Friday, February 1, 2013

Are “authentic” low-end videos right for your business?

The video production landscape was forever changed in the early '90s, beginning with the democratization of video cameras, production tools, and software. It was once the sole domain of large production houses and network and cable TV providers who held the keys of these tools tightly. Today, anybody can use a video camera, cheap (or free) off-the-shelf software, and the internet to tell any story that they’d like to share. This type of video is what is commonly called Authentic Low-End (ALE) video.

ALE has become a powerful tool that has disrupted many politicians and celebrities alike. It is what millions of people view on YouTube and similar video sharing sites every day. It can be as simple as a dog riding a skateboard, a baby laughing, an awesome last-second sports play, or any number of situations that people get themselves into during the course of daily life. No one can escape it - unless they never venture outside of their home - and even then it might not be safe.

ALE is not a fad. It is here to stay, for better or worse - and I love it!

ALE has also started showing up in business, corporate, and non-profit videos. But should it?

I’ve seen both brilliant and awful examples of ALE video use in this arena. I believe ALE has a place and can sometimes be the strongest content a business or organization can use. On the other hand, it can be absolutely horrible if done improperly. However, predicting what people will find to be in good and/or bad taste is no easy task, and that makes using ALE videos risky.

So, what’s the key ingredient that typically determines the thumbs up or thumbs down?

CONTENT! Content is king and will always be king. High end or low end, it does not matter.

So, if you’re a social media expert, blogger, company employee, or just a video enthusiast, and you want to make sure your ALE videos can pass the test for a business or organization, here is some advice:

ALE Video Pitfalls

If content is truly king, then does it matter how the message is delivered? For the sake of argument, let’s assume that your ALE video content is fantastic! Despite your amazing content, several factors can still cause your ALE video to bomb with viewers. So how can you keep it from getting thumbs-down clicks?

The first thing to remember is audio is 90% of video. Well, not technically, but it might as well be. If your audience can't hear the message clearly, or if the audio is a bad mix of background noise vs. the subject, you might as well not upload it. Your audience will forgive bad video, but it will not forgive bad audio. If the message is hard to understand, the message is lost.

So to avoid audio problems, make sure to practice and test your audio recording quality in different environments to figure out the best “sounding” area. If you are not able to connect a decent microphone, make sure your subject is within an acceptable distance to get the best audio. Sometimes this means being as close as 3 to 4 feet away, or even closer.

The problem with built-in microphones is that they’re always in automatic mode. They decide what sound to pick up - and what sound not to. In automatic mode, the loudest sound source in the area is what your camera automatically “assumes” to be the most important. These “important” sounds can be air conditioning, people laughing in the next room, a gust of wind in a park, a truck with no muffler, an airplane flying overhead, or even a refrigerator kicking on and off. Any of these sounds can be distracting enough to take away from the message, no matter how good your content is.

There are other potential problems with ALE videos, such as poor lighting, improper color correction, bad editing (or no editing), shaky video (no tripod), and incorrect framing (remember your family pictures where you see more of the ceiling than the people?). Most of these problems have easy and affordable solutions that can be found with a few internet searches. But audio remains the biggest and most difficult problem facing ALE videos for business.

The ALE video formula has many factors that can distract a viewer. Is there any option that can avoid these distractions?

Higher-End Videos

If your business ALE videos need massaging, why not just hire a video production company?

I understand that ALE videos are suppose to be “real” and (here we go)... “authentic”. But are the reality TV shows we watch truly real and authentic?

There’s a “look” that most people perceive as real and authentic. There’s no question that some ALE videos are real, but any intentional message recorded to video has been well thought out, written, prompted, and then recorded.

After I see a bad ALE business video, I often wonder: would they do the same thing with their website? Would they hire an employee’s parent to design and produce their website? Would that be considered “real” and “authentic”? I’m aware this is a bad metaphor, and it’s not meant to diminish anyone’s skill level, but sometimes it’s best to call on the experts.

Visual Media Concepts has used an ALE video for its promo, and it's proven to be very popular. Check out our mascot, Luci, enjoying a ride in the car.

Whatever your message is, you’ll need to decide what the best method of producing that message is. We hope you’ll choose us over any of your employees' parents. :)

So what is your opinion? What videos had messages that grabbed your attention, and were they ALE videos or professionally produced videos?

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