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Archive for Video Inspiration

Autumn LeavesSeptember 22nd marked the official start of Fall. Yup, Summer is over folks. Time to pack away the sunscreen, find your most comfortable sweaters and dive headlong into a pile of crispy, golden leaves.

But before we do all that we thought we’d cast an eye back to those glorious summer months when the sun was shining and the weather was sweet. Here’s a few of the videos we were watching.

1. Timeless Beauty

Why we loved it: When it comes to video, the team at Illamasqua just get it. They provide valuable content that is perfectly pitched for their target audience. It resonates and engages because it adds value. We were pleased to see the team get the kudos they deserve in this post from The Guardian.

The Timeless Beauty videos are just one of an amazing collection of video tutorials that demonstrate the fact that Illamsqua know their audience. They understand the problems they face (e.g. how to apply a certain product) and provide the content to solve it. Amen to that.

2. Casual Films About Us

Why we loved it: People want to buy from people. This video does a great job of showing who Casual Films are, without being all “me, me, me”. It’s human and it’s humorous – two vital elements for any about us video. They’re not using buzzwords, they’re not blinding you with jargon, they’re saying hello, and it makes you want to work with them. Job done.

(On a side note we do actually get to work with them next month at our Video Marketing & Production meetup – yay!)

3. Free Flute Masterclass

Why we loved it: Free flute lessons from the world class musicians over at Principal Chairs. What’s not to love? We were also pretty pleased to see the use of our new Mail Catcher feature out there in the wild. It’s perfectly placed at the end of the video to capture the leads that the free content attracts – without being disruptive. The free content is still free. Everyone’s happy.

4. On Mailing Lists

Why we loved it: You can always rely on Derek Halpern over at Social Triggers to say it how it is. But he doesn’t just make wild claims without backing them up – this video details how mailing lists can drive extra traffic. And that’s pretty neat.

5. Search Marketing With BrightonSEO

Not one but TWO mentions for the team over at BrightonSEO whose marketing conferences contain some truly excellent advice.

Why we loved it: Creating fresh content is hard. Or rather, creating good fresh content is hard. Stacy Cavanagh’s talk taught us how to put process behind idea generation. Once you’ve got a bucket load of ideas you can then whittle these down and find the real stars of the bunch, rather than being forced to work with a concept that’s distinctly “meh”.

Why we loved it: Tim Grice’s talk was music to our ears – engaging content good for SEO? Huzzah! Video packs one heck of an engaging punch and the more people spreading the word the better :)

For more tasty video morsels follow us on Twitter, or subscribe to our newsletter and you’ll never miss a thing.

So that’s it for our Summer video round up. Time to batten down the hatches: Winter is coming.

Winter is coming

Categories Video Inspiration, Wider World
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“What are those things at the bottom of my video management page?”

Advanced Video Links

Beyond uploading & embedding it into your website there’s TONS more ways you can use your video throughout your business. There’s lots of really quite cool applications for it and the key to using many of these lies in your advanced video links.

You’ll find these links under each of your videos in your vzaar account. Let’s walk through what they are and what you can do with ‘em…

Animated Thumbnail
Poster Frame
HD Video
Download Video
Download Source File


1. Thumbnail

What is looks like: http://view.vzaar.com/xxxxxxx/thumb

What is does: Provides a teeny, tiny thumbnail image; 120px by 90px.

How to use it: Organising videos into a collection or gallery. Adding a large number of video players onto one page can mean it takes a long time to load. Instead, create a gallery of clickable thumbnails linking to the videos.

Why it’s useful: Well, aside from the benefit of shorter page loading times there links are particularly handy for two reasons…

    1. Saves time: you don’t need to wait for images to upload to your CMS, all you need to do is input the thumbnail link inside some image tags and hey presto, your video will appear.

    2. Dynamically updates: let’s say you decide to change your video’s poster frame, provided you’ve used this link in your CMS (as opposed to uploading a static image), your video gallery will update to match. No fuss, no muss.

The code: All you need to do is put this image link inside some some html image tags and then link this to your video. It’s that easy. For example, using this code:

<a href="http://vzaar.com/videos/1380051">
<img src="http://view.vzaar.com/1380051/thumb" alt="" /></a>

Will give you this result:


2. Animated Thumbnail

What is looks like: http://view.vzaar.com/xxxxxxx/athumb

What it does: Like the standard thumbnail but funkier. This is a link to a GIF image, which shows a collection of frames from your video.

How to use it: Pretty much like the regular thumbnail image. The difference is that this thumbnail also provides a little preview of the video itself.

Why it’s useful: As with the regular thumbnail you’ll again save time and your video gallery will dynamically update, but the real benefit of using the animation is that it will help to attract attention to your video and should result in lots of lovely video views.


3. Poster Frame

What is looks like: http://view.vzaar.com/xxxxxxx/image

What it does: Provides a larger image, either matched to the video’s frame size or 768px across (whichever is bigger). Unlike the thumbnail images, this asset matches the video’s aspect ratio.

How to use it: As a clickable image. Rather than embedding the video, just use the image to fill a decent space on your page. Then, when the image is clicked upon, you can either link to a separate video page, or use Javascript to open a lightbox.

Why it’s useful: There’s a few different benefits depending on how you are using the poster frame link. Two common use cases are:

  • For a video lightbox

    Since you’re only adding an image to your web page, instead of the entire video you can speed up loading times (and this is great both for your user experience and to aid your SEO endeavours). Many people also find lightboxed videos really help to focus the viewer’s attention so they come in handy if you’ve got a particularly important message and you need to make sure it isn’t missed!
  • Adding video to email

    Including a video in your email can increase click through rates by 96% (GetResponse). The problem is that many email providers don’t support video because they simply make the email file size too big. Adding the poster frame link into the email and linking to wherever your video is embedded means you can get the extra clicks without running into difficulties.


4. Video

What is looks like: http://view.vzaar.com/xxxxxxx/video

What it does: Links to the asset’s MP4 file, with an ‘inline’ content disposition.

How to use it: We’ve seen customers use this link for a lot of things in the past. These have included….

  • Playing a vzaar video in a third party player
  • Creating augmented reality applications
  • Media based applications in iOS and Android
  • To use within HTML5 video tags

Why it’s useful: Put simply, a lot of applications ask for it! To get them to work (and reap the benefits of each) this is the link to use. Let’s go through three of the most popular ones…

Layar: If you’re business that produces a lot of print materials you can add a “Layar” of interactivity (see what I did there :P). Customers scan the print on their mobile and up pops your video. Layar report that customers are 165% more likely to buy a product when it contains an augmented reality component of this kind.

Twitter Player Cards: Twitter have a nifty little feature that lets you add video to your tweets so that the content plays in your audience Twitter feeds (rather than having to click the link to view elsewhere). By enabling Twitter Player Cards your tweet will take up much more space, attracting attention and driving extra engagement. The blog post here will teach you how to enable this.

Slider Revolution: This is a WordPress plugin which lets you create a revolving banner for your website so you can display different messages. By selecting HTML5 from the video options and entering this link you can add your video to one of the banner slides.


5. HD Video

What is looks like: http://view.vzaar.com/xxxxxxx/video/hd

What it does: Added bonus! If you’re using dual-encoding, we’ll give you separate HD and SD video links. Giving you just that little bit of extra choice.

How to use it: This link can be used in the exact same way as the video link. You could even write a little JavaScript to switch between the two.


6. Download Video

What it looks like: http://view.vzaar.com/xxxxxxx/download

What it does: Links to the asset’s MP4 file, with an ‘attachment’ content disposition.

How to use it: This links to exactly the same file as the /video link. The difference is the content-disposition header we’ve given it. Opening this link will automatically download the video’s MP4 file.

Why it’s useful: It’s great for quickly sharing project files at work, or giving users the option to save a video for later.


7. Download Source File

What it looks like: http://view.vzaar.com/xxxxxxx/source

What it does: This is another MP4 file link, which becomes available if you’re using source storage. Like the other download links, it has the ‘attachment’ content disposition.

How to use it: These links will let you and your team access those original files quickly, whenever you need them.

Why it’s useful: Source storage let’s you keep a backup of all your video’s original files. If you can’t find your video file locally you don’t need to panic – so long as you’ve got Source Storage enabled you can just go to your vzaar account and download the source file.

Get Started

So there we go! A few ideas to whet your appetite. As always we’re on hand to walk you through any of this stuff so give us a call or drop us a line.

Login to your vzaar account or sign up for a 30 day free trial (no credit card needed!) to give it a go. Let us know how you get on :)


This week we thought we’d give you a bit of a glimpse behind the scenes of our new Mail Catcher video. We’ve already mentioned how we balanced the lighting outdoors and perfected our voiceover but that’s all part of the production phase. Before you actually post your video there’s an important stage you must not miss: reviewing your video content.

And this is no mean feat. It involves being critical of your own work. What seemed like a good idea in your storyboard doesn’t always work. When faced with this situation you have to force yourself to cut something which you lovingly crafted and spent time bringing to life.

But it happens to everyone. And it happened to us in the Mail Catcher video. The good news is that, every time you spot something that went wrong, you can learn from it for your next video. We thought it would be a helpful exercise to work through our own reviewal process; pointing out what worked, what didn’t work, what we changed and why.

OK, first I need to let you see the first edit of the video (and this wouldn’t normally see the light of day). Deep breath. OK I’m good, here it is:

Make It Obvious

A lot of our videos rely on explaining something with a metaphor. We do this because when we have a complex feature it’s helpful to relate it to something else. But this metaphor? This was a mess.

What’s with all the balls? Why is Lawrence putting them in a tote bag? What is going on??!

Let me explain…

With Mail Catcher we hit upon the idea of equating email addresses to tennis balls. These tennis balls would be thrown at Lawrence (and then we realised they hit really hard and changed to foam balls :P). He would catch them (Mail Catcher – right) and add them to his mailing list (which for reasons I can’t quite explain or remember, ended up being his lovely tote bag).

But for this to work – in fact for any narrative to work – it had to be really clear. You can’t rely on your audience just “getting” it, they’re not mind readers. And when we reviewed our footage our metaphor really wasn’t clear. But we knew it could be.

First off, we needed an actual “catch” instead of just a smiley Lawrence (which is nice but doesn’t really make our point:))


Then we needed to make it clear that the foam balls were email addresses, so we added a shot of an email address written on the ball. We also scrapped that tote bag and entered the email addresses into a spreadsheet. The shot of the email address being typed just cements the fact that it’s email addresses we’re collecting here.


Take away: What seems crystal clear to you isn’t necessarily going to be clear to everyone else. You are not your target audience. You are already familiar with your product and what it can do. Let someone else take a look at your storyboard, someone from outside the company if you can.

Every Shot Counts

We wanted to show that collecting email addresses manually is hard. Constantly juggling email lists while more and more email addresses are “thrown” your way wastes a massive chunk of valuable time. So (in the original edit) we threw loads of those foam balls Lawrence’s way.

Two problems with this shot.

    1. Lawrence looks completely unruffled by this. In fact his expression borders on amused, rather than flustered:

    2. It didn’t really look like there were a lot of balls here. You just didn’t get the impression of someone drowning in email addresses.

The shot didn’t work with our narrative – in fact it detracted from it. The only option we had here was to reshoot the scene. We co-ordinated our ball throwing so they didn’t come into shot in dribs and drabs. And we made sure that our subject actually looked stressed by the inundation of email addresses.

Takeaway: Lawrence’s amused expression was entirely NOT Lawrence’s fault. I’ll admit, throwing lots of foam balls at your colleagues is a pretty fun way to spend the afternoon. But you can’t be laughing off screen and expect the person on screen to be totally unaffected. I’m not saying your video shoot has to be deadly serious; we’ve found that creating a fun atmosphere brings out better performances from our team. But just remember that sometimes you need to put a sock in the merriment for a minute or so. whats_my_motivation

It would also have helped if we’d taken the time to explain the script a little more to Lawrence. At this point all he really knew was “ok we’re going to throw some foam balls at you and you need to sit there and take it”. And this was a mistake, we couldn’t expect him to look flustered if he didn’t know what we were trying to show.

You may also notice we switched out Lawrence for Terry. This was mostly because we were working to a tight schedule and Lawrence took a few days leave to get over the emotional trauma of being bombarded with tiny yellow balls (I’m joking he just had some leave to take…really…). This, actually, wasn’t too much of a problem – we ended up reshooting a lot of the video so all of Lawrence’s sections wound up being edited out. But, we could have found ourselves in a situation of having to reshoot perfectly usable takes; for no good reason other than our talented Mr Sears was no longer available.

Lesson learned? When planning your shooting schedule make sure to calendar in a reshooting session (even if you never need it) and let everyone involved know when they’ll need to be available. That way your team can shout up if they can’t make it and you can either rejig your filming dates or just use another willing victim team member.

Are You As Funny as You Think You Are?

We try and inject a bit of humour into all of our videos. We’re firm believers that a great video always has a great punch line. We actually wrote three alternate endings for our Mail Catcher video.

    1. Lawrence slips on the discarded foam balls strewn all over the floor
    2. Lawrence completely buried in a pile of foam balls
    3. Giant fit ball flies in and knocks Lawrence over.

I actually laughed out loud when Terry suggested the third one (maybe that’s just me…). So it passed the test and we decided to run with it. The trouble is, we didn’t stop to think about the logistics of doing this. It was a case of really liking an idea and being determined to fit it in to our video somehow. We quickly realised that we weren’t going to be able to knock Lawrence over with a big ball without it looking super staged and forced. Our solution was to throw the ball gently at an already sitting Lawrence. Except this completely took the funny out of the scene…

Faced with the funny ending being decidedly unfunny we just scrapped it. And ended our Mail Catcher video at the end of the screencast.

Except… we still didn’t like this. We had a touch of humour in our script “say balls to doing it the hard way” and yet a very sober ending. The visual just wasn’t right. So we went back to the original concept of the big fit ball crashing into Lawrence Terry. We decided that since we couldn’t show this convincingly, we actually didn’t have to. The power of suggestion can work wonders. We decided to make the moment of contact between gigantic bouncing ball and human take place off screen. Then we added in the crashing sound effect, and suddenly the ending was much tighter and much more amusing.

Take away: if you’ve got three different ideas don’t just scrap two of them because you’re sure one will work. It might not. Film all three. It gives you options to work with in the edit. If we’d had an alternative maybe we wouldn’t have had to reshoot.

Bonus: if you can’t do something on screen, do it off screen instead. The power of suggestion works. Use it.

A few final thoughts…

Not every video you put out there will be perfect. It’s a learning process and the best way to learn is to cast a critical eye on what you did. Try to think about what you could have done better. This can be a hard thing to do. My best advice is to sleep on everything you do. Don’t make changes and then review them in the same breath – disconnect from your video for a bit. In my case I like to come back to it with a fresh mind the next day, but if you’re on a deadline and don’t have a few days in which to polish your video you could… take lunch, read a blog post, reply to a few of your emails. Anything really, as long as it takes your mind away from, “does this shot work?”

I’ve also found – from writing this very blog post in fact – that making notes of what you’re changing and why is very helpful. I’m actually going to start writing notes on all our future videos; even if we only ever use them internally. Writing down your thought processes brings a lot of clarity (at least, it does for me). It forces you to put into words the reasons why you’re making the decisions you’re making and gives you something to:

a) look back on for future videos and;
b) calls you out when you write something like, “we didn’t like this shot”, without justifying why you didn’t like it and what you’re going to do about it.

So now, I guess all that remains to say is: if you want to see the finished version of the video AND learn a little about getting the most from Mail Catcher to boot, check out the blog post here…enjoy!


Categories Video Inspiration, Video Marketing
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Adding video to your site has the potential to send conversions soaring. You may be familiar with some of these statistics…

  • Videos increase conversion by 64 – 85% (Kissmetrics)
  • 96% of consumers find videos helpful when making purchase decisions online (Animoto)
  • 174% increased conversion rate for Step2 when they started using product videos (Retail Touchpoints)

But, it’s important to remember that a successful video marketing campaign doesn’t just mean pointing your camera, hitting record and then embedding the finished product in your website. Hold your horses! Before all that there’s an important planning step – skip this at your peril!

You need to be thinking about why you are creating video and who it is for. It’s important to think about what stage in the sales funnel your audience are in. And create the appropriate content to support them through that stage. Let’s take a look at the type of videos that work well in the various stages.

1. Awareness

Here you’re targeting an audience who are unfamiliar with your brand. You want to make them sit up and take notice of what you’ve got to say, and – crucially – they need to remember you.

The best way to do this is to connect emotionally with the viewer. Try to attach a creative story to your brand one that makes the audience really feel something. The best emotions to instil in your viewers? Well, Unruly Media found..

  • Exhilaration most successful at getting people to remember something. Videos which incorporated this had 65% recall.
  • Hilarity came in a close second with 51% recall

If you haven’t already I’d encourage you to check out Unruly’s excellent Science of Video Sharing video for more details.

2. Consideration & Evaluation

Here your potential customers have identified they have a problem and they’re actively seeking a solution. Your job is to make them confident that that solution is you.

Your video content here should be telling viewers who you are, how you’re different and what your product does.

Explainer Videos

Explainer videos, as the name suggests, explain what the product or service you’re offering. These work particularly well if you’ve got a fairly novel product that your audience aren’t going to be immediately familiar with.

They present sometimes complex information in a simple manner, often using animation to bring the visual to life (by the way check out GoAnimate for a really easy drag & drop way to create these.)

About Us Videos

If your customer has a short list of say, 3 brands, and you’re all selling the same – or very similar – products, an about us video can work wonders. People like to buy from people, not from a faceless company. About us videos are one way to help connect and identify with your consumer. And could just make you stand out from the crowd.

Bow and Drape about us video

Bow and Drape connect with likeminded consumers with the story behind the brand.

Product Videos

Product videos should be embedded on your product page and provide additional information about said product. Often when shopping online it’s difficult for consumers to know exactly what’s going to arrive on their doorstep in a few days time.

Product videos help increase confidence that your customer is buying what they think they’re buying. They should show the product from all angles, explain how it works, and show where it can be used.

Just bats product video

Justbats.com explain which type of bat is best suited for your needs.

Client Testimonials

These are a form of social proof. Letting your customers know that other people have bought your product/service and are happy with it can be a powerful influencer. In fact, consumer reviews are nearly 12 times more trusted than descriptions that come from the brand itself (Ambitious Marketer).

If you want to incorporate video testimonials on your own site, Bravo is a nifty piece of software which will allow you to capture them using your customers own webcam.

Post Conversion

Congratulations the customer converted (and here a conversion could mean buying a product, submitting a form or signing up to a free trial)! But don’t stop there. Now is the time to delight your customer and keep them coming back for more.

How To and Training Videos can work really well here – they’ll ensure that your customer is using your product properly and really benefitting from choosing you. In fact, we use these a lot ourselves, creating video screencasts that show our clients where they should click in their account to achieve a particular goal.


Ready to convert customers with your own videos? Check out how vzaar can help your business here.

Fire Up Video Marketing

It’s been a long week. Your to do list has been never-ending. And you still haven’t summoned the energy to put together that video script your boss wanted. Never mind plan a storyboard that really pops. So you sit at your desk and wait for the blank page to magically fill with some juicy copy.

Sound familiar?

Now, we can’t write your script and plan your storyboard for you. What we can do though is try to provide you with that little spark of inspiration from which beautiful videos grow. So here goes…

    1. “Authenticity, honesty and personal voice underlie much of what’s successful on the web” – Rick Levine, Cluetrain Manifesto

    2. “Effective engagement is inspired by the empathy that develops simply by being human.” – Brian Solis, Altimeter Group

    3. “Traditional marketing talks at people. Content marketing talks with them.” – Doug Kessler, Velocity Partners

    4. “If your marketing connects with them emotionally, they are going to remember it, share it and buy it. Figuratively, and literally.” – Christine Perkett, PerkettPR

    5. “If you sell something, you make a customer today. If you help someone, you may create a customer for life. The key to success – the key to marketing that people love – is to stop being a salesman, and start becoming a Youtility.” – Jay Baer

    6. “Marketers must now give buyers what they want – information that answers their questions and needs. The best way to do that in 2014 is through high quality content. Content that engages and satisfies what a buyer is looking for will be listened to and will be much more effective.” – Jon Whiting, Three Motion

    7. “Less is more. Keeping it simple takes time and effort.” – Jeff Bullas

Hope it helps!


Categories Video Inspiration, Video Marketing
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