The Message in the Medium

When Forbes ranks a marketing tactic as high on the list of "must haves", it might be time to consider it.  Explainer animations have been playing an increasingly vital role in businesses across industries, and with great reason.  You have products, processes, and solutions that are amazing, increase profits and productivity, solve problems, and provide tremendous value to your customers.  So what's the issue?  Before they'll buy (and certainly before they will pay the premium that you so obviously deserve) they need to understand exactly WHY your product/process/solution is the exact thing they are looking for.  Enter the Explainer animation - 60-90 seconds that succinctly describes your value in a fun and engaging way.

Explainer animations come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes.  If you can think of it, you can create an animation of it.  So how do you know which to choose?

As a director, I always believe that the simplest solution is the right solution.  Don't ask your audience to make leaps, or to try to guess at what exactly your product/process or service is.  Don't build your animation out of stock assets that could apply to any other business in your industry (or for that matter, in any other business period).  And don't try too hard to be funny or cute.  Yes, entertaining your audience is great.  But the business executive who chooses to click play on your explainer video does so for one reason only - she wants to know why YOUR solution is the best way to solve HER problem.  Don't distract her from that mission.  

And keep in mind that your target audience (which we in the business like to call BUYERS) could easily choose to watch your video in a situation where the sound is poor or even non-existent.  Having a great script, voiceover and music or sound effect track is important, but your explainer video can not depend on sound to deliver your message.  The visual story must be strong enough to carry the central message without sound.

A daunting task?  Great explainer animations follow a tight production process, and like any finely honed craft, is best approached with the help of a professional team.  But should this scare you away?  Heck, no!  Choose a production company whose work you enjoy, who have pieces in their portfolio that make you say "That's a really great product/process/service!".  They will guide you through the process, making it easy and fun, and leaving you with an amazing explainer video that increases conversion rates over and over and over and over again.

Like our work?  Think your business would benefit from our expertise in explainer animations?  Let's schedule a time to talk!

 

 

It's a Generational Thing

These crazy kids today, with their fancy devices, their unrelenting consumption of video, and their high expectations of seamless integration between humans and technology.  Gen X-ers and their new-fangled ideas!

Yes, all we've been hearing for years is Millennials, Millennials, Millennials! (and us Gen-Xers reply, in unison now, Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!). But who is actually driving the biggest changes and trends in business?  Gen X!  Surprised?  Check out the article here

What does this mean for video marketers?  For businesses like the ones we serve (such as Seiler Instrument & Manufacturing here), Gen X makes up the bulk of their client base.  And understanding what drives your client base to make decisions (including the decision to choose YOU) is just smart marketing.  And smart marketing makes everybody more money (we like that!)

What's the best way to craft messaging for Gen X?  As a card carrying member, let me offer a few ideas:

1) Have Respect.  Okay, maybe we have been around the block a couple of times.  We've earned these gray hairs, and we'll color them if we damn well want to!  We're smart enough to know whether someone is genuine, or memorized lines written for them by a Millennial marketing intern, or, even worse, is struggling with cue cards.  Take the time to have a seasoned professional conduct an interview, answer questions honestly and authentically, and be passionate and emotional.  Not into an interview style video?  No problem!  Create animations or hire professional talent.  You can't BS your way past a Gen X-er, so please stop trying.

2) Address My Problem.  Hey, we have a lot of choices when it comes to how we spend our time, so if we choose to spend it on your content, it's because we want to know what's in it for us.  We have a problem, you have a solution, lay it all out for us in a clear, easy to summarize way.  And, please, make it memorable.  If I don't remember what your video was about 30 minutes after I watched it, did I really watch it?  Tell me why I should care, and then sell me on why you're the best.

3) Quality Matters.  We make cell phone videos, too.  Of our cat, our kid's concert, our intimate, off the cuff, exciting moments.  And there is definitely a place for those "seat of your pants" cell phone videos in your video marketing mix.  But we cut our teeth on John Hughes movies, son!  If you are truly a quality business with a quality product/service and a quality brand, then we want to see a quality video.

I had lunch with a fellow Gen X-er today, and he brought up some videos that have been popping up on our respective LinkedIn feeds.  The owner of a marketing firm has a cell phone on his dashboard, and looks into the camera while he is driving.  Yes, while he is driving.  We talked about how this made us feel.  1) This is not a responsible individual so why we would give him money?  and 2) If we did for some reason hire him, how could we feel comfortable that he won't crash and be incapacitated the next time he drives around making a video?  What's onscreen matters!  That's why there is a picture, people!!

Need help crafting videos for Gen X, or any other generation?  We'd love to help!

 

What Else Do April Showers Bring?

Yes, we're all very excited about welcoming the tulips, daffodils, and lilacs to our previously dark and gray world, but, as you know, this is not a horticulture blog.  (But I will admit to tiptoeing through my own tulips after lunch today.  Yay sun!)

We obviously have a lot in common, you and I.  You love video, I love video.  You love a twist on an age old joke, I love to tell them.  And when April showers blow in overnight bringing downpours, thunder, and lightening, you and I both wake up, listen to the rain, and start thinking about our corporate budgets.  Yes, I understand.  April showers bring May flowers, tax bills, and 2 a.m. concerns about money.

One of the first questions I am asked by every client that is considering video is "How much will it cost?" or "Do you have a pricing sheet?".  Well, it depends, which is why we don't have a pricing sheet.

Video budgets come in a wide variety of shapes, colors, and sizes, and depend entirely on what you want to be included in that one, two, or ten minutes of video.  Do you need a crew size of 10, or can 2 people capture what's needed?  Do you have three 3D models, or twelve?  Do you need onscreen talent?  Of what caliber?

To help you understand the many variations of video budgets, today I am sharing a blog post from the UK (see, it's a universal question) titled "HOW MUCH SHOULD I SPEND ON VIDEO?"

With so many variables, how should you budget for your video?  We take a backwards approach - we know how to concept, develop, and produce projects at a variety of budget ranges.  If you meet with us first, share your objectives and share your budget range, we can usually find a great solution for you.  Don't let worry over video budgets keep you up at night - call us today!

When More is More (For Less)

If you've been paying any attention at all (which I know you have, smart audience of mine), then you know that in 2018, having one video on your website does not constitute a video marketing strategy - and since we are quickly heading towards the day when 8 out of every 10 minutes spent online will be spent watching video, opting out of a video marketing strategy could leave your business in the dust. (For more, check out Wistia's Guide to Video Marketing)

The good news?  All signs point to this is a great time to get started on, or invest more in, a video marketing strategy!  Yay!  It's shiny, effective, fun to produce, and even fun-ner to watch, and best of all, offers the highest return on any marketing investment! Forbes says double ROI here. (The crowd goes wild.  We love video!)

The good-er news?  Developing video content in packages (like the one seen here) allows savvy businesses the opportunity to get the experience and high quality work of a seasoned production team at a low per-video rate.

Why?  A production budget is all based on time and materials - what gear do we need to execute the project, how many people, and how many hours will those people spend?  On one of our big, glossy productions (like these),  the combined team can quickly add up to 80 or 100 total hours.  On a simpler style of content videos, that same 80 or 100 hours can yield as many as 8-10 videos.  The economy of scale is huge, and something to take advantage of.

Speaking of advantages, if you want a simple style of content videos, why hire anyone at all?  Can't your marketing person do that?

Well, technically, they may be able to.  Videos can be produced on a phone, with a wide variety of cameras, and editing platforms can be free or cheap.  There are several services that offer plug and play video editing (just put your content in and it does the work for you).  So, why hire?

It becomes a question of engagement.  Is it enough for you that an audience clicks the play button, or do you want them to watch the whole 90 seconds (yes, many will drop off at 5 seconds if not engaged)?  Do you want them to remember your video weeks or months or even longer after they've watched it?  They may not be ready to take action now, wouldn't you like for them to remember your message once they are?  Telling a story that sticks is a difficult skill, and an experience video producer will add longevity to your content.

Want to learn more about video content packages?  Whether you're just getting started, or think you have room to improve, we're always here to help!  Contact us!

Beware The Unknown

We all have our tasks, our jobs, that we do every day, and damn, but we do those well.  And, then, when we've really hit our stride, our businesses are growing, it's time to expand, to move, to create - now it gets a little scary.  Build a new commercial structure?  Yeah, we need the space, the parking, the improved functionality.  But construction is expensive!  It takes forever!  I'm going to be hit by surprise after surprise!  Not if you have a seasoned, trusted guide like BEX Construction Services at your side - and we at Solstice Productions are proud to feature their new video this month.

Let's be frank, entering into an unknown process can be daunting, and yes, let's say it, even scary. A lot can go wrong if a construction project is mismanaged, and that can mean a lot of dollars and time sunk right into a big fat hole.  The same can be said for any unfamiliar territory, any type of new endeavor.  Like, for instance, high quality video production.  And any time you begin to enter those big, dark, deep, scary woods of the unknown, it's always wise to have an experienced guide.

So, how do you know if your guide (the production company or producer that you are considering hiring), is the right person or team?  How will they alleviate your fears, save you unwanted and undeserved stress, time, and money, and deliver a quality project that gets you more business?  Here's a few steps to follow when making your selection:

1) Watch full samples of their work.  A demo reel can be sexy, cool, and fun (and should be), but does not tell you much about how effective that team is at capturing attention, delivering a clear and effective message, and creating a memorable viewing experience.  You can only determine those skills by watching at least one or two samples of full pieces.  The company doesn't have any full samples online?  Ask for them.  The company doesn't even have a demo on their website?  Time to bounce off of that one and find another.  Definitely be wary of anyone who offers video production and has no video.  Scary!

2) Get references.  Ok, next step.  You see some good looking stuff.  Now it's time to find out how the client experience was.  Was it delivered on time and budget?  Does the team help their clients design the project, make the process fun and easy?  Are their clients satisfied?  You can do this by reading reviews, asking for references, or reading testimonials on their website (like these!)

3) Hold a Discovery Meeting.  This can be done in person, over the phone, or online.  The producer (and sometimes director or account manager) will walk your team through the development, pre-production, production, and post- production process.  You should walk away with a clear understanding of how that production company will approach your project, how much of your time and energy will need to be invested, a budget or budget range, and an estimated time to project completion.  Still have fears about entering into the unknown?  Be sure to ask your questions.  If that particular team does not have the answers, it may be time to look for someone else.

Want to learn more about how Solstice Productions can guide you safely to the other side (and leave you with an amazing video that helps you win job, after job, after job for years to come)?  Call us!

Smart. Adaptive. Frictionless.

Shopping for cyber-security solutions?  You'll want something that is aware that the threat landscape changes rapidly, that is able to adjust as new threats and bad actors enter the scene, and that doesn't slow down the operation of your business.  In other words, you'll want PoliWall by Bandura (see the video here).

But the video already shows you that.  You click on this blog to learn about video production, right?  Of course you do!  And I would never let you down.

SMART

One of the most common concerns new clients have is that their businesses are complicated, unique, built upon proprietary innovations, or complex processes, or just the lightning in a bottle energy of their founder.  And this is all true, of every single one of the companies we work with.  

When it comes to video production, smart is listening to our clients.  Smart is researching the competitive landscape.  Smart is understanding not just our client, but their clients, the audience that the video is intended to reach.  And smart is decades of experience turning complicated ideas, products, processes, and people into easy to understand visual stories.

ADAPTIVE

Marketing always presents a challenge - the buzzwords of today become white noise, meaningless, as every video, billboard, website, and email uses them.  What's not meaningless?The way that an innovation, a process, a team, a founder, or a product embodies that word.  Discovering that Truth, finding the human, the emotion, the problem that is addressed and solved, the authenticity of that word (or finding alternate, more honest, more resonant and accurate words), and then telling THAT story to an audience - that is adaptive.  Every project, every client, every story, presents a new set of challenges, and deserves an open mind, an open process, and the willingness to meet that client, that project where THEY are, and not shove them into a "one size fits all" box (or video).

FRICTIONLESS

Producing your company or product video should be fun!  It's a collaborative process between a production team and a client, and should be open, engaging, effective, and efficient.  We have four primary points of contact for our clients:  

1) Discovery/Pre-Production Planning.  This starts with about a one hour in-person or virtual meeting, where all of the project details are discussed, and a basic outline and schedule are developed.

2) Script/Storyboard/Production Plan Review.  Our team develops the next stage, whether that is a script and storyboard, or, for interview driven videos, a production plan, and submits a turn-key, ready for production file for our clients to review, give notes on, or approve.  We do the heavy lifting of "how will we fit all of this information into 2 minutes?!", and you just make sure that you agree with our approach.  Don't agree?  We'll adjust.

3) Production.  This is either a day or so of filming, or, for an animation project, building style guides and models.  Some clients build an interview schedule and list of questions with us, then sit in and approve interviews as they are captured, some just let us loose to work our magic.  Again, this process should be fun, and we like to let clients choose which approach works best for them. For animation, this entails us sending over 3D models, style guides, and sometimes test renders to make sure everything moves and functions the way it should, and that style meets the brand guidelines.

4) Review Edit.  Again, the burden of bringing the original idea for the video to life is all ours - hey, it's what we do!  What we're good at, and what wakes us up in the morning (no, maybe that's my cat.  Anyway . . . ).  Once the story is tight and moving at an engaging pace, the imagery is sharp and effective, and the sound design elevating the piece to an emotional level, we send over a review edit for your team.  Love it?  That's awesome!  It's close, but?  Go ahead and send those notes.  Again, this is a collaborative process, and hey, your company/product/process is complicated/unique/proprietary.

For a smart, adaptive, and frictionless production process, we're always available!  Call us!

 

Carol of the Production Team

'Tis the season to blend together voices, bells, musical instruments, foods, spices, wine (mulled or otherwise), and to create something that is larger than the sum of it's many delightful parts.  Regardless of what holiday you celebrate, we can all agree that when many pieces come together and work in collaboration towards a greater good, it's like harmony, right?

While there are many fine "All in one" people in video production (individuals who write, shoot, and edit without bringing in any additional resources), to truly create video magic I believe you must have a team.  In the spirit of that ubiquitous holiday song, I now present to you the Carol of the Production Team.

The Producer:  That consistent layer that keeps time, underlies the entire production, and delivers on the final moment, the Producer provides creative direction, pulls together the team, manages the story, the budget, and the schedule, and brings the client's vision to life.  The Producer stays involved in the project from concept through delivery, and is ultimately responsible for the success or failure of any given piece.

The Writer: Every video begins with a script.  Whether drawn from interview clips, written as a narrative, or informational or instructional, a video script is a unique form of writing that considers both the words (either heard or seen as onscreen text), and the stories told through imagery.  Without a good script, you have no chance of producing a good video.

The Director of Photography: The DP, typically also the camera operator, captures the images described by the script.  Every moment, or scene, is broken down into the individual shots needed to best tell that visual story.  The DP considers color grade, lighting, and composition of the frame, and often works with a Grip or Assistant Camera to help with complex moves and shots that require a change of focal length, cable wrangling, or use of a jib, crane, or other equipment.

The Gaffer: Every professional actor knows how important it is to be nice to the gaffer.  Lighting can be very flattering, or very not (think department store fitting room.). The DP works with the Gaffer to use existing ambient light (like lamps), natural light (windows), and/or production lights to ensure the right look for the project.  Great lighting takes time, which is why most production teams work on 5 hour shifts at a minimum.  Even a single set-up can take over an hour to correctly light.  

The Audio Engineer:  Say it with me now, Sound is 50% of video.  Poor audio automatically sends a signal to the audience that this is an amateur production.  The Audio Engineer provides and places the microphones needed to capture the scene, and mixes the levels to create clean, clear, and professional sound.

The Editor: Editing is where the magic happens.  All of the pieces that were so carefully planned by the Producer and captured by the DP, Grip, and Audio team come together and are assembled by the Editor.  This is also an opportunity to refine the story - the editor works based on what has been planned, but also on what is actually onscreen (which can be different and better than what was planned, particularly in the case of interview driven videos).  Editing can make or break a project, and is one of the most time-consuming aspects of production.

The Colorist: Many Editors also do their own color work, but this can be a separate role.  The Colorist works to achieve a consistent and appropriate color grade for all the footage.  Depending on the project, this can mean creating a warmer or cooler look, natural or saturated, black & white, sepia, or even a blend of styles to highlight a particular moment or story point.  Again, poor color work is a sign of amateur production.

Post-Production Sound: This is where music and sound f/x are created or chosen, and layered in and balanced with the onscreen production audio to create an emotional journey through sound that helps to drive the onscreen story and action.  Unbalanced sound creates a disjointed viewing experience - and the last thing you want is for your audience to be turned off by a poor audio balance.

 

Now, different projects call for different talent, and I haven't even touched on actors, voiceover artists, composers, drone or helicopter operators, motion designers, production designers, production assistants, or makeup artists.  And, sometimes roles can be combined into one person -  Producer/Writer, Grip/Audio, Editor/Color/Post Production Sound.  But you get the point, right?  A layered video, like a layered carol, requires a choir of voices.  And the sound it makes - harmony.

Want to create your own harmonious video?  Our choir would love to help you.  Contact us!

 

 

The Little Rhino Who Could

I have a little beaded rhino, maybe 4 inches in height.  His form is sculpted wire, his black beads sparkle, just a little, and sprinkle of brightly colored beads add pops of light to his frame.  I quite like him, and keep him on a bookcase near my desk.  I bought him, along with some hand-knitted puppets, a lion, an elephant, and a soft, purple rhino, at a fundraiser for Africa Foundation a few years ago.

"What does a little beaded rhino have to do with video production?" you ask.  Good question - let me answer with another one.  How times in a year, a week, a day, are you asked to make a decision, to choose between this one and that?  How many times is your prospect, or client, asked to do the same?

One of the things we do as an organization is support charities through pro-bono video work.  You can see the latest one here.

We only produce one to two of these a year, and, as you can imagine, we field a lot of requests for it, so we have to choose wisely.  Madilika Craft Center, with it's emphasis on independence and empowerment through entrepreneurship, is an organization that we can believe in and throw our support behind.  Yes, they produce very lovely hand-crafted gifts and souvenirs.  But more than that, they embrace the ideal that process and business can build a community, can bring a better life.  We believe that, too.  And so do our clients - if there's a common thread that runs through almost all of our videos, it's that at the center business improves lives.

When a process is good and successful, it yields good and success.  When you are making decisions about which video production company to hire, or which pair of shoes to buy, or which software development firm to work with, you're not only buying the end result of a video, footwear, an application.  Your decision ultimately comes down to how is it made - how will we get to that end result of hand-stitched Italian leather, or faster production of estimates and invoices, or an authentic, moving, effective combination of pictures and sound that compels more people to choose you.

Interested in our process?  Learn more about that here.

Want an opportunity to show off your process?  Call us! We'd love to help.