We’ve just filmed this month’s video talking about our video advertising feature. We spent a lot of time on this, as actually, we’ve done in the past, trying to think up cool and interesting concepts to tell our story. And we kind of got to a point of “why are we spending so much time?” What we should be doing is repeatedly using a creative device.

What Is A Creative Device?

A creative device is basically exactly what it says on the tin; it is a device you use in a creative fashion to help tell your story, make a video, whatever. You could consider a creative device to be where you shoot something. For instance, we always shoot in this room with this backdrop, this lighting. So, if we need to go and shoot a talking head we know exactly what we’re doing: come in, set the camera up, mic on, go – it’s easy.

The creative device that I’m talking about for this video is a stylistic one, and the style was EPIC.

Why Should You Use Creative Devices?

Once you’ve decided on your creative device, it makes life so much simpler to conceptualize. Instead of sitting in a meeting going “how should we tell this story?” what you can now say “how can we tell people about advertising…in an epic fashion?”

It narrows down the criteria and makes it much easier to come up with a concept. You know (kind of) what you’re gonna try and do in the first place, you just need to add a story in around it.

This is now our go-to process for shooting videos. We spend less time deliberating over the immaterial aspects of the video and keep a strong focus on the topic at hand. Next time you shoot a video, try using a creative device and let us know how you got on.

Real People On VideoFor a long time now, we’ve been big fans of showing the real people behind our company. In fact, I think pretty much every member of our team has made some sort of appearance on camera. Not only in our videos, but right the way through our site. We want to show the personality behind our brand.

And in the January issue of Figaro Digital I was pleased to see that the experts agree…

“People still respond best to people” – Georgia Marshall-Brown, Origin.

“Nobody likes a faceless brand – employees have a vital role to play, whether in the physical retail environment or within your digital spaces.” – Alex Murray, Waitrose.

Hear hear.

If you’re looking to bring the personal touch to your own website, video makes the perfect medium. Why? Well, it’s very good for connecting on an emotional level with your consumer. And neuroscience can back me up on this. Dr. Susan Weinschenk gives 4 key reasons we’re programmed to respond to video on an emotional level:

1. Our brains pay attention to faces

2. Voices convey rich information

3. Emotions are contagious

4. Movement is attention grabbing

(I won’t go into all the science she mentions here, but if that kind of thing is your bag you can read (and watch!) more here.)

So I thought this week I’d take a page out of Figaro Digital’s book magazine, and discuss this whole “being human” thing. How can you maximise it’s potential?

What Do You Want To Say?

Before you rush into making your video stop and take a step back. It’s important to be sure that you’re making the video for the right reasons. Not just because it’s the latest buzzword. But because you’ve got a message for your audience and this is the best medium in which to tell it (which it probably is if you’re going for that emotional connection I mentioned above). Skip Fedura of Dotmailer has some sage advice,

“Imagine your customer was right there in the room and ask yourself, ‘What should I say to this customer?'”

You’re really looking to identify those situations where the online consumer would normally be helped along by someone on the shop floor.

Form Follows Function

It can be quite tempting to produce a very glossy, over produced video. And that’s fine – if it aligns with your video goals (I’m thinking for instance, if you’re going for raising brand awareness). If, however, your goal is to connect on that emotional level, you don’t have to spend mega bucks. The value of your video does not lie in how many special effects you cram in there.

Instead, a friendly face and a compelling message can pay dividends. Of course, it isn’t always easy for people who have never been on camera to relax and act natural. And it’s an issue we’ve faced ourselves. If this is something you’re also struggling with, here are a few tips that have really worked for us.

Get Video Delivery Right

The real area you have to invest in is making sure the streaming experience is smooth. Consumers may be forgiving if you haven’t got high production values. They won’t forgive long loading times and buffering. Be sure your videos will play anywhere in the world, on any device (and yes vzaar can help with this). Shameless plug over.

Seriously, though, the viewing experience is all important. A study by Conviva found that videos with long buffering times can have a catastrophic impact on engagement. In most cases viewers will abandon the video before the one minute mark (ReelSEO). So if you haven’t got a reliable video host you may find that the content you spent time and effort creating, just isn’t reaching its potential.

Final Thoughts…

“Humans are designed to have interpersonal relationships. In a socially connected world that values conversation over one-way marketing messages, bringing the personality of your brand to life through your people is increasingly important.” – Alex Murray, Waitrose.

Thanks Alex, couldn’t have said it better myself :)

making vzaar videosOver the last year or so we’ve been on a bit of a quest to learn more about how to make business videos that work. And we’ve tried to share that with you all via our various blog posts.

I thought this week, I’d pull all those various tips, tricks and bits of advice into one post. So here is your go to guide to the video production lessons we’ve learned the hard way – so you shouldn’t have to!

1. Get The Brief Right

If you’re using a video production agency then it’s really, really important that you brief them properly. Both parties should be crystal clear on what type of video you need for your business – that way there’s no surprises when the end product comes through. We chatted with video pros TNR Communications on this back in October; they told us there’s 7 questions your brief should answer.

    1. 1. What’s your video objective?


    1. 2. How much video budget do you have?


    1. 3. Who is your target audience?


    1. 4. Where will the video be filmed?


    1. 5. Who will be in your video?


    1. 6. When is your deadline?


    7. Do you have any stock footage to use?

Answer those questions and you’ll have a pretty decent brief from which to create a business video that will meet your goals.

Read More

How To Brief A Video Production Company (Properly!)

2. Planning is Everything

Planning Your Business Video

When you’ve got a great idea for a video often it can be tempted to just *do* it. Don’t. You’ll wind up reshooting sections because you haven’t got the footage you expected. We use a 4 stage plan that works pretty well for us:

    1. 1. Conceptualise


    1. 2. Test


    1. 3. Take a break


    4. Reassess

Essentially, you need to brainstorm some ideas and ask a few key critical questions (do I have the budget for this, is this relevant to my audience…), test the concept, give your brain a chance to digest and rest, and then reassess your plan with a fresh pair of eyes. Rinse and repeat this as many times as it takes until you’ve got a video plan that you’re satisfied with.

Read More

Video Retrospective: Learning From Our Mistakes

3. Collaborate Early

Really, this falls into the planning section of your video campaign. But it’s important so I wanted to pull it out into a separate point. Think about all the assets you need for your video. Want some nifty graphics? Tell your designer. Want a colleague to star? Make sure they know about it.

The point is, everyone is busy with their own work. If you need something from them it’s best to make sure they’ve got plenty of notice. That way you’re not springing a job on them right at the last minute. That’s just stressful for everyone. Not cool.

Read More

Video Retrospective: Learning From Our Mistakes

4. Vary the Visual

A 90 second business video which is just one long take can be pretty boring (not to mention hard to pull off without your talent fluffing their lines!). Our advice is to vary the visual to keep your viewers interest – especially if you’ve got a longish story to tell.

Video production agency Casual Films shared with us their top tip, “Vary the visual. You could, for example, use hand drawn illustrations which will bring the benefits of animation, without the associated costs of computer generation.

Read More

How To Make The Most Of Your Video Budget

5. Get A Bit Of B Roll

two camera set up making business videos

Having a two camera set up makes the edit *so* much easier. It gives you with a bit of extra footage so that you can vary the visual, for a start.

But it’s also great if you find that you have an unusable take. You can just cut to the b-roll until the a-roll can kick in again.

Read More

Making Great Business Videos: The Benefits Of B Roll

6. Video Kit doesn’t have to cost the earth

Making Business Videos - Using Light Reflector

One thing we’ve struggled with when filming outdoors is the Great British weather. You may think that to combat poor lighting conditions you need a fancy lighting rig. Not so. You can make your own light reflector fairly easily. You just need a big piece of white card, some tin foil, some sticky tape and voila.

Another great tip is to steady a flimsy tripod by weighting it with a brick on a piece of string. There’s all sorts of little hacks you can try out that mean you don’t need to spend a fortune, and we’re looking forward to experimenting with some more this coming year – so stay tuned for more on that.

Read More

How To: DIY Light Reflector

7. Use Real People

Here at vzaar we always use real team members in our business videos. It lends an air of authenticity and shows the human side of our business. Of course it can be tricky. Not everyone is at home in front of the camera, but there’s a few ways you can help put your talent at ease:

    1. 1. Get them to practice in front of the camera first. Nothing prepares you for being on camera, like being on camera.


    1. 2. If you’re behind the camera make sure you keep smiling. It’s contagious.


    3. Accept mistakes – they happen to everyone. Laugh about it. Make sure they know it’s not a big deal.

Read More

The Secrets To Getting Comfy On Camera

8. Save Time In The Video Edit By Shooting Right

It’s surprising how much footage you’ll amass just for a 90 second video. And come editing time it can be a real nightmare to sift through it all. We save time during the edit by using a few different techniques during the shoot itself:

    1. 1. Tails on takes give you a bit of room to play with.


    1. 2. Mark a good take with hand swipe in front of the lens so you can find it again easily.


    3. Clap to mark audio to help you sync the audio by providing a big peak to work from.

Read More

6 Stunningly Simple Ways To Destress Your Video Shoot

9. Shoot More Than You Need

It’s a lot easier to shoot extra footage while you’ve got the camera set up and everyone you need is in the room. It’s better to have too much to play with, rather than find out later you need an extra shot and have to set everything up all over again.

We’ve found this holds particularly true whenever we try to inject humour into our videos. What’s funny on paper isn’t always funny in real life. It’s better to film a few different alternatives so you can work out what works best for your particular business objectives.

Read More

Our Video Mistakes (And How We Fixed ‘Em)

10. Video Retrospective

Making great business videos means you need to be constantly improving and thinking critically. Always, always look back on what you did. All of the insights listed here have come from taking the time to analyse our processes. In fact we’ve started to share a lot of that process with you in our video retrospective blog posts. Making notes during all stages of your video process is a good habit to get into. That way you can look back through and question why you did what you did, and whether you can improve on anything next time.

Because of these video retrospectives, we’ve made lots of changes in the past year. For example, we:

    1. 1. Bought a second camera to allow us to capture B roll


    1. 2. Formalised our planning process


    1. 3. Allowed more time for planning, shooting, editing


As always, we hope that’s useful. We like to share our video making process in the hopes that when we mistakes, it means you don’t have to.

Until next time, bye for now.

Learn How To Make Business Videos Work

two camera set up making business videosLet me tell you a story. It’s a story of how we set out to create awesome business videos. Armed with naught but a penchant for photography and a well loved DSLR. Over the years we’ve really ramped our video production efforts up. Not only in the amount of video we make, but also in its complexity.

Insert montage here. I’m thinking clips of us pressing record, scratching our heads whilst storyboarding, firing up Final Cut Pro, whilst “Eye Of The Tiger” plays in the background. You know the kind of thing.


As our videos have gotten more and more complicated we’ve run into trouble. We tend to shoot pretty lean. Only shooting what we need, with nothing we don’t, and with one single camera. And that was fine when we weren’t doing anything particularly complicated. But these days it’s getting more and more difficult to produce the goods.

So here’s our solution: B roll.

Using B roll can make your life *so* much easier…

Video Making Problem 1: Varying The Visual

Ahh, good old talking heads. Often the simplest (and cheapest!) option. But they can also be fairly dry.

The problem isn’t the talking head per se. It’s just that quite often the shot gets stale. If you’re only using the one camera you can’t vary the visual. You’re stuck with 90 seconds of pretty much the exact same shot.

It’s amazing the difference a bit of B roll makes. It gives the viewer something else to look at, keeps the video fresh and adds a bit of pace to the whole thing.

Video Making Problem 2: Not Enough Footage In The Edit

If you have a single camera set up you’re really limiting yourself when it comes to the edit. Let’s imagine that (for whatever reason) you don’t have a usable take. Maybe your talent fluffed the line, maybe a siren went by outside, maybe you accidentally had your mic in shot. If you’ve got a bit of B roll all you need to do is cut to it, and then resume with the A roll when it makes sense to do so.

If you’ve not got B roll you either have to rack your brain thinking of an overlay, or resort to a jump cut. Sometimes that’s ok. Sometimes it can get a little unsettling for the viewer. And most times it means you spend so much more time on the edit than you really need to.

Video Making Problem 3: Time Consuming Reshoots

If your jump cuts are giving you motion sickness, and if you really can’t think of an overlay, your only option is to reshoot. This is really a big hassle; you have to set up all the kit (again), badger your esteemed colleagues to give up just a bit more time to take starring roles, and so on and so forth.

B roll gives you more options to work with. In fact, in our new Christmas video we actually had nearly two hours of footage (an hour from camera A, and an hour from camera B). And I can’t tell you how much quicker and smoother the edit went.

Plus, we now have a lot of unseen footage we can choose to use again if we need to. Everyone loves a good blooper reel, right?


You may remember last month we wrote about our video mistakes and how we fixed them. Well, I’m (err kind of) pleased to announce that on our latest video shoot for Tinypass Integration – we made a few more! But it wasn’t all doom and gloom on this video shoot – we also tried out some of the techniques we learnt from our last video efforts (you can read about those here). Here’s what went right, and what we can do better next time…

What Went Right

Avid blog fans will remember that the last time we made a video we wound up having to reshoot huge chunks of it. Once we saw the actual footage we realised it just wasn’t clear what on earth was going on.

We didn’t fall into this trap again. Instead, we added a pre planning phase to our video process. The aim of this phase was to sort the wheat from the chaff. I’ll admit it; sometimes we’re guilty of becoming fixed on an idea and then just going with it (hence last month’s heavy reshoot). If you go straight into planning you often don’t realise the silly ideas – until it’s too late. The pre planning stage helped us to get over that, simply because it *wasn’t* the planning stage. We went through 4 stages of pre planning:

– Video Conceptualisation

Throw a few ideas around and discuss how they work. You’re looking for *any* idea – no matter how crazy it sounds – so don’t create a hyper critical atmosphere. Everyone involved should feel comfortable to share. Jot all the ideas down and move on.

Ok, now you can criticise. And when I say criticise I don’t mean “that would never work!” or “that idea is a load of rubbish”. Take each one in turn and simply ask questions about it. Start off with some higher level questions:

Video Pre Planning

  • Is this relevant for my audience?
  • Will this make the viewer feel something?
  • Is this likely to meet my goal?
  • If an idea makes it through this first pass you can get into the nitty gritty:
  • What would the location be?
  • What props would we need?
  • How do we create x, y z?
  • Simply by asking the right questions you can often weed out which ideas you should scrap.- Test Your ConceptSometimes it’s difficult to see on paper how something actually looks in real life. Having the footage in front of you brings things to life in a way that words on a page can’t. It makes it easier to tell if something is a particular idea is a non-starter. We used an iPhone to just walk through a few of the shots.- Do NothingSeriously, take a break. Enthusiasm for an idea can sometimes get the better of you. When we went back to review our test footage we scrapped the initial idea and went in a different direction. If you’d asked me before the break I would have told you I loved the idea and I was really excited to get going on the video shoot. Not so much when we went back and reassessed. If you give yourself a break and you STILL love what you’ve come up with, the chances are it’s not half bad!- ReassessOur initial idea was “cash for clicks”. Our lovely video star Virginia would set up the Tinypass integration on her vzaar videos (with a few clicks of a mouse button) and in the cash would roll. To demonstrate, we decided we would show people watching various videos. Virginia would click, and cash would appear. Still with me? If that sounds confusing, it may explain a little about why we scrapped it.The problem was, the cash really appears when your viewers click to pay. So in that case shouldn’t the viewers be the ones clicking? But then, we also want to show that it’s really easy to set up the pay wall so we kind of need Virginia to click as well. Maybe everyone could click? Or maybe no-one…? Or maybe…?We were tying ourselves into knots to try and make the clicking for cash work. This is a bad sign. If we couldn’t understand the link between the clicks and the cash, how could we expect everyone else to?Despite our initial enthusiasm we realised we were just forcing the concept to work. So we just came up with a new one. And then we went through our questions again until we were confident it could work: “Does it achieve our goal?”, “Does it make people feel something”…

    What Can We Do Better?

    We may have learned from past mistakes, but that didn’t stop us making a few new ones:

    1. Plan For Bad Weather

    For this video we decided we’d shoot outdoors. In the UK. In November. Perhaps not so surprisingly, on the day of the shoot we were met by very dull, gloomy skies.

    This gave us the chance to learn something new: how to brighten a shot – even when the conditions are dull. We added extra bits of colour and interest to the shot and used all the light available. Then in the edit we experimented with a bit of color grading. You can watch our in house video producer Terry explain the specifics here.

    I’m not saying that we’ll never make this mistake again. Even in the Summer it can be pretty hard to predict the British weather. But, if this does happen to us again, we know exactly what to do about it (and now so do you!)

    Take Away: if something goes wrong don’t panic. Fixing it gives you the opportunity to learn something new.

    2. Collaborate Earlier

    In this video we decided to overlay some graphics as a way of showing what was going on on the computer screen. We spent quite a lot of time trying to fashion a good looking set of graphics to use. And then we asked our designer and she did it in less than half the time.

    It’s always great to learn new skills, but since we were editing to a deadline it would have been better to get our designer in from the get go. We would have saved time, and given her longer to prep. Lesson learned.

    Take Away: when you’re in the planning stage ask yourself who from the rest of your team needs to be involved to bring your vision to life.

    Final Thoughts

    Analysing what went wrong in our video production efforts is helping us to make or whole process much smoother, and hopefully resulting in some much more interesting videos! I highly recommend adding an evaluation stage after you’ve created the finished product. You’d be surprised how much clarity it brings, you can really see the crinkles that need to be smoothed. By sharing our own successes (and failures!) we hope it helps you too.

    Here’s to our next video! In the meantime you can check out the final version of our Tinypass video here. Enjoy :)