Published by Camilla on 02 May 2012 at 10:54 am
With almost 700 views on YouTube in just 2 weeks, two young videographers are thrilled about the Wiser.org video. They take us behind the scenes of creating the video and share some tips about nonprofit video production.
“Crowdsourcing video from Wiser community members from around the world was the way to go,” says Hollie Harrington, who worked alongside Kieran Ball to co-produce the new nonprofit video ‘Who are we?’ for Wiser.org.
Tell us a bit about yourselves.
We are a film-making duo who have been happily living in Paris for 18 months but are originally from England. Hollie has a background in drama, film, and NGO work, while Kieran started out in accountancy before moving into micro-finance and film. We started our production company, Seed Video about a year ago to give more formality to the work we were already doing, and have been really pleased at the interesting projects that have come our way since.
Could you tell us about the Wiser.org video project that you recently worked on? Why was it created and what was the overall message you wanted to communicate when you created the video?
Throughout our work we have found that many non-profits have difficulty describing who they are and what they do in as much detail as they’d wish, and this is exactly what the Wiser.org project was aiming to solve. Wiser approached us with a strong idea of the kind of video they wanted, as well as many of the clips already sourced from members of their global community. Our job was to put it all together, fill in some gaps, and make it flow as a short and engaging video.
Our main aim was to get across Wiser’s eclectic nature, that they bring together people from all around the world with various social issues on one website where they can meet, make connections, share ideas and change the world! We really wanted to get across the warmth and optimism that Wiser encompasses, along with the diversity of people and issues in a way that not only explains clearly and precisely what Wiser.org is but that also inspires those watching to get involved and make a difference.
What were some of the challenges? (i.e. working virtually, incorporating feedback, technicalities, etc.)
Wiser.org provided a fantastically detailed script, which was a nice change for us! They also had a lot of the footage ready to go, which meant less shooting work was needed from us. Working with crowd-sourced footage is something that we are often asked to do, and it can be challenging when the footage arrives in a variety of formats, styles and levels of quality. On the other hand, it was perfect for Wiser because it gives a real grassroots and authentic feel to the video (as opposed to a slick, commercial vibe). Having said that, some of the shots had issues with severe camera shake, and occasionally the lighting or sound was just too low quality to include.
We also flexed our After Effects muscles (After Effects is an animation programme) to make the introduction section of the video, which, although a technical challenge, we absolutely loved! It was fun to experiment further than we had before with ways of using special effects, images, kinetic typography and symbols to give added “Oomph!” to the final piece.
Tools like email, Dropbox, and Vimeo made it easy to work virtually on the project, and Wiser provided us with immediate feedback on each cut of the video to help us refine it.
What was your favorite part about working on this overall project?
The fantastic team! We worked closely with the Wiser.org team from the word go and we can’t thank them enough for being so great. The main video content of the film was shot by Wiser members all around the world, and if anything needed re-shooting or tweaking it was no problem–we’d get a prompt and accurate response and of course it was full of optimism and smiles! Working with Communication Director Camilla was fantastic; she embodied the Wiser.org spirit: relaxed yet motivated, inspiring, passionate and clear. It was a treat to work with a team who had a clear idea of what they wanted to say, a really well laid-out script, combined with a friendly and easy-going attitude.
Can you give us some examples of any other video’s you’ve created for not for profits? And examples of great nonprofit videos you’ve seen?
We’ve made a variety of films for other non-profits, and in a range of styles. One of the films we are particularly proud of was for Pando Projects, a New York based non-profit. We were given quite a general brief for this–make a short video explaining the organisation–so we shot a series of interviews with the Pando founder and some of the project leaders. The job was made all the more rewarding because we could feel the passion and motivation behind each and every person involved. The feeling of inspiration and hope was almost tangible and became infectious: within minutes of starting the shoot we were grinning from ear to ear! We came away with hours of footage and then it was a case of picking out the best moments and weaving them into a coherent story. We really tried to capture the spirit of each of the 5 project leaders, and we think we did a good job considering the video is only a little over 3 minutes!
Another favourite of ours was this one we made in Cambodia last year. Cambodia will always have a special place in both our hearts and we feel that this video captures it well and has a nice uplifting feeling to it.
As for other great non-profit videos, here are some examples of different kinds of videos that we like, all done for greatly varying budgets:
- September campaign 2009 – Charity:Water – Still one of the best non-profit videos out there. Big budget, very well scripted, shot, and edited. This video is the top of its game but it doesn’t come cheap!
- Alive Inside – Documentary Trailer – A well shot, well edited and uplifting trailer for a documentary showing the work of Music Memory, a non-profit organisation using digital music to improve the lives of the elderly, infirm and those with Alzheimer’s disease. The released extract with one of the patients, Henry, is also really worth a watch. Great idea, great content, wonderful cause.
- Alex presents: Commando – Mama Hope – A funny and hopeful video based on a chance encounter with a charismatic boy. You can’t plan for this to happen but you may be sitting on a video like this and not know what to do with it!
- Voices of Change – Greenpeace – A very well shot and edited video by Greenpeace, who hired a well-known freelance filmmaker for this project.
- That doesn’t look like me – short documentary – A heart-warming mini documentary about artists who visit a nursing home one afternoon to draw the residents. We added this to the list to prove that the quality of footage is not important when you have a good story!
- The Girl Effect – An excellent animated text video explaining a cause. We get asked if we can make a video like this on a regular basis. This video is not as complex as their follow-up video, but is still very time consuming to make.
- The Clock Is Ticking – Girl Effect 2 – A fully animated video. A LOT of time went into making this video, and it shows.
- Explaining Microfinance – Kiva.org – Super low-budget animation that works. Everyone has access to the tools to do this! But it’s been well thought out and well executed, and it plays on its low budget feel.
- Crowd-sourced videos take footage from a number of different sources, and can work really well (as well as reducing travel costs)
- It gets better – Google Chrome – Google Chrome always make excellent ads, this being one of the best, with an important message behind it.
- Call me hope – Mama Hope – OK so this may not technically be crowd-sourced but it could have easily been. A simple and uplifting video.
Do you have any top tips for other not for profits wanting to create their own video–how to begin/whether to do it in-house or not/how to choose a videographers to work with?
Yes! We have plenty of tips and ideas. If you’re a non-profit, now is a great time to think about making a video as equipment is increasingly available, and there is an abundance of ideas out there. We don’t need to explain why video is so useful to non-profits for conveying their message, it’s almost mandatory these days and there are many superb examples online of video being used well (and not so well).
The first step is to ask yourself what kind of video you want. Here are some questions to ask yourself (or your team):
- What message do you want to convey? Are you trying to motivate people to join your cause; explain how your organisation works; show where donor funds are going; raise money; or generate awareness around an issue?
- What kind of look and feel are you going for? Videos range from super slick high-budget productions to home-made simple ideas. Both can be just as effective as the other, but they require different plans from the outset. It may sound strange, but a low-budget video needs to know that it’s low-budget and play to its strengths, rather than trying to look slick and failing.
As far as deciding whether to do your film in-house or outsource to professional filmmakers, this all depends on your own capabilities, resources and budget. Free programmes such as Windows Movie Maker and iMovie are fine for making casual video updates on your activities, but they lack enough features to be able to make a professional-looking promotional video.
If you do decide to go for in-house, here are some quick tips that will stand you in good stead when shooting and editing:
- The majority of short promotional videos or documentary videos consist of one or several interviews of key people, with cutaways of the things they are talking about over the top of the interview soundtrack, and some music in the background. This is a tried and tested formula, so if you’re short of other ideas, just go with this!
- Always try to keep the camera as still as possible. Use a tripod if you can.
- Take a variety of shots–wide shots, medium, and close-ups, but try not to use the zoom function while you’re actually filming as it usually looks bad!
- Shoot outside as much as possible. Dimly lit indoor locations will end up looking grainy unless you have an expensive camera.
- If you don’t have an external mic and are doing an interview or similar, get as close to the person as possible and film in a quiet place. Sounds is much more important than people realise, in fact it’s often more important than the image, so do your best to ensure it is good quality.
- Don’t cut off your shots too soon, both at the start and the end of a shot – give it a few seconds at least, if possible, before someone starts speaking and a few seconds after they’ve stopped (but this also applies for all shots, including small cutaways or images of other things, as it allows much needed room for editing).
- Don’t forget to film cutaways!
- Choose neutral and uplifting music–you may love electro music but remember you’re trying to appeal to a wide audience, so choose something generic.
- Think about the message you’re trying to convey and tell it like a story, with a beginning, middle and end. If it doesn’t flow like a story, it’s unlikely to keep people watching it.
Of course, a film nearly always looks better when hiring professionals and they will have the time, dedication, expertise and passion to make it look the best it possibly can. When choosing filmmakers, we advise meeting up with them for a chat and a coffee (or if you’re like us, tea!) just to get a feel of how you get on: Do you feel comfortable with them? Do they get your ideas? Do you bounce off of one another?
With regards to pricing, feel free to shop around and get quotes from various companies. Watch as many of their previous videos as you can to see if you like their style of shooting and editing. Often quotes may sound expensive, especially when you have a limited budget and your colleague’s son has a video camera that you can use for free, but remember that you’re paying for a professional service from someone who has years of experience and a load of expensive equipment to pay off!
Having said that, if you are paying for a company to shoot a video for you, make sure you have a signed agreement with them that includes:
- The number of changes/refined cuts that are included for that price–it’s unfair to expect editors to make unlimited changes to a video as each time they will need to re-export the footage, but at the same time you should be allowed at least 2 or 3 refining cuts before you give your final sign-off.
- All of the raw footage files–many companies don’t include this and then try to charge extra for the footage they shot for you afterwards. Make sure that you’ll get not only the finished video but all the raw footage, as you never know when it will come in useful.
We hope this advice is useful! It’s a lot to take in but please don’t be daunted by the world of video. The most important thing is having a story–if your organisation is doing something interesting then find an angle, a story or a great character and start shooting!
Best of luck from both of us for all your video endeavors, and feel free to contact us through our website if you have any questions about the things we’ve mentioned here or video in general. We’re happy to help!
Or contact Kieran and Hollie through Seed Video.
Do you have any tips or examples of videos that you like. Please share them in the blog comments, or on the WiserConnections group.
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THANK YOU! A big thank you to Kieran and Hollie, and the many community members who took the time to shoot video footage for the Wiser.org video. As we gathered so much footage, sadly it wasn’t possible to include it all.
Here are the people you will meet in the video. Please drop by Wiser.org to say hi to any of them:
….Yawa, Yatin, Mainsah, Narda, Mike K, Beth (Kanter), Oz, Deborah, Doudou, Xavier, Katrina , Melinda, Michel, Stu, Sitta, Dave (Growthbuster), Emmanuelle, David (permacyclist going to Rio on his bike!!), Andrea Timonie, Thomas, Marguerite, Alki, Kevin, families, volunteers and employees of the Brazilian not for profit, Catalytic Communities. Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, and Paul Hawken, the visionary behind the Wiser network.
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