Category Archives: Tips/Techniques

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The Importance of the Corporate Video Library

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The Corporate Video Library

Shooting corporate video in TexasLet’s talk about a key part of having great corporate video—building a library of footage and videos. When we start shooting for a new corporate client, it’s usually for a very specific video… maybe a training video or a web video. When we shoot, we don’t ever delete anything. That footage goes onto harddrives and those harddrives are backed up to tapes.

Building Videos

Then we get called to shoot for a second project. And then a third. And that footage starts to build up. Then you call us because you need a quick internal video on your company culture. You send us a script or voice over and we pull from these previous shoots to put video over that voice over. Without ever shooting anything. And it’s fast. Clients that we’ve been working with for years, will call us and need a short, quick video that they can put on the web, or in their e-learning portal and with a growing library, this becomes a much easier process. Of course, sometimes it’s a mixture—one client had an announcement of an upcoming meeting. We shot a little new footage and used a lot of library footage from their last conference. Having a library to pull from gives you the flexibility to have great looking videos at lower cost and quicker turnarounds.

Increasing Production Value

And we’ll use that footage often to increase production value. Maybe the talking head interview talks about the warehouse… we could stay on that shot, or pull from the library that time we shot in the warehouse.
And often, I’ll use interviews as an opportunity to build the library—maybe asking some questions that aren’t necessarily the focus of the current video that can be re-purposed from something down the road. One client I have, we were shooting events at their retail locations. In addition to asking associates the questions of the day, I also asked them what they liked about working for the company. Later, human resources needed a video to play at job fairs—they were extremely pleased that we were able to get them a great video from footage they didn’t have to pay for again.
One note—if you’re using outside video companies, the industry standard is that you, the client, own the footage, even if the video company keeps it at their place. You should never have to pay to get footage back from a video production vendor.

shooting run and gun video

Levels of Corporate Video Production Companies in Dallas

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When looking for a company in Dallas to produce that corporate video, you will find several different levels of production companies. And the corporate video production we’re talking about here are marketing videos, training videos, internal communications, sales and product videos, and web videos.  This is for the Director of Sales and Marketing, the head of corporate communications, the public relations team, or the person in charge of corporate training.

We break down the levels into four sizes—the Big Dogs, the medium size, the small company and the one-man band. Let’s start at the bottom and work up. For some reason, the creative services industry can bring out some of the biggest egos in people. And this occurs throughout the following list. When you are looking for a great video production company in Dallas to work with, in addition to sampling their work, make sure you can enjoy working with the people. It’s one of the biggest comments we get from our clients.

The One Man (or Woman) Band

This “production company” is one person, maybe with an office or maybe not. The older, more experienced One Man Band can write, shoot and edit. And maybe he hires freelancers to assist. The younger One Man Band is typically a student or someone just out of school just trying to explore their craft.

This person will be the cheapest estimate out of the three for a corporate video. But they will usually be the lowest in quality as well. And because they’re alone, the project can take some time—especially the larger video projects. The adage “you get what you pay for” is especially true for this layer. But occasionally a corporate client will get lucky and find a gem.  This level is the biggest gamble and some might say the payoff for a win isn’t worth the risk in the corporate video industry.  Jobs and reputations are at stake within the halls of the company, and you don’t want to roll the dice, spending money for an ineffective video.

The Sweet Spot – The Small Companycorporate video production in studio

In corporate video production, the small company (2-4 employees) offers the most flexibility and value. This company is doing medium and sometimes large company production work, and usually hires a team of contractors they work with often to keep the quality high. Contractors are specialists and superb at what they do. Only hiring contractors for specific shoots rather than hiring full-time staff is a savings that is passed on to the client.

They can estimate jobs on the lower side of the range while bringing top production value. But be careful, because many companies can be this size, quality can be all over the map. With a little research, this company can be the answer to top notch corporate videos. Make sure you look at their portfolio and, if possible, talk to some of their clients.

This size company is flexible– they have a small permanent team to keep consistency and dependability through the projects, and they can scale up quickly if needed.  Because of that, they can still estimate towards the lower side while delivering outstanding value.  Many corporations will go with this company, and stick with them if they deliver strongly on that first project.

The Medium Size Company

The production companies at this level usually have 5-10 employees. They can estimate low or high, depending on how busy they are, but typically will fall in the middle of the estimates as far as price. The overhead for a medium size company is greater and thus can reflect in the estimate. Therefore a client may find that they are paying for more that what directly contributes to what is seen on screen.

As far as quality, it can be hit or miss. Maybe they got to be medium sized because of one rain-maker client, but still lack many other skills and/or tools in their tool box to do more than what they specialize in. But maybe they’re really good and offer incredible value—high production quality at a decent price.

Usually there will be a strong creative type (probably running the company). An editor or two, maybe an animator. And a couple of shooters or production types, and a production or office manager to keep everything organized.

The Big Dogs—The Large Video Production Company

Dallas is a center for corporate and commercial video production. National commercial work ends up being a big ticket item. Large video companies, 15+ employees, will specialize in commercial production to help pay the large overhead they carry.corporate video shoot in studio

The Big Dog work will be first class (they can’t survive otherwise), but they will charge significantly more than all the others. And I do mean significantly. It’s possible that the One Man Band, the Small Company, and the Medium Company all come in fairly close with their estimates. The Big Dog’s price will often be a multiple of the others.

Larger corporations will pay this for several reasons—they feel more confident that the company will deliver a high quality corporate video (which makes them look good to their bosses), and the Big Dog can wine and dine them more, treating them a little more “Hollywood.” It’s the comfort level that the client ends up paying for.

Conclusion

Now there are exceptions up and down this list. You might find a small company that consistently delivers Big Dog quality (and maybe they even charge Big Dog prices). Or maybe a Big Dog will low ball an estimate for some reason. So it’s important that you do your research when picking a corporate video production company in Dallas. Comparing apples to apples is a difficult process in the video industry for the director of marketing, or the head of corporate training.

 

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us. Where does SFilms fit in this chart? Call us and we’ll tell you. 😉

Drone UAV Preflight Checklist 3DR Solo

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3DR Solo Flight Checklists

What follows is our UAV checklist specifically for the 3DR Solo drone (or UAV).  We require all operators to follow the checklist to insure safe and proper operation of the aerial platform.

Before Leaving

  • Charge drone batteries
  • Charge controller
  • Charge ipad mini
  • Ensure GoPro Hero 4 has card

 

Arriving Exterior Location

PREFLIGHT

  • Visually inspect area of operation, noting poles, antennas and other physical hazards
  • Observe wind direction and approximate wind speeds
  • Place props on motors (make sure they are tight)
  • Put fully charged battery on drone
  • Remove Gimbal foam, protecting gimbal during shipping
  • Choose launch site—make sure it is a safe place for an emergency “return home” command
  • Place drone on launch site (must be away from metal and be level)
  • Power up drone
  • Discuss with Spotter the flight path and flight plan
  • Power up controller
  • Place ipad on hold and power up
  • Make sure ipad connects to Solo wifi and start app
  • If App requires orientation, then follow steps on the screen
  • For non-manual operation, make sure enough GPS satellites have locked with drone (on screen of controller)
  • Make sure Spotter is ready.
  • Clear the area around drone for take-off
  • Hold button for engine start

 

AFTER FLIGHT

  • Wait until props have completely stopped
  • Power off drone
  • Power off controller
  • Power off ipad
  • Place gimbal foam protector in place
  • Remove props and put in case
  • Place ipad mini into lid
  • Place controller into spot
  • Pull microSD card out of GoPro and download
  • Return card to GoPro
  • Charge drone batteries
  • Charge controller if needed
  • Charge ipad mini if needed

 

It’s important to leave the drone ready to go for the next operator.

How to be a Spotter for a Drone Operator

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Why Use a Spotter in Drone Shooting?

drone, solo, 3drsoloAerial footage is something that many clients request for a corporate video shoot or production. Whenever someone shoots with a drone (sometimes called a UAV – unmanned aerial vehicle), the person operating the drone is designated the drone operator. The drone operator is not there only to fly the drone. They are also responsible for the look, movement, and feel of the footage. it is difficult for drone operators to watch their surroundings, since they are also busy concentrating on the flight of the drone. This is where a spotter comes in handy. You may be asked to spot for a drone operator and there are a few things that you’ll need to know.  And for companies that get FAA approval for drone operations (a FAA 333 Exemption), a spotter is mandatory.

 

  • Where the Drone is Flying- Will you be indoors? Or outdoors? If you’ll be flying outside make sure to bring the proper gear (sunglasses, a hat, sunblock, even an umbrella – in case it rains). Nothing sucks more than spotting for a drone when it flies by the sun and you lose sight of it because you weren’t wearing sunglasses. BE PREPARED! Even if you’re told the drone will be flown inside, they may request outside shots as well.
  • Your Surroundings- Look out for tall buildings, walls, pillars, light poles, telephone poles, trees, automobiles, birds and anything else that the drone can possible fly into. If you’re indoors make sure that you can see clearly. A drone operator I work with a lot was getting a shot of a bridge when he flew his drone past a light pole. I could tell that he was far enough away from the light pole that he wasn’t going to hit it. He was still surprised when a pole suddenly appeared on his monitor. A simple warning of “your clear but will be passing a light pole on your right” would have helped in this situation. As it is, he thought the drone almost crashed before realizing the pole in question was 40 feet away from said drone.
  • Remain close to the Operator- You want to be close enough to the operator that they can hear you. In the event that they’re about to run the drone into something, they’ll need to be able to hear you tell them the information. Your job is not to follow the drone physically. Your job is just to watch the drone with your eyes. Therefore, having a clear line of sight is important at all times. If you ever lose sight of the drone let the operator know.  The FAA requires the drone to remain within eyesight at all times.
  • Don’t Let Anyone Except Yourself Talk to the Operator- As the spotter, you need to make sure that your operator can concentrate fully on the operation of the drone. Drones are very popular now, and everyone wants to talk to the person flying the drone. This is not a good idea! Nothing should distract the operator from doing his or her job. If you see someone approaching the operator or they start to talk to the operator, kindly ask them to direct all questions to you or wait until the drone has landed. This is for their safety, as well as yours and the operator’s.
  • When Close too Close- So when do you talk to an operator? When you see that the drone is flying close to an object let the operator know. Say something simple like “tree on your left approximately 15 feet.” Your goal is to make this warning short and provide all the information needed. Let them know what the obstacle is, how far it is, and which side of the drone it’s on. Usually the operator can see what is in front of them, so it’s rare that you would need to alert them this way. However, they will not be able to see what is to their left, right or behind them. Remember that most drone crashes occur when a drone is flying in reverse.
  • Don’t Freak Out- There are some instances where there may not be an obstacle but an issue with the drone itself. The importance of staying calm in situations where a technical malfunction may have happened is crucial. The operator already knows something is wrong so please keep a clear head. They can’t possible deal with you as well as a drone. Keep eyes on the drone to make sure that if something happens the drone won’t hurt anyone or land where it may be damaged.
  • Watch Where the Operator is Stepping- The other day an operator I work with was bringing his drone in for a landing. He stepped to the side and tripped over a track. When he tripped his hand hit the controller and sent the drone crashing into a wall. Thankfully the crash only broke a blade, but it could have been worse. The drone could have broken, or worse, it could have flown into someone and seriously injured him or her. So, make sure that if the operator is walking their path is free of obstacles.

 

Flying drones for corporate shoots takes a special skill set and special licensing, so not everyone can do it. However, anyone can be a spotter. Be familiar with the different types of drones and their specs. Check out our blog where we compare the new DJI Phantom 4 to the SOLO 3DR.

corporate video dallas with DJI Osmo

DJI Osmo Review – Great for Corporate Video

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Handheld gimbals are not new anymore, and the release of the DJI Osmo moves the handheld gimbal into the next generation.  Ever since we grabbed our small phantom drone, turned it on, and held on to it, moving around the location to get that “steadicam” effect, it was clear a new market (or call it a new tool for the videographer) was opening up.

Several years ago, we here at SFilms in Dallas purchased a relatively cheap powered gimbal (sold by a US distributor, but clearly made in China).  It required a GoPro, but we used the device constantly in our corporate videos.  It was taken on road tours for a corporate retail client of ours, for internal communications, and we used it on construction sites and other places as well.  And it fell apart.  We had to take screws from one side, to fill in ones lost on the other.  But using the GoPro gave us some flexibility.

Now DJI, maker of the phantom line of drones, has taken the gimbal and camera used on their Inspire drone, and stuck it on a stick.  Although I’ve had a history of disappointment with DJI (five times, their drones have simply fallen from the sky), there’s no where for this handheld gimbal to fall.  So here’s my rundown:

Receiving the DJO OsmoDJI Osmo in packaging

First, I ordered it, and it came with a few senseless accessories.  A selfie stick?  You can’t use that with the gimbal.  A cool pouch… but the gimbal already comes with a form fitting “miniature guitar” case.  So the pouch was unnecessary.  What I quickly learned is that a battery or two would have been an ideal accessory.

After unboxing, I connected it up.  For someone new to DJI’s app, it will be fairly confusing at first.  But I’ve had some experience, so I was able to get it working quickly.  The construction of the gimbal is pretty solid and well made.  The holder for the iphone or whatever you want to use as a monitor is very well designed and thought out.  I use a lot of ipads and iphones etc and I drop them a bunch so I use hard core cases.  That makes it difficult to mount onto things, but this holder is flexible enough to hold the iphone with the Lifeproof case.

The First Gig– Corporate Video Event in Ballroom

 

Then came the first big gig to use it on.  Here’s where I learned a lot.  The gimbal’s battery is a pretty quick burn.  Fortunately, it doesn’t take long to charge, but I jumped online and ordered some backup batteriesDJI Osmo at a corporate video event.  I also ordered an ipod touch.  Using my phone works well, but I was in the middle of text conversations with clients on my phone and using it for the gimbal became problematic.  A cheap ipod will fix that.

The gig was a corporate event inside a ballroom.  I quickly changed settings via my iphone.  The image was slightly better than my GoPro Hero 4.  But, as expected, not as good as the Canon C100 Mark II we were using as well.  I experimented with the slow motion settings as well as the 2.7k and 4k resolutions.

Limitations

Although the Osmo is a great tool for BRoll, it does have some limitations– not great for a quick cold start.  Connecting the app can take crucial seconds when you rea

Osmo tilting

Image from the Osmo with the tilting going on making the image off level.

lly want to grab that handshake the CEO is giving the top sales writer.  You can just start shooting in the blind.  About one out of every five startups, my iphone does not recognize the Osmo’s wifi and I have to restart it.  And the camera lists to port.  I’m guessing this is because the iphone sits on the left side of the stick and so I think I start tilting left.  But reversing it sometimes doesn’t work.  So some of the footage is not level.  And double-clicking the trigger (which centers it) doesn’t have any effect on the level.

It was easy to get used to it because it operates similar to the cheap chinese one I’ve been using.  You rotate one way and the camera follows.  That’s how you drive it.  The thumb switch for manually moving the camera is not a great feature while shooting.  Factory setting is way to fast, so I slowed it down in the settings and use my wrist to turn the stick which will pan the camera smoother than the thumb switch.

Overall

In spite of the limitations, overall I really like it.  It will be a great tool in our arsenal for corporate video production here in Dallas.  If anyone has comments, I’d love to hear them.

corporate video interviews

Top 3 Reasons People Love Their Corporate Video

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Passion for the Dallas Corporate Video

Here in Dallas, Texas, we enjoy nothing more than to see the look on a clients face when they see one of our extraordinary videos. Not only do sweat and tears go into every video we do, but our heart and soul as well. We take the client’s expectation and desires and then we try to go above and beyond the call of duty. This not only ensures that the client will be satisfied, but also that they will be calling us the next time they need a video done. We all love return business. So what are the elements that need to be in a corporate video to get a “call-back”? Well, besides being a pleasure to work with, here are the top 3 things that are must-haves in your next corporate video.

  • Production Value – Every piece of media that you do for your company reflects on the company.  If a training video looks like it was shot with an iphone from somebody in accounting, new employees watching that training video will have an unintended impression of what this company is all about.  Sure, there are times conceptually where you might do a cellphone video, but for internal communications, how people feel about the quality of the videos will match underlying feelings about what they believe of the company.corporate video
  • Have Lots of Faces– People connect with people. Get crowd shots of people listening and reacting to what is being said. Clapping and laughing shots make your video come alive. Make sure to get shots of people high-fiving, shaking hands, hugging and having a good time. It’s always good to get a lot of this kind of B-roll for recap or promotional videos. Also, set up a spot to interview the client, VIPs, company VP’s and others participating in the event.
  • Make it Entertaining– When you watch a video, you want to be entertained, not fall asleep. Have interesting shots and good music. Choose music that is upbeat and fun to set the mood of the video. Having an upbeat song also helps with the tempo and editing of the footage. Transitioning between shots during downbeats of a song helps give the video a good flow. Think: high energy! Have your video gradually amp up, so that it ends with a bang. Don’t let your audience wonder if the video is over. End it with an exciting group shot or establishing shot. When the video is over you want people to feel energized and motivated. We’ve been known to use a timelapse for our ending.

Our hope is that this will help you create a corporate video that your clients will love and you can be proud of.

Experience in Corporate Video Production Matters

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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.

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.

Use of Music in Corporate Videos

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music for filmThe Corporate Video Music Track

A powerful music track can change a corporate video dramatically.  Sure there are the times where a company is playing the video silently at their trade show booth, but most of the time, videos are watched and listened to.

The foundation of editing is the soundtrack.  Often, when we’re in post production on a corporate video, the audio is the first thing we lay down.  This is common with the “documentary” style corporate video.  We find all the interview soundbites, lay in the music (so we know where to take a breath for a short video montage to music) and often cut to beat for the high impact sports style corporate video.

The Source of Corporate Video Music

Licensing music is an important aspect of corporate work.  Production companies looking to cut corners have placed their corporate clients in danger of legal exposure by the use of unlicensed music.  The standard best practices for video production companies is to have a music library they pay for, getting the rights to use it for their corporate clients.  But what if they want to use that Journey song from the 70’s?  Certainly as much as it’s played, it’s public domain?

No, it’s not.  This is biggest place where companies get into legal hot water.  Sometimes, the inaccurate public domain excuse is used.  Or maybe that it’s for internal use only, so it’s okay.  Or it’s just going to be used for a live conference– one time and forgotten.  All these uses do require licensing.  And it’s not as hard as you might think.  A company can easily license song usage with ASCAP and BMI and the cost for internal corporate video use isn’t exorbitant.

Original Music for Corporate Videos

One area that’s a lot of fun is hiring a composer to create original music for a corporate communication project.  We had one narrative (movie) style video for a large corporation and the character needed to begin by listening to a country song on the radio.  Our composer cooked one up that the client absolutely loved.   Original music can bring the level of the production quality up a huge notch.

At the end of the day, it’s about effectively communicating your corporate message.  The music shouldn’t distract from that.  The point is to enhance the message and get your story out for the maximum effectiveness.