. Slick, well-done videos are great if they are part of your contestants’ creative prowess, but unfair if those qualities can be attributed to an uncle with the last name of Scorsese.
- Originality and Likeness
- It’s good to make some sort of statement about originality. Rules governing originality can help protect you and contestants against copyright infringement, and protect the creative integrity of others. This can be a tricky, grey line, but thinking about copyright infringement or third party works is important, especially when it comes to the Internet. Further, statements about consent can be helpful in protecting the rights of those who have not agreed to be in the videos of your contestants.
Simply, why should people enter your contest? Are you going to provide the winner with a year supply of your product or a cash prize? Exposure to influential professionals? A new video camera or editing software? Whatever your prize is, remember your contestants are going to put in a lot of work, as well as a lot of hope into your contest. Online films can become deeply personal testaments to a person’s personal journey or creativity. Good incentives will attract talented people and interesting videos to your contest.
Your rules are set. You have your disqualifiers. You’ve figured out some sweet incentives. Now how and by what means are you going to choose a winner? Lets start with the means.
- Judges and Juries
- Figuring out who is going to select a winner is an important component of designing your video contest. There are many great options when it comes to making this decision. Of course, you can be your own judge, but it’s also a good idea to create a panel. Remember, Miss America isn’t decided by a single person, but by a panel of well-qualified judges. A judging panel is a great way of bringing a group of creative, diverse, and well-qualified individuals together to make a more objective decision. You can have your panel act like a jury or add together individual scores.
- Another option is the democratic method. Let the people of the Internet decide. Sending people to your website is a great way of picking a winner and getting people onto your site. Social media can also be a great way to enlist the masses as decision-makers. Posting submissions on your social media accounts to let people vote on their favorite is becoming an increasingly common way to determine contest winners. With either method, use some caution. If you’re directing people to your website, make sure your site is secure. When using social media be clear about how voting will work. Another consideration when it comes to social media voting is the nature of social media. The process can be completely democratic, however the winner can sometimes be determined by who has the biggest social network.
- No matter who is determining the winner, you need to establish criteria for selecting a winner. Criteria will help judges or voters determine who should be the winner, helping them to stay true to the objectives of your contest. A set of criteria is also helpful to contestants. The guidelines help contestants to understand how decisions were made and can provide valuable insights for amateur filmmakers.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Internet is a strange place. The Internet can bring out the worst in people. Even if the glass is always half-full, when it comes to any contest, it’s good to keep in mind that not all people live by this mentality. Brainstorm what types of videos or behaviors you do not want to encourage. Take on the mentality of a Boy Scout: be prepared. Disqualifiers can also be important when it comes to judging or voting, especially if you are using social media as your poll. If you are using Facebook to tally votes, will you allow contestants post links to other social media sites like Reddit to encourage public voting?
Remember, make this about your brand. An online video contest is an incredible marketing tool. A video contest is a great opportunity to expose people to your brand in an unconventional way. Whether gaining an audience through online voting or including your brand in the video submissions, this is a chance to get people to interact with you. Make sure that the contest aligns with your brand or organization’s objectives.
Promote, Promote, Promote
Make sure you get the word out there. Social media is a great way to advertise your contest, using social networks to bring in contestants and voters. Post updates, countdowns, teasers, or behind the scenes footage to get your networks excited about your contest. There are also a lot of great websites that are dedicated to highlighting ongoing video contests. These clearinghouses are a go-to for amateur filmmakers. Online Video Contests, Film the Next, and Zoopa are just a few examples. Creating a contest blog is another way to chronicle your contest and a great way to connect with the blog community. Finally, a good incentive is a great advertisement. The better the incentive, the farther and faster word will spread.
Welcome back to the second half of our video “star” qualities post! Part I included being creative, relatable, resourceful, a good storyteller, and having a sense of humor. Without further adieu, here are five more qualities some of the best videographers share. Do you possess them yourself?
6. Point of View
The best fashion designers have their own point-of-view, an aesthetic that is uniquely their own. The same goes for online superstars. Whether you’re a director or actor, staying true to yourself can be a huge payoff. Web superstars often take on a cult of personality. Their points of view, be it fashion, music, art, or worldviews convert us into loyal fans, watching their videos and following their social media. You can’t write about online superstars without mentioning Korean pop star Psy. Call him enigmatic. Call him quirky. Whatever that special something is, Psy most definitely has his own point-of-view, one that has helped him to horsey-dance into the hearts of over 2 billion people online. In some ways he’s an unlikely international sensation. Psy is his own person. Not taking himself too seriously, at first glance he seems like an average, middle-aged guy who has become an international superstar. Trying to articulate exactly what Psy’s special something is, is hard. Simply, Psy is amazing.
7. Jack (or Jill) of all Trades
If you’ve made an online video you probably know that you have to be somewhat of a renaissance person: writer, producer, director, editor, actor, actor wrangler… Successful web superstars have their hand in all the bits of their film, taking on the role of creator-actor-extraordinaire. This is a much different type of ownership than we see in mainstream media, where clearly delineated roles are more common.
Felicia Day is an Internet darling. She’s also one of those renaissance women. Day has a loyal following of fanboys, gamer girls, and people who just generally adore her. In between small roles on a number of television shows (including Whedon’s “Buffy”), Day was spending her time playing World of Warcraft– a lot of World of Warcraft. She found inspiration in her adventures in Azeroth, coming up with an idea for a web series based on gamer stereotypes and in-game interactions with guild members. Day calls the series her “baby”, and with good reason. From start to finish, Day had a hand in everything, writing, fundraising, gathering talented friends, and starring in the series. Determined to stay independent, she worked out a deal with Xbox to fund the second season. A year later, her role as ‘Penny’ in Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Song, introduced a new audience to her series, fueling the show’s popularity. The series has since been released on DVD and is now a comic series.
Some of the most influential online superstars are the ones that aren’t afraid to tell the truth, ripping off the filter of traditional media. Kevin Sites is to blogging what Robert Capa was to photography. Formerly a war correspondent for major networks, Sites took to video blogging to capture and comment on footage that couldn’t be aired on television. After capturing a mosque shooting while embedded during the Battle of Fallujah, Sites decided to use the web to air footage that had been edited out by NBC. Yahoo News eventually offered Sites his own web series, “Kevin Sites In the Hot Zone,” which placed the journalist squarely in war zones around the world. The series was funded solely by Yahoo, as advertisers were too scared to attach their name to the project. A controversial figure, lauded by some and criticized by others, he is seen as a pioneer of ‘sojo’ or solo journalism. Sites works alone: his backpack and camera his only crewmembers. His blog entries have given viewers a graphic glimpse of what it looks like to be in the middle of war, profiled online personalities, and highlighted the human impact of crisis.
9. Energetic Conversation Starters
The best web series hosts start a discourse with the viewer, a discourse that viewers are inclined to continue. These discourses encourage you to think, and are intelligent narratives on scientific, political, cultural, and social topics. The energy of theses hosts oozes through your screen, making the most mundane topic an exciting slap-in-the-face.
Mike Rugnetta is one of these personalities. Rugnetta is the face and the brain behind PBS’s Webby Award winning series “The Idea Channel.” Rugnetta writes like a doctoral student with a secret passion for Sailor Moon. His commentaries are well-written, clever, and insightful. He clearly engages his audience: the comment sections of his videos are full of philosophical banter, with viewers referencing everything from Dungeons and Dragons manuals to Nietzsche. His videos cover topics like “Is DubStep Avant Guard Musical Genius’ and “Is Buying Call of Duty a Moral Choice” infusing pop culture with historical fact and academic theory. After watching Rugnetta’s entries you’ll longing to meet him at a pub for a beer and conversation.
Last, but not least, becoming an online superstar takes some ingenuity. Online filmmaking requires the ability to creatively solve problems. There’s a certain air of cleverness surrounding web stars, be they writers, filmmakers, producers, or actors. Or, as we’ve learned in this post, all of the above. Since 2008, Maru the Scottish Fold cat has been cleverly stuffing his voluptuous body into boxes and bags. Highly analytical, Maru is constantly evaluating his environment, deftly figuring out how to open trashcans or find his way out of the bathroom sink. He’s not always pinned as being the smartest cat on the Internet, but he has squeezed into our hearts and mastered the art of becoming an Internet superstar.
Stars are not just a Hollywood byproduct. Today, the line between celebrity and average citizen is being blurred in cyberspace. Online video superstars have moved beyond their devoted niche followings, becoming mainstream media fixtures; these figures are a looking glass for the power of online video.
Hailing from different backgrounds, covering vastly different territory, and with numerous different goals in mind, many Internet stars share some common qualities worth taking note of. You may already possess most of them or they may be qualities you’re ready to cultivate within yourself. Wherever you stand, we’ve got five of them to share with you today followed by five more next week.
1. Creativity, Whimsy, and Imagination
In some ways, the Internet is our imagination made manifest. We’re about to explore the boundaries of our minds; pushing our knowledge, challenging our senses, and reliving the dreams of our childhoods. It’s no surprise then, that some of our most beloved online superstars are those that deliver a bit of whimsy and a lot of creative punch. There are numerous artists, animators, and musicians that have gained popularity by appealing to online audiences. One great example of this is Cyriak, a British artist and electronic musician who has become incredibly popular by pairing his sometimes startling animations with self-produced electronic sound bites. His Avant Garde videos draw millions of viewers, many anticipating his newest works of online art.
2. One of Us: Relatable
One of the huge appeals of online videos is that they are made by people we perceive to be just like us. Some of the most popular online filmmakers and actors are everyday people with a webcam or Flip Camera, recording their diatribes and gaming sessions. They are completely relatable. They don’t have flawless bodies or voices. They could be your hilarious cousin or that guy you sat next to during English 101.
Freddie Wong and Brandon Laatsch are those guys. At one point, they were those guys you might have sat next to during classes at the University of Southern California. Together they own Overcrank Media - a LA-based production company - and run the enormously popular FreddieW channel. Their appeal? They’re the funny guys that live down the hall from you. Their videos attract millions of viewers and have lead to guest director spots for McDonalds and EA Games. Their guys-next-door demeanors often serve as the crux of their videos. The duo’s videos appeal to nerds, gamers, and Hollywood celebrities, often combining a homemade feel with slick special effects.
Not all online filmmakers are fortunate enough to have a Michael Bay budget. Some of the most skilled filmmakers have a simple vision and a simple budget. Hannah Hart’s vision was simple. She was hungry and drunk, and needed to make a video for a friend– Drunk Kitchen was born. Hart is HILARIOUS, her rig is simple (a camera sitting atop a stack of books), and her choppy editing is part of her charm. She may not be Julia Child, but she understands the timeless combination of cheese and beer. Hart doesn’t need a huge budget to make you laugh. Her simple premise is addicting, making you wish it had been your own revelation. Her resourcefulness extends to her fundraising. With the success of Drunk Kitchen, Hart decided to make a travel vlog: one part cooking show, one part travel diary. Hart turned to fundraising site Indiegogo to fund the project. Her idea was initially to travel across the US, but after quickly surpassing her $50,000 goal (she’s currently received over $220,000 from fans) she’s set to explore Canada, the UK, Australia, and New Zealand.
Some of the best online videos don’t have a huge budget, flashy post-production effects, or skilled editing in common. A good story is the backbone of your favorite videos, penned by talented writers and captured by filmmakers who understand the complexities of human emotion and experience. Joss Whedon has somewhat of a cult-like following of fans. He’s a Hollywood director, writer, and producer. His fans have been with him through the good and the bad, although mostly the good. He’s the creative force behind Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, Angel, Dollhouse, Cabin in the Woods, and the most recent adaptation of The Avengers. He’s on this list because he’s the force behind one of the most beloved web series in the past six years, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog.
He was one of the first big-name directors to embrace the web series genre, making somewhat of a meta-series about a lovable super villain who is battling his arch-nemeses and internal pangs of morality. Fans embraced the cleverly written musical series for many reasons, but Whedon’s intricate storytelling and knack for character development made this series an Internet classic. The loveable characters are easy to empathize and fall in love with. The plot is engaging and the songs are infectious. Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog is a testament to good storytelling and the power of Internet engagement.
5. Sense of Humor
The making of this entry required hours and hours of research, namely watching a lot of videos. Those hours were full of laughter. The Internet has become a go-to for getting our funny fix. A sense of humor and the ability to improvise in front of a camera is all a lot of people need to make it online. Love her or hate her; Jenna Marbles is one of the biggest Internet sensations right now. Her following now reaches over one billion, with each of her videos receiving millions of views.
Whether you think she’s funny or not, clearly, many do and it might not be a bad idea to pay attention to how she’s evoking such a strong following. Marbles spoofs herself, gender norms, and celebrities in her self-edited videos. She memorably clutches her master’s degree, sobbing, at the end of her first video. Some of her funniest moments appear to be unscripted, just Marbles talking to her camera. Marbles is proof that more and more people are going online to laugh after a long day at work or school, and most importantly, that we want to laugh at people who are just like us. It’s a great idea to occasionally allow your brand to be a little silly if at the end of the day you are gaining more recognition and trust from your viewers.
Have you developed these qualities within yourself and implemented them in your online videos? Have some come more naturally than others? Let us know by leaving your comments here, on Facebook, and on Twitter (@sproutvideo) and don’t forget to check back Monday for the rest of our star quality list!
Today, good social media plans are incomplete without the addition of video. Here are eleven reasons your social media plan could be missing out on lucrative opportunities if it lacks video.
1. It’s On Trend:
Social media is continually evolving. With the release of apps like Vine and improved editing tools, video is quickly becoming a staple of social media. People no longer want to just read what their favorite businesses and organizations are up to– they want to watch updates. Social media plans that include video have been shown to improve brand recognition and recent studies have shown that people are more likely to trust and remember brands when they come across videos on social media. Integrating video into online strategy is important for staying current and is now an expected extension of social media.
Video is a great opportunity to use creativity to improve brand recognition. Artistic, innovative, and aesthetically pleasing videos make lasting impressions and entice viewers to find out more. If you aren’t an artist, funny and well-written scripts will also highlight your creative side. Inventive videos start conversations, generate buzz, and make an impression.
If you watch an audience’s face during a good movie you can see their connection to the screen: they smile, frown, or gasp aloud. Video is engaging, asking us to interact with what we are watching. Indeed, a picture is worth a thousand words, actually more. Forrester Research has found that one minute of video is worth 1.8 million words. Good videos can make us laugh or cry, trigger memories, and think critically about what we’re seeing. Watching videos online is even more powerful, letting the viewer interact with what they’ve just seen. After watching these videos, audiences are more likely to recall and seek out additional information.
4. Go Where the People Are:
Cisco predicts that by 2016 there will be an estimated 1.5 billion online video viewers, accounting for two-thirds of all international online consumer traffic. Some reports estimate that as much as 85% of online users are already going online solely to watch videos. The point? More and more internet users are turning towards video as a source of information, as well as entertainment. In fact, many marketing specialists are putting video at the top of their social media priorities. With over a billion people tuned in online, video is essential for reaching large segments of your audience.
Video is versatile. Video blogging, short films, quirky advertisements, product demonstrations, and webinars are just some of the many options video has to offer. The richness of video gives you the power to educate, demonstrate, inform, and entertain, providing options that traditional blogs or social media updates do not. The multifaceted nature of video is a great way to communicate specific types of information and achieve specific outcomes. For example, documentary style videos can help consumers feel more connected to your brand—chronicling your journey or impact creates a sense of openness with your audience and can lead to loyalty. Demonstrations help consumers interact with a product before they buy it, an effective way to increase online sales. Simply, video isn’t a single tool—it’s an entire toolbox.
We all love a good story. Stories expose us to new places and ideas, and just like social media, connect us to people. Storytelling is one of the most effective marketing strategies being used right now. And what better way to tell a story than with video. Storytelling paints a vivid picture of your brand or cause, leading to brand recognition and loyalty down the road.
7. The Rewind Factor:
Video allows your message or product to be seen over and over. People are more inclined to re-watch videos than re-read blogs or status updates. Video is a great way to have your message replayed, making video a highly effective way of bringing people back to your websites to re-watch their favorite clips.
8. The Serial Effect:
Keeping the public motivated to read new blog posts or status updates can be tricky. Yet, every week people remember to tune in to or record their favorite shows. Use the serial affect to your advantage –integrating a web series into your social media plan is a great way to keep visitors coming back to your sites. Not only that, it’s an effective way to keep consumers connected with your brand.
9. Attention Span:
As we all know, this is the age of diminishing attention spans. On average, most visitors to websites need only 5 seconds to decide whether to proceed or move on. Video appeals to our picky attention spans. Video is more of a sensory experience, making it more likely to grab a viewer’s attention. You can also make your videos to appeal to shortened spans. Share small clips on your social media pages and make trailers for longer videos. Once you have their attention, you can keep your audience on your page for longer time spans.
10. Another Opportunity to Start a Conversation:
Half the fun of using videos can be reading the comments that accumulate after a good video is posted. Comment sections are a great opportunity to get people talking about and connecting to your brand, and an opportunity to link people to your company website and social media accounts.
11. Word of Mouth:
We’ve all seen them. Our mothers and bored friends at work have messaged us with the links. Word of mouth is one of the most important reasons you should be using video in your social media plan. Video has the potential to attract many people in a short amount of time, a testament to the power of social media. Despite its controversy, Invisible Children’s Kony 2012 campaign amassed 44 million views in one day. Video sharing can have a huge impact on your brand, leading to increased awareness, sales, or donations. Strategically, popular videos are earned media, and coverage that you don’t have to pay for.
What led you to start using video as a part of your online communications strategy? Can you think of additional reasons it’s so important to maintaining your online brand? Share with us here, on Facebook, and on Twitter.
Today, we’re continuing our discussion of considerations to make when incorporating gamification into your online videos. Check out our first post on this innovative video trend if you haven’t already!
Good examples of gamification include games that align with the missions and objectives of an organization. If you’re trying to save the world, you’re going to want to settle on elements that promote social justice, educate, and empower players to facilitate change. Khan Academy is a great example. Historically, the online education video powerhouse used to be just that - online webinars. Recently, the academy has gamified their videos, incorporating ‘skill trees’ that allow viewers to unlock new videos and learn new skills. The skill tree system compliments the Academy’s main objective: education. Bottom line, let your objectives drive your design.
Talk to friends.
Feedback from family and friends is a great resource. Gaming companies hire game testers and create ‘beta games’ to get feedback from players. Even the biggest gaming companies have their misses and they rely on these focus groups of gamers to tell them what works and what does not. Talk to friends and family that play a lot of games — find out their likes and dislikes. Create beta videos for your network to test. Their insights can help you during the creative process and to fix elements that don’t work.
This one is simple. Go out there and play games. Download innovative game apps. Play some tabletop games. Check out good examples of gamification. See what you like… and what you don’t. You’ll get inspired and get excited. Remember, we’re all gamers in one way or another.
Gamification is an innovative way to interact with an audience and keep consumers invested in your brand. One Gartner report suggests that by 2015, 50% of businesses and organizations will have adopted gamification in some way. Before you plunge into adding health bars, point tallies, or trolls in biohazard suits into your videos, here are a four things you should consider.
What is your incentive? How are you going to keep someone coming back to your video? The best gamification strategies have well thought out incentives that keep people playing, checking in, or purchasing. When designing your gamification video, think about what kind of incentive you want to offer players and how you can evolve the incentive over time to keep them engaged in the game. Are you going to reward people with points or badges for viewing videos, set up a leveling system, or create challenges that require viewers to respond with comments or personal videos? Points, Badges, Levels, Leaderboards, and Video Challenges are all great examples. Good incentives will encourage commitment while providing some sort of social proof for players. Remember, if the payout is too great too soon, or too hard to achieve, players may become discouraged and move on. Most importantly, a good incentive system will keep consumers coming back to view your videos.
Do the research
There is a lot of research behind gamification, so much so that it’s a hot topic for dissertations and innovative think tanks. This is an asset to you—there’s a lot of great information out there for you to use. Game researchers are posting conferences videos, making webinars, and blogging about the most effective ways to gamify. Using their models as guidelines can be an easy way to plan out your gamification strategy. The Octalysis Framework is a good example. Using 8 core drives, including meaning, empowerment, accomplishment, scarcity, and unpredictability, the author categorizes game elements according to which drive they fulfill. The model is also an interesting way to see how and why people game, and what needs gaming fulfills.
Before you design your game elements, it might be good to consider what consumer behavior you are encouraging. The end result may influence your game design. Do you want to increase brand loyalty? Increase knowledge? Encourage people to donate to your cause? Meet new sales goals? Launch a new series of products? Although the question is simple, it’s an important one.
Think about your target demographic. Candy Crush might have your grandmother, best friend, and child addicted, but not all games are created equally. Your demographic is going to shape the game elements that you add to your video. Targeting a general demographic will require you to think of elements that will be appealing to a large number of people with varying ages and interests. Narrowing down your demographic will help you create game elements that can make niche communities feel like they are part of your brand.
With the good comes the bad. While gamifying a video is an innovative way to reach out to your audience, games can have their downsides. If you’ve seen kids gloat over a win or spent any time playing World of Warcraft, you know that games can sometimes bring out the worst in people. We can’t control how people are going to react once they are participating in our game programs, but we can create game elements that will promote healthy competition and camaraderie. How do you do that? Plan ahead. Come up with ways to encourage cooperation and eliminate negativity or, in the least, address these problems when they come up. Make sure your incentives foster the right kind of competition and that you have a way to handle issues like cheating or personal attacks on other players.
Check back Wednesday for four more considerations to make when incorporating gamification into your online videos. Until then. shoot us your questions about using gamification in videos and tell us how it has worked for you in the past here, on Facebook, and on Twitter (@sproutvideo)!