I write about storytelling and how it can help businesses sell in the marketplace. It is only logical to back up the information I have shared with you. Like many who strive to learn more about their craft I immerse myself in learning more and more which helps me become that much more knowledgeable in my video production field. One of the tools I use are podcasts. I listen to video storytelling professionals and specialist on podcast that have significant value. I came across Clare Edwards, a neuron scientist who explains what happens to our brains when we hear or watch stories.
We have been using stories to communicate ever since the beginning of time. Stories were used to communicate way before language was used. Story is a part of us, it is built into our making. One of the most important things I took away from the podcast is that when we are presented with facts and figures during a presentation such as on a power point, our brain goes into overload mode. But once we tell the same information by engaging into story, our brains tend to relax and become more receptive to what it is learning. We tend to remember more when we hear a story because we rely on our own past stories to help connect with the one being told.
Stories become even more powerful when you add emotion. Applying emotion to a story makes our brain go into its rolodex and it pulls out memories so that it can connect emotionally. Adding plot points to a story really makes the story powerful. We as humans are curious by nature, and when you add curiosity to a story (plot points) a beginning, middle and end, that entices the brain to release dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter and plays a major role in the motivational component of reward-motivated behavior. This is what causes us to want to know more. Aspiring to know more about the story keeps us on our feet.
Lastly, we use our sight and hearing when we use video to tell a story. Our brain is in full mode when it uses both hearing and sight. We all learn by using our five senses, all are very important; sight though, is number one. Edwards says that when the brain combines sight and sound it releases neurons called mirror neurons which allow us to feel what we are viewing. Whenever I watch America’s Funniest Videos, I cringe when I see someone flip and fall. I feel their pain and almost move about like I just hurt myself. This is what the mirror neurons are doing. They give us an experience that we can identify with and almost feel.
If you take all the info I shared with you and use it to create a story for your brand you will get more clients willing to engage. Data seems to confuse the customer and really doesn’t resonate with them. Video storytelling is a great strategy for online video.
There are many ways businesses and or organizations can create an online video. My approach is to create a stunning short film using brand storytelling techniques. You may be wondering what constitutes a branded story. A branded story is a visual story about your company minus all the facts and figures. This type of visual storytelling is about emotion and focuses more on why the brand does what it does. What the brand stands for? Why the brand is important, and what the brand is communicating to their audience. The main idea behind brand marketing is different than the old show and tell technique, but rather it strives to create an emotion through strategic storytelling. Your audience will relate to emotion more than they will a show and tell video.
The first question I ask any company that wants to hire me is to ask them why they want a video? What is their goal for creating a story? And what does the company or organization hope they will accomplish with a branded story? Once we figure this step out the next one is who they hope to target? I have learned a storytelling process taught by Muse Storytelling that includes four pillars that relate to making a strong story. Here are the pillars: People, who are the best people to tell the story and who has the most passion to tell the story on camera? Purpose, what do you want the audience to do or what is the takeaway? Plot is the third pillar which is one of the hardest. Plot focuses on the different events that help shape the story. Lastly, Places is the last pillar. This is where the story takes place. This is a great time to show your plot rather than tell it.
The next step is to figure out keywords. This is a step I use to help guide clients to help them achieve their goal. It is a story strategy that enables the vision of the video to come to life. If the client already has a vision and would like my input, I can accommodate them in that way too. I find meeting my clients halfway is refreshing. If they already have a concept I can better understand what they want and how to get to that point. Also, I can share my experience and suggest better ways to get the same result. Working together with a client has great benefits.
The next step is to figure out who is going to drive the message? Will it be a CEO who is uncomfortable on camera? Or will it be someone who has benefited from the product or service? If it were up to me I would choose the client who has benefited from the service. For one, will come across as being uncomfortable on camera. You don’t want anyone on camera that doesn’t show charisma, shy or doesn’t really care. The audience cares for the character, and if you do not have a character that shows passion and that is charismatic the audience will tune you out. People will be more likely to listen to a past client’s story. I would rather buy a story from someone who benefited from a service rather than someone who says try us we are good. What I have just described is part of pre-production. To tell your story, you need a strong foundation and if you spend more time in pre-production it can only help with solidifying that foundation. These are just a few ideas to start you off in pre-production. There are many more to consider, but if you follow this list of ideas you will be on the right track in telling a beautiful story that you can share online. Down below is a video that won a Silver Telly Award for its storytelling. I spent many hours in pre-production to create this short-branded film.
Let’s face it, non profits work to help others succeed. Most non profits, or charitable organizations run on a very thin shoe string budget. Charities rely on the public to give to their cause.
I have been a videographer for over 18-years and I have a strong passion in helping non profit organizations tell their story. It is important for both the public and for non profits to tell their story. The most impactful approach in telling a charitable foundation’s story is to explain why they do what they do and their purpose. They shouldn’t focus too much on facts and figures, but rather success stories, why they do what they do, and who benefits from it. Motivational stories are so much stronger than facts. People relate to people and if you have someone on camera talking about their passion and why they strive to do what they do, it will most definitely be remembered. When was the last time you remembered a fact or figure? I know when ever I hear a fact I really do not remember it. However, when I hear about a personal story and how an individual puts their all into a non profit to benefit society I know I will remember that story. We as humans are hard-wired to learn from stories, and to remember and recite stories.
So, it’s only logical for non profits to tell their own story through a short form video. These videos could be placed on their website to bring about awareness, they can be a creative way for marketing, and a great way to raise money. If people do not understand what your non profit provides, it’s very difficult for them to part with their money. You as a charitable organization are better off using video to help educate the public in what you do and why you do it.
It is my belief that creating a branded story about your non profit, is one of the best ways you can raise money. In the year 2020, 90% of marketing will involve video. It’s time that non profits understand this huge opportunity and start developing a strategic plan for video marketing.
One way a charitable organization could use video is as follows: Someone who is passionate and knows they beginnings of the non profit goes on camera and explains why they do what they do. You need someone who is passionate, or else it will look bland. It doesn’t necessarily need to be the founder but whoever it is needs to know the big WHY and they need to be an employee. The branded story about the non profit could also focus on one person who benefits from the organization. Getting their side of the story and focus on where they where before and how the organization helped them. The videographer could get footage of the person in their environment to help tell their story. The storytelling would need to focus on the non profit as well as the person. The person who received the benefits from the charitable organization makes the video more human. If you only show a founder in front of the camera speaking about facts and figures people will yawn. Again, I will state it; when you tell your branded story through the voice of someone who has benefited from your non profit the video will be that much more powerful.
Not only could you use the video on your website, you can create a strategic plan and place it on social media. Focus on where your clients are on social media. If you notice they are on Instagram, Great. Instagram has just now launched IGTV where you can upload videos longer than one minute. As of now, they are allowing 15-minute videos and in the future, you will be able to upload one-hour videos. If your clients are on Facebook, you could launch the video there too. These are all tools to help you raise more money for your charity so that you in return can help others. You really can’t help others without having funds, and that is where creating a branded story can benefit you.
Here is an example of how an adoptee and her mother benefited from City Without Orphans, a non profit, which is located in the Central Valley.
Corporate videos are becoming more common than ever. Statistics show that in the year 2020 video will be responsible for 90% for media content. Businesses may or may not have a budget to hire external help for their corporate videos. In the case when a business is strapped and wants to produce the videos in house, there are three things I can share with you that will make your videos look more professional.
Many people say that audio is just as important as video; and they are right by saying so. Have you ever watched a video that has terrible audio? You can’t quite hear the person speaking? Or there is a bunch of noise in the background? A lot of this is due to the camera operator relying on the microphones on the camera to capture the sound. These microphones are picking up all types of sounds, probably because they are set to automatic gain control. When the automatic gain control (agc) is selected, the camera is hunting for any sound and then boost that sound. Therefore, it is best to select manual on your camera for audio so that you can control how much sound is being recorded. For instance, if your talent speaks very loudly you can set the control of the manual volume so that it doesn’t distort. If you have the same talent and have the camera set to auto gain, whenever your talent is quiet, the camera volume will rise and pick any sound that is available. Therefore, auto is not a good choice. Dave may be silent for a bit and then suddenly you hear traffic or air conditioner background noise.
You can use a lavalier microphone and clip it to your talent’s shirt. This will give you decent audio and you can either buy a wired lavalier microphone or a wireless. When you use a wireless mic, you have the downfall of recording other radio frequencies that may be competing with yours.
For most of my shoots I use a boom mic and place the mic above the talent’s head. These microphones are a bit pricier, but the quality is fantastic. Boom mics are not wireless, so you will need to connect them to your camera via an xlr cable.
If you are a business and want to showcase some of your success stories you may want to use someone in house to deliver the on-camera message. Since the employee is not a professional broadcaster and may feel intimidating speaking on camera, you may want to invest in a teleprompter. There are several inexpensive teleprompters out on the market. You can even use an iPad or a Samsung tablet for your screen. There are apps that you can buy and download that will allow you to type up a script and then display them on the tablet. The only thing you will need to purchase is the teleprompter glass.
By using a teleprompter to deliver your business video, you can be better prepared and less frightened to speak on camera. Using a teleprompter for your business video, branded business story, or marketing video will really give you a polish look and set you apart from the others.
Lastly, I would like to suggest using led lights to light your subject. Turn off the office lights and place two to three lights three to five feet away from the talent (depending on how bright the lights are). The lights that you place in front of your subject should be about 45 degrees above their head. You do not want to place the lights to high, this will cause dark circles under their eyes. You will also want to pay attention to people who are wearing glasses. The light may reflect, and you will see it in the talent’s glasses. The third light could be placed in the back of the subject just out of frame to highlight their hair and back. This will create depth and make your video look more dimensional. Some led lights are more expensive than others but shop around and look for lights that have a high cri rating. Usually, the higher the cri the better the light. A light with a low cri rating has the chance of creating green or magenta light. Here is a video that explains how and where the lights should be placed.
These three tips will greatly enhance your in-house business video production. Try it out and see if it can work for you. If you feel that it is takes too much time and energy than hire someone to do the job for you. There many creative videographers out there to choose from. I hope this helps your business and video needs.
Corporate videos are a representation of who you are as a company and how you do your work.
Video attracts two to three times as many monthly visitors. It will also account for 80% of all consumer Internet traffic in 2019 according to Forbes! So videos are every online marketer’s best weapon yet. But with a lot of viral videos getting attention on social media, it’s hard to drive traffic to your site with just the traditional way of creating your own corporate video. Think of bland, scripted presenters trying their best to explain why you need their product or service. In today’s web climate, that won’t catch anyone’s attention. Many buisnesses now are creating stories that reflect their brand in order to stand out from the crowd.
You need to think outside the box and incorporate strategies to your make your video both appealing and memorable to the audience. This helps in increasing your conversion rates and brand awareness. In order to achieve this, you need to utilize five essentials to make your corporate video stand out. Here are a few ways to do it.
1.Inject Natural Humor
As naturally as you can, inject humor to your corporate video using some playful sarcasm or self deprecating humor. If you have a serious story, then try adding an upbeat music that will leave audiences puzzled and maybe even laughing out loud in the middle of your video. Try adding an “offbeat” character or element for comedic relief. If all else fails, consider going way over the top absurd, like Squatty Potty’s viral sales video.
2. Entice With Effects
Modern video effects can capture audience attention and hook them to viewing your video even further when done well and relevant to your product. VFX is a great way to make your corporate video stand out evoke an emotion towards your audience, and it’s always the emotion associated to the brand or service that makes them want to purchase. Check out sites like Fiverr.com for affordable effects services.
3. Add Motion Graphics
Some companies can better explain what their company does with an animated explainer video which uses motion graphics to tell their story. With these elements, your audience can follow thru what you’re telling them by just simply following the direction of your graphic elements. Text graphics can also be helpful for viewers browsing on their phones when on silent.
4. Avoid Jargons and Keep It Conversational
Jargons and scripted actions can be a bit confusing and predictable. Make your corporate video stand out by using easy to understand concepts instead. Direct your presenters to speak comfortably as if they are speaking to a friend.
5. Use Cinematic Camera Equipment
Cinematic equipment like a camera crane, stabilizer gimbal or slider can really up your production value and create more emotional experiences for the viewers. Make the scenes come to life compared to just shooting with a fixed or handheld camera alone. These pieces of equipment help you experiment with interesting angles and dynamic movements that can capture viewers with ever lowering attention spans.
You don’t need too much work on your plate or a huge budget to make your corporate video stand out, just remember to tap resources like the right talent which you may already have or search for affordable yet quality camera supports that will raise your video making standards. With some practice and creative thinking, you can have confidence that your video will make an impact on your viewers.
If you need help with your storytelling I am more than willing to help answer any of your questions or help with the video production. You can view my work at www.cookfilms or you can email me your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org
Katie Conlon is a young freelance writer who recently graduated from a university filmmaking program. She manages the blog and social media program for video equipment maker ProAm USA. When not on her laptop, Katie can be found snapping images of friends and family, or hiking outdoors with her beloved dog Turner.
Hello, my name is Jeff Cook - videographer, editor, producer and storyteller.
As an infant I was abandoned, placed in foster care and then adopted. Stories have always intrigued me even though, I only had half of my own story to share. Through the years I always wanted to find out the missing piece to my life puzzle, my birth parents. During my struggle to find who I was, I was certain on one thing…storytelling. I love telling and listening to stories especially stories about people and how they overcame life’s obstacles. Due to my situation as a child, my heart goes out to those who have faced life challenges. There is a part of me in them, thus this draws me close to those who have hardships, and it is my goal to help tell their heart-felt stories.
I believe in telling stories about people, businesses and organizations. By sharing our experiences with others, we can help others succeed. Businesses and organizations can talk facts all day long, but at the end of it all it’s who you are that draws people closer. What do you represent, what is your desire, why do you do what you do? How did you get to where you are? What drives you? These questions will differ from person to person, you want to know why? Each person is different, and so should your story. What is your story?
You know your purpose in life when you love what you do. It’s the thing that makes you tick. It’s the passion that makes you want to become better at what you love to do. My passion is to tell stories. It is my fuel to feeling good. I want to be able to tell stories to benefit people, organizations, and businesses. There is something about sharing someone’s story that is uplifting for me. I really do feel alive when I am behind a camera, editing, and interacting with people during the shoot. My hope is to tell as many impactful stories that I can, and in doing so, I hope I can better the business, organization or person I am telling the story about.
I have always wanted to keep Fresno clean and safe. As the years have gone by, I have seen it get dirtier and dirtier. My son and I clean up a street in our neighborhood that is trashed daily. We go out and clean it up about once a month.
In late 2017, I was on Facebook and came across a page that was dedicated to Shaw Ave. I asked to join. I was welcomed to the group by Jim Jakobs the founder of the group. Jim and I used to work together. The comments that were on the page were very thought provoking and people had enough with the trash and panhandlers they saw daily. I sent Jim a homeless documentary that I worked on a year ago and he was very impressed with what was said in the documentary. He began sharing it on the Facebook page Save Shaw Ave. Many people were interested in it and learned a lot from it.
One day I suggested to Jim that we together should shoot a mini documentary that focuses on homelessness and panhandling that occurs right here in our own backyard…Shaw Ave. We both met for coffee and discussed what our objective was and who we wanted to interview. Jakobs mentioned that he wanted someone from the city to talk about the issue and I knew I wanted Pastor Rob to comment on the topic. I asked Pastor Rob if he could bring a disciple who has gone through being homeless. He brought with him Harley. Harley was once on the streets, and we felt it was necessary to get his perspective. Jim thought it was a good idea to have a business owner to talk on the subject and how it affects their business. Rani who owns Kwik Serv stepped up to the plate.
Our goal was to get not only one persons’ perspective but those who represent the area. We had a person who represents the city, H. Spees, a pastor who reaches out to the homeless, a former homeless individual and a business owner. We used their words to create a very thought provoking video, that we hope will help people re-think giving to those who are on the corners of our streets.
Once we finished the interviews Jim and I headed out to get some (broll) video footage of Shaw. Footage was needed to illustrate what our interviewees were talking about. Jim took it upon himself to log all the footage and write the script. I oversaw the video footage, music, editing, and color grading.
Once the video was done, Jim shared it on Save Shaw Ave Facebook page. It caught fire not too long after. I received emails from the Fresno Bee to do a story, and Jim was approached by ABC30, KMJ and KSEE 24.
This is exactly what we had hoped for. We hoped to spread the word about the panhandling issue here in Fresno. Homeless people are different than panhandlers, and every time you give panhandlers money you are enabling them. Watch the video below.
I was just informed that my two mini-docs I shot this past year won two Telly Awards. Faith | Christ Saves won a bronze award, while Mariposa Coffee Company won a silver award. Both awards would not have been possible if it hadn’t been for Gerry Caputo, owner of Mariposa Coffee Company, and Tony Lopez, owner of AOA. These individuals are unique and have a charisma about them that is contagious. Once I met them and understood their story, I had to document it.
There are many things to consider when telling a story. The first thing is selecting the right people. If you choose to focus on someone who really does not come across on camera like they care the audience won’t care either. However, if you pick someone who is passionate about what they do such in the case of Gerry and Tony, your story will be headed in the right direction. People identify with people, and you really need to consider who you’re choosing to build your story around.
Secondly, the story is just as important as the person. No matter how cool or caring the person may be, without a story you have nothing. What is there story about? Does it have a beginning, middle and end? Why should your audience care about this story and or person? Does the person have a good hook to their story to draw the viewer in? As for both of my subjects, they had great hooks; they both faced hardships, and they both overcame them. You must treat your subject as a super hero in a way. Stories are told best when we can root for a character. If your character was once down and found their way to the top, that is a great strength to their story.
Planning is my next main ingredient when it comes to storytelling. There is nothing worse than having a great subject that has a great story and you the filmmaker do not plan accordingly. What do I mean? Well, there is all sorts of planning that can take place before, during and after a shoot. Have you had time to talk to the person who are focusing on? I mean, have you sat down with them or talked to them on the phone to really understand their story? Have you asked them why they do what they do? How they became who they are? What drives them? This is just the first step.
By engaging with your subject before you start shooting the story, you will be able to build a rapport with them, understand their story, ask them questions that will allow you to decide how you want to structure the story. You need to decide where you are going to shoot the story too. Will it take place in one location or does the story need to be shot in multiple locations? What lenses will you shoot with? Will you need to use a stabilizer for your camera for any moving shots? These are just a few questions that I think about when I plan my storytelling shoots.
When you make time to plan, you make it easier on yourself to tell the appropriate story. There is no reason to shoot a ton of footage and a ton of interviews. This lends itself to no direction and having to create the story in the edit. Why put yourself through that? Take the time to plan things out, you’ll benefit from it in the long run.
What I have outlined here is just the very basics, but without these three major ingredients, you will have a very weak story. Thank you again to Tony and Gerry for allowing me to tell their story. Without the two of them I wouldn’t be writing this. So, thanks for giving me the time to do it right.
I hope this finds you well. God has put it on my heart to start a series called Christ Centered Films. It will be short form stories that focus on Christ and how he has been able to help change peoples’ lives. This series is to glorify Jesus and is a reminder that we need him in our lives. When you tell stories regarding how Christ has impacted your life you give hope to others. Storytelling is a remarkable tool and a great way to share God’s message. My friends, we are living in dark times and we all need encouragement and to know that we are not alone. These short form films will be featured on my website, and social media. My goal is to share your story and use my God-given gift to glorify Christ. If you know of anyone who is willing to go on camera and tell their story, please have them contact me at email@example.com
I am looking to tell stories like the one I did for Tony Lopez of AOA. Here is an example of how Christ changed a man’s heart from darkness to light. Remember, iron sharpens iron.
You may be used to watching movies that have great color. Many movies are shot in a log format. This means that when the camera captures the image, the image retains much more detail in log than if they chose to shoot the movie with a picture profile. To me, videos that are shot in this log format look milky, it does not have much color info. Because log does not capture much color it retains information that makes it easier for colorists or editors to add color to the final video. When video or movies are shot in log the colorist has a wide variety of color grading they can do. The color grade the colorist decides on will be up to the style of the film. For instance, if the movie is a thriller you more than likely will not see vibrant colors everywhere. Instead, you would find the colors to be muted and cold. It all depends on the mood of the scene and where the director is headed. So, shooting video or movies in log allows the video to retain info that can be later be manipulated by a colorist. When shooting in log you may it may seem like you have no idea how it will turn out due to the lack of color. You can overcome this now days by importing luts or look up tables into the camera. This will give you a better idea what the final film will look like. However, preinstalling a lut profile into the camera may seem to be a great idea until the colorist or director changes their mind on the direction or mood the film will carry. There are many variables, but one thing is for sure log allows you to manipulate the video in post as well as exposing for highlights without much clipping. Here is a sample of how color can change the mood. In this case it’s food; some shots are appealing while other shots are not so appealing. This just goes to show you how color can manipulate what you see and feel.
Hello. I'm gonna be talking to you about several different ways that you can light your subject. you can light your subject in a variety of ways. Some of the most common ways to light an interview is by using 4 to 3 lights. On occasion you can also light with just two lights. And in other situations you may want to only light with one light. View the video down below for examples and why you should light that way given the situation. One of the things that I quickly understood is that you can read all you want from books, but when you read from the books you don't really have your hands on the lights. You are doing yourself a disservice. You really need to get the lights and practice with them. Use, if you have a daughter, if you have a son, or a wife, sit them in the chair and come up with some scenarios that you want to explore. You don't want to be doing this on the job, on the fly not knowing what the outcomes going to be like. So my recommendation is bring out your lights on a day that you don't have anything to do, sit your subject down and ask 'em if you can practice lighting for a few bits. Remember to record so that you can go back and look at your results. I hope this helps.
I wanted to test out my Aputure light storm with and without it's softbox and grid. The test involves the light with the softbox and grid and without it. When the light is without the softbox there is a 42 inch circular scrim in front of the light. The scrim is attached to a lightstand with a clamp and it's about 2.5 feet in front of the light.
It appears when I only use the scrim there is more light which is good and bad depending on your needs. The fall off on my face looks better to me when the light is accompanied by the scrim vs the softbox and grid. Mind you that, this test does not use a reflector or a fill light. This test was conducted to see if when in a pinch you only had one light and no fill which of the two methods would work best...scrim or softbox. I did add a Lowel pro light in the background to add seperation. The Lowel light used a 3200K bulb and the Aputure is daylight balanced at 5400K. Test were done with two different backgrounds, one medium grey and the other light grey almost white.
I used a Canon C100 set to ISO 1250, WB 4000, F3.2-3.5.
A company branded story can help you connect with your audience. People connect with stories, they have been doing so for a very long time. When you explain how your business and or organization started you give your audience a behind the scenes look at your history. When you are transparent you build trust, and that trust will be apparent when customers patron your business, not only for the items or services you sell, but because they connected with you. Connecting is key. Customers don’t want a hard sell, they want to better understand the meaning behind the business. By connecting with your customers’, you will sell more, and you will be remembered. We tend to forget about last weeks sale, but we will always remember a good story.
Stories can connect people with people. That is why stories are so important. They personify and thus relationships can be built. Within your story you can characterize your brand. Explain what it is that sets your business and or organization apart from others. What is it that makes you different? What struggles did you face to get to where you are now? Don’t be afraid to share your ups and downs with your audience.
How do I tell branded stories?
I feel it is very important to have a conversation with the owner before I even start shooting their story. Whether we talk in person or over the phone, it is imperative that I get your story and understand how I should shape it. When it is time to meet in person, we will already have known each other, making the interview more like a conversation over coffee than an intense interview.
On the day of the shoot I will interview the main subject and then gather video footage that best represents what the interviewee said.
Meet Gerry Caputo, owner of Mariposa Coffee Company
I helped Gerry tell his story, and now he can share it with the world via video. Placing video branded stories on your website, Facebook, Instagram will get you more attention than a written article. With company branded short films, you get to introduce yourself to new customers. They get to hear from you, see you, and get some insight regarding your business.
After I edited Gerry’s branded story I received this very kind review:
"I would recommend Cook Films a million times over. Not only is Jeff professional and skilled with a fantastic artistic eye for capturing just the right shots, he is wonderful to work with. He finished the film way sooner than I would have ever thought possible, and we were thrilled with the end result. We can't wait to share it with our customers on our up-and-coming website."
-Mariposa Coffee Company
Here is Gerry’s Story | Mariposa Coffee Company
Hello, my name is Jeff Cook - videographer, editor, producer and storyteller.
After receiving my Bachelor of Arts degree, I started my television broadcasting career at Fox 26. In just having graduated, I was green, very green. I learned how to be a photographer by watching the more experience photographers work, and by asking them questions. After a year at Fox, I was hired by KSEE 24, a NBC affiliate. Again, I was learning more and more by asking and observing. During my tenor at KSEE, I was responsible for overnight news, and editing a full morning newscast. I learned to edit efficiently, I had to…. news waits for no one. While working at KSEE I was fortunate enough to win an Edward R. Murrow award.
I worked at a few more stations before hanging up my news hat at the number one station in the Central Valley, ABC 30.
Even though I was in the field I went to school for, I felt a whole in my soul. Yes, I was doing what I loved to do, but something was missing. I think all the negative news I was witnessing, editing, reporting on was getting to me. What I was missing was positivity in my life and at work. I would attend the morning meetings and suggest positive stories, however, there is a saying in the news business…” If it don’t bleed it don’t read.” Well, I guess that tells you how gory it can be. Even if we were on a good feel story and there was breaking news such as a homicide, or car accident, I would have to drop my current story to cover the more gruesome one.
The empty feeling, I had needed to find remedied. So, I put myself through the Police Academy. I have always wanted to help people in need, so I thought being an officer would be a good fit. I went on several ride a longs and really liked what I was saw. In 2009 I was offered a job in Fresno. During my training I realized how wrong I was in getting into police work. Police work is meant for special people who have it in them to be officers. I was not an officer. It just wasn’t in me. To tell you the truth, I felt like I was out of my own skin. So now what? I turned in my badge and gun and started soul searching.
During my job hunt, I interviewed for a freelance position at the PBS Fresno. After my first week on the job, my spirit was reborn. I had just finished reading a book called My Purpose Driven Life, and I really connected with what I was doing at the station. You know that ah-ah moment, the feeling inside that validates truth. I was editing and shooting stories and was doing it with a purpose. It was at this moment in my life that I realized how God wanted to use me for his glory.
You know your purpose in life when you love what you do. It’s the thing that makes you tick. It’s the passion that makes you want to become better at what you love to do. My passion is to tell stories. It is my fuel to feeling good. I want to be able to tell stories to benefit people, organizations, and businesses. There is something about sharing someone’s story that is uplifting for me. I really do feel alive when I am behind a camera, editing, and interacting with people during the shoot. It’s is my job to make the shoot the best I can, and to be able to tell a compelling story. We all have stories to tell, and they are all unique. My hope is to tell as many impactful stories that I can, and in doing so, I hope I can better the business, organization or person I am telling the story about.
In looking back on my life, it was these events that helped shape and mold me into the person I am today. I did some real soul searching after I resigned as a training officer. I wanted to know why I did not get police work. I wanted to know why I thought God wanted me there. It wasn’t until after I left and started at PBS that I received those answers. I was born to create. Let me tell you, after eighteen years of media, I still love it, and I still try to improve my craft daily.
It is my honor to deliver high quality storytelling through my company Cook Films. After years of being in the news business, I now can tell a complete story without time constraints. As a news photojournalist, I only had a minute or so to tell a story; and many stories deserve more time than just one minute. Now, it’s my mission and goal to give each story life and allow the story to be told the way it needs to be told without time constraints. My desire is to tell your story, whether it be for a company, organization, or public service announcement with dignity and character. Everyone has a story to tell.... what's yours?
Feel free to check out my blog post where I share behind the scenes footage, how to video info, and much more.
Here are some of my top rated blog post:
Telling a good story
People stories | Tony Lopez
Top 4 reasons your business needs video on Facebook
Many of us do not have time to call companies and get info, so... I created this form to help expedite things. It's a form that will help me understand your video production needs.
Do you love to drink coffee? I know I do, so I reached out to a local coffee roaster to get their story. I have been drinking coffee for many years and have really wanted to explore how coffee is roasted. Mariposa Coffee Company is a company that specializes in roasting. Gerry Caputo, the owner has a different approach to roasting his beans. When settling in Mariposa from the Bay Area, he decided to learn how to roast coffee. Gerry decided to do everything in opposite fashion. In doing so, he was able to come up with a unique way of roasting coffee. Many people dismissed him, but he proved his method worked. It works so well he has won coffee awards because of his unique approach.
Gerry is very charismatic and knows his coffee. Many locals and tourist from Yosemite stop at his store. They not only get to buy fresh coffee but see how it is roasted. Gerry puts on a whole roasting demonstration right there before your eyes. He explains many ideas and misconceptions regarding coffee. The man is a great people person and he customer service is one of his top priorities.
Here is a mini documentary about Gerry and his family owned business.
Not too long ago I sold my Canon C100 and bought a Panasonic Gh5. The Gh5 is more compact, it can shoot 4k if I needed, plus it has in body stabilization. This means that I can use the camera handheld and shoot video without a monopod or a tripod if needed. The ibis is a great feature because now I can grab the camera and go. The one thing that I always wished it had was the ability to record in low light. From what I have read, the Gh5 is better shooting in low light than the Gh4 was. And as a filmmaker you should rely on lighting rather than relying on the camera to give you better video in low light situations. However, there does come times in which you cannot light, and you need the extra performance from your camera. This is where the Gh5s comes in. It is very similar to the Gh5; however, it does not have ibis and a few other features, but it does have better low light capabilities.
The Gh5s can pull off better low light performance due to its larger sensor size. You can read other articles that go deep into discussion regarding this topic. I am here as a storyteller telling you how I incorporate these two wonderful tools. Now, when people heard about the new Gh5s, they were very excited but also let down once they found out it did not offer ibis. Remember monopods guys? In filmmaking we have several types of tools. And the tools that we can benefit from by using the Gh5s is stabilization such as a tripod, monopod, or gimbal. If vloging is your thing, then the Gh5s should not be your camera choice.
I recently used the Gh5s to record a karate tournament. I chose to use my gimbal and my trusty Manfrotto monopod to stabilize the camera. There really wasn’t an issue using these tools either. I felt very at home using the monopod. The shots were steady, and I did not miss the ibis. The gym was lite, however not very well. This is where the low light capabilities of the Gh5s come into play. I couldn’t bring in my lights, so I had to deal with what I was given…florescent lighting yuck! I shot in V log, which comes free installed in the camera and it worked out well.
I also wanted to test out the low light capabilities of the camera with only candle light. I shot it in natural and went from 200 iso all the way up the ladder. I did not use denoiser or neat video to clean up the image either. I think the Gh5s did a great job with the only light coming form a candle. Now this is not a scientific test, I just wanted to share what I saw and documented it on Vimeo and YouTube for others to see.
So, if you are on the fence about buying either one of these cameras, think about what you will be using them for. Do you own a monopod and or tripod? Do you shoot a lot of low light videos? Do you happen to always be on the run and really need the ibis the Gh5 can offer? Think about what tool can server your needs best and then buy. Remember these are tools that we use. Just like a carpenter has more than a hammer to build a house.
Many people like to tell stories, some are good at it and some are not. The following advice is just a few pointers that can help you when you plan on telling your story. To have a compelling story you must have plot. You may have heard that word before when people talk about story and structure. You must have a plot for a story. Plots have a beginning, middle and an end.
Whether you are telling a personal story, or a business’ story you must use a beginning, middle and end to hold peoples’ interests. I am a producer of short films and like to focus on one character who can drive the story. I recently picked up the Muse Storytelling course and they teach that each character must have three traits. They should have uniqueness, complexity, and desire. These three major traits give you a head start to tell a very good story. The Muse group calls these three traits the heart. Why the heart? Well, each story should be led by a person. We relate to people more than we do dogs or cats and even robots.
It does not end there. Muse also teaches that you need a strong hook to get the audiences’ attention. I like to add my hook within the first fifteen seconds of the short film. Your character must have conflict, and they need to have overcome that conflict or are in the middle of transitioning to overcoming the conflict.
Some stories have quite a bit of people in them. I like to focus on one individual. This individual must be a strong one too. If you lead with just anybody who has not much desire, or uniqueness, then your story is dead on arrival. That is why it is important to do your homework first before you even consider pressing the record button. Sit down with your character, and talk to them about what makes them tick. Why are they so passionate about their purpose or cause? Where do they see themselves in five years? You could meet at a coffee house and just talk without cameras or notepads. It’s time to get to know one another and really build a rapport. Trust me, the more you know the better the story can be told. You are not only receiving valuable information while conversing with this individual, but you are also building a relationship. A relationship which will allow the individual to feel more comfortable with you, thus making it easier for them to share.
If you have too many characters, the audience does not have a real chance to relate to them. If you are shooting a longer film, than yes, more characters can work. However, when the film is only five-ten minutes long I would focus on one main character and maybe a helper. A helper is a character who helps drive the story. They are not as interesting as the main character, but help drive the piece.
Places are a big part of storytelling as well. If your character owns a family owned flower shop, you would not want to interview them inside a home or some random business building. You would most likely want to interview them on camera around flowers. Place your characters in their surroundings. This will make a better story and it will make it more authentic too.
I was hired to tell a story about a girl who was adopted when she was twelve. I decided to go to the house to see how and where I should shoot, but more importantly, due to the subject I wanted to build a rapport with the mom and daughter. Here it the their story.
I am very passionate about telling compelling stories that have a positive impact. When I have the chance to tell an individual’s story that I know will better society, I jump on it.
A few weeks ago, I was finishing up my workout at my gym. I went to get a drink of water and while waiting I noticed the guy in front of me wearing a hat with a cross on it. When I took a better look, it said Faith with the t being larger than the rest of the letters. It looked as if it was a cross and sure enough it was. I asked the guy where he bought it and he said a local guy sells them. I asked for the artist’s info and I connected with him a day later.
I emailed Tony, owner of AOF Apparel, and he called me back later in the day. We briefly talked about his hats, and he told me he also sells shirts and other merchandise. Tony said it was more than a business to him, it was a ministry. After we talked a bit we decided to meet up for coffee so we could chat more in depth about his vision and his ministry. I was intrigued and was looking forward to meeting him.
Saturday came, and we met up at a local coffee shop. Right off the bat I could tell that Mr. Lopez was a passionate individual. He talked to me about why he is leading this ministry and how it has brought him so much hope. Tony has a love for people and wants to plant seeds in which Christ can water. Tony explained his troubled past and how he found Christ. I explained that I would love to do a feature documentary on him and what he has gone through. We talked about incorporating his passion for his ministry in the documentary too.
I met up with Tony at Fitness Evolution the following week. I wanted to get video footage of him selling his merchandise and talking to people. The man is very wise and articulate when talking about Christ. You can tell by his choice of words and how he uses verses from the bible to explain his ideas and thoughts to people. Tony is on fire for Jesus.
We met up a second time where his apparel is made. I shot some footage of how his hats are made, as well as how the shirts are made. It was interview time and after I finished setting up all the lights, cameras, and mic we both just had a conversation. The interview went very well. Tony spoke about his upbringing, his ties with gangs, and how he used to drink too much. We also talked about how his friend invited him to church and it was there he had a head on collision with Christ. We finished up talking about his ministry and how he is very blessed to spread the word.
Now, I had to edit this piece. It was going to be fun because I had plenty to work with. When I originally thought of telling his story I was going to focus on his ministry. However, Tony’s testimony was so strong I had to tell it in its entirety. As I was editing, the pieces just came together. It was as if Christ was behind me telling me what needed to go where. After the video was done, I told Tony that our meeting was not a coincidence, it was God’s intervention. We were His tool, and this story needed to be told.
The video has only been out for a few days, but peoples’ lives have really been impacted by Tony’s story. This video has been chosen to be a teaching tool for inmates. They hope to show them that they too can overcome hardships.
Stories are all around us. We just need to open our eyes and listen to them. As a filmmaker I am constantly looking to help serve my community, and I think I did by telling Tony’s story. Tony was very brave to tell his story, and he is helping lead people to Christ. Just think, if it wasn’t for Tony’s apparel I wouldn’t have seen his hat that morning and this very powerful story wouldn’t have been told.
Let’s face it, if you want to get better at your craft you’re going to have to work at it, it’s called practice. You should always practice your craft so that you can become the best videographer you can be. There are several very well-known artists, musicians, composers, etc. that practice daily on their craft. Carving out time to practice will benefit you in many ways.
As a videographer, you can gain muscle memory which leads to being able to operate the camera faster, which means you will have more opportunities to get those great shots. Try not using your camera for about two months. You will find that you’ll have to think about each move when it comes to dials, buttons and other parts of the camera. After a few moments with it, things will become normal again. But not working with it for a while will limit you for a bit until you familiarize yourself with your tool.
I like to take one subject and try to get as many shots as possible. Doing this exercise forces me to think creatively and get shots at different viewpoints. I recently did this exercise with our water tower here in Fresno. At lunch, I took my camera and my gimbal and started taking as many different shots as I could. In the end you will have close-ups, medium shots, extreme long shots. You can take those shots and edit them together which will benefit you in a totally different exercise…editing. If you pre-plan your shots and think about them, you can really create a stunning piece of art. This exercise also gives you the flexibility to learn more about your camera techniques. You will find what you’re good at and other things you need work on.
When I have time, I like to grab my camera and go downtown. I use this time to help me with understanding and nailing exposure as well as color temperature. I shoot things in the sun, things that are in mid shade, and things that are completely in the shade. This exercise helps me understand Kelvin degrees and what number I need to dial in for each shot. For instance, if I am taking a shot of a statue that is in shade I more than likely will have to dial in 6000-7000 Kelvin to get my color temperature correct. If I am shooting a subject in direct sun at noon time, my Kelvin will be around 5200K-5800K. Getting correct color balance is important but getting exposure correct is also very valuable. While I walk around the city filming different things I am constantly looking at my waveform monitor to get the exposure needed for the shot. Get creative with your color temperature and see what comes of it. I like to shoot with a high Kelvin to make the videos a warm tone. At times I like a cold tone, so I will shoot them with a lower Kelvin.
How about practicing with the many tools you use with your camera. When I shot the water tower I not only was focused on one subject, but I also was using my gimbal. I think it is important to familiarize yourself with your tools so that when you are on a paid job you know your limits and what amazing things you can do. Clients are not paying you to learn on the job, they expect you to know what you are doing.
One last thing I should mentions is working with your lights. Ask your friend, wife, son whoever, to sit down for an interview lighting setup. You do not have to interview them, but rather work the lights to see which lights look best. You may want to experiment with different lights than you would on a paid job. This is when it becomes fun, because you may find new ways in lighting your interviews. This exercise gives you the chance to work with your lighting without the pressure of being on a tight deadline. Try different hair light techniques, or try a kicker light and see what it does on the face of your subject. This is all for your benefit.
All in all, practicing your craft can be fun. You will learn your tools, and become well versed. I like to think about getting better each time I am behind the camera.
Let’s say you have a big shoot that is going to take place outside. You want to use your field monitor but it’s hard to see the screen in bright day light. You even place a hood around the monitor and it helps a little but not much. This can be a huge problem. I have a GH5 and rely on the EVF when I am out in the sun. The EVF works great on the GH5, but if you are conducting an interview outside, you do not want to have your eye up close to the EVF the entire time. So, what do you do?
There are several great monitors you can buy that are bright enough to withstand sunny days, but they can cost anywhere from $500-$1000. That’s is a lot of money especially if you already own a monitor. A trick that I have learned and adopted is using a black fabric called Duvetyne. This is a black fabric that is used to black out unwanted light. You can drape it around your monitor and have it over your head which will block out much of the sunlight. I purchase a small piece from Amazon for around $20. Duvetyne has been used on movie sets for ages. It can block out natural and tungsten light. Maybe you need to block out some of the light that comes from a window, duvetyne to the rescue. The fabric is fire retardant, and is also known as "commando cloth.”
I am big on using resources, especially if you can save money. So, if you already own a monitor but can’t view the screen in direct sunlight; pick up some duvetyne and start using your monitor outdoors. I have linked a video to show you how well this works.
I have been working in television and media for over 18 years. My experience includes news photojournalist, editor, producer and storyteller. I am a five time Telly Award winner.