Brian Abe

Our job as video livestream providers is to protect your brand at every level. In case you didn’t know we provide full HD, multi-camera production and livestream services for executive town hall meetings, sales meetings, marketing, and conferences.

I’ve spent most of my professional life in internal communications and marketing and I focus primarily on the video livestream and camera direction. However, I’m watching every decision the AV team makes closely. I’m well aware the decisions made by others can affect everything I do.

I live by Rule #1: Know your audience.

For the sake of this article let’s define AVL as Audio, Video and Lighting in a 100-500 employee town hall meeting. Most internal corporate communication teams feel ‘AVL’ or “AV’ is a necessity and may not have time for minutia regarding lighting, audio and video for the livestream. Please know I am aware of the pitfalls and can save you pain and embarrassment with your leadership team. While I’m primarily focused on conveying brand identity through video I’m constantly weighing all the technical aspects and how it may affect your internal and/or external brand and event.

Lighting: In addition to the livestream/camera direction portion of the event I begin working with the lighting team early in the set up and measure light levels to ensure the CEO isn’t standing in a dark spot on the stage. We carefully collaborate with the lighting team to make sure there’s plenty of light where it should be and where it shouldn’t be.

If the CEO has gray hair or no hair we carefully balance the back light to create a clean separation from the background while making sure we don’t cause their head to bloom like the sun. If the CEO has dark hair and a dark coat we’re careful to make sure the backlight is visible enough to help him/her stand out from the background. Most lighting companies would do well to consider the contrast ratio between the foreground subjects and the background elements. Sometimes backgrounds are so bright that they overcome the main speaker in the foreground, especially when integrating LED walls. We want all eyes on the main speaker in the room and the livestream event.

If the CEO or leadership team leaves the stage and interacts with the audience we make sure our light levels and lighting angles in the audience are appropriate for multiple camera angles where possible. Again, this is not network television and so we allow for some organic, impromptu moments which sometimes add to the energy level, especially on-line.

Audio: The next area we like to be closely involved in is audio/room sound. For this discussion we typically take an audio feed from the mixing console in the room. Obviously, most audio people understand the importance of the sound system speaker placement in regards to proximity of microphones and especially multiple mics or omni-directional lavs typically used in town halls.

We are careful to collaborate on mic placement especially with BIG and LOUD jewelry as well as challenging dresses which may not have a good place to clip a wireless mic. Hand held wireless mics are always available as spare mics in the event of audio problems.

When possible I ask the audio guys to add an ambient ‘audience’ mic just for the on-line video audience to hear audience applause and/or room ambience during reactions or transitions. During speaker transitions it’s an awkward on-line silence when mics are being muted or transitioned and the room goes completely silent while showing 300 employees. A bit of room noise/ambience minimizes quiet times for those watching on-line. If you’re fortunate enough and have the budget to include a separate audio mix for video apart from the sound in the room, stereo audience mics should be a necessity.

Video/camera angles: Placement of cameras is critical for the brand and very much a part of the story at each town hall meeting. (we typically bring three cameras unless you need more) We not only want to protect the CEO and leadership team’s credibility we also want to show them as approachable and human. Most CEO’s struggle with the c-suite stigma and placement of cameras can help.

During the CEO address or monologue, in the stand-up position, we typically use ‘camera 1’ one long lens to capture the CEO at a ‘waste shot.’ ‘Camera 2’ is used to show the size of the audience from the same angle. The employee audience is a big part of the story. The ‘Camera 3 angle is used for tight shots on stage for sit down interviews with the leadership team and can also swing around to the audience to cover that interaction as well. The third angle is also positioned to cover the CEO stand-up with the video screen in the background which makes a nice angle to transition in and out of graphics, slide deck or video.

If there will be sit down interviews with the leadership team we pay close attention to tight shots to make sure we can get close enough for a ‘tv talk show’ look. We keep in mind that we’re balancing the camera shots and angles with larger video screens and monitors in the room for the audience with the on-line audience.

I use the pacing and speed of the ‘camera-cutting’ to drive the energy. I listen carefully to content and voice inflection. This applies in most any event, however If I feel the CEO is struggling for words or momentum is waining I change camera angles and pick up the pace of the cutting to help the viewer stay focused until the CEO is back on track. There’s nothing like tight shots of a CEO with a puzzled look on their face struggling for words to erode leadership credibility. My experience has been that CEO’s are some of the best speakers and their authenticity is what made them the CEO in the first place. I encourage them to use it, be vulnerable and admit mistakes since it only endears the employee team even more.

Well, if you made it this far you must be in the business, you want to know more about what I do or you had a few spare minutes.

When we meet to walk through your next town hall, conference or marketing event please know we’re weighing all these details so you don’t have to think about it. Your input is needed every step of the way because you know your audience. However please rest in our attention to detail at your event.

Thanks for your time. I’d love to hear your secrets to video storytelling. It’s the best business in the world and I’ve never worked a day in my life!

It’s all about the STORY!

Brian Abe

As on-line video use continues to grow along with every company’s communication and marketing strategy what do you look for when hiring for video production/Creative and overall video production? There are MANY levels of hiring based on network production, broadcast TV, sports, non-profit, social media use and agency cultures, etc.

While there are many variables and after hiring hundreds of Creatives, videographers, editor, compositors and all around video production people these are my go-to skill sets.

You may always need higher end agencies and hundreds of production contractors to augment or manage video projects depending on your work load and target audience, however an in-house team should bring these basic skill sets. The context of this article is a small three to seven person in-house video production team.

Here are some questions I ask when considering video production resumes and reels. Ask for demo reels up front even if they’re not high end smoke and mirrors-type sizzle reels. (Typically seen with high end producers, videographers, editors and graphic compositors.) These video demonstration, demos reels or sizzle reels will tell you a lot about the style of the person you’re hiring. Most credible people should already have link to a Vimeo account with their demo reel.

When viewing the reels ask the person how they shot it and edited it, which effects softwares and filters did they use. Who was the target audience and what was the purpose of the video? If they can’t explain the why, what and who they may need guidance if you hire them. What challenges did they face during the project? You’ll find out quickly if it’s really their work or not.

I prefer to have these three types of people on my team. Sometimes you need more than one of each type. I would guess this list applies to other teams outside of the video world.

  1. Completely over-the-top Creative types with bizarre ideas and concepts. They could be your best producer/story teller and bring ideas you’ve never thought of. However, they may also be the most frustrating hire because you may not understand how they roll or be able to control them. These folks typically work on their owns terms and can worry you when the deadline looms. (Be patient – you’ll like the final product) If you build rapport with them, they will deliver for you!
  2. The technical-minded, button pusher who understands every bit of software, hardware, data, file management, cable connection and workflow. They may not be that Creative. (capital C) I turn to those people when I need help technically.
  3. The well-rounded middle of the road person who can do every skill set well but are not superstars at either end of the spectrum-Creative or Technical. They are safe but may not WOW your customers with their final product. You still want them on your team.

More questions to ask yourself and your team members if appropirate:

Do they fit with your current team in both skill set and personality or are you replacing your current team?

Sometimes you deliberately need to shake up the status quo of your current team if you’ve been hired to fix a problem. Bringing a rock star Creative (capital C) on board will create a stir and sometimes that’s fine. However, sometimes it’s not, depending on your current work flow and deadlines. I interview the new hire with the entire team around the table later in the process if they will be joining an already successful team. I take them to lunch and watch them interact with their potential team mates. If the producer will be leading C-suite executives and senior company leadership I will typically invite the spouse (if possible) to join us for lunch. These producers may soon find themselves in challenging meetings and production with executives. Their spouses can sometimes articulate strengths and weaknesses better than the potential employee.

Are they Creative with a capital C or are they more mechanical (engineers who happen to edit because they had no choice). There are some who can do both, but there’s a difference depending on what skillset you need on your team. Some will be stronger Creatively and some will be stronger technically. That must go into your decision when you hire them.

  1. If your team needs to tell stories for video (who doesn’t) you need a Creative (capital C) who may or not be organized. It’s ok. They should have videography and editing chops but they don’t have to be the best at either. They should be able to do a rough cut for a piece they’re working on and allow an editor to put the finishing touches on it. They should be good writer or show potential to develop the skill. This is KEY to good producer/storytellers.
  2. Your team NEEDS an all around producer, videographer, editor organizer to crank out the mundane, day-to-day video that crosses every corporate project list. They will crank out dozens of projects while your Creatives might be struggling with one or two higher end projects. They may not be the MOST Creative (capital C) but they can do all of it quickly, accurately and effectively. If you happen to have two all around producers/videographers/editors you may want to choose one with stronger skill sets in After Effects or stronger post-production skills if your work is more motion and graphic- based. The second team member with similar core skillsets may balance the team out with complementary skills at the other end of the production spectrum like videography, lighting or audio.
  3. One of your team members needs to have a higher end skill set for videography, shot composition and lighting. This is the person who can see what others cannot to tell the story. They understand depth of field, camera settings, f-stops, color temperatures, shadows, contrast ratios and lighting. Above all they know how to handle C-suite executives face-to-face as well as temperamental producers.
  4. Your workload and environment would determine if you need a dedicated data and media file management person. If you have 20-50 projects a year you may not need a dedicated data/media wrangler. However, if your team is producing 350 or more projects a year you may need to designate someone to manage media (not the Creative-capital C) or hire a full-time position. Media management can get out of control very quickly and valuable footage can be lost. That person should work with the team to determine naming conventions for files and what it will look ten years from now.

We really do need to execute most production skillsets these days, however, you’ll want to hire carefully and balance your team to the demands and long term needs of your customers and types of projects. Smart hiring makes the difference and keeps MOST everyone happy.

I would like to hear your experiences. I’ve interviewed thousands and hired hundreds and would love to help you if you’re building or restructuring a video production communication or marketing team.

#humanresources #communications #videoproduction #livestreaming

Brian Abe

The value of webcasting in a corporate environment is in the cost per viewer. To a company that recognizes that great communication is a key to an engaged workforce, webcasting is a natural choice. In today’s business world, sharing business intelligence, discussions, training, news and info that you do not want to share outside your organization demands some level of webcasting. Exactly how to securely webcast within a company that is busy doing what it does, has been the stumbling block. Defaulting to the simplest and most unorganized types of webcasts such as screen sharing applications can create a sense of disorganization and lack of effort on the part of management by the workforce. As with any communication effort to present a quality product in webcasting, some knowledge of the options is needed. That requires some simple research.

To those that do investigate the task of producing secure live webcasts reliably with a properly professional image, high quality video and graphics and often on very short notice, the big picture emerges. The job of live webcasting a consistent message to a large audience, in a professional manner securely reveals the complex web of skills and technologies that are needed.

For the corporate world to pivot and try to develop a new department, hire the properly experienced staff and manage this subset of in-house skills has costs. Just knowing what skills and tools are needed takes someone – or even a staff of people – with those skills to define the positions, interview, hire and create a budget for equipment and software. The cost is that time, the human resources, and the money wasted getting up to speed. How long will you give them to “get going”? During that time you’re either missing the opportunity to benefit from live webcasting internally, or you’re paying an outside webcasting service and your in-house staff as they learn. Likely both.

Before you choose a webcasting service ask these questions. . .

  • Do I get a Web Media Portal built exclusively for my events?
  • Do you provide all staff before, during and after the event?
  • Do you provide integrated user registration and management?
  • Do you include all web hosting and content delivery/streaming?
  • Do you include Pre-webcast testing and any required pre-production?
  • Do we get a unique web address for your webcast events or portal?
  • Can we have an unlimited number of live webcast webinar participants?
  • Do we get complete access to and control of webcast archives that we can share?
  • Do we get a branded website portal as required?
  • Do you provide a Video webcast player with Synchronized PowerPoints?
  • Can we create and edit presenter photos and session descriptions or an agenda?
  • Is there Live Q&A, and user reporting for immediate feedback?
  • Do you integrate with our internet merchant account or Paypal so we can charge viewers?

We’d love to be your webcast provider for your next town hall meeting.

#conferencewebcasting #corporatecommunications #livestream #townhallwebcasts #corporatewebcasting

Brian Abe

Most executive leaders I direct in the video world are great speaking to large audiences but usually need to be reminded of the importance of eye contact in video communication. Just as you would not want your friend or spouse looking all around while you’re trying to discuss something important the leader using video communication must keep their eyes focused on the lens. Addressing the camera without moving your eyes off the lens is the most effective way to convey authenticity to your audience. The camera might add a few pounds but who cares if your eye contact is insincere. For leaders addressing directly to the lens it’s critical to lock their eyes on the lens naturally.  There may be times you may want to pause briefly and look off camera as if to gather your thoughts, however, do not think the camera will forgive wandering eyes when it comes to video communication. 

On a less professional level I watch vloggers posting videos to multiple social media platforms like Facebook, Youtube and Periscope, etc. In attempt to watch themselves on live platforms their eyes are constantly moving back and forth. Be very careful when watching yourself online instead of focusing your eyes on the camera. The camera and the audience cannot be fooled if you’re more interested in how your hair looks than connecting to the lens. It may reveal your true intentions to the audience you’re trying to sell. If you’re not telling the truth or not being authentic most people will feel the insincerity in your eyes and voice. 

You have plenty of time to practice this eye contact discipline. If you’re in a professional environment doing a presentation in front of an audience be sure to own the content of your message before the presentation. If you’re interviewing others in a panel discussion in front of an audience be careful not to get distracted by allowing your eyes to wander off the panelists. If there’s a camera involved your audience will interpret it as insincerity.  

If you’re reading a teleprompter straight to the lens in a professional video environment be mindful of the ‘deer in the headlights’ stare. You’ll scare your audience. It’s alright to blink. Also, don’t let the action behind the lens distract you from the message. (Hopefully most video professionals understand the importance of minimizing movements behind the lens.)

Remember cameras LOVE  sincere smiles. Speak the entire sentence with a smile if it’s appropriate.

Use that twinkle in your eye to drive home key points. Speak love with your eyes.  

Rule #1 for me is “Know your Audience!” With your audience in mind use your eyes to communicate your message from the heart. They’ll feel the difference and you’ll get the results you want.  

Brian Abe

In the world of video marketing communication and video story telling I spend a lot of time studying facial and body language. In my previous life as a leader and mentor of teams I used this ability to screen and hire our producers, editors and video communications teams. After making hundreds of phone calls and pouring over hundred’s of resume’s and demo reels to fill critical roles nothing was more fulfilling than putting a potential team member in a room with 4-5 of their peers and watch the non-verbal communication. Sometimes I would delay the meeting just to ‘watch’ was what going on. It was really valuable (and worth it) to treat the final round candidates to lunch with their spouse and watch the interaction with their potential future team mates. Priceless! The main purpose for this meeting is to watch current team members and how they accept the new incoming hire. Little glances and checking with others will give you most of what you need to know. I would always followup individually to hear what concerns each of our team members had with the potential employee. It’s a valuable tool for hiring and building trust in your team. I truly valued their input!

It’s not cruel, as some have said, considering that the senior producer I’m hiring will be sitting in a screening room or edit suite with the CEO or directing other C-suite level leaders. They better know how to interact with their peers comfortably. I expect them to know how to defend their video creation and without sweating.

Leaders would do well to cultivate this special gift to build teams. If I’m speaking to someone face to face I can normally tell what they think of the people surrounding them by their body language. Are their eyes focused, do they position themselves toward the one they’re addressing or someone more important. Of course we use all the typical body language signals that we’ve all learned in leadership roles. It sounds a bit arrogant, however I’ve used ‘the gift’ in private life and to lead others. If you’ve been in a leadership role for more than 10 years, great news, you probably have the gift too!

The plot thickens. . .

With regard to video storytelling the smallest tilt of the head, blink of the eyes or movement of the hands sends a message or change in direction of the discussion. Combined with voice inflection and sentence structure I have everything I need to make a sound decision. I ask my team members to watch and listen to content and body language changes as well. In the video communication world our job is to tell the story using the best camera angles, lighting, audio and graphics at the right time. It works for all sorts of everyday life, especially as you do everything you can to influence others and do things that matter. Video communication teams, ask your people to pay attention to what is NOT being said and craft an even better story! Non-profit organizations would do well to pay special attention to their volunteer teams. Take your people watching skills to a new level.

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Brian Abe

Two Roads Video captures all kinds of multi-camera HD productions with live streaming and customized media portals. One of the common areas for improvement is lighting the talent and specifically using back light. Typically the lighting is done by an A/V/L company. (Audio/Video/Lighting) In addition to providing all the microphones, sound reinforcement and video screens. They are well-versed at aiming the base light at the stage, however unless asked they don’t always use back light or light from the rear. Just the right amount of back light can separate the foreground from the background and visually set the speaker out in front from a “dark curtain.” Back light is fundamental and needs to be considered in every shot. If you hire an AV company who is also providing the lighting ask them to include enough back light to cover each position individually. With today’s LED lighting the flexibility is wonderful. You can adjust the color temperature and brightness. That’s important when the presenters are not all tall, dark and young. Speakers with gray hair and no hair need less back light than those with dark hair. Just one more thought. . . if you’re using any kind of subtle colored backlight in the lightning plan be sure to turn off all the colored lighting before you white balance the cameras. Something to consider as you continue to improve your game. I can count on one hand the number of LD’s I’ve worked with in my lifetime who actually understand and can execute great television and video lighting. Combine those skill sets, with single camera, film-style and warm color temperatures! You get really nice looking video! You’ll know it when you see it.

Good luck!