Six months ago I was given a lead about United Community Action Network, or UCAN, a local social services company in Roseburg, Oregon. Among many other things, UCAN hosts a unique type of food pantry, The Outpost. The Outpost is what’s called a “mobile food center.” The best way I can describe it is to say that it’s a food pantry on wheels.
The Outpost was a recent addition to the services that UCAN had begun to offer. And Sarah McGregor, the food bank director at Feeding Umpqua, and Teresa O’Sullivan, the Outpost coordinator, both felt that they needed some sort of video in order to accomplish a couple of goals related to this new service.
Through our initial meetings, we identified the goals that the Outpost media needed to be optimized for.
- To raise money for the outpost through donations and grants
- To increase awareness of food insecurity and hunger in Douglas County
- To reduce stigma around accepting food assistance
And what they wanted a range of media that they could successfully use to accomplish these goals.
Problem: What, Exactly, Do We Want?
While Teresa and Sarah were clear on the outcomes that they wanted from the video, the format, look, feel, and style of the video content was unclear to them. Both were inexperienced in the video world, and neither had a solid plan for the number of videos, what particular content they wanted to be featured, who to interview, if anyone, or how to put the piece together.
Solution: The Three Coffees
My video production process is specially designed for this problem. Teresa and Sarah aren’t the first clients to come to me and say, “We want a video, but above and beyond that, we don’t know what we want.” And so I designed my process called “The Three Coffees” to help clients to get a solid, concrete, and effective plan for what video they want and how they are going to use it once it is produced.
The Three Coffees is a series of three “coffee dates” before a proposal and the production of the media.
The first is the “Product” meeting. At this meeting, we discuss the product, idea, or person that is going to be featured in the video. We discuss why it’s being featured, any interesting and unique aspects of it, why people should care about it, and any feelings related to it. Essentially, I get to know the product I’m going to be featuring in the media.
The second is the “Production” meeting. At this meeting, we discuss the format, look, style, length, number, graphics, logistics, shots, and locations of the video. Essentially, we decide how best to capture the product through the visual medium.
The third is the “Distribution” meeting. At this meeting, we talk about how the video will be showcased after it’s produced. Essentially this is how the client is going to get the video out there to achieve their goals once the video is done.
Through this process, the client and I get a much better grasp on what the purpose, content, style, and ultimate destination of the media we’re going to produce. This increases the likelihood that the clients will be satisfied with the video and will make their money back they invest in the production.
I took Teresa and Sarah through this process, and what we landed on was several interview-driven pieces about the outpost and the lives of the people who take food from it. The first video would be a longer, more holistic piece, and we would gather enough footage for several other 30 second spots purposed for both radio and television advertising.
Once we landed on the format of the videos it was time to get some shoots on the calendar. We decided to shoot an interview and b-roll at all four of the locations the Outpost currently served: Days Creek, Elkton, Camas Valley, and Diamond Lake Oregon.
However, this approach quickly revealed a problem: people struggle with the idea of being filmed in general, so how would they react to being captured going through a food pantry knowing that this video would be shown to many locals in the area?
The stigma around accepting social services is strong in rural Oregon. Many people feel ashamed to take food from pantries if they don’t feel like they “need” or “deserve” the help. This stigma is especially pronounced if they feel like they’re being recorded, and so the idea of bringing a camera to film random customers of the Outpost wasn’t workable for trying to respect the boundaries of the Outpost clientele. And all of us absolutely wanted to respect the boundaries and wishes of those accepting services from the Outpost.
Solution: Planning and Consent
Fortunately, this was a problem easily solved. We decided to get one volunteer from each location to do both an interview and be filmed shopping at The Outpost.
Actually getting these volunteers was the tough part, though. But heroically Teresa the Outpost coordinator stepped up to the plate. And through many phone calls, she got a volunteer from each location to volunteer to give an interview and be filmed.
For the last part of 2019 and the first quarter of 2020 we were in the filming process. We shot four interviews and four b-roll sessions at each of the locations plus two interviews with Sarah and Teresa and b-roll at the UCAN food bank in Roseburg. Happily, we went into editing with quite a bit of solid content and plenty of time to edit with.
The tentative goal was to finish by the end of February.
Fast forward to the end of April, the first and second cut of the project are finished, but the project has stagnated. Why?
At the beginning of every project, I include the word “tentative” in relation to the project schedule in the contract. Why? Through many years of making videos and films, I’ve learned that you can have a schedule, but very often circumstances – not mistakes on anybody’s part – can and often do delay the project. I use that word in the contract so that each of us can give all parties the grace of being behind schedule when and if things require pushing back the dates.
And sure enough, Coronavirus.
Now, fortunately by the time that Coronavirus lockdowns were in full swing, we had wrapped shooting. The only thing that was left to do was watch the videos and make the final changes.
However, once the virus hit and lockdowns became common, many people lost their jobs, and attendance at the food pantries increased. UCAN had to work through remote work for employees. and because the Outpost was rightly considered an essential service, they had to adapt to serve a clientele who could no longer be let on the actual post to shop for themselves.
Review stalled. And it wasn’t until two months later that we finally began to move forward with the remainder of the project review.
Sometimes there’s nothing that you can do to move a project forward, especially if clients are understandably busy with something far greater and more important than finishing a video. And it’s in those situations that you as a producer simply put down the phone, start Premiere Pro, pull up up a different project, and dive headfirst into something else until – like happened eventually with Coronavirus – things start to settle down a little bit and people have just a little extra time to review the video.
Ultimately, Sarah and Teresa liked the videos. They were pleased that – though it was a little longer than the originally anticipated 3-5 minute length – the longer video hit all the particular beats we discussed in the initial meetings. The videos will be posted on their social media, the Outpost website, used in advertising, and maybe fundraising.
The UCAN crew got two videos and a radio ad they are proud of, and I got the ability to add another video production to my belt. Plus I made some friends and had some deep and heartfelt conversations about food insecurity along the way.
Here’s the final videos:
Supplemental Media Package
One of the new media packages I am offering clients with each project is called the “Supplemental Media Package”. In most project that involve interviews, only about 1/10th of the video content from those interviews actually goes into the final cut of the video. There are hours of unused video content are recorded but, in many cases, never get used.
This was the case in the UCAN Outpost project. We had six perfectly good interviews with awesome content, most of which for relevance sake didn’t get used in the final videos.
Supplemental media packages take all this content and turn it into dozens of short media items that are perfect for use on Social Media, for email marketing, and on the website.
And that’s exactly what we did for the Outpost. For a little extra cost, the number of videos UCAN received from this project went from two to about ninety. The Supplementary Video Package also includes dozens of edited screenshots from the b-roll footage and the full, color corrected interviews as well.
With all of this media, The Outpost is going to have content for their social media and other marketing efforts for years to come, all as a result of contracting for just two videos with People Project Media. It’s a package with awesome value!
Project Lesson 1: Clean Your Freaking Lens…
There’s nothing worse than noticing when you’ve been shooting at F22 that there’s a bunch of random dust particles on your lens that you’ll have to remove with After Effects one by one. Thank God for After Effects…
Project Lesson 2: Check and Double-Check Your Camera Settings Before Shoot, Day 1
Another rough realization for me was that my camera settings had been reset after the first shoot from where I wanted them to a totally different camera setting. Initially, I wanted to shoot this project with SLog2 instead of SLog3 for ease of correction. SLog3 seemed to be too compressed to me and seemed to have issues being corrected based on reviews I’d read about my particular camera.
However, even after changing my settings before the first shoot on the project, with much angst and chagrin, I found after the shoot that the camera had reset to SLog3 and the entire day had been shot with that setting.
After much internal debate, I decided to stick with the SLog3 instead of having different footage settings to have to mess with. The footage turned out okay in the end, but I’m much happier with the current settings and the look they give me. SLog3 is too compressed, and I struggle to get it to look as good as SLog2. And I find unless you’re shooting RAW (which I am not) there is something lost when you bring out the saturation in color correction.
Project Lesson 3: Proxy Editing Process
Because I do not have a high-powered computer, I use proxy editing to increase the ease of editing HD files. In proxy editing, you compress the original HD footage to an SD format that your computer can handle, and then you do your editing. Once the edit is complete, you replace the compressed SD footage with the full-resolution and full-depth HD footage and export the project. It’s a wonder for those who want to be able to shoot and deliver in HD but who don’t have the funds available for the purchase of a top-of-the-line computer to handle this footage in real-time in the editing process.
Since this was the first project I tested this process out on, I made the mistake of creating proxies for every single one of the individual b-roll clips and interviews to be replaced later on. However, this is a time-consuming and frustrating process, especially if you make a mistake and have to re-export the files because of a change in settings. It’s also a nightmare for file management too.
A much easier process than I adopted as a result of the frustrations of this project was:
- Import all HD footage into Premiere Project
- Place all HD footage from a particular scene/location on a timeline
- Export the entire timeline as one, single proxy file
- Import the single proxy editing file into your editing project and use sub clipping to separate out the individual clips
- Once you’re ready to replace, simply go back to the original timeline and export out the file as full HD
- Replace the single b-roll proxy files
This is a much easier process because it reduces the number of clips needing to be replaced from hundreds down to between 1 and 10 depending on the project. It also allows you to make general changes to all the b-roll at the front end if you need to do so. It’s much cleaner for file management, and it forces you to go get to know your b-roll better because you have to sub clip out each file. This also forces you to pick the best of each “take” so that you know when you go to grab a file it’s the best of the bunch. All in all, a much better process.