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Reducing costs – using your staff in videos

Jesse Kingsley and Callum Scott of BSI Learning have provided their insights into using staff as the stars of your next video. With the right planning your staff can support a professional production, and help reduce costs.

In recent years, video-based learning has really returned to popularity, perhaps in part, due to increasing bandwidths on mobile devices and people’s insatiable appetite for video content in their daily media digest (both for learning and entertainment). But despite this, we still see a reluctance by some organisations to use video because of the perceived production costs.

While there are several considerations that support cost reduction (good planning, understanding third-party-costs, and knowing what is and isn’t necessary for a production) one area that often causes a collective gasp is using staff in productions, rather than actors. Awkward speech, multiple takes, nervous gazes off-camera – surely no one will take this stuff seriously?! These are all valid concerns but some simple rules can turn your b-grade video into something professional.

These are some of the points you need to address:

  • Are you asking too much of your people? Don’t mistake eagerness for ability. If you’re asking them to role-play on camera, a scenario perhaps, make sure they’re addressing content that they live and breathe by, for example, a sales pitch or common customer interaction.
  • If you’re asking staff to speak pre-written scripts direct to camera, an autocue is invaluable. These days, vendors come equipped with an iPad or tablet app that doubles as an autocue, and can be placed in front of the camera using a mirrored set-up. They can even be used as a dual camera-autocue! And remember, make sure your scripts are vetted and rehearsed first before you ask someone to read them on-camera.
  • If you need a natural delivery of information on-camera, consider eliciting the material via a semi-formal interview, or as it’s known, a talking head. Just like a current affairs program, it’s clear the interviewee is talking to someone off-camera, so there’s no reason you can’t do the same, and replicate this familiar interview style. Prepare questions in advance if clarity and accuracy is important, or alternatively you can try an ‘off the cuff’ style of interviewing and hope for a more natural, unscripted response. And finally replace the interviewer’s questions with on-screen questions. It’ll tidy up your production and limit the need for multiple microphones.
  • And if direct to camera or interviews aren’t going to cut it, and scenarios are what’s needed, have you considered a dual approach of using staff for your vision and professional voice over artists for the audio? I’m not talking about over-dubbing like a 1980s Hong Kong martial arts film, just in the third-person… like the author of a book whose ‘voice’ becomes the omniscient or all-knowing narrator. You’ll be surprised how relaxed your staff are when they know they’re not having to speak on camera.