July 27, 2009

Agriculture communication. Part 1. Making moving images - Video and DVD

Making moving images - Video and DVD

By D.C Dalton and G. R. Moss

The power of moving images
Moving pictures are much more powerful than still pictures and the written word in getting a message across. Everyone knows that, and it’s especially true in farming where so many things we do are concerned with ‘action’.

In the old days this meant films. They were not easy to make, were expensive, editing was tedious, and in the public sector you needed a ‘ticket’ to operate a movie projector correctly.  Digital equipment to produce videos and DVDs has thankfully made things a lot simpler.  It’s easy these days to record moving pictures with equipment getting smaller, cheaper, easier to use, and of ever-improving quality.

However, there’s still a need to appreciate some basic principles about using moving images for successful agricultural communication.

Audience benefits of moving images
  • In a well-made video they receive factual information in a clear, direct and logical manner.
  • They see things not readily accessible.
  • They can hear and see experts on the topic.
  • They can see condensed (time lapse) sequences of events over a period of time.
  • They can see and hear varying points of view.

Presenter benefits
The presenter also benefits from the above audience points, plus these extra two:
  • Videos and DVDs tell the same story each time shown. The message is consistent over many venues and times by the same or different presenters.
  •  The length of the presentation time is accurately known.
So you can see how the cry of ‘let’s make a video or DVD’, is always heard when communication ideas are discussed.

Right at the start - key points to consider
  1. Is there a budget?  This question is so often left to the end. Deal with it at the start, and if there is no budget, forget the idea.  So often people have half a budget, or a vague figure of some money which they think will appear from a somewhere!  Or they expect you will have ideas where they can get the money.  The budget should be clear with some written guarantee that it will appear before the bills come in.
  2.  Packaging. The biggest risk these days is that your masterpiece will go straight into the ‘junk mail’ bin and never be opened. So packaging is critical so at least it will end up on the kitchen table and be opened.  Someone else in the family (e.g. the children) may grab it to see what it’s about and if there are any freebees inside.  They may be the ones to encourage Dad or Mum to at least open it and even put into the player for them.
  3. Distribution.  Decide how to distribute the finished product. This must be built into the budget.  There are all sorts of ways of getting your message out, but they all cost money. Some professional marketing advice is a good idea, in the very first stages of planning the project.
  4. Time involved.  Never believe the video maker. If they say it will take ‘a couple of hours’ then write off half a day, and if they say ‘half a day’, write of at least two days!  Inevitably, they never start on time and certainly don’t think there is such a thing as a finishing time. The finish is when their job is done. Also be prepared for the message the next day that something has gone wrong somewhere with the film, or there’s a bit that’s not right and they need to shoot some parts again.  They’ll assure you it won’t take long! Never believe them.
  5. Who are the clients? This is an obvious question but so often it’s only half researched, because the producers don’t ask the right people or the right questions. They ask those who give will them the answer they want – and of course they are delighted to get it.
  6. Will your client watch the video/DVD?  When will they find the time?  Farmers are outdoors people and sitting in the house watching a TV screen sounds and looks like laziness!  This question should be the first question asked, but rarely is. Check the number of unwatched promotional videos and DVDs on shelves that have never been watched.  Research years ago in the hight of video recording of TV programmes showed that only 9% of them were actually watched.  Your product is going to have to be different.
  7. What’s your message? Is it clear and simple, and is it something that your clients will want to hear – or something you think they want to hear. What’s in it for them – more money or just something nice to have? It had better make more money or your money will be wasted.
  8.  Is a video/DVD the best format?  Have you got material to suit an action message?  There’s no point in providing moving pictures of talking heads.  You need to show some action in saying how good your product is and how easy it is to use.
  9. How long should it run?  It’s hard to get through to people how much information you can cover in 60 seconds. In the old days people insisted on at least a half hour video, because Country Calendar had gone for decades for an hour each time. Today, people want videos under 10-15 minutes maximum.
  10. A shooting script or storyboard?  This is an early essential before you start thinking about recording any action. Write the message out showing the pictures. Alongside write the words that will be spoken to go with it.  The spoken words will be very different to the written words as the commentary must be in conversational English.  Keep the talking heads to a minimum – they soon get boring.
  11. Front person.  This is critical to your message.  You’ll need someone to front the programme, add continuity at various points, and give the final message.  Listeners/viewers remember the first and last things they hear, so the start and end must be very strong.  Choosing a person can be tricky.  Things like age, credibility, personality and public persona are all important, and easy to get wrong.  Hiring a professional will cost you big money – but this could be worthwhile.
  12. Narrator. As well as a front person as presenter, you may also need a narrator to do a ‘voice over’ commentary.  This is a ‘professional voice’ which again will cost money.  Don’t underestimate the importance of this in generating the credibility of your message.  The ‘voice’ must fit the tone of your message. The narrator's  'accent' is very important in this.
  13. Location.  Where are you going to shoot the action?  Make sure the person who is going to do the filming has a good look at the location well before the event. They will be able to see what gear they need, as they may have to hire it.  And make sure you have a plan B if the weather breaks up.  Down time can cost you money.
  14. Accommodation and meals.  Those involved in the project will need to be looked after, so this needs to be sorted out early and go into the budget.
  15. Clearances. You may need clearances from a number of people and organisations. Having these in written form is a good idea, and it would be best to get something from a lawyer about what’s needed.  Professional photographers have a ‘model release form’ for pictures they take of people.  You may need permission to enter properties, use animals without compromising their welfare, and avoiding doing things that will cause accidents or damage to people or property.  You may also need insurance.
  16. Borrowed material.  There are very strict rules on copyright on other people’s material (words and pictures) which must be respected.  Check with the sources you use and get their written permission to be doubly sure you won’t end up in court or have to scrap your end product.
  17. Music. Remember that any music you use as background could have copyright on it too with royalties to pay.  There is some general music around with no copyright needed so check this out.  The important point is that the music must suit the message.
  18. Acknowledgements. It’s better to go overboard on acknowledgements than end up with complaints and threats, resulting in having to dump all your hard work and risk court action.
  19. Final check.  How often you hear of situations where, despite all the checking, some faux pas has slipped through.  The problem with pictures is that the human brain often filters out things that the camera records. The biggest risks are in the areas of food safety, occupational health and safety and animal welfare where pictures have slipped through that are well below approved standards. So have all areas checked by appropriate experts, and even get them checked after the experts have viewed them.

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