Making Great Video Stories Part 1 - The Process Video

The number one way to start telling a good story is to pick a good story to tell.  Sounds simple?  Not all stories lend themselves to video. The first test of whether a video is merited for any story is -- is this a visual story?

To tell the truth, I'm not a huge fan of much of the video I see on the web.  Just because you're talking into a camera and telling me what you think -- doesn't necessarily create compelling video story making. I mean if you are George Clooney or ScarJo, I'll watch anything.  But if you're not...


Show me a process.  Show me how things work.  Show me a cycle from begining to end.  Layer the details along side the process and your information is easily digested.

Recently, I with Wheelhouse pitched to The Daily (the iPad only newspaper) a story of a street artist in New York City who paints the most unbelievable Renaissance style chalk drawings on the sidewalk.  I've passed his drawings for years walking around town and always wondered who he was.  


I looked up Hani, the sidewalk artist, on the web and sure enough he had a website with clippings of articles done on him in the New Yorker, The New York Times, The Daily News and others.  Was it a bad idea to do a profile on him since others had already discovered him?  I don't think so.  To me, what was missing was a video that showed him working from beginning to end - how he creates these sidewalk masterpieces.

The editor at The Daily liked the idea and we set out to tell his story.


I knew I wanted the visuals to drive the story so I made sure that I could capture Hani completing a portrait in 8 hours.  

We picked a subject (Madonna and Child) that he could finish in that time.

I taped him with an unmanned HDSLR camera shooting a frame every 30 seconds.  I also filmed him with a separate camera for about 6 hours doing various time-lapses on specific parts of the drawing so that we could see the drawing build over time.  We also captured B-roll of Hani interacting with pedestrians, setting up, and walking away.

The process of him making a portrait was the perfect B-roll to play over his interview.  In the interview, he told us where he was from, what motivates him, his dreams, and what his paintings mean.

A much easier production would have been to interview him and show his collection of stills of past works. Hani had a treasure trove of stills of his recent work. But that would have been BORING. Easier. But dull.Show the process.

Here's a link to the finished video:

What Makes Someone Watchable

Watch Young Adult fiction writer Gary Paulsen in this interview Wheelhouse and I did for Random House Children's Books.  He has a great face for video, for sure.  But what makes him immensely watchable is his intelligence.  Some people I could listen to and watch for hours.  Mr. Paulsen is one of them.  Documentary film makers, here's a subject worth finding, tracking down and getting on film.

What makes someone watchable? View in 720P for best results.

What Do Chris Brogan And Michael Caine Have In Common?

The answer is Chris Brogan* and Michael Caine both know how to relate to the camera.

Both see the camera as their best friend.  

I've been enjoying Brogan's   series because he's been doing a great job of speaking candidly about what it takes to be success.  I feel like he's talking to me.  Can't see the clip, click here.

As someone who works with non professionals, talking into a camera can be daunting because it's so easy to forget that you're talking to someone behind that cold piece of glass in the camera. (He could have adjusted for the sun coming in through the window - but that's a different post).

Brogan is a great communicator.  I like that he doesn't shout like Gary Vaynerchuk (yes, Gary's a passionate fellow, But Brogan is just as passionate and more effective, I think, because he reveals to us who he is. 
We all can be good communicators on camera if we follow some simple rules that I've gleaned from Michael Cain's Acting in Film DVD (there's a book too but the DVD actully shows Caine and some students in action).

From Caine's Video:

  • Don't Move. Tics, winking, big gestures. You don't need them. Your best friend is two inches away.
  • Confide. If the camera is your best friend, treat him like your best friend.
  • And here's a funny one. Eyes are the most important thing. Make sure the camera can see yours. "If you have blond eyelashes and you're in a movie you might as well be in a radio play," says Caine who wears mascara when he performs on camera. Here's a clip from the DVD:

If you want to see more, get the video at There's a 30% off coupon code available.  Disclosure: I've helped the publisher of Working Arts Library post on YouTube and was paid earlier this year to direct market these titles to Theater Professors and University libraries.
*Chris Brogan is the co-writer of Trust Agents (a current NY Times bestseller) and his blog, is ranked #1 by Advertising Age's list of most influential marketing blogs.
What do you think of Brogan's communication skills?

4 Mistakes Video Bloggers Make And How You Can Avoid Them

Here are four Video Blogging mistakes I see all the time and what you can do to avoid them.

  1. Mistake: your background isn't doing anything for you.  Don't set up in front of a grey wall. Or a brick wall. Or any kind of blank wall.

    Of course you can use white, grey, or black wall as an advantage. But you need good lighting to do that. Most V Bloggers don't use lighting so I counsel to just stay away from this: 

This looks better. Hey, who is this guy?  Note, I'm not using my laptop camera. 

Instead I have a mini DV camera (Canon HV30) perched slightly above me.  You'll see that the walls are creating interesting angles. The chair to the left breaks up the white wall and that the splash of blue on the wall helps enormously:


2. Mistake: your shots have you centered up in the frame.  Think about negative space. You will look stronger in the frame if you don't appear bullseye in the center of the frame all the time. 

This guy is centered up. We get bored of even 2 minutes of this.


This person is against a black background but he's lit well so it's OK.


This video can be seen here:

3. Mistake: you stick to a medium shot. In the following example, two of my social media gods, David Meerman Scott shoots a video of Chris Brogan with his Flip Mino.

David chooses to let the camera hang on a medium shot.  Two problems with this.  In video, only the face is expressive.  While Brogan has a nice chest and cool Sopranos-like shirt on. It doesn't provide the viewer with any information.  

The eyes, the mouth... focus on that.  Also, note all the head room above Chris' head.  Close that up.

4. Mistake: No Editing.  It's easier to hit record spew out what you're going to say in a medium shot and then post.  But that would be like writing a rant and not putting in paragraph marks or punctuation.  

Editing takes time to master.  iMovie has made their program pretty much worthless.  So try ScreenFlow, Final Cut Express or Adobe Premiere. has some great tutorials on Final Cut.

I haven't checked out the editing capabilities of the iPhone yet but it looks (just from the ad) like they are basing it on their iMovie platform. Yuck.  

Look what a little editing does here (and a mix of settings):

11 Posts From Around The Web To Motivate Your Blogging

Blogging can be a treadmill.  I always have a little dread after writing what I think is a good post.  Have you ever said to yourself, "What will I do next?" 

When I am stuck, I turn to these 11 posts and bloggers to help me get an idea going, give me confidence, or just push me to blog another day.

  1. 45 Blog Post Ideas That Always Generate Buzz - Adam Singer
    I kid Adam that this post of his is my "playbook."  But time and time again, I've looked to this list as a guide to create buzz worthy content.  Adam also writes on inspiration and his body of work here helped me and countless others to start a blog of my own.
  2. How To Write Fast - Problogger
    Darren Rowse is a prolific and talented blogger.  His first 3 steps out of the 5 here are sometimes all I need to get my mind in the right frame of mind.
  3. 31 Blog Post Ideas for Small Businesses - Mark Hayward
    We don't blog in a vacuum. Most of us are expert at something and make a living from it.  This list helps you to see all the content that is out there at your job - ready to mined.
  4. My Best Advice About Blogging Chris Brogan
    Chris has archived his best "how to blog" posts in one category.  In these eleven great posts, there is always something to get my mind racing. One line always resonates, "Pretend you are the reader.  Is this worth their time?"
  5. The Secret of the Web (hint: it's a virtue) - Seth Godin
    I re-read this post when I want to quit blogging.  One of Godin's most popular posts, it's a nice reminder that if you keep plugging away - you will outlast the other guys.  And win. 
  6. My Gift To You - Hurry, Offer Ends Soon - Danny Brown
    I have a tendency to get serious when I blog. We all do. We want to have that "expert" voice.  I have to remind myself that communicating can come in all forms.  In this post, Danny Brown shows that humor can be just as effective to get your point across.  It just so happens that this is one of Danny's most widely read posts as well.
  7. How To Write Headlines That Work - Copyblogger
    Sometimes a great headline is all I need to start the writing juices flowing.  
  8. Alltop
    Alltop is an online Magazine Rack of popular subjects.  Type in the subject of your niche and in seconds hundreds of blogs and news sites will appear with up to the hour updated material. Great for taking the pulse of what is happening right now in your field.
  9. My Social Media System - John Jantsch  
    Ever wonder why great ideas come to you in the shower or while driving? It's because muscle memory is doing all the work and your brain is free to dream.  This post is one way to make your social media automatic - so your brain can be freed up to do way more important things. When I'm wasting too much time on the computer and not being productive, John's post reminds me to automate.
  10. Viral Marketing Review: Using and Identifying Design Patterns Ship's Biscuit
    I like how this post aims to be exhaustive.  I'm sure it gets tons of hits a day because the thinking is clear and they make great points.  The post is about deconstructing what a lot of people are trying to do on the web right now: have a viral hit.  If it's not in your niche, I think you can still admire how they found as many examples as they could to define what constitutes a viral ad.
  11. Sasha Dichter's Blog
    Reading someone else's blog that has nothing to do with your niche is sometimes the best way to be inspired. There are thousands out there. As the Director of Business Development at the Acumen Fund, Sasha works in a completely different world than me. However, Sasha's on my motivation list because I really like the way he brings his every day life and observations into his posts.  

    Let me know what posts motivate you...