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Old December 29th, 2007, 09:58 AM   #1
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They took away my crutch!

This particular video has a special purpose. It will be shown on an endless loop on a small TV at the gym where former bodybuilder and nutrition counselor Dave Pulcinella works. It is meant to alert the members of the gym to the services he offers.

Because it will be playing in the noisy weight room we decided that the soundtrack should only include our voices. Loud music is piped into the gym at all times, and we felt that any additional music on the video would add to the cacophany and weaken our message. Music, the crutch that I often rely on to help me shape a piece, was taken away from me this time!

The video is also designed so that it doesn’t have to be watched from start to finish. You may notice that the information we present is somewhat repetitive. That’s because we wanted the casual passer-by, whose attention is momentarily caught by the TV, to get all the info s/he needs within a minute or so and hopefully be enticed to inqure about Dave’s services.

The video is just under 5 minutes long. I suggest you allow it to fully load and then pick a random spot to begin viewing, just as if you had stumbled upon it in the gym as our target audience will. You can even have someone grunt and yell and put on some loud music in the background to fully simulate the effect!

Does it work? How could it be better?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8G5YyvTRigM

Thanks,
Mike
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Old December 30th, 2007, 12:28 AM   #2
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Mike,
Excellent video. I couldn't find anything to improve upon. Should be very effective for your client.
Randy
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Old January 18th, 2008, 07:57 PM   #3
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A few suggestions:

Your first phrase in the video is "Everyone knows...". If everyone knows, why are you including the sentence that follows? That's weak writing. Replace it with something stronger.

An announcer with a stronger voice will help you convey your message in a more professional manner. Especially with no music. I know what you mean about it being a crutch, it's that way for me too!

Use a tripod. When a tanker truck explodes and there's shaky video on the news, I excuse it, because the guy was running for his life. I assume you had the run of the gym and the trainer for as long as you needed. I also assume there was no fire. So take your time, set up a tripod.

Too many zooms. The eye doesn't zoom or pan, it jumps from place to place. Wide. Tight. Medium. Wide. Use cuts, they're more effective.

The trainer didn't seem to be wearing a mic. Lapel mic, even a cheapie from radio shack, is your friend. Wireless lapel mic is REALLY your friend, because you can use it from farther away.

This is a small thing, but tell Guido to spit out his gum while you're shooting. This five minute video is going to repeat ten million times over the next twelve months, he can live without his Trident for a half-hour!

Fade out Guido's audio after he talks.

He's shot in the dead center of the frame, I'd like it better if he were along the "rule of thirds" line to the right.

Overall, I thought the video served its purpose. Guido was very passionate, and a good speaker. I wonder if it wouldn't be more effective if it was only him, or perhaps more him and less narrator. I feel you achieved your purpose of selling his services, but I don't feel you achieved your purpose of starting at any one point and getting the whole message. It's very linear. Beginning, then three steps, then a defined end. I feel if you put a "Contact Guido at the front office... your first visit is free!" lower third ever thirty seconds or so, that would go a long way. Also, re-visiting who he is and how to find him every minute or so would help. You need not tell the whole story, but "World-Class athlete Guido, available at the front office, says follow up is an important step to training."

Also, a thirty-minute video to run on an in-house TV channel might get some views. For the TV's above the treadmills. Another sale!

Good effort, good luck out there!
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Old January 19th, 2008, 10:15 PM   #4
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I liked the video very much, and thought the overall message and objective was accomplished. I found it interesting enough to watch all the way through. The beginning voiceover was a bit too soft, imo. Thinking about your intended use in that specific situation of the open gym, I wonder if it will be loud enough to get the full "punch" - there is a lot fo verbal support for the visual message. Perhaps a running closed captioin of the diaogue summary at the bottom would assist? Not a criticism at all, merely a thought. At my gym, the clanging of weights, chatter etc would make it very tough to understand the voice. Thanks for sharing - makes me realize I need guidance getting myself into shape!
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Old January 20th, 2008, 12:31 AM   #5
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I think music should be added. If music is already played in the gym, wouldn't it have vocals. This would compete with the video anyways. Also, with everything that goes on in the gym would people really be able to concentrate on it. It may be more effective in the lobby or dressing rooms. Also, it sounds like you were using the on camera mic.
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Old January 21st, 2008, 06:38 PM   #6
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Thanks all for your thoughtful comments. You have really helped me to see AND hear this piece in a new way. I am thinking of adopting many of your suggestions for an updated version of the commercial. I’m especially thinking of adding subtitles of the VO and a banner that runs throughout explaining that one can make an appointment at the front desk.

I agree the sound could be better. I thought my shotgun mic would do the trick but was somewhat disappointed in the result.

Mike Watson: I agree with many of your criticisms, but could you elaborate on your first comment? I still think that, “Everyone knows ABC...but did you also know XYZ?” makes perfect sense.

The “shaky cam” debate is certainly a divisive one among videographers and editors. It seems that people either love it or hate it, but it is being used quite often. While typing this I counted at least three or four commercials running on the TV next to me that used a hand held camera technique to good effect. It was not an oversight on my part, it was a conscious stylistic decision. Whether or not I executed it well can be debated, but it can be an effective style when done well.

As for the zooms, again I agree with you generally and tend to cut them out as well but I thought that in this case they gave the piece the informal feel that Dave wanted. A little TOO informal with the gum maybe, but that’s my fault for not noticing that he was chewing it!

By the way Mike, his name is Dave. I say that many times throughout the piece.
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Old January 22nd, 2008, 12:17 PM   #7
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Hi Michael, thanks for being a good sport. Sorry for poking fun at your trainer. :-)

Your opening line in a piece should (arguably) be the strongest sentence in the entire piece. When I walk by the piece playing in the lobby of a gym and I see it start, I might stop and watch the first sentence. When your first sentence starts with "everybody knows", and what follows is something that everybody does indeed know, I just wasted five seconds of my life listening to you echo something I already know. It's sloppy, lazy writing. (So you don't think I'm picking on you, I'm a horrible writer. It's the kind of thing I would write. That's why I farm out my writing, or at least write it and re-write it and send it out to be copy-edited first.)

You started with "Everybody knows that this fitness center is the best in town. But did you also know that we have Dave, a world-class trainer?"

One option to make that line better is omit "everybody knows", to end up with "This fitness center is the best in town. Did you know we have a world-class, in-house trainer?". Another option would be kill the whole sentence, and end up with "Did you know we have a world-class, in-house trainer?"

Your audience is people that are in the gym. They joined the gym for whatever reasons they had - price, location, best gym in town, they got a coupon in the mail... whatever. They're already there. You're not selling the gym, they're already in the gym. You're pushing Dave.

A better option for an open (IMHO) would be to drop the verbage entirely. Start with a shot of Dave grunting and groaning while he tosses those 200lb dumbells above his head. (Assuming you have that -- it looked like you had some file vid.) Or (from what I know you have), start with the shot of Dave flexing and the audience cheering. Makes me want to walk over to the TV and say "Yowza, I want to look like that guy!" ... then, "Wow, he works here?"

When I was first starting out in the biz, I used to shoot shaky video, and compare it to the stuff on MTV... see, that's shaky too! It's taken fifteen years to get to the point where I can shoot shaky video and it doesn't look like poor home video, it looks like the MTV stuff. There are a thousand things to do to get there, far more than I could detail in a post. I think you're seeing steadicam video on TV, and not knowing how it's shot, confusing it with handheld. It's tough to get non-tripod video that looks like what you see in those million dollar TV commercials - that's why they cost a million bucks. The easiest way is to stick it on a tripod. Beyond that, if you're shooting handheld, you should shoot all the way wide. Also, it should be motivated -- there should be a reason you're not on sticks. Not just because you want it to look like MTV.

Also, IMHO, you will never, ever see an unmotivated zoom on broadcast TV.

The gum is a small detail that can make a big difference. When I watch pieces to critique, I mention things like that, but most folks won't notice.
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Old January 22nd, 2008, 01:28 PM   #8
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Thanks very much Mike. I see now what you mean about that opening sentence and you are right on the mark. it's weak.

Your suggestion for an alternate "grunting" opening is excellent! I do have plenty of that kind of footage. Dave is my brother and I've produced two amateur documentaries on him and his bodybuilding antics that have been very popular in the bodybuilding subculture. Here are a few clips...


Workout...

http://youtube.com/watch?v=5q2rd0dBc1Q

Contest problems...

http://youtube.com/watch?v=8cluyc24vqc

Death of a friend...

http://youtube.com/watch?v=ofpGg7rKIP0

We considered using some of Dave's workout footage in the commercial but we were afraid that the footage would be too "extreme" for the milder members of the gym who merely want to lose a few pounds and it might scare them away! I think I like the cheering contest shot as an opener better and may try that.

After a test period to see exactly where the commercial fails in its intended environment I plan to do a re-shoot and I will try using a tripod exclusively (and avoiding zooms!) in order to see the difference that it makes. In the meantime are there any sites that you know of that have articles or tutorials that will help me improve my hand held technique?
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Old January 22nd, 2008, 02:57 PM   #9
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You're a good sport, Michael!

I don't know of any articles on handheld technique. I don't know specifically what look you're going for, but let me give a few tips:

1) Be as steady as you can. The look I imagine here is a hint of handheld video, not a guy standing on a boat in a windstorm. Brace yourself against a chair, or a wall, or a piece of equipment. You can even brace yourself against your tripod. I know it's counterintuitive to get off the tripod to get the "handheld look" and then lean against said tripod to steady-up, but it works.

2) Stay wide, as much as you can.

3) Shoot 24p, or if you're stuck at 60i, at least de-interlace (in post). Film is where the whole look comes from, so ... make it look like film.

Another idea for the video as a whole is intersperse a few "tips" for what people are hiring a trainer for. So, do a segment on how the trainer can help you break your plateau, then show step by step tips for one of many exercises this trainer will do with you. Somebody would stop and watch that in a hallway, as opposed to walk right by.

I'm interested to see a future version of the video!
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Old January 23rd, 2008, 01:23 PM   #10
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Mike:

Could you define a "motivated" vs an "unmotivated" zoom for me?
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Old January 23rd, 2008, 01:41 PM   #11
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The unmotivated one just sits around drinking a beer.
sorry, couldnt resist!
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Old January 23rd, 2008, 02:00 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Allen Plowman View Post
The unmotivated one just sits around drinking a beer.
sorry, couldnt resist!
LOL! Some help YOU turned out to be!! ;-)
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Old January 23rd, 2008, 09:46 PM   #13
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I am biased toward the anti-zoom school of thought, and I don't know that I ever see a zoom that I like. I will sometimes do a slow (s-l-o-w) zoom on an interview subject because producers like it.

If I may explain a motivated pan (or tilt) first: If you were shooting a wide shot of the gym, and someone got off of a machine, and walked to another machine that was just out of frame, and you panned to see them get to their destination -- that would be a motivated pan. Your motivation is that you wonder where the subject is going, and the camera pans to follow them.

If your subject were close to you, and you had a head-to-toe shot of them, and they walked away from you, and you zoomed in to keep a head-to-toe shot of them ... that would be a motivated zoom.

Your eye doesn't operate with zooms and pans -- your eye operates with straight cuts. When you go into a strange surrounding, you first assess the situation (a wide shot), and then look at a variety of details. Signs posted on the wall, people serving food, patrons standing in line, what have you. You don't slowly glance from place to place (pan), nor do you look over at the counter and do a slow zoom to the menu. You look at the counter, and say "hey, there's the menu!" and you look at it. It's a cut, or at best, a snap zoom.

Now, when an attractive young lady walks away from the counter, and you gaze lovingly at her, and watch her as she sways to her table... that's a pan. (And a zoom.) It's motivated by you gazing at her.

Mike's no-zooms-no-pans-no-tilts school of thought, all in one easy post!
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Old January 24th, 2008, 04:20 AM   #14
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Mike,

You make it sound almost black & White. It's great you know the rules, but rules are there to be broken. You have a biased opinion to the reasons you would not use zooms, pans etc. In many situations I agree, but you can be creative with movement and slow zooms if you are handheld to great effect.

If you use the zoom correctly, for creative effect it, can look great, but if not then it just falls into the amateur variety which we see many examples of.

I'm one for rule breaking, and I do not have such a rigid approach as yourself(my opinion).

I think the video has achieved what it was set out to do.(my opinion again)

I personally hate all this hand held wobbly shots that are ment to be artistic and ohh so hard to achieve. Good luck to those who wish to take that route.

You said - "I will sometimes do a slow (s-l-o-w) zoom on an interview subject because producers like it."

Have you asked the producers why they like it???

John De Rienzo
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Old January 24th, 2008, 08:54 AM   #15
 
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Originally Posted by Mike Watson View Post
Mike's no-zooms-no-pans-no-tilts school of thought...
I have to agree, generally, with everything Mike has stated. Certainly, as somone pointed out, there is ALWAYS the exception to the rule(s).

Having said that, I am of the opinion that anyone, short of a seasoned professional, who says "I think rules are for breaking" either never understood the rules and/or never learned how to properly apply them. They simply use that as an excuse for sloppy work habits (that has been borne out by several years of teaching film-making on the college level). I believe the majority of the work shown here and on other sites (YouTube) will bear that out quite readily.

Regarding zooms. I think a valid argument could be made that a zoom (not a tracking shot where the camera physically moves closer) could be an outward or physical expression of what one may do when zeroing in on a specific item mentally. For example, the eye may be scanning a table top of interesting antiques. The eye then falls on one item that catches the viewer's attention. The viewer, not being able to draw closer physically, will concentrate all his vision and mental processes on that single object. In cinema, a zoom would be one way of "showing" this mental process. In this scenario, such a zoom could be considered "motivated."

Mike made some excellent suggestions. All who shoot video would be wise to apply his counsel to their shooting, if for no other reason, to "see" what he is talking about and how it "works."
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