Over the past few weeks people have been asking me how my year was and I tell everyone I've been involved with the best video projects I've ever been involved with since I started creating videos way way back in 1978. (Assume I started very young!) Not to diminish some very fine productions over the years. Maybe it's that 10,000 hours of doing something. Maybe it's the creative symbiosis with the clients and with this amazingly talented team I'm fortunate to be part of. Luck, sure. Hard work, yep. Super clients, yes!
As a small, nimble outfit, competing against creative behemoths and very cost-effective minnows and self-driven studios, our only differentiator is our creative output. And I can't wait for what our clients and we'll do in 2017 to continue to up the ante. But 2016 was pretty special. Here's why I think that:
Shakespeare and the House of Cards
One of the hottest start-ups in Boston, Fuze, had us create a product launch video for them, a video that ended up delivering the highest retention rate they've ever seen in a business video. The high retention rate: well, Fuze is a compelling product, and the client placed the video well, and they branded it effectively in concert with a strong campaign. The video itself had a unique concept and storyline. The two minute video had a three-layered story: a "day-in-the-life" story of four actors using Fuze, a "bubble-text" story with the business set of problems being solved, a "aside" story with the internal thoughts of the business development actor on Fuze benefits. We found outstanding actors (one of whom is now in a feature film), and the right music feel. It was filmed at The Club (my boxing gym), outside on Channel Street in Boston, at WeWork (our headquarters), and Fuze.
Here's some of the visual images from the video:
Check out the video:
Elephants and Diplomats
We never thought we'd get elephants in a video! And we weren't sent to Africa (although we do travel light). For a series of videos for the Fletcher School at Tufts we did go to Washington DC and filmed two outstanding alumni, one of whom heads the African Wildlife Foundation, and the other who holds two senior positions, one at a leading consulting firm and the other at a San Francisco start-up. Thanks to the African Wildlife Foundation we got the elephants - and 6 gigs of other animals. At Fletcher we interviewed professors and students and the Dean of this outstanding institution. We were also able to show the legacy of Fletcher through images from their digital archive, thanks to their archivist.
Here's one of the videos, an overview of Fletcher.
Windshield Tour of "The City of Champions"
We always want to go beyond the cliche, the common, the competitive video programming, and we look to do something different and unique for each project we work on. Inspiration comes from multiple sources - clients, partners, the outside world. One of our favorite artists, PJ Harvey, came out with an award-winning album in 2016 "Community of Hope" and we saw one of her music videos with a "windshield tour" of Washington, D.C. We did our own "windshield tour" in a Bridgewater State University commercial for their Graduate School, a windshield tour of Brockton, Massachusetts. The tour helped us tell a highly compelling story in 30 seconds - a city story, a person's story, and the Bridgewater Graduate Studies story. May have been our best commercial ever.
Romeo and Juliet, Beyonce: 360 Tracks and Straight Tracks
For a new admissions campaign for Bridgewater State University, we had the opportunity, thanks to Bridgewater, of working with the brilliant Kor Group and Libretto writers. We were tasked with a blitz of campus, student, and classroom photography, and with creating differentiated video programs for a new microsite and the BSU Welcome Center.
A unique approach to the microsite video: a series of 360 images of students at Bridgewater, filmed with a trolley surrounding the students. The 360 images served as a pacing element in the video. It celebrated the diversity and grit of the students at Bridgewater. The 360 technique itself isn't new - think of the 60s version of "Romeo and Juliet." But we hadn't seen it in other higher ed videos, and it was, in essence, a video version of the student portraits used in the new array of admissions view books created for the new campaign.
We also took a "straight on" tracking approach, similar to one Beyonce took in one of her videos. No wind machine, but again a celebration of the student - and a differentiated approach to a higher education video.
Here are some behind the scenes photos, and the final microsite video.
It Really Is Brain Surgery
We had the opportunity to film brilliant medical teams in surgery at Mass General, fixing hearts and brains. Nimbleness played a big role: get gowned, go in, don't get in the way. Do it with one person. We had to deal with the lighting we had, and the room we had to work in, and a time-crunch.
Here's one of the videos in the multiprogram series:
We're good at people, but well, we need to go deeper at times: Show what's going on in a vein for a Mass General video, create a viable "real-world" animation example for the Fuze story, work with an innovative 3-D "renderer" to show ballast water treatment systems.
Make it Personal
As in good fiction, in good video you want to "show, not tell." In the two Mass General video series we worked on we could have the patients tell us about their outcomes - or we could show positive outcomes by filming them at their homes, at their work, or doing something they love to do.
Here's one story, filming Dolly at her place of business, and in her dance studio:
Asking People to Sing
Success comes through planning, writing, storyboarding and going back-and-forth on ideas and approaches. It also comes by being ready to take advantage of opportunities that present themselves. At Bridgewater State University we had the acapella group on our b-roll hit list, and we caught them the night of their spring performance, right before the performance, and asked them to compose on the spot, and sing "Welcome to Bridgewater State University." A perfect piece of music for the Welcome Center video.
We also filmed the Bridgewater State University West African drum ensemble, so good we were able to use their music as a very differentiated music track for a 30 second broadcast spot, and for the BSU Admissions Microsite video program.
Here is the Welcome Center Video:
I've been working with Tim Llewelyn for years, as a client, vendor and partner. He's an award-winning photographer and videographer. His visual imprint is on all this work: really exquisite composition and lighting and post-production work. The visual acuity makes a creative difference.
For the Woman's Heart Health program at Mass General we captured a group of physicians in conference. Just a great image:
For a 100th anniversary video of the Cardiology Center at Mass General we ended the program with a look to the future and a series of video portraits of the current Cardiology Fellows at Mass General. Here's 4 of the 36 fellows.
And here's the video:
Mirror, Mirror, Interviewer
One thing that has helped all of our interviews with surgeons, nurses, students, deans, alumni - a mirroring device that enables a fail-safe eyes-on-camera result. People can look at me, and converse with me, but it looks like they are looking right at the camera. I do wish I had this in the 80s!
Process is Product
A lot of positive outcomes in 2016 in the 30 or so video projects delivered to clients. So where's the magic? The editing, the filming, the scheduling, the talent, the client, the writing? Audio? The booms, the tracks, the mirrors, the 4K cameras, the lights? The preparation? The revisions? The room of sound bites (see below). Spontaneity on the spot? Follow-through? Culture? People? Whatever, it worked. It all came together. And we're looking forward to more of it in 2017.