01 Dec 2011

What will they think of next?

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It should be no surprise to anyone when a new technology comes along and sweeps the publics imagination; an aftermarket add-on comes along that augments that capability.  We’ve seen it with a lot of add-ons for i-pads and i-phones.

One such innovative product I’ve discovered in the past year is a little gizmo is called the OWLE Bubo.  It’s a milled aluminum iPhone case with a swappable 37mm macro lens.  It’s sturdy, attractive and makes it easy to manually hold the iPhone and record videos.

The 37mm lens helps to provide a slightly wider field of view and because of this wider view it helps to make the image more stable when you’re holding the camera with your hands.

In this day of instant publishing, micro blogging and all, the iPhone and other mini publishing platforms will allow the innovative to push ideas and messages to the masses.

I’m not going to review the OWLE Bubo but rather praise what this sort of gizmo can do for you.

The Owle Bubo, paired with the iPhone makes the iPhone a unique video platform. Because the iPhone 4, 4S have the ability to create HD movies combined with good sound, a user can create short videos that can be instantly published to any web site directly from the iPhone or iPad and even to an HDMI input to a big screen!

In addition the video camera on the iPhone allows you to trim the clip, meaning you can take out the stumble at the beginning and end of your clip before you publish. If you’re a real techie you may already have iMovie on your iPhone or iPad, which means you’ll be able to add titles, insert additional shots, images and even include music if you wish.

So lets imagine for a moment that your organization is hosting a conference. Your key note speaker or star studded international speaker panel are so hot that you cant pass up the opportunity to get some quotable quotes.

Your agencies agenda is to generate a lot of traffic to the web site and push your content and message to the media and other organizations. Pick any communications rational that serves you.

You’ve done you homework and the speaker(s) have all agreed to allow you to publish some pre-cleared questions.  As soon as the speaker gets off the stage you have them stand in a pre arranged nicely lit spot and conduct a mini 10-minute interview.  You grab your Bubo or similar device and start recording content. As soon as you’re thanking your guest and their handlers are dragging them off to their next rendezvous, you’re already editing in iMovie right on your mobile device.

In anticipation for this event you may have been keen enough to produce a pre-canned branded intro for your breaking news blog.  You can even do a standup.  You trim your clip; insert the intro, standup, the interview testimonial, your closer and your ready to publish. In relatively little time you’ve gone from zero to breaking news in less than 30 minutes.

Only a few years ago, publishing rich video content was more laborious and required more gear, typically more people, expensive software and it wasn’t instant!

As a disclaimer to those in corporate production or in communications shops who are possibly reeling in horror at this concept, I’m not suggesting the death of high-end video production.  Rater I want to illustrate novel ways to keep things exciting and new.  Each technology has its place in the digital domain.

For more info on lenses and other tools for the iPhone you can check out the following links or “google” iphone lenses and such.    Enjoy!



02 Nov 2011

Producing Video In-House, or Contracting Out?

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It’s a tough question that’s often raised – should your organization have its video production services in-house, should they be farmed out? What makes the most sense today?

Let’s say you’ve been given the task to look into producing videos for your organization’s web site or YouTube channel.  Your challenge then is to decide whether it makes sense to gear up and build the capacity in-house or sub-contract the project. It’s not an easy decision.

Today, it seems like government departments and corporate organizations, championed by their own internal new media gurus, the ever-growing popularity of social media and all things YouTube, the shift to in-house video production is once again on the rise. We’re seeing more and more video cameras and editing suites flying off the shelves. Mini studios with lights, wireless microphones, and budding Spielbergs are popping up in communications shops all over. Empowered with fancy new video gear the cry goes out, “Let’s do some stuff!” and media managers and intrepid journalists head out to promote their wares and produce feel good stories.

The make or buy decision involves many variables, but for many products or services it’s simple economics.  If you need something occasionally, then it probably makes sense to buy it rather than producing it in-house.  On the other hand, if there is an on-going need for a specialized product or service, and the procurement is expensive, then it may very well make sense to build that capability in-house. Unfortunately, when it comes to video production, things are not always that simple.

So, faced with the task of producing videos and new media, what’s it going to be? Make it, or buy it? The procurement of video services in the federal government, and often in the corporate world for that matter, is an established, accessible process. You set out a clear requirement and a statement of work, find a supplier through a standing offer or request for proposal, and get the video produced.

Here is a typical “buy it” scenario.  You need a “one-off” video of your CEO saying a few words on video for a conference that he or she cannot attend.   A simple purchase order will get you a professional service provider who will record and edit the clip. It’ll look professional and your CEO will look good on screen.
But let’s say it’s a high-end corporate video aimed at the broader Canadian public. Here there really is no room for error.  Should you try and tackle it yourself?  Caveat emptor!  Be careful what you ask for.

The make it or buy it decision shouldn’t solely be made on the simple notion that the cost of buying equipment is now more affordable than ever.   I have often heard clients say, “Wow, I didn’t realize how expensive videos are to produce!”  On the surface the sticker price of a high-end video can be shocking. It’s not a stretch to see how someone might start thinking that they could easily acquire a system in-house and begin cranking out videos of the week.  So, the do-it yourselfer says, “Why not produce them in house?  The cost of the equipment is cheap and we could do this on a Mac or a PC.”

If this sounds like you, then I suggest you be honest about the whole affair and engage a thorough “Make or Buy” business case. High-end videos can cost well into the high tens of thousands, while videos on the lower end of the spectrum can be recorded in the low thousands depending on the scope of the project.  There is a real spread. The cost of establishing your own facility is not always clear.

There can be a lot of hidden costs.  It’s not solely the salary of a person with experience and the cost of the equipment. There are also the institutional costs to manage the hiring process; the cost of managing the benefits and other HR matters; and the ongoing cost of training and keeping ahead of the obsolescence curve.  Furthermore, producing new media or videos is not for everyone.  You can’t simply slip into the production seat and fill the role of the department media guru unless you have the necessary skills.

Yes, there can be the talented summer student or the creative nephew who’s the next Indy movie director using iMovie to make their productions.  But that’s only a small percentage of the folks who have a working knowledge of the craft. Producing quality content requires a wide variety of skills and knowledge.   It’s a specialty area.  Producing, directing, operating a camera, lighting, recording sound, and editing are all specialties that not everyone can master, not to mention a heavy learning curve. The preconceived idea that the do-it-yourselfer, editing videos and doing it all, is saving money and time is a misleading notion.

There’s a lot to consider. If you are planning to go down this path, what will you do when you realize you acquired production tools that are obsolescent and the person editing your videos is job hunting and thinking about their next promotion? What will you do when they leave the department? How will you fill this position?

In my view, it’s often the intangibles of quality that are the most critical in deciding what route to go. Was this just a cool idea or was it thoroughly thought out?  Did anyone consider the quality of the content?  What will be your frequency of publishing? Are you generating any metrics?  What kind of subjects are you covering?  Are you producing in-house training? Video blogs?  Who’s going to archive this content? Where and how will it be saved?  Will you follow technical standards?

From my experience, as a producer who has seen this dilemma play out over the years, unless you have a good manager/producer with experience and a talented crew, then you could be setting yourself up for disappointment. I personally have worked on a few productions that came in from the cold because the in-house capability either didn’t have the time or the bandwidth to fix mistakes.

My suggestion is before you decide to spend $10-$50K on video toys for your department and hiring a staffer to be your video guru, do the math, be honest and realistic about how you’re going to manage this resource and determine what level of quality you desire. While at first glance it seems that contracting out is a more costly approach, ou may find yourself surprised.  By hiring a seasoned producer, the best creative and technical team for your particular video may be the most inexpensive route in the long run.  You can still maintain content and creative control, too.  By choosing a professional, responsive and understanding, producer you can still be closely involved in an exciting collaborative process.

Make or Buy?….  Think it through!