Article Title: 10 Tips for Telling GREAT Video Stories

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Article Title:
10 Tips for Telling GREAT Video Stories

Article Description:
Buying multimedia these days is a confusing process. We live in a 
hype-heavy world. Chances are you've heard of Flash, and I know 
you've heard of or use PowerPoint. And when you want a sight-and-
sound program to tout your company or make your pitch from 
your computer, what do you do?

Additional Article Information:
2173 Words; formatted to 65 Characters per Line
Distribution Date and Time: Fri Apr  7 02:02:54 EDT 2006

Written By:     Brien Lee
Copyright:      2006
Contact Email:  mailto:[EMAIL PROTECTED]

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10 Tips for Telling GREAT Video Stories
Copyright © 2006 Brien Lee, VideoStory, Inc.

Buying multimedia these days is a confusing process. We live in a 
hype-heavy world. Chances are you've heard of Flash, and I know 
you've heard of or use PowerPoint. And when you want a sight-and-
sound program to tout your company or make your pitch from 
your computer, what do you ask for? Probably a "Flash" or a 
"PowerPoint" (or your young advisor did). Problem is, that's 
putting the cart before the horse. Today's audiovisual world is 
filled with possibilities-some are found in the way shows are 
shown; others in the way they are created. One thing I do know 
is that, whatever you call it, video will be a part of your 
presentation-at least if you want to make a real splash.

This book looks at the multimedia/video/presentation buying 
process and offers ten considerations you need to make to 
successfully commission-or produce-your next major audiovisual 
communication. Whether you're using video to reach hundreds or 
millions, these tips are time-tested. I hope you will adopt them.

1. Flash? PowerPoint? Video? Don't Rush to Conclusions.

When you've got a story to tell and it requires sight and sound, 
be careful not to prescribe the solution too quickly. One man's 
PowerPoint these days is another woman's video.

When people need something to run off of their computer, they're 
quick to ask for "a PowerPoint show" or "one of those 'FLASH' 

Right idea, but not necessarily the right spec.

Flash is considered hip, and PowerPoint is considered a must. But 
often, the sight-and-sound solution you want needs to provide 
more control, impact, and end result than these playback methods 

The fact is, PowerPoint and Flash often are just containers for 
VIDEO, just as a VHS tape and a DVD are containers for video.

SO, just because you want your project on the web or on computer 
CD-ROM, doesn't mean it shouldn't incorporate-or be-video. Video 
is what the big boys use-often, even in major documentaries and 
motion pictures.

Video is faster, easier, and no more expensive to produce. And 
its impact is markedly greater.

Don't choose the production method solely on the distribution 

2. Sound Is the Secret Weapon.

What's the first thing you remember about "Star Wars"?

Dah-dah, da-da-da dahhhh-dahhh!

Yup, the music. And the sound effects-the hum of the light 
sabers, the drone of the Death Star. Can you imagine Star Wars 
without music?

Even in corporate videos, music plays an extremely important 
part. But you'd be surprised how few producers actually realize 
that. They'll let a narrator blab on and on, and, to add insult 
to injury, you'll hear the same piece of music looping for the 
entire length of the show! (People who produce in Flash are 
especially prone to this mistake.)

Sound tells your audience how to feel; how to distinguish what 
should be remembered from less important items; when to react 
and how.

A picture is worth a thousand words? Music is worth a thousand 
emotions-like loyalty, belief, trust, enthusiasm-all potent 
predictors of productivity.

3. Create for the Environment.

Ever see an IMAX film on home video? Is it the same as in the 
IMAX theater? Ever see your favorite movie on a 4-inch LCD? Was 
it the same as in your home theater?

No, of course not. IMAX movies and major motion pictures 
(especially science fiction and thrillers) are created for 
LARGE screens, in rooms where people are quiet and the sound 
has impact.

Commercials played in sports arenas on those big jumbotrons 
generally feature very little dialog. Who'd hear it? You can 
barely hear the music.

When a video communications project is strategized, the 
environment in which it will be played is an important part of 
deciding the style and intensity of production. If your CD-ROM is 
never going to make it past a laptop, running out and shooting 
sweeping panoramas of the countryside may not be necessary-but 
plenty of close ups will be.

If your audience is free to leave the room, you need to consider 
delivering a level of production quality that keeps them seated. 
If they are there as part of their job and they have nowhere to 
go, well, then you know they're not going anywhere-no matter what 
the production quality.

Play to the room.

4. How Long Should It Be?

We just spoke of the environment's role in helping you decide 
certain aspects of how your video will be developed. But what 
about length? Attention spans are short! Shouldn't all videos be 

Well, there's short, and short. There's real time, and perceived 

A boring video goes on forever. An exciting video ALWAYS seems 
shorter than it is, and often bears seeing a second time!

Audiences aren't stupid. They don't have short attention spans; 
they just don't like to be bored. A good story will transcend 
time. It will seem shorter but last longer in their minds.

5. $1,000 a Minute? $200 per Slide? $3.99 a Pound?

Pricing is always liable to a lot of subjectivity, and so over 
the years people have tried to "quantify" the production of 
multimedia materials. A thousand dollars a minute has been quoted 
since the late 1960s-for film!

But let's shatter some illusions. Video production (in fact, many 
creative activities) can not be judged entirely on the running 
time. It takes $2 million and 9 months to produce a single 24-
minute episode of the Simpsons. I've seen industrial training 
tapes that ran 90 minutes and grossed the producer $2,000. 
Shouldn't he have gotten $90,000? Not for pointing a camera at 
a podium and hitting record, and editing out awkward pauses!

It is MUCH tougher to produce a great five-minute video that 
will rouse an audience and get specified results. To keep up 
a broadcast-quality pace, to have the right music, to shoot 
in various locales, to create high-quality 3-D and other 
animations... well, it'll cost more than $5,000, I guarantee 
that. Sometimes, not much more, but other times, 10 times that 

Your producer should be willing to write a proposal, tell you 
what she plans to do, and give you a specific quotation for that 
exact effort.

Time, materials, equipment, overhead. When we know what you want 
to see, we'll be able to figure out the cost. It's the only way 
to put a value on something that by its nature doesn't yet exist.

6. What Style Should It Be?

On the surface, communications styles change often. After all, 
audiences like what is current and hip-to them. But different 
audiences come from different age groups, economic backgrounds, 
regions; so what is hip to a 22-year-old web designer in Atlanta 
might not be hip to the 45-year-old engineer in Dallas.

Your producer needs to think like a chameleon. Yes, we all have 
our own strengths and styles, but we are working for you. And you 
have a corporate style and a defined audience. Too slow a pace, 
not enough hip animation, and maybe the twenty-somethings will 
snooze. Too kinetic, too flashy, too loud, and maybe the chairman 
of the board will have your head.

Well, we don't want that. You have to be willing to listen to 
audience constituencies. Maybe you've never seen American Idol, 
but that doesn't make it unpopular with a large part of the 
population. If you're not hip on the likes of an audience, trust 
someone who is-your producer, or that DJ-wannabe who can name 
everything ever produced by Jay-Z.

Uh, who?

7. Can I Have That Tuesday?

If it's your dry cleaning, yes.

If it's the multimedia project or video that is going to convince 
5,000 that downsizing is good for them, well, no.

As we've said, video projects come in all shapes and sizes. But 
if you are producing a good company overview, orientation or 
sales piece, or fundraising or political piece, you have got to 
allow some time.

How much time? We've created miracles in two weeks. But that 
entails compromises. If you're willing to accept that, let's 

But the reality is, a well-designed, strategized, outlined, 
planned, written, and produced project (already it sounds long) 
takes time. Here's a planning guide for a 10-minute video 
introducing a mid-market company in all its aspects, from its 
history to today's operations and products, to new employees and 

Write proposal--1 week 
Script--2-3 weeks 
Production planning--2 weeks 
Shooting--2 weeks 
Logging and digitizing tapes--1 week 
Music selection, voice tracking--1 week 
Rough cut--1-2 weeks 
Review time (script, rough cut)--1 week (it's up to you) 
Final edit and effects--1.5 weeks 
Duplication--2 weeks

With overlap, overtime, and some real sweet talking from you and 
me to the hard-working staff, maybe we can cut that down or work 
some things in parallel. But don't kill the messenger. Allowing 
sufficient time for the project will get you one hell of a 
program. So-always plan on three months; you could allow four, 
we can get something done in two; less than that, we're all 
cheating-using old footage and old stills (even they have to be 
scanned), skipping the effects, etc.

In the long run, when you do it right, it shows. And the spin-off 
benefits are enormous.

8. Use Interviews for Believability

Interviews-with your customers, employees, suppliers, even you-
can have a dramatic impact on the credibility engendered by your 

This is especially true for "softer" subjects, such as 
fundraising, public opinion, HRD company introductions, tributes, 

Interviews are not what they seem. They appear candid (and are); 
they seem unscripted (and are); they seem easy to do and a way 
to skip scriptwriting (they ARE NOT).

Interviews require research-who has the best stories, attitude, 
presence. Interviews require testing-a pre-interview. And they 
require scripting, if only as a target goal to help the 
interviewer frame the right questions.

Never let your producer put words into people's mouths-a pet 
phrase, an endorsement, a rah-rah statement-unless the 
interviewee came up with it candidly. There's no faster way for 
all of you to look boneheaded.

And I don't think THAT was the purpose of the video.

9. Video's Hidden Value

It would be tough to buy a car if you were going to drive it only 
once. Thirty thousand bucks for a one-night drive? "Well, it was 
a heck of a drive, but it's over-and now I feel guilty!"

In business, feeling guilty can be equated with taking 
responsibility. Why drop big bucks on something that will be 
used only once?

Many "big" videos and presentations are created for meetings. 
They unveil the theme, set the stage, introduce a new product, 

But when management realizes they will be used only once, they 
often become "unnecessary." Staging, projectors, production 
costs-that's a lot of cabbage for 500 sales people. Couldn't 
we add a second entrée at the awards dinner?

Fact is, I agree with your boss-to the extent that everything 
should have a repurposing value. And today's video does. Plan 
it right, write it right, and in no time your video-or at least 
scenes from it-can be used on the web, on CDs and DVDs, and in 
your salespeople's PowerPoint presentations.

Now you can justify the purchase and sleep a bit easier.

By the way, even WITHOUT a reuse value, there is nothing like a 
rousing video opener at a big meeting to set the tone, redefine a 
company, begin the change process, and build a roaring fire under 
your sales team's butts. The difference is seen in sales; they 
have the energy-AND new video tools to take with them. The 
increased revenue more than pays for the cost of the video.

10. A Good Video Producer Knows Sales

And not just because he sold you a project.

Video done right is a form of persuasion. It follows all the good 
rules of sales (with some exceptions).

First of all, videos must get audiences saying yes. We have to 
start with common ground and then build our case.

Video incorporates logic. "If, then, and after that, then…"

And video promotes emotional connection. Yes, logically I want to 
do that, but logic alone doesn't sell. Add the emotional punch, 
and now you've got a sale.

If a video producer doesn't know this, then he's not a producer-
he's a craftsman working at some aspect of our trade. And that 
is fine.

But those who can sell audiences-they are few and far between.

The care and consideration that goes into producing your 
company's video overview, sales presentation, or funding 
solicitation is no less important than the wording of a direct 
mail piece, the design of your ad campaign, or the development of 
a corporate identity. For, indeed, a video presentation becomes 
your corporate identity. Recruits see it, and know more about 
you. Employees see it, and are better able to represent the 
company. Customers see it, and see beyond your products into the 
personality of the company and its people.

Use these ten tips and you're on your way to perhaps the most 
successful communications project you've ever undertaken. That 
just might mean a raise, a corner office, or at least a slap on 
the back. And that's all good.

Brien Lee is founder and president of Brien Lee VideoStory, 
a leading video and multimedia producer located in Milwaukee, 
Wisconsin. He has nearly 30 years experience producing motion, 
video, and multimedia presentations for major corporations across 
the United States, including the Walgreen Company, PSE&G, Borden, 
Johnson Controls, Underwriter's Labs, Diocese of Metuchen, 
New Jersey, Miller Brewing, Mercury Marine, and others.. His 
independent documentaries have been shown on PBS, and he is 
a multiple-award winner from the New York Festival, Addies, 
Tellies, and others. He was awarded President of the Year by the 
American Advertising Association. His organization, Brien Lee 
VideoStory, is celebrating its 10th year of leading-edge DVD, 
CD-ROM, documentary, and meeting-module production.



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