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One reason why I love my job: “The Flamethrower”

Flameflowers are part of what makes me love my job.

I love my job. How can you not get excited, when one of your client calls you and wants to shoot a flamethrower torching his own product? 

At this point that's pretty much all I have to go on. Other than the fact that I need to create a video that will play at a trade show, explaining harsh environments that these could withstand. 

Let me tell you the back story first. A commercial manufacture contacted me to photograph some images for the packaging of his lights. He was updating the look of the boxes that were going to be sold in a national home improvement company in the US. 

A few weeks later the owner calls back to ask if I can come up with a concept for a video. The video will show the specifications of his lights at a trade show. Sure, I love creating interesting ways of telling stories about products. That's kind of what I do.

"Oh," he said, "the only requirement I have, is that we use a flame thrower in the video."
 

Say no more - this sounds like a project that's right up my alley. A few phone calls and meetings later I have the list of specs that I need to talk about in the video:

  1. energy efficiency
  2. weatherproofing
  3. color accuracy
  4. illumination area
  5. heat resistance

The last one is where the flame thrower comes in. The only problem is I can't talk about these specs, I need to show them.

Fast forward to how I create a project from the first phone call or email all the way to the finished video. No peeking I promise you'll see it at the end of this post.

Any project I create breaks down into these four stages:

1) The concept stage:

After the client gives me the parameters I have to come up with how to tell the story.

How do I grab the attention of someone passing a booth selling a light fixture at a home improvement trade show?

Trade shows are typically  noisy environments. Hundreds of vendors compete for the attendees' limited attention. I have to think through the limitations that the viewing environment will dictate.

A trade show floor is not anything like the hushed, darkened atmosphere of a movie theatre. That means my video has to grab your attention. In this case without spoken words. Remember audio is half of what makes a video great. Produce one without relying on sound has its own set of problems.


(I solved the same problem differently for a company that couldn't use sound to deliver its message in a loud sport arena either in a different way).

https://pbd.li/the-briefcase


In addition to this, the visuals must catch the attention of the person who walks by the booth. Cue the flame thrower. Everything we show has to be over the top and make people stop in their tracks. Funny enough a flame thrower will do just that.

2) The approval stage: 

First I figure out how to take one of these specs and show them in a way that will work in the environment that the audience is watching the video in. Then I have to get the idea approved by the client. 

Let's take "weatherproofing" as an example:

I want to show the light working while being drenched. I am also looking for a visual that will make some one stop dead in their tracks. I can't just show the light mounted on the outside wall of a house in a rain storm. That's boring and everyone else does it that way. In fact I just saw a video on YouTube today advertising a new outdoor plug and yes they showed it mounted on a wall in the rain. LOL.

No. We're going bigger - much bigger. My idea is to put his engineer on the stern a fishing yacht cutting through the water. The light he is holding in his hand is drenched in the massive spray the boat kicks up at full speed.

There's only two problems with this.

  1. First I have to convince the client that this idea convinces his audience that this light is water-resistant enough to handle the deluge of saltwater I want to put in through; 
  2. Secondly, I have to find a fishing yacht that I can film on; 
  3. Thirdly, I also have to make sure that the guy  is safe and doesn't get electrocuted while holding the light in a flood of powerful saltwater on the back of a speeding boat;
  4. In addition to that I have to figure out where to put the camera showing this light holding up to the specs, but this second set of problems really only need to be solved in the next phase - I usually jot down a note that I have to figure out how to fix this potential problem. 

Ok. Fine. That's more than 2 problems, you got me there. Once my client has signed of on my idea I'm ready to start on the next step of creating this video.


PRO TIP: don't suggest anything you can't pull off.

If you can't make the yacht work, don't suggest it. 

3) The planning or production stage

This third stage is just a problem-solving stage.

  • Finding a boat means a couple of calls to people I know that would let me hire their boat. 
  • Not injuring the guy holding the light means conferring with my electrician and the people on my safety team on how to insulate the light properly, so that nothing shorts out.
  • Camera placement for this shot is obviously a drone, so I need to hire my drone pilot to get this section of the video done.

This stage is a lot of fun. It's thinking outside of the box while I make sure my ideas can  translate into the budget that the client gives me to work with in real life. It's really no good in coming up with a great idea that will cost $1,000,000 to include in the video if the budget doesn't have a million dollars to make the shot happen. Hey if it does, knock yourself out and go for it. 

Some of the problems that need to be solved are easy, some are not - like how do you power a 110V light while it's mounted on an airboat, as it speeds through the everglades in the dark (and no you shouldn't run a generator on an airboat).

Just for the record: we didn't.

This stage also includes some of the most mundane tasks in the production, pulling permits, securing insurance, and scheduling crew, locations, and talent. Sometimes really tedious work but it must be done.

4) Creation stage

After everything is concepted, approved, planned and booked the days of the shoot finally arrive. Now it's all about dealing with the unforeseen problems that occur on the set of every shoot - the drone can't figure out where it is when started up from the boat - the aluminum hull is wreaking havoc with it's GPS.  

After a few days of filming, it's off to the edit bay to cut together the video. It's always fun to see what was only a storyboard a few weeks ago, become reality. It's about telling the story on film now, adding the right music and graphics, and wrapping it into a believable story of why this guy who is stocking shelves spends his weekends doing insane tests on lighting fixtures (that idea was another one of the ones I presented to the client in stage one).

Now it's all about delivering the client what I convinced him I could create for him in the timeframe that I had agreed on. 

The final product looks like this (and yes, the flame thrower is the first test). Check it out:

Let's recap how I approach the 4 stages in all of my productions:

The four stages of a video project

step 1

The concept stage

Review the requirements my client gives me in the initial brief or meeting. Then I get to imagine how I'd love to tell the story. Sometimes a brief is as simple as "I want to use a flame thrower in this video."

step 2

The approval stage

Separate what's possible, affordable and doable. I need to know my clients budget, to figure out how big I can dream. Then I need to sell the ideas to my client, always keeping their budget and time frame and my abilities in mind. 

step 3

The planning stage

Underpromise and overdeliver. I live by those words in every production. I love giving my clients bigger, better and more than we agreed on. Doing this the opposite way is the fastest way to loose clients. 

step 4

The creation stage

The rubber meets the road here. 25+ years of experience in creating photo and video shoots, a deep knowledge of locations, crew and contacts let me create scenes, where others would fail in delivering.

At the end of the day, many advertising agencies or production places can deliver one or more of these stages, but I have often created projects, like this one, in-house. Ideas are always out of the box, unique and I love coming up with a solution that makes the viewer stop and listen to the story you and I are telling them. 

What do you want to say in your next video? Let's talk and find out how I can make it a reality.

How to shoot the perfect video – recap by the Blogger Union

#MrMindChanger and the Blogger Union

What is the big deal with video, anyway?

If you have yet to make your first video for your blog, then get this. It is estimated that three years from now, 82% of all online traffic will be driven by video. You have some time to get ready, so start now! During our October meet-up with the South Florida Bloggers, we learned the basics to making the perfect video.

south florida bloggers girls at how to shoot the perfect video.

And Pascal Depuhl—chief mind changer at Photography by Depuhl, a Miami-based visual content creation company—led the conversation. His school of thought was simple:

Create mind-changing video!

mr mindchanger pascal depuhl at how to shoot the perfect video.

#MrMindChanger

Because the perfect video will make you do something different. And bloggers have this as an end goal in mind as well. We want our readers and viewers to wear the cozy sweater we just layered on, and test out our favorite beauty products. Some of us want them to eat at the restaurants we frequent and order the lobster mac and cheese just like us.

So then now what? We took away some great pointers from Pascal last month and want to share them with you now. Let us take you to the beginning. It all starts with an attention grabber. Like a good blog post, your title has just a few seconds to draw in your audience. The same thing is true about the first glimpse to your video. Have you given your viewers something to care about? Pascal says that if that is not there, then you’re going to lose them pretty soon.

south florida bloggers workshop on how to shoot the perfect video by #MrMindChanger, Pascal Depuhl

 

Here are some other “Video Don’ts” from Pascal:

  • south florida bloggers girl at how to shoot the perfect video.Don’t explain everything. We don’t need a play-by-play like in football. Just explode into the action.
  • No need for a long intro. Viewers might think they are watching the same video if you always start with the same introduction. Once you have their interest, then queue in cameo of self.
  • Make your videos concise. Put the edit together, cut it in half, and then cut that in half. A two and a half minute length video is a good place to start.
  • Have a hero. It can be a thing, a place, a product, or a service—not always a person.
  • K.I.S.S. – it doesn’t have to be long or drawn out. Keep it simple. And make it worth watching. Show us what you’re eating. Show us what you’re wearing. Show us where to get it, or who made it.

south florida bloggers girl 2 at how to shoot the perfect video.

Then we move on to the body of your video, which is what keeps viewers peeping through the end. A video is multi-sensory. You have auditory and visual senses turned on. Pascal shared that more than half of the content comes across on audio. So pay attention to sound. It is just as important as anything else you are providing in your content. And this will make the body of your video a bit heartier.

Let us not forget the end. It has to have a call to action (CTA). Where do you want to end up? People need to know what to do next. And once you have it all together, where do you want them to go? Here is your selling point. But please, make your CTA’s subtle. Leave the infomercials for late night TV.

 

In case you missed it, click the link here with the slides of the presentation from Pascal.

south florida bloggers learn how to shoot the perfect video from #MrMindChanger, Pascal Depuhl


Join us this upcoming weekend to learn from veteran fashion blogger, Daniela Ramirez, on how to monetize your blog.

4 years ago

“How to create the perfect video” – WordCamp 2016 talk

How to create the perfect video talk at #WCMIA 2016

A great video, is like a great blogpost.” says Miami based visual content creator Pascal Depuhl. “You need to capture the viewers attention in the first few seconds, like a catchy blog title – otherwise you’ll loose them.” Pascal, who has been creating still images for his clients as a commercial photographer for over 25 years, recently spoke at WordCamp Miami. Video is a recent addition to the services Photography by Depuhl offers his clients.

He went on to say that the story portion of the video, is like the body of a blog post. “Story trumps everything” says Depuhl “the perfect video must tell a compelling story, engineered to change it’s viewers mind.” Photography by Depuhl is known for creating videos and images, designed to be mind changing; he gave a TEDx talk on this topic called “the Art of Changing Minds“.

Finally you’ll need to know your Call-to-Action before you start production. “Video is powerful, so your Call-to-Actions can be subtle.

Here are the slides of the talk and the links that Pascal mentioned, which will be published on WordCamp.tv in a few weeks.

Slides:

Download a PDF of “How to shoot the perfect video” slides here.

Links:

TEDx talk “The Art of Changing Minds

How to change 100 minds in 15 minutes

On Wings of Hope film

Social Media

Instagram @photosbydepuhl

Twitter @photosbydepuhl

www.depuhl.com

Editing, a quick primer: Cut it short!

Pascal loved editing his letters

Shakespeare must have been thinking about video editing when he penned the words “Brevity is the soul of wit“. There’s a reason it’s called the “cutting room floor” and not the “‘let’s cram some more content into this video’ room floor”. When you’re editing, you’re trimming individual clips, cutting out whole scenes, shortening, condensing and although it seems counterintuitive, the shorter the piece is that you are working on, the longer it’s going to take to edit it. 

Short takes time. Long goes quick.

Blaise Pascal wrote it in 1657 “I have made this (letter) longer than usual, because I have not had time to make it shorter.” If you’re new to editing, you’ll quickly find that cutting together a video will take much more time, than shooting the footage. Our experience in still photography is often quite the opposite. I just finished a 6 day catalog photo shoot and finished editing, i.E. picking the final images by the next morning. A week later I was shooting 3 days of a multi-month motion project and editing that footage will take me much longer than 3 days. 

2 suggestions when you get started editing

Even though editing has a pretty steep learning curve, I strongly recommend that you edit your own work, especially when you’re just getting into creating video projects. It’s going to make you a better cinematographer. Fast.

On the other hand I strongly recommend that you work with an experienced video editor, especially when you’re just getting into creating video projects. It’s going to make you a better editor. Fast.

Edit your own footage – it’ll make you a better cinematographer

Editing On Wings of Hope made me a better cinematographer. Collaborating with professional editors made me a better editor.

I remember coming back from filming my first corporate documentary film in Afghanistan in 2012. I shoot for 2 and a half weeks and had planned on spending a week to edit the movie. Just for the record, it ended up taking me a longer. Much longer. However editing the footage myself, really helped me understand which shots I had missed or screwed up, where I had to abandon ideas, because of a non-existent camera angles or bad takes I had not retaken in the field. Those realizations are painful, but I won’t be making the same mistakes again. 

Collaborate with professional editors – it’ll make you a better editor

I also send pieces of the short film to friends of mine–experienced film industry pros–and the feedback I got from them was sometimes painful, but I learned a lot in a very short time. 

One email was especially painful. It came from a seasoned Hollywood director friend of mine and begins with the words: “Ok. If you’ll notice the time you may give some thought to how much you’re loved and appreciated. For both expediency and brevity’s sake I’m not going to perfume my words…

Then it goes into 3 pages of non-perfumed words, ripping apart every scene I’d lovingly cut together. Telling me (in no uncertain terms) where there was significant room for improvement. Honestly I did not feel happy when I read that email for the first time. Or the second time. But when I finally re-edited the film following his suggestions, they made the movie a million times better. A printout of his email sits on my desk and I reread it from time to time.

In case you’re still not clear about this: Editing is cutting.

Here’s a good rule of thumb: Edit your video. Then cut out half of the footage. Once you’ve done that, congratulate yourself and cut it again by half. Now you’re in the ballpark of how long your motion piece should be. Brevity is the soul of wit, especially when it comes to editing.

Where to go from here

If you’re looking for a great book on editing, check out “In the Blink of an Eye: A Perspective on Film Editing, by Walter Murch” its basically the Film Editors bible. Brand new to video? Check out Pascals talk at WordCamp Miami How to step up your video” and learn about story, sound, visuals and edit.

[This post was originally published on the American Society of Media Photographers ‘Strictly Business’ blog.]

4 years ago

WordCamp Miami 2016 #WCMIA coming soon

WordCamp Miami 2016

WordCamp Miami 2016 is coming to Miami next weekend

WordCamp Miami 2016, a tech conference, is back in Miami from February 19-21. South Florida’s longest running non-profit tech conferences (It’s the 8th year WordCamp has been in Miami) is designed for WordPress users, bloggers, content creators, SEO, designers, marketing folks, and developers to hone their blogging skills. It doesn’t matter, if you’re an established blogger, a WordPress aficionado or just starting out in the blogosphere, #WCMIA 2016 has something for everyone –from classes for kids to talks that are all about the code that runs your WordPress blog.

What’s happening at WordCamp Miami 2016

There’s too much to list here and WordCamp’s website is obviously the place to go (quickly, since they always sell out of tickets). Nile Flores –a fellow WordCamp speaker– has put together a great blog post on what to look forward to at WordCamp Miami 2016. She highlights some interesting details about this conference and some the speakers that will be sharing their knowledge at this conference.

Here’s an excerpt from blondish.net:

david-bisset“WordCamp Miami is expected to bring in well over 800 attendees, according to one of the WordCamp Miami organizer’s, David Bisset. He also says that some of the things that attendees can look forward to seeing is the kids activities.

Bisset says “There’s a lot of kids activities like the Saturday Workshop, Sunday STEAM activities, and the Kid’s Panel at the end of Sunday.”

ptah-dunbarPtah Dunbar, the lead organizer of WordCamp Miami 2016, says that attendees should look foward to the JavaSscript Track on Sunday. He says, “We’ve got a great lineup of quality speakers.”

Ptah says that attendees should bring the following: “Bring a friend or two! Learning new ideas and connecting with friends is always a good time. Also, bring pocket notebook and pen to carry with you (leave your laptop at the hotel), for notoriously writing down actionable advice from all the really smart people you’ll be meeting over be next 24-48-72 hours (depending on how long you stay) and their Twitter handles.”

Dunbar also mentioned, “And finally don’t forget to set aside time to enjoy the beach and explore Miami! Keep an eye on the #wcmia slack channel as we’ll be sharing announcements like things to do and other surprises throughout the 18th-21st.”

5 years ago

Guess who’s speaking on “How to shoot the perfect video” at WordCamp Miami (again)…

WordCamp Miami 2016

WordCamp Miami announces another round of speakers

WordCamp Miami (WCMIA) announces speakers for it’s 2016 conference. I am Speaking at WordCamp Miami 2016Miami based cinematographer Pascal Depuhl delivers “How to shoot the perfect video” talk at WordCamp Miami 2016 . If you’re a blogger, social media user or run a website for your company or clients, check out his talk to learn what makes a video perfect.

I’m thrilled to be part of this amazing line up of speakers – if you’ve never been to WCMIA, you need to check it out. This WordPress focused conference is an amazing resource (and a tone of fun) that you shouldn’t miss. Buy your tickets now, it always sells out.

Some of the speakers at WordCamp Miami 2016

Stay tuned for more info and check out last year’s WordCamp talk “How to step up your video” which consisted of 4 steps: Story“, Sound“, Visuals“, Edit“. Here’s what WordCamp Miami has to say about me:

Pascal Depuhl is a visual content creator at Photography by Depuhl, a Miami based production company. He’s been capturing still images for over 25 years and even though he got into video only 5 years ago, you’ll find his award-winning and mind changing videos on National Geographic, Netflix, the BBC and many of his clients websites. It’s common to find him in the mountains of Afghanistan or the jungles of South America and it’s just as common to walk away from one of his short documentary style films with your mind blown.

Photography by Depuhl offer free videos at WordCamp Miami 2016

Pascal will also have a video studio set up again, so that sponsors and WordCamp participants can have him make a free short video on the spot.Video Studio at WordCamp 2015

5 years ago

Anticipation builds audience – Marketing Hack #28

Anticipation can build an audience

Anticipation = Excitement = Engagement

We’re all looking for ways to expand our audience, but it’s not about the quantity of followers (I know shocking). It’s about the quality of people who consume our content online.

Imagine if I had 100,000 followers that we’re 70-75 year old, female asian women who love knitting. I’m sure these ladies are the sweetest group of followers ever, but how many of them do you think are in the market to hire a visual content creator and advertising photographer in the US, who specializes in making mind changing videos and product photography? I think you’d agree that a more valuable audience would be a 100 designers, advertising execs, production people and content creators, right?

Well I’ve forgone the asian knitting circle and produced a video for the première Design high school in the US, which happens to be in Miami. Year after year it cranks out a group of World Class fashion designers, architects, filmmakers, industrial designers and graphic artists.

Why do this work for a high school?” you may ask “it’ll be years before those kids are in a position to hire a professional photographer or commercial cinematographer.” I gotta hand it to you–you’re right, however there are 25 years worth of alumni that are in that position and being that this was for the 25 year anniversary, you could feel the anticipation for this event by the alumni, faculty, staff, parents, community and supporters. So how do you capture their attention? I’ve got two words for you: Anticipation. (OK that’s one word, but I’ll say it again – anticipation drives excitement, which gives you engagement).

How to build anticipation

Many people knew about the creation of this video. From the school administration and faculty, who helped us find the right alumni to interview to engaged parents and  excited alumni giving suggestions, from the world-class executive producer, who helped me put this together to the current students, who we filmed in their class rooms. Everyone knew something was up.

Of course it helps that the event is built on anticipation as well, that there’s an 25 year anniversary involved, that the person featured in the event and video is one of Miami-Dade public schools top educators. You still gotta build anticipation. Let me tell you about a local event I worked on, although the principles apply to any size audience.

Keep it under wraps

You can talk about it, you can Instagram behind the scenes shots of the project (check out my IG feed and let me know which of those images are your favorites), you should make a quick 16 second edit for IG, but the one thing you can not do is share the video. With anyone. Not with the people featured in the video, not with the people you’ve interviewed, not with anyone who does not absolutely, positively have to watch it – like your producer and one person who has the authority to approve it.

Every time you share it with anyone outside of that circle, you lose some anticipation.

In the end 5 people saw the video (outside my immediate family) before we premiered it at the event: my exec producer, an associate producer, myself and the assistant principal from the school (we wanted to dot our i’s and cross our t’s to make sure there was nothing that the school would object to) and one other principal from another school, who has no connections to this school – I wanted one unbiased opinion.

Teasers build anticipationTease it to influencers

5 days before the event launched, a short teaser video goes up on social media and is featured in an email blast to everyone at the school and the community, who is invited to the event. Many people came to me in the days leading up to the event saying they are excited to finally watch the final version.

Control you content

As soon as we had picture lock on the edit, the password protected Vimeo link, used to collaborate with my production team, went dark. Downloads were never enabled and even the AV team got their copy for the show the evening of rehearsal day – barely 24 hours before the event – with explicit instruction, that the video was embargoed until the actual first showing. It wasn’t even used in rehearsal – I had created a special clip for that.

Strike the iron while it’s hot

Once the cat’s out of the bag–so to speak–share your content as broadly and as quickly as possible. In this case the official copy of the video was on social media, less than 90 minutes after the live showing – I had to get home from the event and had the first comments soon after.

Share it from one central place

Figure out where you want the attention, which followed the anticipation, focused on. Release your content in one place and then share that place with everyone – in this case I embedded Vimeo link on one Facebook page and shared that page with my other pages, the schools page, the alumni page, the PTSA page and key influencers.

Don’t be afraid to ask for the share

I’ve done the same for other social media launches. Don’t be afraid to ask certain people (especially those that take the time to like or comment on your content to share it with their followers. Be polite and nice about it, thank them for their contributions, but ask for the share straight up–oh and don’t do that with each one. Pick 2 or 3 a year, find the audience that loves to share the anticipation and go for it.

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