Podcast Episode #16: Zen and the Art of Video Production

Zen and the Art of Video Production


Today on our Web Video Marketing Show podcast, Ryan is joined by Nick Hancock, Dream Engine’s Studio Manager. Ryan and Nick discuss:

  • How It’s Not About The Camera: you can splurge all of your money on a tricked-up camera kit and lenses, but there are cannier, smarter ways to produce videos that will save you money.
  • How It’s Not About You: introducing the crucial principle about creating content for your audience, rather than for yourselves.
  • We talk about the concept of “Showing”, not “Telling”, and the importance of harnessing the visual aspect of video.
  • And we introduce the idea of “One Purpose”, and how answering one simple question can help you get the best result from your video productions.

The tech tip for this week is the importance of white balancing your camera: what it is, how you do it, and why it can make your video productions look so much better. And we explain why video case studies are an incredibly powerful opportunity to promote your work.

You can download this podcast directly from this link, or find The Web Video Marketing Show podcast on iTunes.

Episode Transcription

Ryan:  Hi, this is Ryan Spanger. About 12 years ago, I started a video production company in Melbourne, Australia, called Dream Engine. Making videos is a huge passion for me. In this podcast, I’ll be sharing with you a lot of the ideas and techniques that I use in my video production business. I hope you enjoy the show and it gives you clear, actionable ideas that you can implement in your business right now to improve your web video and marketing and build a stronger connection with your audience.

This is the Web Video Marketing Show, episode 16. Welcome back. As you can tell from the intro, I’ve changed things up a little bit. Actually decided to evolve the show a little bit to tell you a bit more about what I’m doing in Dream Engine which is my video production company.

This has come about because of some feedback that I’ve got from listeners, that they came to learn a little bit more about the sort of work that we’re doing, and to share some of the tips that we’re using in our business and how you can apply them to your business.

Something else is new today as I’m going to be introducing a new co-host; the studio manager at my video production business, Dream Engine, Nick Hancock. Welcome, Nick.

Nick:   Thank you, Ryan. Good to be here. A little bit different, isn’t it?

Ryan:  It is. It’s going to be pretty cool for people to hear a bit about what you do at Dream Engine and the sort of work that you’ve been doing. Just to introduce people, can you tell the listener about what your work is here at Dream Engine?

Nick:   My role at Dream Engine, Ryan is to handle all aspects of the video from the production process through to the postproduction, which means that we shoot and we edit and that’s all on me. That’s all under my umbrella. I’m making sure that clients are happy and that they eventually get the video that they’d  commission us to create.

Ryan:  What is it about video production that you love? Why did you want to get into it?

Nick:   I don’t know. In terms of origin stories, I really liked some of the stuff that you’ve said in the past. For instance, seeing Superman and developing this interesting in Green Screen Production and how you have a documentary background primarily. For me, it was more one of the things that I really enjoyed. I always had fun working on video productions, always loved to make my own. I find it incredibly easy to get out of bed at the moment.

It’s not from one specific genesis. It’s something that I really enjoy and just had been lucky enough to find work in the field of.

Ryan:  Awesome. I’ve got some stuff that I want to share with the listener today.

Nick:   Ryan, I’ve been meaning to ask why we’re calling this episode Zen and the Eye for video production?

Ryan:  Very good question. No really good answer, other than the fact that we’re going to get a little bit philosophical on this episode. Not too much, it’s still very practical but there’s some key aspect about video production that people often get wrong or they approach from the wrong place. I was thinking about, I’ve been doing this work for nearly 15 years now. What are the key drivers for me that I have in my mind when I approach video production? What are some of the things that I see sometimes people new to the industry, or even people who’ve been doing this work for a long time, get side-tracked with?

It’s important to go right back to the core and actually think about some of these issues when making your videos.

Nick:   Actually Ryan, I can remember recently you mentioned something to me about the fact that you think it’s not about the camera. That was a phrase that really resonated with me. What do you mean by that?

Ryan:  This is tip number one. It’s not about the camera. I come up with this based on an idea given to me by a mentor of mine, James [Franco 00:03:39]. He talks about the idea of it’s not about the website. In the web design industry, people often fixate on the website itself, rather than the business behind it.

What happens in video production is the first question that people want to know is what camera should I buy? They become fixated with cameras and lenses, rather than focusing on the idea that video and the cameras are just a tool. It’s just a means of communicating a story. It’s really the story, the content that’s the most important part.

The thing is these days just about any decent semi-professional camera is capable of producing great images. If you’re asking me, what sort of DSLR camera should I buy? Should I get a 550D or a 600D or a 5D Mark III? It’s like saying, “Do you think a steak is better than a pizza or a stir-fry?” Or whatever. It’s just, they’re all good. What they say is the best camera, is the camera that you actually have.

A good way to know when you should get a new camera is when you push the camera that you’ve got to the point that it’s actually inhibiting your creativity and your ability to go any further. That’s the point at which you stop to say, “Okay, I need to do some research and look into getting a new camera.” Until that point happens, the camera that you have at the moment, or the camera that’s recommended to you is going to be fine. Often people when they talk about buying a camera, they’ll assign all their budget to the camera, without thinking about the fact that they’re going to need a tripod. They’re going to need a microphone. They’re going to need lights, maybe an autocue and a whole lot of other accessories that go with it.

If you look at our production kit, most of our money has actually gone into buying lights. Of course we’ve got a good camera and we’ve got some good lenses. The most important part of our kit is actually the lights. That’s going to have more or a bearing on how good the final image looks, rather than the camera.

Nick:   Something I’m particularly weary of in terms of … especially when I look at our kit and what we use here at Dream Engine, is splurting money on new lenses; always having the most cutting edge materials. As you’ve mentioned, we get the best out of our camera and the lenses we have with it, from our lighting. We try to upgrade when we need to upgrade, when there is a significant step that we’re trying to step up and step over.

Ryan:  I’ve noticed some camera guys and production companies who are just addicted to video production equipment. Will land a job and the first thing that they’ll do is go out and spend all that money on new lenses, where they don’t actually need those lenses to accomplish the job. It’s actually just indulging their own equipment fixation; it almost becomes an addiction for them. It can actually be the downfall of a lot of companies.

The most important thing is that the gear is there to enable the work to be done. Sometimes with camera operators, it’s almost like the work is there to facilitate their addiction to equipment. I’ve actually seen some sad stories of people going out of business and having to leave their business and getting a job because of that.

Something that’s really important to be weary of, is to avoid that fixation on the gear and focus on the production and on the story and the contents.

Nick:   Let’s move on to the philosophy of showing and not telling. Ryan, now this is a big point that is toward … At film schools around the world, its a tip that’s easy to say, but a little bit more difficult to explain. Can you offer some context about the philosophy of showing and not telling?

Ryan:  Show; don’t tell. Video is a visual medium. The thing that video does better than other communication media like prints or brochures or podcasts, is its ability to communicate visually. If you are using video, then you need to use the features that make video unique compared to other communication mediums. Otherwise, why use video? You could just communicate it through a brochure or through a blog post. As I mentioned, video is about visual communication. It’s about showing. Showing is much more important than telling because you can tell people anything. You can make whatever assertion you like. Showing is about evidence. It’s about visual proof. That’s far more compelling than just telling people something.

You can have a presenter speak into the camera talking about the unique benefits of something but if you’re able to demonstrate that visually, which video does so well, then you’re really maximizing the power of video. There’s a good reason then why you’re using video compared to any other medium.

Nick:   We do a lot of training videos here at Dream Engine. Part of our production on those training videos is the fact that it’s the visuals that are complimented by occasional pieces of text, by occasional voice over. It’s the visual that’s the most important thing. Especially when you’re teaching someone something, which is one aspect of video production. It’s easy for people to ingest that knowledge by seeing people do it on screen. It’s the most powerful way to convey that knowledge.

Ryan:  Absolutely. There’s the term that people sometimes use to criticize filmmaking that isn’t about using the visuals properly, and that’s ‘radio with pictures.’ It’s essentially someone talking and then just intercutting some images. The reason why they criticize that is because there’s so much more that you can do with video; to tell a story visually, rather than just having audio and dropping some pictures.

Video is more complex than audio. There’s more to it. There’s more planning;  more work acquiring those images and it’s more work putting it together. If you choose video as your communication medium, avoid that ‘radio with pictures’ approach. Show; don’t tell.

Nick:   Ryan, it’s time to move on. Something that we’re planning to cover in this podcast is this one quote here that I’d like you to explain to me in layman’s terms. I’m not quite sure what it means. “It’s not about you.” What do you mean by that?

Ryan:  “It’s not about you.” It’s basically this idea that sometimes video production companies or people commissioning videos can approach the production in a selfish way. What I mean by that is that they have a fixation on themselves and their own needs and interests. They can neglect the audience who’s actually the most important part. You’ll see in the video, you’ll have a voice over saying, “Our business was established in 1922. We do this. We’re really passionate about this,” and it’s we, we, we or me, me, me.” Rather than actually focusing on the people that they’re serving, which is their audience or their customers.

It’s far more effective to structure that in terms of thinking about their audience and focusing on what their goals are, what their challenges are, and how they actually solve those problems or challenges of their audience. That’s what the video should be all about.

Nick:   Would you say it’s important to rephrase that from ‘this is what we do’ to ‘this is what we can offer you’?

Ryan:  Absolutely. This is what we do and what that means for you is … people want it … They want to know about you and your business. More importantly, what they want to know is how those things are going to help them. How they’re going to be of benefit. That’s really what people are interested in; is the benefits to them.

Sometimes there can just be too much of a fixation on the people making the video; what their own interest or needs are. When you’re approaching a video production, always think about it from the point of view of the viewer and of your customer and what’s most important to them.

Nick:   Ryan, next up on the Web Video Marketing Show, we’re talking about one purpose. What do you mean by that?

Ryan:  The role of a video is to communicate one main message and drive one main action. A video is for solving a problem or a challenge in a business. It’s important to measure the effect that the video has. You start by defining the challenge. Can you put a dollar value on that challenge? For example, the purpose of the video is to make more sales, or the purpose of the video is to train staff more effectively in a new procedure, or the purpose of the video is to increase effectiveness of internal communication.

Often people won’t be clear on what the purpose of their video is. They’ll say, “We want it to be on the website to be a general introduction. We’d like it to make people sign up to our e-mail list, but we also want to use the video to get people to contact us.” You can actually dilute the power of the video by having too many aims.

The role of the video is to slot into a marketing strategy and to drive one clear action.

Nick:   Also Ryan, I find that when we give advice to companies employing us to [grade inaudible 00:12:52] video production, we always stress, that’s in most cases, less is more. Be clear and concise and make sure that the video is an appropriate, hopefully, short length to convey what you need to get out of the video. When people are trying and grasping it … too many different things to put into the video when they don’t know its one purpose, then that’s where they can be over long, and you don’t convey that information basically well at all.

Ryan:  Definitely. If you start at what is the aim of the video, what do you want to achieve and you’ve got that clear purpose, that’s going to tell you how long the video needs to be in order to achieve that.

Sometimes people say that they want a video on their website because they’re updating the site and for instance, their web designer advised that a video would be a good idea. Now, this may well be true. In theory, it’s a good idea to have a video on your website but that’s not a sufficient enough motivating factor to create a video. It’s important to set a business case or a challenge that the video is designed to solve. Identify what that one main purpose is of the video and create the video around that, and the video is going to be far more effective when you do it that way.

Nick:   Especially, when we’re talking about advertising. We have a client who I think has used video really effectively. He’s commissioned us to create for him three short videos; all of them on his website at the moment. Therefore, one specific stream of his business … which in this case is security, training and I believe health services.

Ryan, what that does is it allows him to take a little bit of time to show specialized videos to his website visitors. He doesn’t have to actually sum everything up in just one video. If you think about that, how can you convey all the different aspects of your company rather in just one video?

Ryan:  Definitely. That’s been a trend in video production over the last few years where previously clients would commission one main video, which would have to be all things to all people. What’s much more common now is to create shorter, more targeted videos that really focus on one main niche within the business and have one main aim.

For instance, you can create a video for your website on the home page that will tell people all about it. What can be even more effective is to have a number of shorter videos on different pages of your website. For instance, you could have a video for each service that you offer, which really gives people w clear picture of what you do. You could even have a video for recruitment, that can give people that are interested in applying for work at your business an idea of what the culture of the business is; what the values of the business are.

These videos then have a really clearly-defined purpose. It becomes more effective than just a brochure star video that sits on your homepage.

Nick:   To sum it all up, having one purpose, one set purpose for each one of your videos, allows them to be more clean, concise and effective at conveying the information that you needed to. To further elaborate on what Ryan’s been saying about video trends, there’s a fantastic article on the Dream Engine website, that will link to in the comments section of this Web Video Marketing Show post. You can look it up on more information on video trends, such as the trend to make more small videos.

Ryan:  Definitely. That’s the end on the art of video production.

Nick:   Now, it’s time to move on to our Web Video Marketing Show; tech tip for this week. Ryan, tell me a little bit about color temperature.

Ryan:  Just before I do, this is a new segment that you’re going to be hearing on the show each episode. This segment is specifically designed for people who are creating their own videos. What we do is create professional video productions for our clients. In most cases, you’re going to get a far better result by working with a professional video production company of course.

There are times where you might want to create a video for yourself. For instance, a quick video that’s going to go on your blog or something on your Facebook page, or a quick YouTube tutorial or something likethat, where you want the video to go up quickly. You don’t necessarily have a large budget for that video, but you’d like to create regular content that’s going to go out through social media channels.

This segment is really around helping you with tech tips in order to create better video productions. We’re going to talk about color temperature today. If you can get your head around color temperature, you can start to create better looking videos and avoid a trap, which is a giveaway of amateur video.

Nick:   What a lot of people don’t realize, Ryan is that there are many different colors of lights. Now, podcastd, other things that you can listen to on break at work, in the car, on the train and if you are in any of those situations, look around yourself. Especially if you’re on a train, you notice that outside if you’re listening to this Web Video Marketing Show podcast during the day, that there’s a different color of light to what is on the inside of the train. You’ve got the halogen lights running along your carriage. You’ve got different color of lights outside the train. When that train goes into a tunnel and stops in an underground station, you’ll probably notice again that there are different colored lights in that dark space underneath.

Once you start looking at different colors of lights, you’ll start to pick up pretty quickly that chakora. There are many different colors of lights. It changes dramatically from room-to-room, workplace-to-workplace, car to train; so on and so forth.

Ryan, to make it easier for people making their own videos, give us some food for thought and some quick tips on how to make the color temperature balance on your camera.

Ryan:  The classic mistake that you see is people mixing these two types of light sources. They might be filming in an office or at home, where there’s natural light coming through the window, which has got more of a blue look to it. They’ve got the lights on inside which is more orange. Often, what will happen is that their skin will end up looking very orange and unnatural.

It just looks unprofessional. It makes you look almost unhealthy in a way. It doesn’t make you look vibrant and natural and healthy, and it just doesn’t have a great look to it. The classic rule of thumb in video production is to avoid mixing light sources.

If you have bought lights for the purpose of filming, it’s important to establish whether these have daylight globes in them, which is more blue or whether they have tungsten globes, which is more of an orange color. The next step is to establish what your dominant source of light is.

If you’re filming inside and you’ve got a lot of natural light coming in, then you’re dominant light source is going to be blue, in which case, you’re going to want daylight globes in your lamps.

The other thing that you can do is buy what’s called blue gels which is … how would you describe them?

Nick:   Blue gels is a much nicer, modified version of the cellophane that we all used to use during art class back in school days.

Ryan:  Exactly. You put those over your globes and they are made of some special material that stops them from melting, which is a good thing. You now have a uniform color of light. Now, you can then set the white balance of your camera or your camera is going to set that automatically. But you’re going to get a much more natural, authentic, realistic color because all of your light sources are the same color. Don’t mix different light sources.

You want to either go daylight or go tungsten, which is essentially indoor light. Your choice is if you can close the blinds and block out the natural light, then you can just stick with one light source. Or if you’re unable to do that and you’re going to leave the blinds open, switch off the indoor lights. If you have your own film lights, make sure that the globes that you’re using are the same color temperature as the outside, so you’re using daylight globes.

Some more advanced film lights, you can actually adjust it, which is pretty cool.

Nick:   At the beginning, it is a big step to overcome. Most people assume that the more light, the better but no. Often it can harm the quality of your video production.

Ryan, let’s move on. Let’s talk about some stuff that’s been happening around the Dream Engine workplace, and how our clients can get some really good value from what we’ve been doing?

Ryan:  I’ve actually been overseas. This is something that you’d been doing. We’ve had quite a bit of a focus on creating case study videos to promote our business. Do you want to tell the listener a bit about what you guys were doing last week?

Nick:   What me and my colleague from Dream Engine we’re doing, was we were contacting some of our previous clients and current clients who’ve been very happy with their video productions that we’ve been creating for them. We were sitting them down and just creating some short case study slash testimonial videos really, where they could talk about the experience that they’ve had having commissioned us to create video productions for them.

Ryan:  This fits into that ‘Show; don’t tell’ philosophy that we were talking about. Sure, we can talk about we have many satisfied clients. This is why they’re happy. This is why they choose us. What’s going to be far more effective is to actually go in  and talk to them and capture that story on video and really hear from them. That’s much more compelling visual evidence. That’s showing; as opposed to telling.

What were the interview questions? What were you asking them?

Nick:   Once we’re at shooting these testimonial videos, these case study videos, it was important to ask them questions about the value that we’d generated for them through creating videos for them. Questions, such as what was the number one benefit you’ve received from Dream Engine videos? Why did you choose to work with Dream Engine? Would you recommend Dream Engine? Just their experience, as well as some cold, hard facts about the benefits they’ve received from having videos created by us.

Ryan:  This video is now up on our website. We’ll put a link to that video for listeners to check out. It will be great to get your feedback. Let us know what you think. My role mainly being in sales and marketing, it gives me a powerful tool to work with when I’m talking to potential new clients; particularly potential clients who are in the same industry. It’s a powerful way of demonstrating that we have an appreciation and understanding for that industry and the benefits that we’ve delivered to clients in the past.

Nick:   Ryan, I always get surprised that less companies are doing testimonials and case studies than I would assume would be the case, because to me, they’re absolute layups. When you’ve been making a client happy, when you’ve done good work, you want to firstly show off the work that you’ve done. You want to be able to promote your company. One way to do that is to create these case study videos,  because it’s people talking about physical work that you have created for them,  and the overwhelmingly positive experience that they have had. That is a very powerful marketing tool.

Ryan:  It is powerful. Not all testimonials are equal. What I often see on websites that gives me very little faith in that companies, we all see something like, “The product that we received was tremendous, P.J. Melbourne.” They’ll have initials. Now, I’m not necessarily saying that those case studies were made up. It’s far more effective to be able to know who that person is. What is their role? What business to they work at?

If people are prepared to give a case study, it’s important that they actually say, “I stand by this and I’m prepared to provide my name. I’m genuinely pleased with what I got.” That’s the first thing. It’s not bad having something that’s written, but actually physically seeing people is another level of proof in itself.

Nick:   That’s right. Businesses have now … and beyond, if you’ve got satisfied clients, show them off with video. It’s a great way to generate new leads and new work.

Ryan, we’ve come to the end of another Web Video Marketing Show episode. Obviously, you can find us online at www.webvideomarketing.com. You can find us on iTunes of course. You can just search for the Web Video Marketing Show. One thing that we’re big on in the Web Video Marketing Show is receiving your feedback.

Ryan:  Let us know what you think about the new format. What do you think about having Nico on the podcast? I reckon he’s pretty good. Should we invite him back on? I think so. Please let me know what you think and what the topics are that you’d like to hear about. We’re not abandoning interviews. We’ll still be regularly speaking to industry experts. We’ll also mix in a lot more about the work that we’re doing, because we’re often asked about what are we doing. How do we work with clients? What equipment do we use? What are the different ways that you can use video? You’ll be coming on a journey with us;  learning exactly what we’re doing, what equipment we’re using and how we’re using video to drive results for us and for our clients.

Nick:   We’re always big on creating new value for our clients as well as our podcast listeners. When we talked about today customer testimonials/case study videos and touched on color temperature as well, we’re trying to give you some value to listen to the podcast. If you do have a question that you’d like answered or if you are after more tips and tricks, we’ll bring them to you every single week. You can get into contact with us and request some information.

Ryan:  Awesome. Thanks, Nicko. Good to have you on the show.

Nick:   Pleasure to be here, Rhino, the first time of many. We’ll see you next week.

Ryan:  See you. Bye.


 Ryan Spanger


Ryan Spanger is one of Melbourne’s most respected and sought-after video production professionals. Ryan founded Dream Engine in 2001, and specializes in helping medium to large corporates, government departments, and the non-profit sector to connect with their audience by using video.

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