Heartwood is taking a victory lap as we celebrate 20 years in the video production business. Video and how it’s used have come a long way in that time. Every phase of video production has changed in the last 20 years – from pre-production, to production, to post and even to delivery.
What hasn’t changed is the need for a compelling story – a reason for someone to watch. When working with clients I always ask, “Why should I care about your company/product/service?” because that’s what the audience is thinking (at least subconsciously).
Let’s take a look at some of the changes in the last two decades and see how they help us to tell a story that people want to watch.
How Video is Created
The way we approach a project and the way we shoot are two of the biggest changes we’ve seen.
Smaller and more sensitive cameras have made it possible for us to shoot with smaller crews and to tell more intimate stories. As a result, video is becoming less scripted and more interview-based. Storytelling has blossomed in recent years and it’s a welcome change.
For us, that means we’re spending more time doing phone interviews before a shoot to really understand what each person we interview can bring to a video. What is their story and how does it help us to communicate our client’s message? The stories we’re telling are more genuine and connect more directly with the viewer.
I can’t recall the last time we shot something on tape. Editing tape was slow and very linear. All of our media now is created and edited digitally. Think of it as the evolution from typewriter to a word processing program. The ability to cut and paste soundbites, b-roll and graphics gives us a tremendous amount of flexibility. We can try out alternate edits and really work on crafting a story much more quickly.
Equipment costs have come down significantly – I refer to this as the “democratization” of video. You no longer need a million dollar editing facility or a camera that costs tens of thousands of dollars to create good looking video.
Today we find ourselves helping our clients find ways to shoot and edit their own video (think iPhone) so that they can respond quickly via social media. That doesn’t mean we’re out of a job – there is a place for more “home grown” media that speaks directly to an audience (people love a behind the scenes video) and there is a place for professionally produced video.
Changes in Video Distribution
Digital distribution (you’re going to get tired of hearing the word digital) has dramatically changed who sees our work, when they see it and where they see it. VHS, CDs and DVDs all required you to sit in front of a dedicated player and screen to watch a video. We all know how that’s changed. Few people imagined an iPod 20 years ago, never mind an iPhone.
Producers and editors are using services like Dropbox, Box and Google Drive to share videos with their clients, speeding up review sessions (no more FedExing a VHS and waiting for the client to reserve the one VHS machine in the main conference room) and allowing for collaboration with a larger pool of people.
YouTube is one of the largest delivery platforms and Facebook users see a ton of video. Add in Netflix and other streaming services, and that adds up to an entirely new way of delivering video and the ways in which we watch it. Which brings us to…
You probably have 2-3 different ways to watch video with you right now (desktop/laptop, smartphone, tablet). You can watch a video just about anywhere and at anytime. No dedicated players or TVs required (see my comment above about reserving a VHS and conference room).
Streaming sites like Netflix and Hulu (now HBO and other channels) make it simple to pick what we want to watch, when we want to watch it. No more appointment television.
With this incredible access to video, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in the use of it for marketing and communication. Facebook, Google and other services use information about each of us to target videos based on demographics and location. They can now tell when a video is watched, how much of it is watched and if they viewer took action after watching it. That’s a lot of good information for a marketer.
How have these viewing habits impacted storytelling with video? Increased competition for attention. If a viewer isn’t drawn in by your video, there’s always the latest cute cat video calling out to you. How can you compete with that?
What hasn’t changed?
Looking back, it’s staggering to think about how much has changed in such a short period of time.
Things that were once impossible (or at least cost prohibitive) are now within reach for most people. What once took a helicopter flight has been replaced by video from a drone.
While technological change has been significant, the fundamentals of what make a good video haven’t changed. A compelling (and ultimately successful) video requires good building blocks: concept, vision, and story. It informs the viewer and does it in a timely fashion (or you’re losing out to a cat video).
That’s what more than 20 years in the video production business has taught me – though technology may change the tools and the delivery, knowing how to tell a good story is the most important part of video.
We have better tools, better methods of sharing and more opportunities to seek out quality video. It’s an exciting time to be telling stories.