corporate video teleprompter

The Corporate Video Soundbite

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You’ve been asked to be in the company video.  You’ve read our blog on what to expect and what to wear here.  There are a couple of different ways you will be shot and included in the company video.  In this article, we will discuss these different methods and how you can best represent yourself and your company.

Most company videos are shot documentary style, the subject being interviewed by someone off camera.  Another method is to do a “stand up” looking straight at camera, like a news reporter.  There isn’t a best way, because all these are “tools” and sometimes you need a hammer, and other times you need a screwdriver.  So it all depends on what job you need the video to do.  So let’s discuss.

Documentary Corporate Video ShootDocumentary Style

You will usually sit down (occasionally you might stand), and someone sitting right next to the camera will ask you questions.  This person might be your corporate communications specialist for your company, or it might be one of us.  The video is not going to use the interviewer– so the audience will never see or hear them.  When you answer, try to incorporate the question into your answer.

Don’t worry about messing up.  Just take a pause and pick up just before you fumbled.  Try not to get self-conscious.  Slow down.  Avoid saying “as I said before,” because we probably won’t use the other take.  You can say the same thing over and over, just using different words.  It’s okay.

There are two schools of thought on having the questions prepped before you begin.  Yes it’s good to be prepared, but coming across rehearsed might be counter productive to the corporate video goals.  But being totally cold might not work either.  I recommend for most to have bullet or outline points.  You can write them down, but don’t read anything when answering (and don’t look down at cards or a note pad).

And for this style, I strongly advise against teleprompter unless you are a professional actor.  I had a client insist on doing documentary style interviews with all the corporate leadership.  Then we ended up redoing it later– it came across very poorly.

The Stand Up

This is where the teleprompter actually works really well, and where I advise using it.  The corporate spokesperson looks right at the lens and tells us what he or she wants us to know.  Scripted truly is the best way for this.  It’s hard to keep looking right at that lens and it feels very uncomfortable for the people not used to doing it.  You don’t want to be searching for words.

Relax, and enjoy.  Most people will do just fine in the corporate video and the production team wants you to look good.  We’re going to make you look as good as possible.  If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us.

Corporate Video Production Dallas

Building a Freelance Career in Corporate Video Production

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Corporate Video Versus Movie Making

corporate video puppetFor all those film students who are graduating from different colleges and some film schools, one of the first choices you have to make is money or art?  (It’s a trick question we’ll address below).  You’ve just spent two or four (or six) years studying film and video.  You’ve learned to shoot and you’ve learned to edit.  You might have learned how to work with a crew.  You’ve problem-solved and you are now looking for that job (career) you’ve invested so heavily in both time and money.

If you’re driving goal, you’re burning obsession is to make narrative feature films, then really this article is not for you.   This is for the film and video professional who enjoys shooting or editing one person corporate stuff, or working with a three to five person crew in the corporate buildings of America.  I graduated from a University with a BA degree in Radio/Television (technically a degree in Communications with a major in RTV).  I wanted to be a filmmaker, but didn’t understand the difference at that time.  My first job after college was as a “field producer” (a catch all term meaning I was that one man band traveling all over the country shooting).  But more often than not, I found myself shooting in company offices, making marketing videos for corporations, or doing training videos.

About five years in, I still wanted to make a movie.  So after a few more years of getting ready, I left my corporate video production job and made the leap to feature films, which I did for over ten years (and five movies).  BTW, those were ten hard years as I starved myself and my family to chase it.  I returned to corporate video with a new found passion (where I could combine the “art” of movie making, with the projects my corporate clients were looking for).

BTW– I’m not as keen on hiring freelancers who are frustrated filmmaker wanabee’s.  If the corporate video job I’m hiring for you is a “bummer” or something that you”have” to do, I’m not as interested.  That lack of passion will permeate your work.

So this brings us to you.  How do you get started making a living in video/film production?  You’re still reading, so I’m assuming that you’re not the one saying “feature films or nothing!”  Here are some tips to getting started.

Freelancing in the Corporate Video World

When I graduated and started fulltime with a company, I didn’t know you could freelance.  I accidentally fell into freelancing and before long was making pretty good money.  My biggest client (production company) realized they could save money by bringing on someone, offered me the fulltime job.  If I said no, they’d find another person and I’d lose that significant freelance work.  So I said yes and took a huge “pay cut” and increased my hours.  So today, there are many production companies looking for freelance people.  We hire PA’s, Audio, Camera Operators and DP’s.  Occasionally make-up artist and other specialists.

Corporate Video Freelancing Tips

  • corporate video production attitudePut yourself out there.  To get started freelancing, you need to get known.  Go to networking opportunities.  In Dallas, there is a Dallas Producer’s Association– the perfect place to shale some hands.
  • Volunteer if need be.  The whole point is to get yourself known.  Volunteer.  Get on the set.
  • Shine.  Here’s the most important part.  When you do get on the set, you need to shine.  You need to have a great “can do” attitude, whether it’s getting coffee for the client or lugging that equipment up two flights of stairs.  I can tell you about three or four out of ten get my attention on the set.  And when they do, I can promise you it’s not necessarily ability, but attitude.
  • Appearance.  You’re working in corporate USA.  You don’t need to wear a business suit (it will get snagged and dirty).  But your clothes need to be nice business casual and clean.  (Visit our Facebook page here and scroll down for the “Dear Freelancer Article).  If you’ve have a lot of tats and body piercings, just know it might be a little harder to get established in corporate video.  That image is great for the feature film work, not so good for the boardrooms of the corporate video world.
  • Don’t Say No Too Often.  If we call you and you’re not available, that’s okay.  By the third or fourth time in a row, we will probably stop calling you.  When corporate video production companies are crewing up a shoot or project, we usually call people that come to mind first.  So be on our minds.  Which brings us to…
  • Followup.  It’s okay to send emails out to production companies reminding them that you’re available.  Once a month is fine. Once a week is overdoing it.
  • Lots of Baskets.  It’s always a good idea to not put all your eggs in one basket.  Have several production companies giving you business.

The corporate video freelancing world can be highly enjoyable.  You can actually earn more money than a staff job and work less hours.  You have freedom and flexibility in your schedule.  It can be very rewarding.

longterm construction timelapse

Longterm Time Lapse for Construction

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Defining “Time-Lapse” (or timelapse)

One of the services we’ve had an increasing call for is longterm timelapse for the construction industry.  And by “long term”, we mean a camera that is up for six months or more.  This presents a unique set of challenges.

Timelapse Camera Placement

installing timelapseFirst, the placement of the long term time lapse camera.  The best spots are usually elevated, as high as possible.  When we get the call, we look for a building overlooking the construction site.  Ideally, a camera placed inside looking out a clean window mitigates the necessity to weather proof the camera.  When we have placed indoors, we come prepared to battle glare issues off the window in front.  If we are placing on the roof, we have to weatherproof the camera.

If a building is not available, we’ve had clients install a pole.  We are OSHA certified to operate moving scaffolds (lifts) and will place the camera on top of the pole.  One issue to be aware of is “sway” in any pole you set the camera on.

Timelapse Camera Types

We also consult with the client to determine the best type of camera.  A “timelapse video” is actually not created as a “video.”  Timelapse is a series of still images, that later are combined together to form a video clip.  We’ve had clients that have had us take over timelapses from large companies who install timelapse simply because the large company doesn’t get it– they put a low quality video camera up.  They then deliver to their client a “timelapse” of a few seconds of video all stitched together.  And the quality can be horrendous.  (One client’s footage from a large national “timelapse” company was 640×420 video– very low quality).

If a timelapse vendor keeps pushing a “video” camera on you, find out what the maximum size of an image will be if you take a screen capture.  640×420 is really low quality.  A high end DSLR might be 3,000×2000 (ish).  For high def video, you want an image at least 1920×1080 in size.  Professionally, I like the larger than 1920×1080 because it provides options to zoom in or make animated moves in editing.  Remember, this is not a security camera situation.  If you need that, do a separate system.

The best quality is a DSLR camera taking still photographs. But accessibility can be an issue.  You can get high quality “surveillance” type cameras, but they need to have a feature where still images can be grabbed (like one every 15 or 20 minutes). These cameras can be set to send images over radio or cell, thus giving instant access.

Other Timelapse Considerations

After picking the location, then power has to be determined.  First choice is a dependable AC outlet nearby.  When that’s not available, we set up solar panels and batteries to power the camera.

The interval between the “pictures” is a factor as well.  If you are doing a three year time-lapse, a once a day picture might be okay.  We’ve found one picture every 20 minutes to be pretty good– but you will have shadow issues as the sun moves across during the day.

Timelapse cameras can fail.  We highly recommend backup cameras on important timelapse setups.  Often, we’ll put a radio/cell controlled camera as the primary, and a DSLR as a backup.  At 20 minute intervals, a DSLR can take many, many months to fill up a large SD card inside the unit.  If the primaray fails, we access the DSLR and pull the images off the internal SD card.

There are many different variables with long term time-lapses, so the cost can vary as well.  Call us at S-Films to find out more about your timelapse need.


The FAA 333 Exemption for Drones

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drone, solo, 3drsoloOkay– I’m starting to see more and more activity for the FAA 333 Exemption and want to throw some thoughts in there– especially to help those UAV operators who might consider plopping down some fat stacks to companies offering to help them with their 333 exemption.

Now I’ll preface by mentioning it’s all changing anyway. But right now, if you want to legally operate a drone for commercial purposes, you have to either have a commercial pilots license, or you have to ask the FAA to give you exemptions from those rules.

To be the Pilot in Charge of a UAV, even with a FAA 333 Exemption, the PIC must have some level of pilot’s license. Some people (I know a few), have applied for and gotten the 333 exemption without having a pilot’s license. What this means, is that if they want to be legal, they must find a PIC to fly their drone for them.

So let’s talk about the pilot’s license. You can get a Sports Pilot License– it requires 20 hours minimum. Probably cost you about $4,000 to $5,000 and will take you about 3 months depending on how often you take lessons. Search the nearby airport for lessons and you’ll come up with some choices.

When I started to chase a FAA 333 Exemption, I did some quick research. I found some firms offering me help for the paltry sum of $5,000 or $6,000. I found a couple “budget” ones for $1,500. It was a Saturday. I sat down at my computer thinking “surely it can’t be that expensive?”

I found someone offering a how to Youtube video for $10. I paid that. I also researched some other successful petitions. After two or three hours of very intense work, I hit the “submit” button to the FAA. It took months and months later, but finally I received my FAA 333 Exemption. So my drone friends, you can do it yourself, or if you don’t want to spend the three hours, you can pay those fat stacks to someone who will assist you. Heck, pay me a bargain grand, and I’ll give you some advice.

Honestly, if you’re thinking about applying now, it’s probably too late. It might take 8 months for the FAA to grant you that exemption and by then, there will probably be a “UAV License” program. Plus, you need that pilot’s license.


Wayward Son Carries On

By | corporate video production, Faith Filmmaking, Music Video Production | No Comments

When we shot our faith-based movie “The Imposter” in 2008, we were fortunate to cast Kerry Livgren.  In the 1970’s, one of the biggest acts in rock music was the band “Kansas.”  Kerry Livgren, with the long blond hair, was one of the main songwriter/musician of the group.  He write their break out hit “Carry On Wayward Son,” followed by one of the biggest all time hits “Dust in the Wind.”

Kerry is the real deal.  We sat down with him on the set of the movie and talked about his own personal journey.  Here’s that video.  Hope you enjoy!

Why I Struggle With DJI

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Testing the Octo with a GoPro before putting larger cameras on board.

Testing the Octo with a GoPro before putting larger cameras on board.

I use DJI products.  About 7 or 8 years ago, they saw the future and jumped.  Now they’re the Coca-cola of the consumer drone world.  Congrats.  So why am I hating on DJI?

It all started with an Octo.  This particular octocopter was a custom-build.  Of course 3-4 years and further back, everything big like that was a custom build.  For the custom builders, the best “brain” for running these builds, was the wookong, made by DJI.  This was the technology that told the drone what to do.  You inputted a command in the controller, it was received by the wookong and orders went out from it to the motors.

One beautiful twilight evening at a park in North Carolina, I was flying this octo with a $4,000 camera/lens on it.  I had just finished the run and was bringing it back to me in the parking lot.  About 90 feet up and 50 feet away from me, it suddenly flipped over, and flew into the pavement.  I don’t mean fell into the pavement.  The motors were accelerating.  This was the worst drone crash I’ve ever seen.  The only fortunate thing was that because of the flip, the expensive camera was on top, instead of on bottom.  It was the only thing to survive (though the lens was shattered).

The builder contacted DJI for me, and now, a year and a half later, I still have absolutely nothing.  I was promised a replacement wookong, so at least I could try and sell that to get a little of my investment back.  But the expensive gimbal?  Out of luck.  The FPV system?  Too bad.  The frame?  It stays a twisted pile of rubbish. The two $180/each batteries were toast as well.

I understand that 95% of the crashes are user driven.  This clearly wasn’t part of that 95%.  But that was just one thing.  And it’s not like the whole unit was DJI.  What if a component had interfered with the compass?  Who knows, so I can give a little break to DJI.

DJI Phantom 2

Flying the DJI Phantom 2.

So I have had several Phantom 2’s.  I’ve heard horror stories of fly-aways and such.  Here’s my experience (not urban legend).  I have many, many hours of flying.  For the most part, the DJI Phantom 2 has flow wonderfully.  On two different occasions, I have had flyways.  One time I was able to shut down and restart the controller and gain control back.  The other I didn’t and it crashed hard enough that that drone never flew again.  In that case, I had just taken off with new battery, when it just flew off to the right, gaining a little altitude until it crashed on a bridge.

The other problems I’ve had with the Phantom 2 have been unexplained behaviors.  Usually on a low battery, it starts with a slow blinking red light, then starts to blink faster.  Push it far enough and it will do an emergency descent.  All good.  I’ve had three occasions where the Phantom 2 just performed an emergency descent as soon as the battery blinked red for the first time.  Not good.  I did mark the battery the second time and the third time was same battery.  I pulled that one off the line, and it hasn’t happened since.

The last incident was the most troubling.  I was flying, three out of four bars on the battery, 70 feet up, when suddenly it fell to the ground, totaling the phantom and the gimbal.  On play back of the GoPro, it’s clear what happened– the engines totally stopped.  Even when problems occur, the engines will still spin.  This was a total engine fail.

I mention all this because DJI needs more stability in their computer-side of the drone activity.  People can get hurt if you’re flying and you get the drone equivalent of the microsoft blue screen of death.  I just purchased a R3D Solo and I’m hoping that the technology side is more dependable.

Maybe I’m totally off.  Maybe the vast majority have never had a hint of trouble from their DJI product.  One last thought I’ll leave with– WHy did DJI and GoPro have to fight?  Phantom 1 used the slot in the back of the GoPro for easy connection.  With Phantom 2, DJI refused to pay fee, so connecting is actually harder, and now with Phantom 3, you have to use their camera.  Bummer.


Drones in Corporate Video

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The UAV market is exploding.  It is the wild west out there.  The FAA is trying to come up with standards and procedures for the technology that has outpaced them.  With the incredible accessibility of drones, corporate video makers have found a new tool to add to their arsenal.

What drone footage gives you, is a point of view seldom seen from a camera mounted on a tripod, five feet up from the ground.  The drone hits the sweet spot– 10 fee to about 60 feet– for unique visuals.  But just because a video producer has a drone, doesn’t mean they can fly it well.  Drone work still requires an artist’s touch.

We are finding that some producers simply jerk the drone around in the air, moving it here and there, and not really getting the full production value.  Can you dolly the drone right, while rotating left, to keep that company sign in the correct framing?

R3D Solo DroneThe biggest issue with all the drone work is safety.  While SFilms carries liability insurance specifically for drone work, many companies simply don’t.  It seems every day we’re hearing another story about a close call with someone drone operator flying a Phantom up at 1,500 feet in the approach lanes of a nearby airport.  (Hey Drone Operators– the coolest shots are not usually those high ones, it’s the ones in the sweet spot.)

The FAA is rumored to be working on new standards for UAV commercial operators.  Sounds like there will be some licensing of operators, requirements for flying like staying below 500 feet, staying 5 miles away from airports, not flying over people, etc.  I just hope the foolish operators don’t create cause to setup more harsh flying parameters.

The drone is an incredible tool for the corporate filmmaker.  Giving huge production value for those who know how to do it.  If you need any consultation on drone work, give us a call.  We have flown everything from the small quadcopters to the large octocopters that can carry Reds and other motion picture quality cameras.  Currently, we just added the R3D Solo to our fleet (joining several DJI phantom’s).

Experience in Corporate Video Production Matters

By | corporate video production, Tips/Techniques, Uncategorized, Video Production | No Comments

Studio Corporate ProductionRecently we asked some new clients what factors led to their decision to pick us for their corporate video production in Dallas, Texas.  We’re always glad they picked us, and trusted us to handle their video project, but we’re even more happy when the project ends and we’ve beat their expectations.

Experience in Video Production

Some clients searching for a video production company are concerned that they’re entrusting their story.. their message… their brand, to someone who doesn’t have a lot of experience in the industry.  Many business people understand that to become experts in an area, it takes much repetition and practice.  (Making the library of many corporate execs is Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, and this philosophy is a foundation for what he espouses.) So our clients tell us that we were selected because of our experience.  Our Producer/Director Daniel Millican started working in corporate video communications in the 1980’s.  That’s 30 years, hundreds and hundreds of projects, thousands of videos, and a myriad of awards and recognitions.  This comforts that director of marketing looking for the right team.

A Real Person

In this age of communication, it’s imperative to connect to a real person as quickly as possible.  At Serendipitous Films, we have our main phone number (214-307-2882), which is forwarded to two different people at all times.  We aren’t always able to pick up on every call, but we return messages quickly.  Our clients have commented on how responsive we are.  That’s because when we’re looking for a product or service, we want someone their to take our call, answer our questions, help us out.  So we’re committed to that for our clients as well.

Over Deliver

Our clients tell us that we often over deliver in what we promised.  This is the key to exceeding expectations.  We take a lot of pride in what we do and it shows.

Work With People You Enjoy

Lastly, we’re the nice guys.  We do great work and we have fun along the way.  Life’s too short to create a stressful, drama-filled atmosphere.  We enjoy tough deadlines and crazy objectives.  If all this sounds good for your next corporate video production, gives us a call and check us out.  We’d love to work with you.

Serendipitous Films Creates Web Videos for Permian Lide

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Recently, SFilms was contacted to produce a marketing video for tank and vessel manufacturer Permian Lide.  The original scope was to create a 4 to 5 minute video, with shorter two minutes and one minutes versions pulled from the longer piece.

Permian Lide is one of the leading manufacturers of steel and fiberglass tanks and vessels for the oil field industry.  They have plants all over the country and SFilms visited them all.  A key to the production of this video was to have drone work capture the scale of the facilities, as well as give a different perspective inside the plants.

Here is the long version.

Production Value in Corporate Video

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Red Scarlet on SliderWhat’s Trending in Corporate Video

One of the trends in corporate video production has been the increase in production value.  This can be attributed to several factors– companies realizing that their brand image is directly tied to quality of their corporate communications, and the advent of new and better tools for production.

Old Days of Corporate Video

Twenty years ago, only large corporations could afford a video department.  It could easily take a million dollars to build out a video production facility with a camera and edit room.  In Dallas, one corporation dropped over a million dollars in the early nineties to finish out a little studio. One tape deck (like a Sony BetacamSP BVW 75) was $45K new.  A camera could easily run $70K.  In the nineties, the computer revolution started taking hold (as it had with desktop publishing) and desktop editing was born.

Now, several decades later, you can buy a decent editing station for under $5K and a great camera for that or less.  The “video department” is not the huge burden of overhead for companies that it once was.

Sam With a Cam

As this revolution took place, companies realized that Sam in accounting, who liked to mess around a little with iMovie or Windows Video Maker, could put together that corporate video for the meeting.  What happened next was that a lot of companies had “home videos” for their corporate image– videos living online, on DVD’s, broadcasted in corporate meetings and conferences.  And many times, this lower level of quality led to image perception problems.

Not that Sam was always “home movie” quality– there have been some outstanding work done by home grown video personnel.  But that is the exception, not the norm.

Another important thing to mention– we have seen that sometimes, it’s better for the client to go the “Sam, from Accounting, With a Cam” route.  It might be something that’s internal, where it needs to look viral, or that it’s just important to get the message out.  And that’s fine.  Then there’s other times where production value is incredibly important.

Why Does Production Value Matter?

In every piece of communication, every brochure, webpage, facebook company site, perceptions are being crafted for the company’s brand.  If you have your CEO talking about how good the product or services are, it can’t be cheesy or amateurish– the viewer associates that amateurishness with the product.

Undoubtably, content is king.  Videos go viral that are exactly home videos– done with consumer cameras and made to make you laugh hysterically, or touch your heart to bring tears.  But those are for different purpose.  So companies need to know what their brand plan is and to make sure all the communications fit into that brand.  Production Value matters in sales, it matters in recruitment, it matters in the way consumers feel about the brand.