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Category Archives: filmmaking


Branded videos have proven effective for a variety of products and services in a variety of markets. The big issue, however, is how to create a branded video that will be effective for your product or service in your market. As you’ve already learned or suspected, there is no single formula that works in all instances. However, if you read through the ten tips below, you’ll learn how to set reasonable goals and expectations, and what it takes to produce and distribute a highly-successful branded video.

Know that Going Viral Isn’t the Only Road to Success

The current high water mark in low-budget high-traffic branded video success is the Dollar Shave Club’s first video from 2012. However, rather than being an ideal that all companies can achieve, the Dollar Shave Club video was the “perfect storm” of branded videos, according to David Murdico, creative director and managing partner at L.A.-based SuperCool Creative. “You have a disposable, consumer product that men use every day, a simple and easily explainable value proposition, a CEO with comedy training, and friends with production experience. Unless your circumstances are very similar, you shouldn’t expect similar results,” he says.

While lofty aspirations are great, it’s best to realistically look at your product or service, target market, and even your CEO, and try to come up with meaningful and achievable goals.


Start With a Realistic Goal

DoveWhen formulating your goals, the first decision is whether you want the video to raise brand awareness, like the Dove Real Beauty Sketches, or to sell product (Dollar Shave Club)? Obviously, both approaches can be fabulously effective, you just need to decide up front which direction you’re going.

Beyond this, the next consideration should be the value you hope the video will deliver to the customer. “Value can include information, or making viewers laugh or feeling a strong emotion, “ says Ken Gumbs, from Chicago-based production house Fresh Giants. “Just remember that once you try to create entertainment, you’re competing with movies and TV shows for the same eyeballs. The creative and production quality bars are definitely a lot higher.”

Know What You Want, But Be Flexible

Whether you produce your own video, or rely on an outside production company, you should

EpicSplit have a pretty strong idea of what you want before you get started. For example, when they walk in the door, most of Murdico’s customers have three or four existing videos that they want their video to emulate in some form or fashion. This simplifies the creative process by providing concrete examples of what customers want or don’t want.

That said, don’t be married to your initial concept. The role of the creative agency is to come up with fresh takes on how to achieve the customer’s goal. “After hearing what the customer is trying to accomplish we create three to five concepts supported by a mood board, or rough storyboard, to explain what we’re thinking,” Murdico explains. “Most brand professionals stay true to their initial concepts, which makes sense, because they’re experienced and know what they’re trying to accomplish. Clients without that brand or production experience are usually better off choosing one of our concepts.”


Know that B2B is Different From B2C

In Mashable’s Most-Shared Ads of 2013, 19 of the 20 ads are B2C (business to consumer), with the sole exception of the Jean-Claude Van Damme Epic Split Volvo ad, which targets buyers of tractor trailers. There’s a clear reason for this.

“The web is great for wide targeting, but B2B [business to business] companies typically have far fewer prospects than B2C companies, and usually you can reach them more effectively using other mediums,” says Josh Warner, president of video seeding company Feed Company. This isn’t to say that you can’t produce humorous or otherwise compelling B2B branded videos (for example, this IBM video Murdico created). However, when producing B2B branded videos, your expectations regarding potential viewer count and the ability to go viral just need to be adjusted downwards.

Find Viewers, Then Produce the Video

If you want to produce a video that resonates with target viewers, Gumbs recommends finding a problem they’re experiencing, or a particular area of active interest, and then producing a video that addresses it. For example, visit blogs frequented by your target viewers and find the content they’re engaged with, whether via comments, views, tweets, likes, or other social engagement. Then create a video that will address those problems, concerns, or interests.

Don’t Sweat It — There Are Few Universal Rules


PoopouriSome pundits say you should always minimize mentions of your brand, but the Dollar Shave Club and PooPouri brand videos do that early and often. Some experts recommend keeping videos under a minute long, but the Grand Theft Auto V: Official Gameplay Video (over 30 million views) is 4 minutes and 50 seconds, while the Dove Sketches ad (over 62 million views) is 3 minutes 1 second. The average length of Mashable’s Top 20 branded video ads for 2013 was 2:24.

Regarding branding, Murdico notes that “Audiences have gotten really smart; you don’t want to trick them, you don’t want to take them for a ride, and you don’t want them to feel like your video is an ad, unless of course, it is, like the Dollar Shave Club.” Regarding time, “As a rule, shorter is better, and 1 to 2 minutes is optimal, but if the story is really effective, you can go as long as it takes to tell the story.” Gumb recommends keeping branded videos used as pre-rolls to under 15 seconds, but feels that they can go as long as they keep providing value to the viewer.

While it’s simple to identify rules that apply to some types of videos — for example, heavy branding early on would likely have diminished the strong impact of the Dove Sketches video — there are few, if any, universal rules that apply to all videos. Have a strong vision of what you’re hoping to accomplish, and to stay true to that. If you don’t have the experience to trust your creative vision, get help.

Remember, It’s About the Customer

Humorous advertisements aside, like those for PooPourri and Dollar Shave Club, most branded videos focus on the customer and don’t trumpet product features. One great example is the series of customer-focused advertisements that IBM produced for The 2014 Masters. According to Jesse Dylan, who produced many of the advertisements, “Normally, when you do a commercial, there’s a very set structure to how they are made. Here we really had to listen to the clients to get an intrinsic understanding of where the client of IBM was coming from. And then we had to make interesting, compelling commercials that came out of those underlying interviews.” In other words, it wasn’t about producing a video that IBM wanted, it was telling the true story of how IBM helped the customer.

Particularly in a B2B setting, if you want viewers to share your video, you’re almost always better off showing how your product helped a customer than trumpeting its features and benefits. But even for B2C branded videos, most succeed because they focus on the customer, not the product itself.

Have Experience On-Hand

A successful video needs to be well-produced. This means you have to respect the process and the skills of the personnel involved. Before producing a video, Murdico follows a set process that includes creating the mood boards discussed above, finalizing a script, often (but not always) creating a storyboard, then going through a casting call and location scouting to identify the ideal actors and locations. His shoots always involve an experienced DP (director of photography) along with lighting and sound personnel, with him as director.

The less experience you have, the more you need to bring in professional resources to ensure the production quality you’ll need for your video to succeed.

Price Out the Pros

Working in L.A., most of Murdico’s large-brand productions range in price from $25,000 to $150,000, although for startups and smaller businesses that require less polish he can produce a branded video for as low as $10,000. In Chicago, Gumb’s price for simple, short productions can often be $5,000 or less. Even if you decide to produce in-house, price the cost of professional services. They may be cheaper than you think.

Buy Some Eyeballs to Go Viral

When production and editing is complete, marketing has just begun. Few super-successful brand videos have completely organic views, says the Feed Company’s Warner. Most used a video seeding company, such as the Feed Company, to prime the pump. Warner likens it to the promotional money spent launching a movie. “Even if you have the best movie ever made, if you don’t have a marketing budget to create a buzz, it’s never going to realize its full potential.”

There are two levels of paid views: pure numbers and actual qualified prospects. Both are important, says Murdico, whose company also offers blog and publication outreach and social media strategy and management. The pure numbers are simply window dressing necessary to make the video feel interesting; “Few people want to eat in an empty restaurant, and potential viewers are more likely to watch a video if it has a few thousand views.” For these types of views, companies like Virool can provide viewers with plans starting at $10.

The second level of seeding reaches well-qualified prospects who can meaningfully share the video with other well-qualified prospects, or actually buy the product being advertised. While services like Virool can help you reach these viewers, as well, expect to spend more for this level of targeting.

Beyond this, video seeding companies rely on paid placements, as well as earned media strategies such as pitching bloggers, outreaching to key influencers, leveraging potential celebrity tie-ins, and other creative marketing and social engagement strategies.

“There are thousands of videos uploaded each day,” Warner says. “To get the video seen, you need a strategic seeding plan that includes both paid views and a range of other creative marketing outreach.”








Timecode is a 2000 American experimental film directed by Mike Figgis.

The film is constructed from four continuous 90-minute takes that were filmed simultaneously by four cameramen; the screen is divided into quarters and the four shots are shown simultaneously. The film depicts several groups of people in Los Angeles as they interact and conflict while preparing for the shooting of a movie in a production office. The dialogue was largely improvised, and the sound mix of the film is designed so that the most significant of the four sequences on screen dominates the soundtrack at any given moment.

The movie was shot on videotape. This was transferred to film for the theatrical release, but the VHS and DVD releases present the original videotape stock.

The film was shot 15 different times over a period of two weeks and Figgis selected the best version for theatrical release; this version was recorded on November 19, 1999, beginning at 3:00 p.m, and ending a little after 4:30 p.m. The DVD release includes the first attempt as a bonus feature. Additionally on the DVD release, viewers have access to all audio tracks to allow for custom sound mixing, rather than the mix of the finished film.



The film takes place in and around a film production company office, and involves several interweaving plot threads which include: a young actress named Rose (Salma Hayek) who tries to score a screen test from her secret boyfriend Alex Green (Stellan Skarsgård), a noted but disillusioned director. Meanwhile, Rose’s tryst with him is discovered by her girlfriend Lauren (Jeanne Tripplehorn), an insanely jealous businesswoman who plants a microphone in Rose’s purse and spends most of the time in the back of her limousine parked outside the office building listening in on Rose’s conversations. Elsewhere, Alex’s wife Emma (Saffron Burrows) is seen with a therapist (Glenne Headly) debating about asking him for a divorce. In the meantime, numerous film industry types (played by Xander Berkeley, Golden Brooks, Holly Hunter and Kyle MacLachlan), pitch ideas for the next big hit film.

A homage to this film can be heard during another of Mike Figgis’s films, Hotel, in the first moment the screen is split into four quadrants. The sound of milk being steamed in one quadrant and the sound of an actor tapping beats onto a paperback novel in another quadrant, combine to create a very subtle imitation of the sounds and music heard during the first few minutes in Timecode.


FilmComment Review


In the vernacular of multi-camera television events such as live sports programs and live-to-tape daytime dramas, the motion picture Time Code resembles what is known as a “quad split”: a live-television director chooses the feeds from four simultaneous camera sources, selecting on the fly the best action to air. It’s a vastly under-appreciated art that bristles with the excitement of possibilities continually lost and found, of editing a story in the moment, behind the scenes. In Time Code, Mike Figgis has painstakingly—and often strikingly—coordinated the action of four uninterrupted and interrelated feature-length narratives, then presented the illusion of a live quad split on a single movie screen rather than four TV monitors. Time Code renders the effect of watching four movies in a single gestalt from a broadcast control room or production truck—or, perhaps closer to the director’s intent, from the vaguely voyeuristic catbird’s seat of a security guard’s throne. The movie itself is sort of a lighthearted Altman-movie manqué meets Hollywood Squares (wherein the imaginary contestant might say to the host, “I’ll take Stellan Skarsgård to block yet another unmistakable reference to Short Cuts’ earthquake-as-metaphor”).

Having witnessed or participated in hundreds of hours of such TV production, here’s a subjective and hopefully relevant observation: despite what is so often presupposed by proponents of multiple-angle TV broadcasts and interactive narratives, one is struck by just how often in a live event there’s only a single best shot for telling the story. Or, rather, the setup and selection of that shot and its conversion from randomly arbitrary to seemingly necessary defines directorial sensibility—in a word, vision.

Telling a story is inescapably undemocratic; what Figgis has done in Time Code seems equally undemocratic, but divided or multiplied by four. Almost incidentally, it’s been shot on digital video. The structuring of story, not the medium, is the message here. Figgis foregrounds the process of editing without a single cut.

During the title sequence, Figgis fills his quadrant frames with examples of experimental minimalism—video editing timecode numbers and VU-meter patterns that, bereft of scale, could be pulsing runway lights or an Ernie Gehr effect. Those object-oriented shots, with no “story” content, frame the action slickly when juxtaposed with narrative frames, but fade as the movie(s) start(s) in earnest.

Actress Lauren (Jeanne Tripplehorn) and aspiring actress Rose (Salma Hayek) are lesbian lovers descending from the Hollywood Hills by limo, Rose to an audition, and Lauren, under the pretense of running errands, to keep tabs on her girlfriend, whom she suspects is having an affair. Across town, Emma (Saffron Burrows) unloads in therapy. Meanwhile, at the Sunset Boulevard offices of Red Mullet Pictures, production executives and their assistants, played by Xander Berkeley, Holly Hunter, Danny Huston, Golden Brooks, and a hotshot director played by Richard Edson, among others, await the arrival of Alex Green (Skarsgård), a mogul powerful and egocentric enough to put his sycophants through exasperating paces. Green is conducting an affair with Rose, all the while distraught at his estrangement from his wife, Emma. He and Emma are having coordinated nervous breakdowns. If the movie does have an imaginary, schizophrenic P.O.V., it’s either his or hers.

The story, by Figgis, is effervescent, enterprising and Altmanesque. It’s fun, for a Figgis film, combining elements of The Player and Short Cuts. Figgis’ direction imparts an overarching tone of improvisational, light (soap) opera. It’s an object-lesson in television “Q” ratings: when the screen’s full of stars, they compete for the eye less through emphasized action than with charisma. Figgis orchestrates the action as fascinating choreography (e.g., complementary shot-reverse shots of Alex leaving one room and entering another) and awkward silliness (groups of actors huddle close together, like a covey of anxious quails, when moving as a group).

But the implicit claims of breakthrough experimentalism fall short of exciting. Figgis himself seems cognizant of this when Red Mullet entertains the pretentious pitch of an avant-garde French director who references everything from Gropius’ Bauhaus functionality to Leibniz’ monadology to support her theory of the digital filmmaking revolution (“Art/technology, a new unity!”), sending Alex hilariously over the edge. But to avoid a confusing cacophony of four audio sources at once, Figgis usually emphasizes only one source per scene, so he’s directing your attention toward a single story anyway. And he drains as many as three screen quadrants of any compelling narrative content at a time. If there’s a story-meeting discussion in one corner with sound, but the other three silent quads contain Hayek putting on her makeup, a closeup of Tripplehorn’s lovely cocoa-brown eyes, and an empty office lobby, one might as well be seeing only one movie, edited in a parallel montage. In that sense, Time Code is not as advanced or beautiful or exhilarating as Abel Gance’s Napoleon triptych of 1927; it’s far less complex and innovative than the trippy pop experiment of Andy Warhol’s Chelsea Girls or Brian De Palma’s modern, artful split screens in such conventionally watchable movies as Sisters; and it’s not as boldly breakthrough as the widescreen, multiple-character, multi-track conversational overlays of Altman. Because Figgis skillfully mounted four simultaneous 93-minute takes with no cuts, the use of digital video is refreshingly purposeful in contrast to the Dogma95 artists’ self-aggrandizing scams. But, unlike Hitchcock’s attempts to create claustral tension in movies like Rope and Lifeboat, to what narrative purpose has the actual movie-length take been applied? The eye “edits” every conventional shot in the cinema by its focus anyway. Cinema is anti-monad. A shot is irreducible to a word, or even a simple sentence.

The Los Angeles Directors Guild’s top-notch video projection system was employed for Time Code‘s premiere at the Yahoo! Internet Life festival. But since then, Figgis has bumped up the resolution and transferred the video to film for theatrical release. In the process there hasn’t been much discernable gain in image quality. The use of single lenses to capture a range of compositions results in odd angles and unflattering uni-filtered lighting (at least the skin tones could be color-corrected). Frequently tape-to-film transfers lock in the worst characteristics of each media, interframe flicker and feeble image structure. So there’s a case for viewing Time Code in high-definition digital video. It will lose something of its essence—and much of its integrity—otherwise. Video’s psychologically hypnotic properties—as opposed to cinema’s dreamlike quality—reinforces Figgis’ aesthetic of unbroken takes and TV-dramedy tone. It’s honestly video, not film, particularly in the way it evidences its hand-held means of production. Finally, video has an immediacy, which, combined with larger-than-life image size, imparts a strange intimacy to the performances.


Mike Figgis. Time Code, Narration and the Art of Film Leacture