Many of our customers want to understand the work that goes into their video production. This helps them to justify the cost and also to reassure them that we are doing a thorough job.
The quality of web presenter videos on the web varies incredibly and the poorer videos can damage the performance of the sites and businesses that they are hosted by whereas a well made video can lead to significant website performance improvements.
Here is a spoof web presenter video that we made with a client for a practical joke on their boss who signed off the cost of the video production:
Obviously it is over the top but this video serves to display the typical weaknesses of poorly made videos.
Here is the real version of the same video:
Now that you can see the gulf between good and bad we will go on to explain the steps of the production and what happens at each stage:
1. Concept Development
The planning stage involves three main areas of planning. Creative, logistical and commercial. We loosely tackle them in that order, but they all need to be aligned toward an end-result or “vision”. At point of sale this information is presented to the client as a project plan. The purpose of this document is to solidify the client’s requirements into an executable plan.
Creatively planning a web presenter is more akin to directing theatre than film. It makes sense when you think about it. The website is the stage, the presenter can walk on or off, fade up in a spotlight, interact with the stage, deliver a monologue or speak to other presenters on/off stage. Crucially what you can’t do is cut to another angle, which is a hallmark of any film-making process.
What does it take to deliver what has been creatively planned? How long will we need in a studio, which studio, what size? What are the lighting and sound requirements, do we need any special grip (that’s anything that supports or grips a camera; from tripods to cranes and even helicopters).
What do all these parts cost, and if there are any options around how we could achieve our creative goal this is where we do a cost-benefit to recommend the best solution for our client.
Experienced producers and directors are able to plan creatively with a good understanding of what’s possible on a given budget. So in practice it’s less of a linear sequence of planning events and more of a wibbly-wabbly pre-production planning phase.
Scripting the concept out into it’s full detail is a task for a professional script-writer. Where the planning stage will have left it at “30 seconds script selling product A to audience X” the writer now has to actually say everything that needs to be said in 30 seconds, and write dialogue which will appeal to the target audience. Writing professional scripts on demand, to a specification, with an understanding of audience psychology so as to deliver a specific business result cannot be underrated. In business, we do not have time for writer’s block.
There are a lot of superfluous marketing rules going around with video. A good example is “engage your audience in the opening 15 seconds”. While this is true, it has always been true that you need to engage your audience at the start of a book, play, film, tapestry, presentation or sales pitch. There’s nothing new about needing to engage the audience at the start, and it’s just as difficult to achieve as it ever has been. Our writers truly understand the dynamics of writing for a specific target audience, and calling them action. Audience engagement and entertainment is a natural part of their work and we believe the results we achieve and measure speak for themselves.
3. Briefing the Director
Once signed-off, the script-writer will then hand over their script to the director. An important discussion takes place as the writer goes through the purpose of everything that is said and done in the script, so that the director can ensure that all the writer’s original meaning is conveyed by the presenter/ actor’s performance. This could be anything from the meaning of lines, perhaps referencing something visual which isn’t obvious in the script, to what the presenter should be wearing. The key purpose is to ensure that every individual element – costume, energy, dialogue, style and visuals, props, graphics etc all align toward one overall story. If they’re individually great but they each push the audience in a different direction, the overreaching impact of the video will be diminished. It is to ensure this alignment that director’s exist, as opposed to a committee of decision-makers.
Once all the details of the project have been signed-off by the client, who is ultimately in control of the production, the video will be produced.
4. Setting up the Studio
We films all kinds of videos here at MWP, so when we have a web presenter shoot we need to turn around our studios for a day’s filming. We set up the green screen, camera, and visual feeds. We do this so we can see and hear what we’re setting up through the audiences eyes and ears. Now that we can see what you see we’ll add in lighting, which can look very different to our eyes than it does on-screen, and we’ll add in sound. Once everything is set up and tested, we’re ready to go.
5. Recording In Progress
The director will rehearse the presenter and call the shots to ensure the meaning of the original script, as agreed with the client, comes through in the performance. Once rehearsed the camera will start “rolling” (this harks back to the days of broadcast, nothing rolls now.)
The presenter will typically read the script from autocue, this clever tool has evolved a lot over the years and you can now download an app to turn your iPad into one! Professional systems use semi-reflective glass to project the text right over the lens. This allows the presenter to read the text while looking directly into the camera lens, maintaining that all-important eye contact with the audience. If you don’t know how that works it’ll seem like magic, but it’s really just sufficiently advanced technology. Sometimes multiple presenters can exchange dialogue on-screen, in which case they may not be reading an autocue at all. They may have to learn their lines, and then there’s a good chance we’ll be using actors instead.
Production is the fastest-moving, least accessible part of the production process. Clients are invited to our shoots, but flexibility will be limited around what we have planned in pre-production.
This point underlines why pre-production is so important. We essentially create the capability we need to shoot your video for you.
Here the video is composited against the website, and then rendered out with a transparent background at the appropriate size. We sometimes produce video mockups of the web presenter to ensure the client is happy before implementing onto the website, or other times the flash file will be published straight to a hidden webpage and amended as required by the feedback we receive.
As well as doing some obvious visual work such as removing the green screen and resizing the video, we also do some intricate behind the scenes work. For example, the sound is adjusted in level and quality to ensure it will play nicely and at the expected volume. Too loud, and you’ll annoy the audience. Too quiet, and some people with only laptop speakers will struggle to hear what’s being said. We also colour the video to fit nicely with the colour scheme of the client’s website. It is this attention to detail throughout the process which delivers amazing response.
7. Implementing onto Website
Once the video has final sign-off from our client, it is launched onto the live website. This is done simply by entering a few lines of code which we send across. All the detail of positioning, play frequencies, return plays etc which ensure and measure response are sorted out by our hosting platform. This keeps the implementation stage clean and simple.
That’s it – obviously there is a lot more detail that goes into each of the stages but hopefully this overview is enough to give you a picture of what goes into a web presenter video production.