Posts Tagged ‘production’

Enterprise Video Production: Talking Head vs Graphics

July 11, 2014 Leave a comment

I’ve been part of some discussions recently around the approach organizations take to online video. There’s been a push to move away from the talking head style and over to more motion graphics driven video. While I appreciate the value of motion graphics in video, the idea that the talking head as a video format is dead disturbs me a lot. Similarly there are times when despite the cleverness and “coolness” of a motion graphic it’s just not the best way to transmit information to the viewer.

There are times when a talking head is actually a very valuable form of video. When you’re trying to establish the bona fides of a subject, or allow a viewer to associate a face and a voice with a name, you really do want to get that person on camera. Obviously you can do a voice over on top of motion graphics and get some of the benefits, but you lose that critical opportunity to introduce your viewers directly to your subject. More importantly, there’s a strength in body language and facial expressions that can really make a difference in how viewers respond.

You also don’t have to turn out a pure talking head video – the staring into the camera approach of a nightly news desk is actually boring, and I understand the desire to get away from that. This is where some very basic creativity can change the dynamic of your talking head. Multiple camera angles can change the pace up; a stand-up presentation can add some dynamism as well. Developing a combination approach – some talking head, some motion graphics can break up the static shots of the individual speaking. There’s plenty of ways to improve the presentation without losing the chance to show your viewers the person behind the information.

Similarly, motion graphics videos should be thought out carefully – practically speaking the production is more labor intensive from start to finish. These videos need to be storyboarded, scripted and produced by specialists that may have other demands that could interfere with your production schedule. More importantly, many motion graphics videos I’ve seen have been glorified infographics made much busier by the addition of motion. There’s plenty of room for that sort of thing, but in today’s ADD video world I’ve often felt that very little useful information is imparted or retained by the use of very busy motion graphic videos. Motion videos in an enterprise setting should make sure the user walks away knowing something they didn’t know before, and ideally lead to additional business opportunities.

In the end, the choice of video should not be limited to any one type. Much like back-end technology, the key is to use the right tool for the right situation. Don’t toss out the idea of a talking head video if that will provide the best method of communicating your messages to your audience and lead to the best result. Use motion graphics in places where the users will learn the most from the video in that format. Taking an absolutist position of presentation means you box yourself into a corner without the flexibility you need to get your point across.


A Video is Worth How Many Words?

December 10, 2013 1 comment

I ran across a statistic the other day in the course of working on a presentation about video. Reported in dozens of presentations, video clips and infographics is the remarkable idea that:

a minute of video is worth 1.8 million words

Try that google search and see if you get the same 38,000 hits I did. With almost no digging at all you’ll see it referencing both Forrester Research and one Dr. James McQuivey. (Who appears to be a very bright guy focusing on digital disruption and touching occasionally on the video space. Here on twitter if you want to know more: @jmcquivey)

It’s a wonderful statistic, and in a single line captures everything most of us want to say about video. It’s so much more powerful than words! You get more out of a minute of video than a book’s worth of text! How can you not do video when you get this kind of impact! Unfortunately there’s simultaneously a bit more and a lot less to this idea than meets the eye.

I wasn’t about to quote such a statistic without understanding the source and the meaning behind it, so I started to dig a little deeper. I am fortunate to have access to Forrester reports, and a few minutes digging turned up a report by Dr. McQuivey from June of 2008 on “How Video Will Take Over the World.” It’s a fine report, and made some smart predictions about the future and some that turned out to be overstated – risks you take when you attempt predictions. And there, in a small paragraph about the next step in human communications being video (a point I agree with, incidentally), is the line leading to the stat. In full, the report states

Now it’s video’s turn because if a picture is worth a thousand words, then a minute of video is 1.8 million words

And then the kicker – following immediately is a hyperlink saying see endnote 2.

Reading endnote 2 tells you that Dr. M did some basic math. A second of video contains 30 frames; a minute of video therefore contains 1800 pictures; ergo, at a picture = 1,000 words, one minute of video = (1800 pics X 1000 words) 1.8 million words.

All due respect to the fine folks at Forrester and Dr. McQuivey, this is how rumors get started and information gets misunderstood and misused. I suspect that this was not intended to be a formal statistic; the old “picture is worth a thousand words” is an aphorism, a popular saying but by no means a statistical truth. I don’t even think the report was trying to be too clever, I think it was just attempting to explain the power of video as an easy to grasp concept.

This is the “less” part I uncovered – you can’t really say that video is equivalent to X number of words since that number is entirely arbitrary. If you shoot at 24 frames per second, or 60, the number changes. Is video simultaneously worth more than 1.44 million, 1.8 million, 3.6 million words?  More significantly, one minute of bad video is considerably worse than dozens of pages of critical textual information, regardless of the general impact of video as a medium. Video may be powerful, but it’s very dependent on doing a good job of creating it.

On the “more” side the essential truth of the statement is that video is an extremely powerful delivery medium, and often provides opportunities to share ideas more efficiently than text can. Leveraging the power of video to deliver messages, sell products and services and build communities is a key responsibility for all organizations. Consumption is extremely high and likely to continue growing, and it’s imperative that a successful enterprise make the most of the opportunities video can drive.

So be careful of statistics and how you use them. To paraphrase a great sage, “Why you keep using that statistic? I do not think it means what you think it means.”

Managing Video Content Types

October 8, 2013 Leave a comment

Broadly speaking content within the enterprise can be almost anything, but I believe there are four basic areas of corporate video: Marketing, External Communications, Internal Communications and E-learning. Almost everything produced within an organization will fit into one of these categories, so let’s look deeper into the nature and issues related to each of these categories.


This is the primary category – perhaps the only category –  of video within the enterprise for a lot of people. I don’t happen to agree, as I think it’s merely one part of a much broader program. One of the reasons it’s so central to some people’s thinking (and the easiest to read about across the web) is that it’s both the easiest category to explain to management and the one that fits best into an ROI discussion. I won’t bother to explain what Marketing means generally, but from a video perspective it’s a video type designed primarily to sell the organization’s capabilities and products.

This can take many different approaches from the very hard sell to the very soft, but there’s a pretty clear purpose to these videos and almost always direction from a marketing person or team to meet their needs. It’s a critical part of any corporate video effort and provides the team the best opportunity to demonstrate the value the department brings to the organization. Where an external agency may be brought in for big ticket productions like TV commercials, the in-house team will often be tapped to develop lower budget, smaller audience pieces. With new web- & mobile-driven distribution channels available at a fraction of the cost of TV & Radio ads, the internal team can really prove their worth by producing high quality marketing pieces for far less than the external vendors.

As I said, executives understand marketing budgets & ROI, and if they don’t get the value of a video program before you get involved in a formal marketing video, doing a great job on a marketing piece will go a long way to getting them to understand its value.

External Communications

I deliberately separated external communications from marketing to draw a line between video designed to sell and video that isn’t, or at least not obviously. Every video released to a public audience is in some way intended to deliver messages about the organization’s strengths; each piece will reveal something to outsiders about the company and it’s important to remember that before a piece is released. But again these videos are not designed as marketing tools, and the tone should reflect that.

Almost anything could fall into a “non-marketing” category, but I think there are certain regular types that appear across the enterprise universe:

  • Educational pieces – product demos & training videos
  • Executive communications – earnings calls, TV appearances, new product announcements
  • Staff communications – conference/paper presentations, expert testimony

Again it’s a broad category, but these pieces are designed more to inform than to sell. It’s important, particularly for the executive communications, to make absolutely certain the subject is presented in the best way possible. As I wrote about the Yahoo earnings call, someone on the video team should’ve made sure the CEO was presented in a way that made her seem natural, at ease and in command of the event.

These communications are a great opportunity to cross paths with influential people within the organization, and thus a great chance to sell the capabilities of the department. Make the CFO look great and you make an influential friend in the c-suite; help a senior manager make a great presentation at a conference and you ensure that she’ll recommend you to others and you can build a network of supporters across the organization.

Internal Communications

Nearest and dearest to my own heart, Internal Communications are often the most undervalued type of video production, and I would argue the most important. These productions are often devalued within the organization and by senior leadership because the audience for these pieces are already owned by the company. The assumption, often erroneous, is that the company’s employees already know everything there is to know about the organization. They’re getting paid, anyway, so why bother selling or marketing to them – their salaries and benefits should be enough to keep them motivated?

I think this misses some essential problems, most critically that all employees by definition understand the company, its purposes and its current strategies. Many employees in fact have little grasp on the broader picture and their place within it. During my stints managing the day to day video operations, every one of the rare executive communications saw tremendous traffic. The employees in fact are often desperate to hear from the company’s leadership as an opportunity to understand where things are and where they might be going. Obviously a video should not give away vital company secrets, but each video outreach is an opportunity to build morale, community feeling and a sense that leadership appreciates the part each employee plays within the organization.

Another problem missed by the assumption that employees know what’s going on is that each employee is part of a much broader network of family, friends and other contacts. You have a captive audience of potential salespeople – your 50, 500 or 5000 employees can spread the word far beyond the reach of your marketing & PR teams. In the very social environment we live in, why ignore the opportunity to get the company’s out via the employees? Make them excited about the company’s future and they’ll tell their networks. Your next employee, your next customer might be in those networks, and you’re missing a chance to reach them if you don’t communicate within your own organization.

The nature of these videos depends on the company and the leadership. Informal or formal, talking head or audience presentation, highly produced or low-budget – as long as the communications come out in my mantra of Regular, Frequent and Two-way these videos are critical to a corporate video program. If you take the additional step of allowing user-generated content, you have the makings of not only a very powerful communications tool to a key audience, but you’ve developed a tool for maintaining institutional memory and knowledge sharing.


The last category is E-learning/online education, and may or may not fall under the corporate video team’s responsibilities. It’s often a dotted-line relationship to HR or a formal education department within the company. In almost all cases the educational content is developed by others – they have educational goals to meet, and the video should be designed to support those goals. They may include software demos, regulatory education requirements or continuing education.

It’s important for the video team to provide input during the planning process so concerns about user engagement and video production are balanced against the needs of the educators. I found with software demos, for example, that anything longer than 5 minutes was much harder on end users to process – halfway through a long program they couldn’t recall what they learned in the first 5 minutes. Breaking down a complicated software package into digestible steps and assembling them into a reference library often serves better than an hour walkthrough of every feature. It’s not always possible to focus on the user experience – Continuing Ed, for example, often has set requirements for program length that have to trump viewability. For e-learning, the video team should serve as an advisor to the educators, but the requirements will have to take precedence.

So there are my four broad areas of video within the enterprise – feel free to argue if you disagree, and comments are always welcome.

A Tale of Two Earnings Calls

July 23, 2013 Leave a comment

So last week I sat in on the Yahoo 2Q results call and on the whole I was underwhelmed – the performance was lacking and more importantly for me the technology effort was poor. I jumped on the Netflix earnings call yesterday to compare the two attempts. No contest – the technical delivery and overall performance of the Netflix show absolutely blew away Yahoo. Delivery was smooth, the presenters came across as comfortable and prepared for the video experience. The one exception was the camera quality – Yahoo used professional grade cameras, Netflix chose webcams, and that’s a big negative in my view. If you’re a professional company, invest a little time and money in a camera crew for your CEO & CFO to improve the lighting and delivery.

All of this is technical – as a web-delivered video broadcast, I thought this worked very well. Leveraging Google Hangout as a delivery system meant a rock solid platform ensuring a technically successful show (aside from my capture-device issues). Again, the executives were much better prepared for their roles and came across far better than the Yahoo team last week. Others reviewed the experience, and here’s what they thought, along with my commentary:

I think part of the problem here is that these stories are looking at this through a lens different than the target audience. I suspect most in the intended audience didn’t care in the slightest that the production values were lower than they should be. If I had to guess, many of the analysts were listening, not watching – multi-tasking as they had the call on in the background, and they may never have noticed the webcams. I doubt, contra Buzzfeed, that this was more confusing for the target audience – they know what they’re listening for, and I’m quite convinced they know if they heard the positive or negative information they need to tease out a recommendation for investors.

This is the only thing I think that really matters, and plays into my first and most critical rule of video – know thy audience. How did the analyst community react to a very, very different format? Traditionally as I understand it these audio calls allow for analysts to raise any question they like directly to the executive team – I find it hard to believe they were completely comfortable with the moderator role played by the two selected journalists. I suspect, though I can’t prove it, that many in the analyst audience felt the entire exercise was more staged than a traditional call. Not that the moderators were in the tank with Netflix, but that the traditional give and take was restricted by the moderated format.

This is a very important consideration for companies looking at a video earnings call – you have a relationship with your analysts as established by your current earnings delivery mechanism. What might change about it if you switch to a video format? Are you looking to blow up your old model as Netflix did, or combine traditional with video as Yahoo did? Are you prepared to be on camera where your body language and setting will influence how the analysts view your presentation and responses to questions?

What matters to these companies when dealing with earnings is putting the best face on their results so the stock valuation and company outlook are as positive as possible. If you look to change your earnings call to video, the goal for an executive team and the video group has to be to aid the process for the analysts who impact your company’s future.

Video Earnings Call – New Trend or New Fad?

July 17, 2013 Leave a comment

Netflix and Yahoo both offered their quarterly earnings call via live video stream to anyone who wanted to watch and I decided to sit in on the Yahoo call. I think it’s about time that companies got on the ball with delivering their information to investors and analysts this way, and I hope this is the start of regular such calls. The Yahoo experience had both positives and negatives, at least from a video and technology perspective. I’ll leave the quality of the actual reporting to the analysts and investor community.

On the plus side, this is a terrific opportunity for companies to not only tell but also show participants their wares. For tech companies like these it’s a golden opportunity to feed in video or stills of new technologies and functions, and Yahoo did a good job presenting those additional visuals. They clearly had a tech team on the back end running a video switcher and they did a nice job feeding in visuals of the products being discussed. The team also had CEO Marissa Mayer and CFO Ken Goldman in a professional quality studio with a proper backdrop and well lit. Analysts dialing in were identified on slides on the fly and the techs were clearly watching the show carefully and reacting appropriately.

Unfortunately, while the presentation itself was professionally run, I did not have a good experience with the delivery. Buffering, hesitations, odd repetitions of video segments all interfered with the straightforward viewing experience I expected. Frankly, there’s no excuse why a company living in the technology space should struggle with a clean presentation. The world of live video delivery is well established at this point with tens of thousands of live events delivered successfully every year. If the expectation is that this new delivery method will provide a better experience than an audio-only event they really need to do a better job on the distribution and CDN side. Perhaps it was just my local experience and others had a smooth, error free event, but I suspect that’s not the case.

On the production end, while again the sets and lighting were professional, it all had the feeling of an amateur newscast. Ms. Mayer and Mr. Goldman appeared stiff, uncomfortable, and very scripted until the Q&A session which was a bit looser. Perhaps this was just nerves at a new style of communication, but it was not a stellar performance.

My final grade for the event was a B-; a great idea, pretty well executed with only a fair quality of delivery service. If I were the one responsible, I’d offer the following critiques:

  • Clean up the delivery – test, test and then test some more to be sure your video stream is smooth and unbroken. There’s nothing more frustrating as a viewer to have delays and hiccups on a live stream, and even the people paid to watch or listen to these calls expect a clean presentation
  • Did you consider the format before you planned a sit-down newscast style? Did your principals practice this beforehand? Are they more comfortable in a less formal setting? I assume the Yahoo team thought about these and made a conscious decision to go this route; if they didn’t, they really should have thought this through more clearly. Again, perhaps this was just nerves, but your CEO & CFO really need to come off as polished as possible and you must find the style of presentation that fits them best.
  • Were you taking notes as the event proceeded? What worked and what didn’t? If you aren’t using this as a learning opportunity you’re wasting a chance to perform even better the next time.

Need More Time? How About 15 Seconds?

June 26, 2013 Leave a comment

So in my last post (sadly too many months ago) I looked at the Vine app and its 6 second length. As I said there, I don’t get it as a tool for companies and organizations, as its just too little time to tell a story on its own.

It seems Instagram agreed with me.

Their new video offering is a colossal (by comparison) 15 seconds long, and the numbers immediately after launch are astonishing by almost any standard:

Instagram users upload 5M clips in vid-sharing feature’s first day

5 Million clips in 24 hours. Nearly 21,000 hours of content uploaded in one day. While this by itself is astonishing, the more important factor for the enterprise as I see it is that you now have a real, solid chunk of time to develop a story and share it with your viewers. (H/T, incidentally, to the fine Mike Whitmore, digital genius, for the link above he so kindly posted. Look for him on twitter, @mikewhitmore to learn some things and periodic Nutella updates.)

If you watch video online you’ve gotten any number of ads delivered by video – often pre-roll ads that you wait impatiently through so you can get to your chosen content. Check those ads out – there’s a significant number of them that only run 15 seconds. And you get the whole story, and a thorough understanding of the product, movie or service. Now, what I’ve seen to this point (Adweek offers some examples) is a little underwhelming – so far it looks like longer stop motion pieces not much different than Vine. But as they point out in that Adweek story, these are just early attempts to tell stories with it. I fully expect more polished pieces as companies and agencies get comfortable with the medium and I think you’ll see dialogue and real stories.

From a production standpoint I’m still not overwhelmed – you’re leaning on a phone/device app with limited controls and editing tools, but I expect this to change as well. Users may seek better production tools, or better yet develop them on their own. It won’t be Final Cut Pro or Vegas, but I see real potential for more of an editing suite for these apps. Samsung’s recently announced Galaxy NX introduces the first serious connected camera, and the ability to leverage a serious (or at least semi-serious) DSLR and WiFi connectivity means we could see some beautifully shot Instagram videos.

So I think I was right about Vine – it’s just too short to tell a story, but Instagram video changes the discussion a lot.

Six Seconds to Tell a Story

March 13, 2013 Leave a comment

Many of you have seen the Vine app, and probably used it. Like most apps I think it has a place, and I have no problem with people using it for whatever they choose.

As a video guy in the enterprise space, however, I’m completely stymied as to how to make it work as a tool to deliver any kind of coherent messaging. I imagine that wasn’t the intention, but I keep sensing people looking for a tool for video that matches the strength and reach of things like twitter for text/links and instagram for photos.

In both of those cases it’s relatively easy to tell your story even within the limits of the tools. 140 characters isn’t much, but with some aggressive editing and a huge disregard for grammar and spelling you can communicate a lot. Obviously every business on the planet has grasped that, and whether they’re doing it well or not they’re all using twitter to share a message. Instagram has a similar value despite the limits – adding the filters can dramatically change the mood or message conveyed. While I haven’t heard of a lot of enterprise users leveraging it, I can easily grasp the message and I could see a company using it.

But six seconds of video? What can you get across by the six seconds alone? Based on some surfing I’ve done, not a lot. Mashable posted some examples here:

5 Ways Startups Are Using Vine

The results? Personally, without the accompanying tweet text explaining what’s going on I don’t think I’d really understand the message. That’s not a bad thing, and perhaps that’s why twitter put the app out there – pair a tweet with a video and you get more impact. I’m not sure I agree, but it makes more sense than the videos on their own.

Here’s some more examples collected on a tumblr blog:

The Joy of Six

As a tool for short stop-motion pieces it’s pretty neat, but again I feel there’s not much of a story being told.

So from an enterprise perspective I just don’t get it – how can you possibly get these tiny fragments to tell a tale? I look at video as an opportunity for storytelling – what does your company do, why are your products great, what do your employees need to know. I imagine it would be possible to release a series of these shorts to build up engagement and have people come back to see each new episode, but that puts a lot of faith in people’s patience to wait for each new development. Can you serialize a message in 6 second clips? It certainly puts pressure on the writer/producer to make some real statement in each short chunk.

So I’m not sold, but I could be (and probably will be) wrong about it. Feel free to convince me that this type of filmmaking has a place in the enterprise.

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