Common story: An internal marketing manager has started a video project. They went through the typical waterfall process of development > pre-production > production > post-production > Review and Approval. They take their baby to their bosses to show it off. After watching,

Customer Director/VP/C-level Feedback: “Shouldn’t we show it this way?”

Marketing manager: “We can make that change, but it’s going to be really expensive. For us to even touch the video again will be a $__,____ change order.”

Customer Director/VP/C-level Feedback: “Why didn’t I get to sign off on this first then? It’s not even accurate.”

Marketing manager: “You reviewed the script and storyboard and said it was fine.”

The next time the situation comes up, the marketing manager is trained to push back immediately on any video edits to their internal stakeholders.

Is the reason we act the way we do because people such as lay people are not educated and trained in the ways of the Force such as Cinema 4D or After Effects? Is it because we learned through training like this above is that video production is extremely expensive and to touch something that has been through production once it’s locked might be like looking into the Ark?

 

Those are probably two really good reasons why we act like that. But we are here to tell you that there’s another way.

 



HOW WE CAME UP WITH THE GROWTH-DRIVEN VIDEO PROCESS

 

We had just recently finished a particularly painful production process for a customer. In a waterfall production, we’d say lock the script, which means if you touch a word in the audio, you are re-recording, re-syncing video and re-rendering the post-produced scenes. Understandably, customers don’t hear us or fully understand what locking would mean.

Let’s say a customer comes to us when we start a scene, and it is well under production. In fact it might be finished and through post-production. That’s when a customer says that it’s actually going to be better if we completely change it to show it another way instead (like above).

That is when we look back and say, “Wait, why did we do the script with a visual description? Why did we create a storyboard?  Why do we do any of this pre-production work if we’re going to change it after production? This process makes no sense.”

I subscribe to the notion to assume people are doing the best job that they can.  With that notion in mind, we talked about it and asked why is this happening?

We determined that people just have a lot of trouble visualizing what the video will look like during the script process.

The production team went back and asked if there is a better way to approach this problem.  Is there a way that we can use a continuous improvement approach in a way that no one has before?

That is what we have done.



THE PROCESS ITSELF

We begin with development, qualification and a prospect have successfully completed our blueprint workshop. The workshop is intended to outline the treatments, determine the story arcs, the key messages and establish the value the videos might bring the business. After our video blueprint workshop, we begin.

We work in one week sprints with the initial goal of getting to a rapid prototype as quickly as possible. In the first week, we call it The Story Sprint — we try to get the story written and visualized as quickly as possible.

We go through the same production process but we call it our Blueprint Workshop. During that week, we determine what story needs to be told and why we need to tell it.

What is the key message?

What are the key scenes and what’s so important about this story that we’re trying to tell?

We then take those inputs and create a story arc out of it. We look at each sequence as its own little world that fits into the story arc. We put these together with visual ideas so that in the next week we can begin diagramming, drawing and putting together a rough composite look at what our story would look like.


Break: Applying the Growth-Driven Video Process to a real video


OUR STORY IDEA

We knew we needed a guinea pig.

My family goes to a place in south Texas to go deer hunting, and coyotes are an enormous problem. And I’ve had this short story that I’ve been mentally writing the past few years.

The premise: One person is in charge of managing the wildlife of this enormous property, and he’s the only one that can do it. So he uses technology and people around the world to help him manage it. He has a drone fleet and very advanced technology to keep tabs on all of his wildlife. I think it’s like if Tony Stark was a game biologist. This video would be about one of those pieces of technology.

It is a listening and predator hunting system. Last fall, I was sitting in a deer blind one morning and right before daybreak coyotes started howling in all directions. I then thought about the concept of Jujitsu and how they use their most pronounced characteristics as their weakness. We had just bought an Amazon Echo and loved the ring on the top of it. It follows you around the room as soon as it hears the target word.

The idea in this circumstance was that it would be a microphone bank spread out across the ranch, and it would be able to triangulate the location of coyotes. The bank activates when it hears a specific pitch of a coyote howl. Since this technology is advanced and it’s pretty fictitious, we’re going to say that it can also detect multiple coyotes and based on the GPS and topography it can make a decision to launch drones, called Predator Hunters. Those are something unto themselves but we already have a story that I consider worth telling.

Back to the process



HOW THE VIDEOS ARE PRODUCED

We asked ourselves, in terms of the process, what is the fastest way that we could put this together? Obviously I have to explain what all this technology is and why it’s important to a production team that’s never heard of it before.

We begin using Trello for each card and the title is the copy that you are going to read. In my crude stick figure drawing, I can draw how my mind’s eye visualizes each of the scenes. I can put that on the card to explain what action was happening in that card and then you start reading it aloud. You have to think is this the way that I would tell the story?  Does this have a beginning, middle and end? Is it convincing? Is it persuasive? Does it fit the characteristics of a corporate 3D animated video that we’ve produced so many of? We started reordering and rewriting it when it didn’t sound quite right. We edited it and then we recorded the scratch track, which is recording a very rough non-professional audio file.

Once we have the scratch track, and we have images then we can create a rapid prototype for it. We are then ready for phase 2: the creation of the rapid prototype.

 



THE RAPID PROTOTYPE SPRINT

 

Once we have the story, we can move to the rapid prototype section. The main purpose here is to create a visual story with a flow and crude graphics that’s as close as possible to the final story, so that the customer can see what the final product will look like at an early stage. It’s essentially a better version of a storyboard or animatic.

First, we start searching for the appropriate references on the web. Then we choose the type of shot, camera movement and actions as well as elements on-screen for each scene. After that, we assemble the scenes using camera mapping, camera projection and matte painting techniques. We add as many details as we need to reveal the story but maintain a narrow time frame at the same time. The process is close to the primitive or animatic production in the traditional production pipeline, but what we are trying to achieve here is a much greater visual result. Also it helps to minimize adjustments at later stages.

The client has the ability to check the video at the beginning of the production and give us their feedback. Some customers will completely change the video premise, which is totally fine to do. Yeah, have you ever heard that before?? If we get some edits at this stage we do them, any of them with almost no “production time pushback,” since it’s much easier to do when working with primitives and review again. The process repeats until we have the rapid prototype approved.

For example, we can spend a lot of time modelling objects or creating an environment which after the client reviews it, it needs to be completely changed. That is why we use the techniques mentioned above, which gives us an better result in a short period of time.  We don’t model complex objects at this stage but use only primitives to create each scene.



WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THE CUSTOMER APPROVES THE PROTOTYPE

After the approval of the rapid prototype video, we can start modeling the main objects.  It’s really important here to start with simple forms and add more details during the process. The customer needs to see every step so we can get feedback. The general shape of the object also needs approval at the beginning, then we add more details and send them for approval as well. We use Clay Render or Sketch & Toon to render the models. Only after the approval, we start the texturing process. In this case, we save time to texture the objects which might be removed after the initial client review.

 

To be continued

[Next – How we approach Full Production]

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