The Business of Intranet Web Video
COW Library : Business & Career Building Tutorials : Richard Harrington : The Business of Intranet Web Video
Creative professionals know the impact that video has when it comes to changing minds, hearts and attitudes. Nothing is more compelling or effective than powerful visuals combined with meaningful words. With all of this possibility for persuasive message delivery, why then is video in the workplace frowned upon so often? Many corporations have blocked access to most web video portals. Some even go as far as to remove media player software. Their concerns seem to focus on reducing wasted time and protecting employees from inappropriate materials.
THE CHALLENGE WE FACEDWe were approached by Community Health Charities of America (CHC), which represents more than sixty health organizations, and helps them reach their funding goals through coordinated workplace-giving campaigns. Over the past five years, CHC has raised more than than $340 million for its member charities. The vision of the organization is to improve the lives of people affected by disability or chronic disease.
In order to succeed, CHC needs to bring a strong message to more workplaces. They raise critical funds by uniting donors in the workplace with America's most recognized health charities. The group does all of this while keeping their overhead costs around 6%, which is exceptionally low for a charity.
Instead of just asking for donations, however, the group wanted to harness the strengths of its member health charities (health information, personal support and community services) to deliver a powerful new tool to help American companies engage employees in health: a comprehensive web and workplace-based health initiative called Health Matters at Work. The objective is to help businesses, employees and their families learn about the prevention of chronic disease, as well as how to manage chronic health conditions more effectively.
THE SOLUTIONMy company, RHED Pixel, has produced over six thousand videos for the web in the last decade. Podcasting and web video series are an effective tool that we regularly use to both entertain and inspire. Usually, we are targeting a receptive audience that wants video -- in this case we were not. The corporate audience was leery about letting video into the workplace.
It was quickly determined that we needed to design the project with the gatekeepers in mind. The video series had to meet key objectives if we were ever going to reach the end user.
DEVELOPMENT: VOLUME LEADS TO EFFICIENCYWith a clear target in mind, we set out to create a web video series. Working with the client, we brainstormed a series of topics that would appeal to the human resource departments of large companies, as well as to the end viewer. A wide range of topics were developed, including diabetes awareness, HIV, organ donation, men's health, and cancer.
A host for the show was recruited so that each episode would have a consistent voice and style. We recruited Jerry Franz, an adjunct professor in the School of Public Health and Health Sciences at George Washington University. Franz was also a volunteer for CHC and was truly capable of delivering important information in a knowledgeable, yet entertaining way.
To serve as guests, CHC turned to its member charities. The member organizations of Community Health Charities were pleased at the opportunity to further advance their messages and awareness of medical issues. The podcast was quickly embraced and supported with an influx of qualified experts to serve as guests.
Each nonprofit was responsible for sending its own expert -- some drew on local experts (many associations are based in the Washington, DC area where we are located) while others flew theirs in.
Because the videos were seen as a giant partnership, costs were very fairly distributed between all parties. In fact, much of the production costs were sponsored by private industry who felt the video series were worthwhile. Companies like MedImmune and The Merck Company Foundation have helped fund the video series as a grant donation to CHC.
STREAMLINING THE PROCESSWhile shooting multiple shows in a day is nothing new for a talk show, we took it to new levels. Two consecutive shoot days were scheduled with an aggressive production schedule. Each day was carved into four shooting blocks. Guests would first participate in a three-person panel discussion with the host, then they'd be interviewed individually. This warranted four episodes for each two-hour shooting block, a tremendous return that generated approximately 30 episodes in two days.
Pooling production and scheduling multiple guests let us create an efficient workflow. Because we were able to pack the schedule, the cost per episode plummeted.
Using gobo lights to project the client logo on a soft cyc was much less expensive than building a full set.
THE SETOur studio is 36' by 16', large enough for a multi-camera shoot using proper lighting. The first season used a practical set, but now, in our third season, we are using a set created entirely from projection. We use Zylight LED lights, which easily allow us to dial in specific colors that match the client's branding and project them onto a Soft Cyc. Leko lights are used to project the client's logo through the use of theatrical gobos. The talent is lit using Kino Flo lights, which allow us to keep the space cool and comfortable. The entire set can be assembled in less than 3 hours, which is one of the keys to keeping our studio profitable.
THE GEARWe shot the series using three Panasonic cameras, the HPX500, HPX300, and HVX200, which allowed us to record to HD media while sending out an SD signal to switch. Material was recorded directly to P2 media so that we would have isolated angles for each shot. The show, however, was also switched "live to tape," or in this case, disk.
We also used NewTek's TriCaster, which allowed for multiple inputs. We've currently been using the standard definition version of the box, but have toyed with making the jump to HD. Both versions of the product have been easy to use, and eerily reminiscent of some of my first productions in college that used a Video Toaster. The box is laid out intuitively, and we have found that our staff editors can take their knowledge of editing multi-camera shows and transfer it to a live shoot.
By switching the show live, future post production was dramatically reduced. Instead of only recording to the TriCaster, we also looped out to a second capture station running Final Cut Pro. Running the video in through an AJA Io Express allowed us to capture the video at a higher data rate and in a Final Cut Pro native format.
The talk show format used for CHC was shot using Panasonic HPX500, HPX300, and HVX200 cameras and studio lighting.
PRODUCTION STYLEIn order to keep the discussion lively, guests were not allowed to overly prepare or monologue. The guests were provided with a general outline for the show, as well as some talking points. We made a conscious effort to allow people to feel prepared, yet not to over-prepare, as these shows were meant to be conversational.
The host and guests met briefly before taping for mutual introductions, as well as to discuss the show's content. The host then led an interactive discussion and tried to frame the discussion so it would be entertaining and informative to the average American worker. After the panel discussion, individual interviews were recorded with the panelists that let them focus on the disease or medical condition that they advocate for.
POST: EFFICIENCY IS KEYSince the production is already switched, time to market is greatly reduced. The post workflow is very streamlined with an emphasis on saving time and money. The steps were quite simple.
The raw switched shows are compressed for client review using Elgato Turbo.264 HD devices for accelerated compression. Templates graphics are quickly populated using a combination of Adobe After Effects and Apple Motion. Cuts to time are made and isolated camera angles, if needed, were cut back into the shows. Client feedback is gathered on additional cuts for time or content. Participating charities also provide B-roll and photos.
Finally, videos are compressed and uploaded to Blip.tv and YouTube using standard definition frame sizes and H.264 compression with Apple compatibility.
Videos are compressed and uploaded to Blip.tv and YouTube.
DELIVERYOur philosophy from the beginning was to be where the people were, as opposed to having to pull them in. In order for the video series to be successful, it needs to reach as much of its audience as possible. Our primary audience for the video series is people at work, which led us to make several important choices.
Specifically, the files need to download fast. Files were mastered in standard definition at a frame size of 640x360. This works well as most computers in a corporate environment lack high definition displays. The data rate was also kept low so that video would not clog a company's network. While the primary formats offered were FLV and MP4, Windows Media files were offered as needed. Files were also compressed for both Flash delivery and H.264 for mobile devices.
We offer these files directly to participating companies so that they can self-host video files. This allows companies that do not wish to open up portals to video sharing sites to still deliver video to their employees.
For companies that don't want to host the videos themselves, the videos are housed on several sites to cover a wide range of mobile devices. YouTube is the clear leader here, as it makes the videos available for playback on multiple phone operating systems. It is also starting to gain acceptance even at the Federal Government level, which is another key customer for the campaigns we created for Community Health Charities.
Strong visual branding on the set and graphic package, as well as a clear call to action at the end of the video, help ensure that Community Health Charities got exposure. Graphics routinely prompt viewers to visit both the Health Matters at Work series page and the Community Health Charities site.
LESSONS LEARNEDThis project is now entering its third successful season. We've learned several important things along the way, and I want to leave you with five lessons that you can apply to your own business.
Cost is King. Web video is a cost-sensitive medium. Pay close attention for ways to trim expenses. A projected set and IKEA furniture went a long way to keeping our production costs low.
Volume is Key. Loading up the shoot days to generate a lot of episodes led to a lower cost per episode for us. To prepare prior to show, the panels each held a short conference call and discussed their ideas. People showed up ready to go and the shoots ran smoothly.
Audio is 75% of a Web Video. Pay close attention to audio when shooting, as it is very easy to screw your audio up. People are listening on low-quality speakers or headphones, and if the show is difficult to hear or lacks consistent levels people will tune out.
Good web audio starts with proper acquisition, so be sure to not skimp on having someone to run the board. If possible, record isolated channels so you can make changes to the mix easier. Once edited, take the time to normalize your levels. A quick and easy way to do this is with the free Levelator application.
Minimize Post. The less work you do in post, the cheaper web video is to make. By taking a "live" mentality, we got a lot more done on set. Multiple camera angles made it easy to cut out mistakes or condense time during editing.
Go Wide. Do not impose your own personal biases on web video when it comes to distribution. We identified the needs for the project, and chose multiple distribution points to service the greatest good.