Monday, 26 September 2016

Great Videos from Ordinary Businesses - BrewDog

You want your website landing page to convert prospects into customers in bucket loads, but is your bucket a kid’s seaside holiday bucket or a one-gallon milk pail?

You want your landing page to be as effective as possible and according to Unbounce, a leader in landing page marketing, “using video on landing pages can increase conversion by 80%”. So why is video an under used tool, especially by small businesses and solo-entrepreneurs. In my experience business people think it’s too expensive, too difficult and most often of all, they don’t want to get in front of the camera.  

To be honest, I hate networking and social events because I am quite shy but I know I have to do it to grow my business. It is the same when it comes to using a marketing tool like video, get over your embarrassment, forget what you think you look or sound like and just do it. With that in mind, we examine what happens when a couple of brewers get out from behind their kegs and step in front of the camera.

Live Beer by BrewDog

In the third in the series we look at Live Beer by Drewdog, a company from the northeast of Scotland whose marketing and company ethos is as refreshing as their beer.

I am these guys! Actually I’m not but I wish I was. They’re not professional presenters but they are the guys from the brewery who live and breathe their business and product.
They hate the big mega corporations and they love making something special to share with others. They’ve even “open-sourced” their beer recipes; go to their website and you can download their recipe archive and make their beer in your own kitchen.
These guys experimented with their beer recipes for 2 years before going commercial in Fraserburgh (Scotland). Their business quickly grew and they moved the BrewDog headquarters to nearby Ellon, an Aberdeenshire town very familiar to me since I lived nearby for about ten years.

Their primary goal isn’t to become multi-billionaires, although I wouldn’t be surprised if they achieve it, but to share their passion. As their T-shirts say, “We bleed Craft Beer”. They are a couple of good guys with shovel loads of passion and a love of making good beer – that’s something their customers can identify with. You do not care that they are not top-notch when it comes to video presentation, they are as authentic and honest and the product they make and sell. That’s a lesson many business owners can learn. You don’t have to be perfect in front of the camera, you just need to show that you believe in and love your business, product or service. After all, if you do not, why should a potential customer?

Most of the video is in black and white, that, without having say it out aloud, articulates a feeling that they are reaching back to when small brewers made great real beer that is neither sterilised, homogenised nor any other kind of “-ised”. BrewDog Live Beer is real ale for modernists and their video conveys that message very well.

As their YouTube channel says, “Love hops and live the dream”, so pass over a BrewDog Live Beer and cheers!

Key takeaway from this video

This video uses the video technique of “piece-to-camera”, a technique used daily on news, magazine and talk shows.

Despite being called “piece-to-camera” the BrewDogs are not talking to the camera but instead talking through it to communicate directly with the viewer. Note that I say “viewer” and not “audience”, that is an important distinction. Video allows you to communicate one-on-one with the viewer, even though there may be hundreds, thousands or tens of thousands in total.

As a business you communicate and sell to individuals and you should recognise that when making your own videos. It will help you build a relationship with your viewer, for them to like you and ultimately to become a customer.

When I started in broadcasting I was taught to try and have a conversation with the listener on the other side of the microphone or viewer behind the camera. If necessary, I was to imagine I was talking to my Mum or best friend. That advice is just as appropriate for anyone making their own business video. Do not sound as if you are reading a script, instead make it sound like you are having a conversation. Essentially you need to sound sincere, and as American actor George Burns once joked, “sincerity - if you can fake that, you've got it made.”

Next week’s video

Next week we look at a simple how-to video guide to buying used cars created by a solo video maker. Not only has his video been viewed 800,000 times but it has also played its part in helping to build a YouTube channel with over 1.1 million subscribers. The video style is one YOU could easily replicate and apply to your own area of expertise.

Monday, 19 September 2016

Great Videos from Ordinary Businesses - Modcloth Presents: NYC street life

Would you like your website users to spend more time on your pages? According to Forbes average internet users spends 88% more time on websites that include video. So obviously you are using video on your site! Now let’s see how other businesses are using video.

Last week we started a ten-week series about how ordinary businesses are using video. One important feature adopted by firms who have successfully embraced online video is to reject the temptation to sell in their videos for the simple reason that viewers will click away. Instead they have to be more creative in their use of video. That’s not to say you have to come up with the most creative executions when it comes to making your own videos, you just need to give your viewers what they want or make your content relevant.

Modcloth presents: NYC street style

In the second of the series we look Modcloth, a fashion retailer in New York City.

The sound isn’t always perfect in the video and I’ve seen better interviewers but that doesn’t matter, this is street life where the people and what they say and do is important. The technical ability of the interviewer to correctly position the microphone is secondary; we can hear enough of what’s necessary.

Now this is not a world I inhabit, a fashionista I am not, and yet I had to watch to the end of the video. I’m a 55-year-old bloke with, as my wife frequently points out, no dress sense, yet I found myself wanting to watch Modcloth’s editor, Rebecca Brown, talk to young women about style, makeup and pizza! In fact, I went on to watch their next video as well! Perhaps it was a voyeuristic desire to see in to a world that is alien to me. In fact, you could say the Modcloth video is a mini reality TV show, and we all know how popular that genre is right now. We all like looking behind the scenes and into other people's lives, especially if they appear to be larger than life.

Actually, the secret to this being a fabulous video is their ability to get the right people to interview and throw in an unexpected question. Notice that Rebecca initially asked Anayo from about her thrifted jacket but then comes back with the out-of-left-field question, “if your jacket were a dance move, what would it be called?” That’s so weird even I want to hear the answer!

All of the interviewees are engaging, fun and spontaneous, making them very watchable but the editing also helps. We do not see the whole recording from each interviewee before moving on to the next person. The editor has cut out the boring bits and then chopped up the answers from each person and inter-cut them with the answers from the other interviewees, creating a patchwork of answers. The effect makes the content appear shorter, more interesting and accelerating the pace of the video. In a sense keeping the shots a little shorter and inter-cutting with the other interviewees is similar to the fast cutting of an action sequence in a movie, it drives the story forward and makes it more exciting.

Also notice the editor has included handheld footage of New York street scenes, taxi interiors, and superimposed light leaks to help give a trendy contemporary feel, which reflects what Modcloth is about. But those street scenes also give the video and Modcloth a geographic location - undeniably New York City.

Key takeaway from this video

The Vox Pop Video is definitely one of the easiest styles of video to make, yet it can be very effective. Even if your shots are a bit wobbly and your exposure a little off, the grungy look might be ideal if you want to present your business as being modern and a little edgy.

Grab a mic, get a buddy to point the camera, grab lots of people and keep asking questions, even strange and bizarre ones. If you don't have anyone handy to hold the camera, put your smartphone on a selfie stick. When you get to editing the footage, keep the most interesting and funniest comments and ditch the turgid moments. Plus, if you do something stupid of daft keep it in, your viewers will love it. They will switch off if presented with the mundane, it’s the unusual or unexpected that keeps them watching.

The key to getting some really great material in a Vox Pop is not to warn your subject about your questions in advance. Even better, introduce an unrelated question that will catch your interviewee off-guard. Without time to think they will seem spontaneous, revealing and entertaining. If the questions and answers are quite contentious you may even spark a strong reaction in your viewers and stimulate a good amount of comments and debate.

Next week’s video

Next week we take a look at a video made by a craft brewer based in Aberdeenshire, and how appearing in your own videos can be a smart move.

Monday, 12 September 2016

Great Videos from Ordinary Businesses - Seriously strong cheddar

Do you promote your business with video? If you do, you will have probably heard that 7 out of 10 marketing professionals say video converts better that any other medium*. But how are businesses using video in their marketing?

Each week, for the next ten weeks, I want to share a business video with you and look at how those businesses use the medium. How, perhaps, they could have done better and the key takeaway that you could use in your own videos.

What makes all of the videos really good is that they don’t try to overtly sell to the viewer. The businesses have understood that most people are not in buying mode when they are using social media (yes, YouTube is a social media platform, just like Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and the others). Viewers are there to be entertained or to research a topic or seek information on a future purchase. Remember, you don’t like being sold to so why do you think your potential customers are any different. Effective videos don’t take the hard sell approach because viewers aren’t going to watch, let alone share those videos with their online friends and colleagues.

In almost all of the videos we are going to look at, the businesses have decided to market their brand through story-telling, building an emotional response in the viewer, or providing information the viewer really wants.

Although some are obviously created by professionals with big budgets, some were, or at least could be, done in-house. What’s nice about them is that the businesses present their human side, not a corporate image.

Ever since the financial crash the anti-globalization movement has been growing and many of these videos actually reflect that attitude in one way or another. Many people today have fallen out of love with the multinational mantra of “bigger is better”, on the contrary, their experience is that small is beautiful. That’s why business people appearing in and doing their own videos is wise and appreciated by customers. They want to make a connection with the human side of a business, not the edifice. People buy from people!

* Source: MarketingProfs

Seriously Strong Cheddar - Made By Scottish Cows

In the first of the series we look at the cheese that comes from the McLelland creamery in Stranraer, Dumfries & Galloway.


This video is beautiful in its simplicity. In just 26 seconds they tell a story about the natural origin of the cheese, which, by the way, is one of my favourites. The authenticity of the farmer talking about his experience and feelings in a field with his “girls” has a kind of romance about it that is reminiscent of the fabulous Scottish film, Local Hero.

What’s beautiful about this video is that while using emotion to work its magic on you, it avoids cliché words like “traditional”, “natural” and similar advertising BS. The makers of the video also get you involved, rather than leaving you to be a passive viewer. Rory Christie, the dairy farmer, says his cows are, “munching grass, and if you listen carefully you can hear it”, and so you can, you listen and become an active viewer. You are now involved and a better prospect. By the time the farmer has finished speaking you want to be there with him, listen to his girls munching Scottish grass, and try the cheese.

Key takeaway from this video

Although Seriously Strong undoubtedly had the video made by professionals, the important thing you should realise is that you could easily make a similar video yourself. The technical challenge is relatively low; there is no camera movement, you have plenty of light outdoors (watch for shadows if too bright), record as if you are doing an interview with a supplier at their premises, and take plenty of B-roll footage (in the Seriously Strong video the b-roll shots are those of the cows). Your main challenge will probably be capturing good quality sound so consider spending a little cash on an external microphone. As a minimum your kit would be a smartphone, smartphone tripod adapter and tripod. If you are using a camcorder or DSLR you will not need the tripod adapter.

Next week’s video

Next week we take a look at New York City clothes retailer Modcloth and the simple video style they use that you can instantly adapt to your own business videos.

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Great Features For Video Creators On iPhone 7

My first reaction to the launch of the iPhone 7 was anger that Apple had removed the 3.5mm headphone jack. Two days on I’m still not convinced it’s the right move for users but I’ll admit the phone seems to offer the vlogger or video maker some great features.

A lot of the initial reports have been about the dual lens system on the iPhone 7, in fact that only applies to the iPhone 7 Plus. The smaller iPhone 7 is only equipped with the wide angle f1.8 lens. Both versions being able to shoot 1080p footage at 30 and 60 fps.

If you missed the iPhone 7's launch in San Francisco here's the BBC report of the event.


Both versions of the phone seem to offer plenty to today’s video creator, although we will have to wait until 16th September 2016 before we can get hands-on with the phone. Until then here’s what Apple say we are going to get.

Better low light performance

Both the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus have a new 12-megapixel wide angle 28mm f/1.8 six element lens. According to Apple this will transmit about 50% more light to the sensor, compared to the iPhone 6s. We will need to wait to see what that will mean in practice but I think it is safe to assume that shooting indoors without video lights will be easier.

High resolution video

The iPhone 7’s 12-megapixel rear facing camera will give video creators the capability to shoot 4k footage at 30fps. Personally I haven’t bought-into the 4k hype. Most people just aren’t watching on 4k devices nor is 4k critical to your storytelling. However, once you transfer your footage you your computer 4k does allow you to reframe your shots by selective cropping without losing clarity in an HD timeline.

Slow Mo

The combination of that new camera and the A10 quad core processor will enable video creators to shoot at upto 120 fps at HD1080p or upto 240 fps at 720p. If you are into creating slow motion movies, you will obviously like this feature.

Better front-facing camera

The front facing camera has been upgraded to 7 megapixels. For the vlogger that’s great news. Until now, if you wanted to shoot yourself in full HD1080p you had to use the reaer camera and get a friend to frame the shot for you, monitor the phone’s screen in a mirror or do it by trial and error. With a full HD front facing camera it’s eezy-peasy to make sure you have framed yourself correctly.

Steady on – It’s got optical image stabilization

To get good blur free results I have always had to put my iPhone on a tripod. Now things should literally be clearer in hand held shots since the iPhone 7 is shipping with what Apple call cinematic video stabilization, available at both 1080p and 720p. Combined with the f/1.8 lens we should see crisper footage at lower light levels.

Optical zoom

If you go large and opt for the iPhone 7 Plus then you get not one 12-megapixel cameras but two. Alongside the first with a wide angle 28mm f1.8 lens you get an additional one with a 56mm f2.8 lens.

No doubt the new dual lens system is the result of Apple buying LinX Imaging in 2014. LinX Imaging specialised in multi aperture imaging and managed to solve the problem of successfully combining multiple images taken simultaneously. This technology has enabled Apple to give the iPhone 7 a so called optical zoom. The combination of a wide angle lens plus a telephoto lens means you now can zoom up to 2x without losing image clarity. Upto 6x digital zoom is also available. Other companies have been working on the same thing, such as the Corephotonic dual-camera, which you can see in this video from cnet. In fact the technology look very much like the iPhone 7 Plus.

That’s a great improvement for the iPhone video maker. For a start, it will make framing much easier. Until now you either had to physically move your camera back and fore to frame the shot or use the digital zoom and accept a loss in resolution. Now the video maker has much more flexibility. Set up your camera so your framing is approximately correct and then get it spot on with the optical zoom. Brilliant!

LinX Imaging used to claim their technology could deliver "stunning color images and high accuracy depth maps" producing images of SLR quality but without the bulk of an SLR.

By the way. The work LinX Imaging was doing, before Apple bought the company, allowed them to increase sensitivity for better image detail and reduce exposure times to reduce motion blurring. All of which sounds familiar from earlier on in this post.

What next

Apple make no mention of this but the LinX technology does more than provide optical zoom and improve low light performance. Because the LinX technology can produce depth maps from a single photo (using multiple apertures, like the iPhone 7 Plus), the information can be used to produce 3D point clouds of objects. There’s a tantalizing possibility that the iPhone 7 Plus (or a future iPhone) could create 3D scans of objects, to refocus an image with a synthetic depth of field effect and possibly eliminate or add objects to the image. If the phone can do that I might even forget about that missing 3.5mm headphone socket.

Friday, 9 September 2016

The Best iPhone 7 Video Microphone Blog Post

Apple Scrap 3.5mm headphone socket on iPhone 7

So Apple have abandoned the 3.5mm headphone socket on the iPhone 7. Well who wants that pesky little socket when all it’s doing is taking up valuable space! Well, I do actually! Yes, the 3.5mm jack maybe 50-year-old technology but it is darn useful technology that allows me to plug in a set of headphones or microphone into my iPhone.

iPhone headphones
If you’re interest, the 3.5mm jack was a development of it’s even older big brother, the 100-year-old ¼ inch PO jack. It dates back to the days when you couldn’t dial a number from your phone. In those early days you lifted the receiver and asked the telephone operator to connect you to, say, “Hollywood 639”.

Anyway, back to why I think ditching the 3.5mm jack is a bad move.

For a start, the Lightning connector is proprietary technology that Apple will only share with other manufactures provided they pay a licensing fee. The technology will make accessories more expensive than if they continued to use the industry standard 3.5mm jack. That’s why very few headphone manufacturers have not gone down the Lightning connector route. One exception being JBL who offer their Reflect Aware Headphoneswhich admittedly provide excellent audio clarity, for $200 (£169.99 in the UK). They are not cheap and you can only use them with an iPhone or iPad.

Secondly, think of the unnecessary waste. There must be hundreds of millions of headphones and other accessories that might not work with the iPhone, or at least will need an adaptor. Why should consumers have to ditch the kit when it works perfectly well.

According to the Apple website the iPhone 7 ships with a Lightning to 3.5mm Headphone Jack Adapter, so at least we should be able to connect our heritage accessories. But who wants a clunky adapter poking out of the top of their stylish and expensive phone! More-over, you just know the adaptor is going to get lost. Kaching, more money for Apple! But at least vloggers and videographers should still be able to connect their existing external microphones.

At this point I better clarify what I mean by “external microphone”. For videography I’m saying it is a mic that can be placed on the presenter, several metres away from the iPhone, and NOT on the phone itself. In other words, a lavalier or lapel mic connected to the phone by a long cable.

Apple has provided a terrific camera and awesome processing power on the iPhone 7, allowing us to shoot fantastic video. It’s only reasonable that we should want to record good quality sound with an external mic. For the time it would seem we can still use our 3.5mm equipped microphones but if Apple get their way the Lightning connector will replace the 3.5mm jack as the industry standard.

But say you do want to go down the digital mic route, what are your options right now? Searching through Amazon there are actually very few, and all of them a bit pricey. Here are the three I was able to find, remember we do not want microphones that sit on the phone, instead they should be placed on the presenter. By that criteria I was only able to find two mics and one mic interface, the latter for use with professional microphones.

Sennheiser ClipMic digital Microphone

There are two versions of Sennheiser’s digital lavalier mics (or lapel mics). Sennheiser is a respected name in pro audio but they are NOT a prosumer or even consumer level manufacturer. I actually own a rifle mic and radio mic by Sennheiser for use in my video business because their products are top-notch. However, that quality comes at a price, in this case between $200 and $500. If you have deep pockets and can afford either of these lavalier microphones I have no hesitation in recommending them but even I am going to wince at paying almost as much for a mic as the phone.

Sennheiser ClipMic with Sennheiser’s ME 2 omni-directional microphone capsule, for use with iOS devices.

Cost on Amazon: $199

Sennheiser ClipMic Digital Microphone with Sennheiser’s MKE 2 Omnidirectional Microphone capsule.

Cost on Amazon: $499

IK Multimedia iRig Pro microphone interface
Yes, I know this isn’t a microphone but if you have access to professional mics, the sort with chunky three pin XLR connectors, then the iRig Pro provide a good solution to connecting to your iPhone. What’s more, if you are a musician it also allows you to connect your midi instruments to your iOS device and Mac.

iRig Pro instrument/microphone interface with MIDI for iOS and Mac.

Cost on Amazon: $129.80

The Future
If Apple succeed in ousting the 3.5mm jack as the industry standard, then we will see many better quality digital mics appearing but they will be more expensive than the 3.5mm jack version. At present you can buy a Movo LV1 Lavalier microphone for under $20 but that price point is unlikely to be kept when you need to add a digital audio converter (DAC) and Lightning connector. On the plus side you potentially will have excellent audio quality, but at a price.

Note that some of the links in this post maybe affiliate links.