Think Big Picture!

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by Chris Valentino, Partner/ECD

I have had the fortune of working on a number of rewarding film and video projects from independent features to documentaries, talk shows and consumer campaigns.   Each project has been its own reward and offered creative and technological challenges that have thankfully proved successful. As a result, I am approached by various industries to produce and direct projects for just about every screen. With each project I am often given a creative objective or marketing task. As with any medium there is no easy answer for execution and rarely do I make the decision alone. There are talented cinematographers and technologists who understand the emerging formats and the advancing post process who I am fortunate to collaborate with. More often than not the process involves me designing a desired result wherein my invaluable crew helps determine the best way to execute it. From a video standpoint there has never been a better time to work in the medium. The technology is within reach of anyone (for better and worse) and you can push creative boundaries to new limits. Unfortunately, as technology is evolving at an ever increasing pace clients are requesting to do more and more for less and less.

Video as a technology offers a specific way to tell a story and spread a message. As it becomes easier and more readily available to produce it creates a very specific problem. I call it the “my nephew can shoot this on his iphone” syndrome. Sure mobile cameras have killed the Flip camera (thankfully), but it doesn’t mean anyone can “point and shoot”. As an artist, (and someone who handed NYU film school a small fortune) I feel a dedication to the craft. Beyond that dedication I carry a weighted responsibility and understanding of the importance of producing video correctly. I could easily discuss the number of clients who have asked to produce videos with flip cameras, over skype or on iphones, however, I still cannot figure out why. Sure it may be perceived as being cheaper, but really? Isn’t audio a major concern in an interview? Isn’t exposure a necessity for capturing the essence of your subject or is silhouette shooting the new art form? There are no shortcuts; there are no cheap avenues without sacrifice. I wish I could call every other vendor and ask them what they are thinking when they say “yes” to these requests. I wish I could speak with every client who is soon saddled with extravagant post expenses to fix their skype or flip footage. The truth is YouTube and our acceptance of America’s Funniest Home Videos has contributed to the breakdown of quality in our industry. (In March Google purchased a tech company to improve quality of YouTube videos which is hopefully a sign of good things to come for consumer quality acceptance.)

I have been asked to meet with companies to talk on this subject. I have been asked to outline my opinions on how to produce a strong video and how to capture a subject in a way that will reach and engage an audience. Each time I have the same response. Do it right, or not at all. If a client is going to spend a dollar on a video they should understand where that dollar is going to go, how it will affect future dollars and how it will impact results.

If a client is looking to shoot video, I ask two questions. The first is “what is the story you want to tell?”. The second is “what else can you capture in that time?”. For example how will still photography enhance the project? How may additional audio extend your campaign? and how will the video be used (not just tomorrow, but a year from now)? It is important to think about not just your desired results, but the greater possibilities for it. There are certain a
spects of video that you can control and it is important that before you begin a project, whether as a vendor or client, that you plan accordingly. Think big, and then allow yourself to proceed with small steps. The problems with many projects result from small thinking and shortcutting expenses without analyzing the impact.

As you embark on your next project take a moment to think objectively. Examine your costs and your desired results, and then think about what else you can accomplish. Lastly, before you unplug the USB charger on your Flip, remember your efforts need results. So, Think Big Picture. In the end tell your story and do it right or not at all.


 

Augmented Reality, Your Brand and Consumer Engagement

Augmented Reality as a technology is still in its infancy, yet it has been “around” for quite a few years.  When it made the leap to smart phones from desktops it created a unique opportunity to engage people on the go.  Thankfully the proliferation of smart phones has made more people aware of the technology and we are seeing them use it for entertainment, education and all around added value. 

Recently, brands have jumped into the game and have been quick to align the technology with their message for deeper connections to their consumers.  This past holiday Starbucks offered up unique holiday greetings that came alive via their cups.  Mazda leverage the technology to introduce new products while leveraging existing brand material, movie studios have launched location-based experiences and magazines have found innovative ways to make their pages come alive. 

This is good news for brands and consumers and for us as a company on the forefront of the technology.

There are numerous players in the development community with innovative AR platforms.  Leaders like Layar and Metaio have set the benchmark, while others like String, Wikitude, Total Immersion and Blip’r are wowing us with innovation.  Device manufacturers are getting into the game by preloading software on their phones making it that much easier for the rest of us.  AR as a platform in many ways is another delivery mechanism for getting your story across.  Think of the platforms as networks like HBO or Starz where content developers can deploy the next cool interaction. 

As a creative technology company we are constantly looking to elevate our game.  We are always creating new ways to use technology to build on a story, to create a connection with the consumer that has context.  We have built stand-alone AR applications and AR brand channels that live in AR browsers like Layar and Junaio.  In each case we looked at the challenge and executed a creative solution that would achieve the goals of our client and make sense with the technology.  As we have discovered, no platform is without limitations and AR itself has (surmountable) challenges including user education.  (It’s great to have a cool piece of tech, but if you can’t fire your phaser chances are your not going to get beamed back up.)

When launching an AR campaign you have to think of the dialogue around the experience.  How you convey the message that you have a unique offering is paramount.  We use social media and traditional media as integral components of all our AR efforts.  We look to educate the user on how to use the technology while expressing why they should.  Lastly, we leverage the technology in a sharable manner to get the greatest reach and impact beyond the user themself.  It’s cool; so let them talk about it and in the process your brand.

Recently, we partnered with digital agency, Moroch, on an AR campaign for McDonald’s and Coke.  To execute the creative concept developed by Moroch we worked to adapt materials from an on-air campaign into a compelling AR experience. 

To begin the process we had numerous discussions to develop the AR strategy.  It is important to look at your audience, your target demographic and the location(s) where you will be executing the campaign.  One of the first hurdles we faced was deciding on the platform on which to launch our process.  Ultimately, we decided on building a custom user experience on the architecture of the String platform.  What is great about String is it’s dependability with scan-ability and tracking.  Tracking was key to the unique AR experience and we wanted to make sure that when a user launched the experience they could get right into it and have fun.

Once we knew we could build what we needed it really came down to collaborating closely with Moroch to execute the strategy.  They provided the assets we needed to build from.  We took the assets and began work and ultimately have created what we think is a great user experience for this campaign and beyond.

With the architecture built there are many ways that we can continue to expand on the creative and offer unique social forward solutions for the brands moving forward.  AR is great in this way.  As momentum continues and more people use it and more brands use it intelligently, we will truly create memorable experiences for all.

 

– Chris Valentino