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2-Minute Warning

Tick, Tick, Tick... Like it or not, the clock is running that is rapidly turning the Internet into a content-rich environment that will be dominated by players who are savvy enough to realize that text-only is the surest way to lose your online audience. The bad news is that those site’s that continue to resist the trend toward audio and video inclusion are going to find browsers and buyers going elsewhere. The good news is that it still isn’t too late for you to get with the YouTube crowd before the clock runs out. In fact, with a little bit of practice, you may soon find out that vlogging and podcasting could well be the best thing that ever happened to your company.

The first thing you have to understand before you rush out to buy a webcam is that bad video is worst than no video at all. What works on paper can be as boring as watching paint dry. That doesn’t mean it takes Steven Spielberg to turn out video that works. With a little practice, almost anyone can create corporate videos that are the best sales tools a business could have. What follows is what you need to know in order to create and deliver a marketing message by telling a business story with style so that an audience will remember the message and act upon it. Best of all, we can even show you how to do this on a shoestring budget.

Online it’s all about production, not airtime The first thing you have to understand is that Web video is completely separate from the world of broadcast television, where the cost of airtime is at a premium and show formats are 30 to 120 minutes in length. “A typical 30-minute block of television airtime includes 22 minutes of programming with 6 minutes of national advertising and 2 minutes of local (although some half-hour blocks may have as much as 12 minutes of advertisements)."

We've all had to gnash our teeth while sitting through the now all-too-familiar 3-minute commercial break, wondering if we are even going to be able to keep the dramatic train of thought sustained long enough for the programming to resume. Fortunately, the world of web video doesn’t work that way. Not only aren’t their any commercial breaks during a typical web broadcast, the length of an average YouTube clip is anywhere from two to five minutes. With that kind of format, there isn’t time for a commercial.

That said, an argument could be made for discipline when creating a Web-based video presentation. The way to format an effective video is to do it in the most efficient and memorable manner possible. No-Frills Filmmaking at its Best is about telling your story, whether it's a fifteen-second elevator pitch or a five-minute infomercial. If you don't tell a story you aren't communicating your message effectively. Because the Web doesn't require you to purchase airtime, your video presentation once uploaded, is available 24/7 for all to see, anytime, as often as they want.

Since you have so much freedom of expression when it comes to online video, what you need to ask yourself, is, “What is the best way to make my point?” If you follow the standard television format and drone on for half-an-hour all you are going to accomplish is boring your viewers to tears? The standard format for successful Web video is to hit the viewer right between the eyes and deliver the message in an unforgettable way.

Just as with most things in life, discipline is very important when it comes to video production. Particularly when it comes to video shorts, the producer needs to stay focused. Lose this focus and you won’t just lose the viewer, you could very well lose track of your shooting budget as well. Time is money on the set. Unlike producing a show for broadcast tv, when it comes to web-based video you have the freedom to fudge the timing to meet your needs. On the Web, there is no sense in cutting a presentation because it runs fifteen seconds too long, or adding superfluous material because it runs fifteen seconds short. That said, it is a good idea to start with a structure that allows you to build a presentation that works; a presentation that has a beginning, middle, and end; a presentation that tells a story viewers will sit through and pay attention to.

What we have devised is a 3-act format for web video.  If you accept the premise that Web videos are all about telling your story, then perhaps the best solution is to take the standard, three act, one hundred and twenty minute movie, and scale it down to a three act, one hundred and twenty second video short.  The first thing you will learn about video is that for every hour you put into preproduction, you wil save two in post. What this means in a nutshell, is that you want to have the production well laid out before you roll tape. What this means is that you will need to either write a script, or at the very least lay out a storyboard that will give your production some structure. Either way, the nuts and bolts of laying out your narrative are the same, as follows.

THE SCRIPT - Act One: The Setup Your first act is the setup:(1) A proper setup needs to introduce your hero (every story, even commercials, need a hero);(2) It must contain an Inciting Incident that triggers action on the part of the hero, and;(3) It must also create an object of desire and define the nature of success. By incorporating these elements in your first act, you attract viewer interest, hold viewer attention, create viewer expectation, and provide vicarious, virtual-viewer participation through the actions of the surrogate hero.

Act Two: The Conflict Act two is about establishing conflict and building tension by creating an obstacle that provides the motivational impetus to act to resolve the problem.

Act Three: The Payoff While Act three provides the resolution, the audience is satisfied with the knowledge gained and they are left to wonder where they will see the hero next.

Postproduction: Once you get the tape back to postproduction, you should first lay out the rough. This means that you will lay out all the action first. Don't worry about narration, music or titling, as these will all be added later. Use transitions with discretion. Too many can give your video an Amateur Hour look. Once you are happy with the flow onscreen, then you can work toward the final cut by adding narration, then titling and at long last music. Once you are happy with your video short, make sure you don't lose all your work should the hard drive crash by making a backup copy by burning a dvd.

Post-Postproduction: The best part about web video is that you distribute them free of charge on any number of video hosting sites that have sprung up like weeds since Google acquired YouTube. In upcoming posts, I’ll tell you how to use these sites as an alternative search engine to provide not only content for your company website, but also added traffic as well. Just keep in mind that if you are looking to add effective web video to your repertoire before the clock runs out, but you're not sure about how to go about telling your story, then the 120 Second, 3 Act Web-Video Short is a good place to start.

If you want to get into the game before the 2-Minute Warning is over, give the video marketing professionals a call at 904-234-6007. 

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