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5 Tips for Fundraising Videos

You’ve been asked to raise money at an upcoming event. Sounds simple enough, right? But, then you start to think about all of the little things you need to do to make the event a success. Things start to get a bit overwhelming. How do you thank your current donors and also make them inspired to continue to give in the future?

As an integrated video production company we’ve had great success helping nonprofits produce videos in order to raise awareness, funds, and achieve their marketing goals. The upfront investment costs are just that, an investment. When you see stats over and over again that say the human mind processes images and stories so much more effectively than text, it’s easy to understand why a video works. So here are some tips for when it’s time to prepare that video:

1. Include a relatable character – This could be a real person, an animated character, or the narrator but, it needs to be a person whom your audience can relate to. Most people will likely feel empathy for whomever you choose.

2. Emotional pull – If you are involved in a nonprofit you probably know some great stories about how your organization has helped others. These stories can really make an impact when told in an engaging way. Likely your cause does awesome things. But everybody might not know what those things are. Here’s your chance to tell them.

3. Include something positive at the end – You could be telling a story that contains a sad situation or a situation that’s uncomfortable, but there needs to be something hopeful at the end. Something that shows passion. Something that shows a difference can be made. Something to show a conflict was resolved or can/will be with help.

4. It’s not always about making $ – Even though you are hosting a fundraising event you may not want to blatantly slap the call to action everywhere. People understand you are trying to raise money. They’ve either given money or time in the past or are interested in giving in the future. This is one time the call to action can be a little bit disguised.

5. Be truthful – This should be a given, but I think it deserves to be said. Sometimes people are skeptical about where their money is going. If it’s not going directly to the cause, then you might want to mention that. Most people understand that there are administrative costs involved with any non-profit but they want as much of their funds as possible to go to the cause so just be clear about what the percentage is if that’s appropriate.

These are just a few things that will help you achieve success for your fundraising event. Have more questions? Feel free to reach out! We’re happy to assist in any way we can.

If you are curious about some of our experience with fundraising videos click here to see some we’ve produced.

Here’s one of our favorites, for the American Heart Association, that follows the 5 tips above.

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What goes where? – Composition Basics

Maybe you watched our documentary on NCRLA, and wondered about setting up a video interview, maybe not. Regardless, I wanted to share a few basic tips when composing your shot for a video interview. First off, you need to pick a place for the interview. Often times, people will want to do an interview in a certain room because they think the room is their most impressive or comfortable or just “looks the best.” However, it is important to remember that with a video interview, you will only see a very small portion of the room. So, you only need to have a small section of the room “look the best.”

When choosing a location, keep in mind that you want to have at least a few feet between the camera and the interviewee and at least a few feet between the interviewee and the background. Sometimes this is easier said than done, but it will give you a better depth of field and keep your subject from blending it with the background. (Note: in a tiny nutshell, depth of field refers to how much of the image is in focus.)

So after you pick a location, you want to choose where to put the subject in the frame. There is a pretty simple guideline for this called the Rule of Thirds. If you divide the frame in to thirds both horizontally and vertically with lines, you want to have your subject in one of the intersection points of the lines. You can look at this picture of a puppy for an adorable example of the Rule of Thirds:

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 Next, you want to light the scene properly, for more information on that, watch this video we made on lighting basics.

After you have your subject lit beautifully and properly placed in the frame, you will want to eliminated anything distracting from the frame. Sometimes, what is not in the shot is just as important as what is in the shot. If you are interviewing someone at a messy desk, you might want to have a tighter (closer) shot that doesn’t show much of the desk. Or, you might want to clean the desk. Also, if there is a window or other really bright object like a lamp in the shot, you might want to move the shot the those objects are out of the frame. Simply put, you want to make sure the viewer is NOT going to be paying attention to something in the frame that isn’t your subject.

These are just a few basic ideas that can help improve a video interview on the visual side of things, but don’t forget about audio. For more on audio in video read this.

If you have any questions of this topic or other video ideas, let me know in the comments section. Thanks!

Bryan Reklis
Video Producer

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Press Release: Raleigh Production Company Adopts Humanitarian Role in Community

View the official press release here.

Blueforest Studios is a company that realizes there’s more to business than making money. The Raleigh-based video production company places an emphasis on maintaining a benevolent reputation, both in and out of the workplace. Their efforts to stay involved and active in the community include volunteer work for charity, donations to non-profits, and a general practice of selfless, healthy office activities.

Blueforest’s most significant local contribution is monthly participation in Meals on 6386194_origWheels, an organization that delivers food to elderly and disabled citizens with limited mobility. Each month, two or more staff members take their turn delivering meals to residents of Wake County that are in need of this form of assistance. Employees at the company are happy to take a couple hours out of their day to give back to the community and meet fresh new faces in the process. Video Producer Vann Dwiggins expresses his high regard for Blueforest’s altruistic labors:

“It’s encouraging to be a part of a company that not only cares about it’s employees, but about the general public. I enjoy coming to work even more knowing that my role here can occasionally help others that are in need.” 

In addition to their participation in Meals on Wheels, Blueforest Studios donates half the proceeds from their monthly training seminars to select nonprofits in the area. For example, August’s event sponsored Passage Home, a nonprofit dedicated to aiding the poverty-stricken residents of Wake County. This is just one of several nonprofits Blueforest Studios engages with, including the NC Lighthouse Foundation and Cause for Paws. 

unnamedThe team is dedicated to maintaining an office environment that’s conducive to a healthy and inspired work-life. They do so in a variety of ways, such as watching motivational TED Talks at quarterly staff meetings. One such video provided five methods for living a happy life: random acts of kindness, journaling, exercise, meditation, and counting gratitudes. These five actions have been illustrated on posters that grace the walls of Blueforest’s office as encouraging reminders for the staff and visitors. Through their efforts, Blueforest Studios hopes to make even the smallest of difference in their community, as well as influence others to give back. 

About Blueforest Studios

Blueforest Studios is an integrated video production firm located in Raleigh, NC that serves the mid-atlantic region and beyond. Their work features the RED camera that will deliver 4K and UltraHD footage. They place an emphasis on storytelling to connect with their audiences through high-end animation and live-action videos. 

About Meals on Wheels

Since 1974 Meals on Wheels has been giving our community’s most vulnerable citizens their independence by serving 1,300 healthy meals a day. Their outreach to the elderly and persons with disabilities in Wake County improves nutrition, reduces isolation, and helps our friends and neighbors stay in their homes.

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TAB/Smart State Use Video to Grow Their Business

Keith Weaver is an established business coach for conjoined business advisor companies, The Alternative Board and Smart State. He came to us for assistance in creating a tool that would help him get meetings and close deals. Though he’s very good at his job, he was looking for something that would address prospects’ fears and issues – ones that they might not even want to speak about – such as the business problems that keeps them up at night.

Here’s the video that our team created.

After implementing the video into his sales process Keith has been very pleased. Here is what he had to say:

Screen Shot 2014-08-25 at 9.53.35 AMWhen I needed a boost to my revenue growth, I turned to Blueforest Studios. They developed and produced the perfect video as part of my marketing strategy to attract more clients. In the two years since I began using the video my business is up over 43%. Anyone can make a video these days but very few know how to tell your story or deliver your message in a compelling fashion that gets viewed and truly impacts the bottom line.

Keith Weaver, CEO
Smart State, LLC

http://www.smart-state.com/

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Nonprofit Storytelling Seminar

Screen Shot 2014-08-19 at 1.31.11 PMWe were so happy to host our first seminar in a series of monthly events that we’re offering here at Blueforest Studios. The seminar focused on how nonprofits can convey their personal stories in an compelling manner in order to inspire interest and make a lasting impression on anyone they may encounter. It also raised money for the nonprofit organization Passage Home. We want to give a special thanks to our guests who were able to attend. For those of you that are intrigued but were unfortunately unable to make it to the session, here are some of the highlights!

What Makes a Great Story?

To start with, check out why we believe storytelling is so influential!

Storytelling is a multi-billion dollar industry in the United States. On average, Americans spend:

  • $10 Billion /year on Movie Tickets
  • $18 Billion/year on Home Video & Rentals
  • $130 Billion/year on the Television Industry

Why are people so interested in stories that they’re willing to plunk down major cash for the opportunity to hear a good one, but are 100% uninterested in the average nonprofit pitch?

unnamedWe asked our guests to write down what the single most important element of storytelling was. Answers were varied and we had a lot of great responses, however the MOST significant aspect of storytelling is “What’s at stake?”

To exemplify this, we looked at a popular scene from No Country for Old Men. Take a look at the following clip and try to figure out what makes it so captivating.

In this scene, the viewer is brought into a state of uneasy anticipation. I admit, I was on the edge of my seat waiting for what came next. Everything about this scene, from the pacing to the camera work to the set design, comes together to create anxiety about what’s at stake – this old man’s life. It’s a remarkable example of storytelling that not only creates a lasting impression on viewers, but also compels them to want to see more.

How Can I Find My Nonprofit’s Story?

We looked at two examples of Nonprofit pitches and discussed how they dealt with the question, “What’s at Stake?”

Each time you give a pitch for your nonprofit, you have an opportunity to either bore your audiences or leave a lasting impression. The way you can achieve the latter every time is by raising and then answering the question “What’s at stake?”

Here are a series of questions you can ask yourself to begin adding more richness and interest to your nonprofit’s story:

  • Why did I personally get involved with this nonprofit?
  • Has this nonprofit directly impacted my personal life?
  • Was there a particular moment when I realized how the nonprofit affected something I value dearly?

If this seminar sounds like something you could have benefited from, be sure to look into our next event – a LinkedIn seminar on September 10th. Half the proceeds from this event will go towards the NC Lighthouse Foundation. You can register here. Be sure to come prepared with your laptops or tablets for a hands-on learning experience!

 

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The Why, Where, What, and When of the Animated GIF

WHY

Cute kittens and klutzy kids have been using animated GIFs for years to showcase their particular brand of cute. But the animated GIF isn’t all fun and games. Okay, it’s mostly fun and games. But who says marketing can’t be fun every once in awhile?

Because we’re a video company, motion is kind of our thing. So you can bet we love animated GIFs. After all, they handily bridge the gap between a still image and a video.

GIFs are hardly a new frontier. They’re been around since 1987! Marketers have been slow to catch up, but animated GIFs’ popularity as an alternative advertising device has been slowly growing. Used correctly, they can be a great way to get attention, showcase a product, or express your brand’s individuality.

Here are some great examples of GIF usage for inspiration:

This slick GIF by Jakub Antalík showcases the smooth animations and clean interface of the app design.

 

Subway has started using illustrated GIFs to show off their fun side.

Diesel put together a moving fashion shoot for one of their recent marketing campaigns.

Here at Blueforest Studios, we just can’t resist GIFs. We’ve been using them in some of our recent online spot ads to help explain what we do.

WHERE

Some popular sites, like Twitter and Facebook, still don’t allow animated GIFs. Even a few email clients have been slow on the update. So make sure your animated images can also work as a static image and do plenty of testing beforehand.

Some sites, however, go with animated GIFs like jelly on toast. Tumblr in particular is the unofficial kingdom of the GIF, and its platform encourages users to like and reblog posts. Brands that have embraced the motion movement include Coca-Cola, American Apparel, Adidas, Sesame Street, and Disney.

WHAT

Consider your audience and let that guide your content.. Does your GIF have entertainment value? Make people laugh? Show customers how to interact with your product? Illustrate some life truth that resonates with folks? People normally don’t share ads. But people do share good content. And if your ad just so happens to be good content… win win!

WHEN

If you know anything about animated GIFs, you know that they’re best used sparingly (unlike this blog post).

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In Video Marketing, Brevity is Key

Feeling good about your new video masterpiece? Think you’ve done well describing the ins and outs of your business and why prospects should choose your company? Most viewers will tune out of online videos after only fifteen seconds. That might make you rethink your 45-second musical intro.

It’s not breaking news that our society’s ever-shortening attention spans prefer visuals and sound to text. Neither is the idea that there’s a lot of bright and shiny “noise” tempting your viewer down a different path. So how do you hook the viewer despite these challenges?

1. Be Concise

To engage the viewer it’s important to get to the point. We know how hard it is to condense everything your business has to offer into 90 seconds. If you’re knee-deep in it every day, it’s hard to weed out what’s pertinent to the client. Try to avoid the temptation to cram everything in. Talking heads delivering wordy explanations turns viewers off big time. If this is a training video your employee will be forced to watch, then you can get away with a lengthy re-enactment of the company’s 100-year history. Otherwise just hit the main points.

2. Use Terms that are Easy to Understand

In short, don’t confuse your prospect. They are considering your product or service because they don’t know how to do whatever you do themselves. Our clients trust us to conceptualize, produce and optimize their videos. I don’t expect them to know an f-stop from a frame rate. Using complex terms to describe your process will make the process itself appear complicated, and therefore worry your future client. Unless this video is targeting other experts, kick the tricky terminology and keep it simple.

3. Don’t Just Say it With Words

Here’s the how and why of video’s effectiveness, whether it’s an award winning feature-length drama or a Vine video about your automotive shop. (It also happens to be why I personally fell so in love with the art of film.) It’s not just the voice over doing the talking. There’s the lighting, how the shot is set up, what’s going on within the frame, what may be happening outside of the frame, music, sound effects, the pace of the editing, the movement of the camera… I could go on forever. All of these factors can be arranged to convey a strong message in a short period of time.

Brevity is the key to a successful video no matter the chosen platform. Before embarking on your next video, take time to really consider your audience and why they’ll be watching. Keep the dialogue concise and simple, and make the most of all video has to offer. If one is picture is worth a thousand words, then one minute of video is worth 1.8 million.

 

– Meredith Duncan, Account Manager

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Continuity 101

In filmmaking, there’s this thing called continuity…which consists of paying attention to the little things so you don’t make a big mistake. Continuity errors are when something obvious changes within a scene. For example, a man is wearing a blue shirt. When you cut away and then back to him, he’s wearing a yellow shirt. Now nine out of ten times, you can probably get away with a subtle mistake…BUT every once in a while, you will get caught. This is a big problem because as filmmakers, you want your audience to be immersed in the story. When a viewer catches a mistake, it breaks the illusion and reminds them that they’re actually watching video. This impairs your pacing and distracts from the story.

The sad thing is, while you may think nobody will notice your minor flub, there are TONS of people that thrive on the little mistakes. Check youtube – there’s video on video of people pointing out the oversights in major blockbusters.

     “Did you see that crew member in jeans behind Mel Gibson in Braveheart?”

     “I think Frodo’s scar is on the wrong side of his face.”

With a short commercial or promo video, the results of a mistake are even more dire. With a minute or less to win over your audience, any time they waste analyzing your mistakes could be detrimental to your message.

Catching blunders in the production process saves you from a lot of agonizing later on. Trust me, the last thing you want is to produce a FABULOUS video, save the one continuity error that throws off the entire thing.  A good way to avoid mishaps is to always have a continuity supervisor on hand at video shoots. This person will keep an eye on the script as you shoot to keep you on track as well as look out for continuity. If an actor does a movement, the continuity supervisor will make note of it to make sure they repeat that movement for each take from every different angle. They may also take pictures of set arrangement to make sure everything stays in its place.

Don’t think that having a continuity supervisor lets you off the hook, however. EVERYONE on set should be looking out for errors. This will help ensure that there will always be at least one person who can right the wrongs.

Check out these clips from the CW’s hit teen drama One Tree Hill. I mean, come on! Some of the mistakes are so obvious. You don’t want to look like these guys, do you?

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Why Storytelling is More Influential Than Selling

storytell_image_webIn part one of our Infomercial vs. Commercial debate, we talked about how the main idea associated with infomercials is ‘annoying.’ Let’s be honest, there’s no quicker way to get us to switch channels than hearing the familiar Oxyclean advertisement, or one similar to it. Infomercials are highly identifiable by their traditional approach to selling items.  But one thing that you can’t ignore is that they work! Otherwise people wouldn’t spend the amount of money producing the videos or airing them if they didn’t.

We start with a demonstration of the product: what it does, why it’s amazing, why other brands don’t live up to this one. All of that is well and good; obviously it’s the type of information you’d want to include in any kind of marketing technique. But then they start in on the irritation…

“You get all of this for only $19.99! That’s right, everything you see here for just $19.99! Similar products are going for more than double that! But you get it all for – wait for it – $19.99!”

Come on, is anyone really fooled into thinking that this is some killer bargain? But then, of course, they try to sweeten the deal…

“But wait! Call now and you’ll also recieve this (fill in random useless item here) for no extra cost to you! That’s (product and useless item) for JUST $19.99!!!

And then they repeat their phone number about 500 times, so if you’re still tuned in by this point you’re spending a lot more time praying for the infomercial to be over than thinking about the product.

Now, think about that technique and ask yourself – wouldn’t an engaging and entertaining commercial go so much farther in persuading the consumer to buy the product than annoying them into submission? You might think the benefit of an infomercial is that it highlights the benefits of the product, but a well-made commercial can do all that and more. For example, we like to create a narrative around the product. We enrapture and enlighten through visual storytelling. This is a great option to think about if you want to appeal to customers through entertainment. People often remember more information when it’s embedded in an interesting story. This video explains why.

As an example of the storytelling advertising technique, you can look at the Evolvemint fundraising video we produced.

At Blueforest Studios, we love to tell stories – we’d love to tell YOUR story. Give us a call or check out our portfolio for more inspriation.

 

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Tackling Analogies Through The Art of Animation

In some of our past blogs, we’ve tried to highlight the benefits of using animation to deliver complex messages. You may think that what you’re advertising is too mature to be presented in an animated format, but you’d be surprised at just how potent a well-created animation can be. Matthew Johstone, writer and illustrator, recently joined forces with the World Health Organization to create a powerful video about depression, proving that animation is influential at any age, whether you’re five or fifty.

The video ‘I Had a Black Dog, His Name Was Depression,” explores the debilitating nature of depression and ways of overcoming the condition that plagues millions of people globally. The story is delivered in a metaphorical context, personifying depression by representing the condition as a black dog, rather than alluding to a theoretical concept. The video really succeeds in bringing their message to life by using the dog figure to communicate the effects of depression. Trust me when I say this is no Clifford they’re presenting; it’s an ominous, dominant, pervasive figure that the subject can’t escape. He ‘chews up’ the man’s memory and prevents his concentration, ‘sniffs out’ his confidence and ‘chases it away.’

It’s difficult for a person who isn’t afflicted by depression to imagine what living with the disorder must be like. It’s not something you can feel for yourself or come to grasp fully unless it’s happening to you. In creating this anthropomorphic figure of depression, the black dog, the creators are able to illustrate visibly the essence of depression, rather than presenting a vague idea for viewers to grapple with. Animation is the perfect way to bring figurative messages to life. Imagine telling the story of the black dog in live action – viewers would see a forlorn dog and recall Sarah McLauchlan’s haunting SPCA commercials, rather than interpreting the analogy as it’s meant to be understood. Instead, Johnstone and WHO created a video that allows viewers to deepen their understading of a complicated issue by giving them something to visualize.

Blueforest Studios is experienced in creating animated videos to explain complex issues in a simple way. We’ve made videos for Tar Heel Tax ReformEvolvemint and Men’s Ministry. With each we have strived to use animation to tell a story and engage the target audience. Do you have a subject matter that might not be easily tackled using live action? Contact us today to learn more about our animation process!