Camera Shy?

       It happens to almost everyone. There you are, in front of the camera, ready to present your material and wow your target audience with a video spectacle; suddenly, the nerves begin to fray. Your hands begin sweating. Your speech becomes garbled. Many clients find that they are initially uncomfortable speaking to or presenting to a camera. This is called ‘scopophobia’, but its more colloquial name is ‘stage fright’. At Render Perfect, we understand that this is a very natural phenomenon. We sympathize with this initial discomfort, and we are more than prepared to help you push past it to deliver a great presentation. Below are some simple steps to help confront and defeat stage fright when facing off with the dreaded video camera.

  1. Makeup & Lighting

Many clients are concerned about how the camera will make them look. But with a light dusting of studio makeup and a unique lighting setup tailored to your needs, you’ll soon find that the camera is your best friend rather than your worst enemy. We can also do a warm-up exercise with you to give you a look at yourself in one of the studio monitors. Seeing and knowing exactly what you look like on camera is always very soothing, and may help you find the necessary courage to begin delivering your actual message.

2.    The Magic of Repetition

Having a great video presentation is one thing; hearing yourself present it is another. The first time that you hear yourself speaking to a camera, it can feel a little awkward, and maybe even a bit silly. But as you repeat your material over and over again, you’ll find yourself naturally beginning to focus more on your own message, and less on the camera capturing it. We are always prepared to do multiple ‘warm-up’ takes with our clients to soothe their nerves and get them more comfortable with the studio environment.

3.      Using A Teleprompter

One final thing that can be jarring about recording a video presentation is memorization. Render Perfect has an answer to this problem as well. Using our state-of-the-art teleprompter, we can feed your script back to you at any pace you choose, and you can read it right off the screen with absolute confidence. You’ll find that you barely even notice that the camera is there!

At Render Perfect, we are committed not only to helping you communicate a message, but also to helping you look good doing it. Remember: the camera is a marketing tool, not a torture device. Use it to your advantage!

Looking Good on Green Screen’s

Not everyone has a studio ready environment to shoot in, and a green screen makes all the difference when it comes to a controlled, professional outcome. By using a green screen to add backdrops and special effects, it can take your video from bland to extraordinary. However, as the talent you must do your part in order to make the green screen shoot a success.

Here are the basics of the “Green Screen Do’s and Dont’s” from our own guidelines:

1. Do not wear ANY shade of green

  • Anything worn that is green with disappear on the green screen including patterns/details on clothes or accessories, hair clips, ties, scarves, pins, nail polish and jewelry.
  • Avoid intricate or contrasting patterns, small stripes and logos.
    • This includes ties for men and scarves for women.

2. Keep hair under control

  • Make sure hair is laying down and flat as possible so there are not green highlights between your fly aways.

3. Make-up is ESSENTIAL

  • Natural make-up is best, highlight key features in-order to avoid looking washed out from the bright lighting.

Its recommended to…

  • Wear bright, soft, or neutral colors like shades of red, blues, and purples.
  • Wear (not too tight) slim, well fitting clothing.
  • Apply make-up.

With the proper grooming, attire, and preparation you can make the most of your next green screen video shoot!!

Five Tips for Video Testimonial Interviews

One of the most challenging aspects of video is interviewing someone for a testimonial. Not everyone has the ability to speak and appear comfortable on camera. So in order to get the most genuine response from the subject (or interviewee), the interviewer has to be adaptive, engaging and inviting.

Here’s five simple tips an interviewer can follow to get the best video testimonial interview for a video or documentary.

  1. Be warm and welcoming when meeting and greeting the interviewee as they come on set. Engage in small talk while they and are being seated for lighting and audio set-up.
  2. Take a second to explain again the purpose of the interview again, re-ensuring the interviewee that all video captured of them will be put to use in positive ways. Remind then they don’t have to say everything perfect. We will be editing and using the best parts of their comments. The goal is to be genuine and have a natural conversation.
  3. Remind the interviewee to try and restate your question within their answer. (Example: What do you feel is most beneficial about having an accreditation? The thing I have found most beneficial about having an accreditation is.….. ) Having them restate the question helps avoid quick responses and provides context to the viewer who will not be hearing the interview question.
  4. Try as much as you can to engage the interviewee in a real conversation, maintaining good eye contact, and providing affirmation to the key comments they are making.
  5. If the interviewee becomes frustrated and nervous, stay positive and be empathetic, letting them know you understand how hard it is to speak in front of the camera. Keep reminding them that we are only using selected parts of their interview, and that they are doing much better then they think. Being patient and kind goes along way to help people feel comfortable. Warm smiles are contagious and go along way.

 

Video Color Correction

Color correction is extremely vital for shooting any kind of video these days. And there are tons of filters and softwares out there that can make this once complicated process an easy one. Color Correction or Grading can really make that average looking shot ‘pop’ and grab the viewers attention. At Render we typically like to shoot things very flat with our Canon EOS 7D SLR giving the image a very neutral and almost bland look. This gives us more range and leverage in post to make the video really shine by increasing or decreasing the color saturation. Luckily there is no right or wrong way to color correcting video for the web because there are no standards like there are for broadcast television. So you can have a lot of fun with this step and really put your creative stamp on your video.

Here are some cool examples:



 

Camera Slider

Every Videographers Favorite Accessory

Having a slider really increases the production quality of your video. They literally breathe life into a shot by adding depth and motion. It’s no longer static and boring, but engaging when the camera tracks from one side of the frame to the other or pulls the viewer closer to the subject.

So here’s some test footage of our Varavon SLIDECAM EX Plus around the office:



Video Marketing – Using a Green Screen

 

Green Screens (or blue screens) are everywhere. They can be found in big budget Hollywood block-busters to show elaborate out-of-this-world landscapes or on your local News to deliver the weekend’s forecast.

Green Screens are great and they really allow you the freedom to create almost anything.

 

Why use a Green Screen?

The Simple Answer – replace the background with anything you want. But you don’t want to get too carried away. Just because you can replace the background with anything doesn’t mean you should. Putting your subject in the middle of the african savannah or on the moon may come off as a little over-zealous. Green Screen has a bad association with cheesy 80′s sci-fi movies that play on cable TV at 2 in the morning.

It’s like she’s really there… 

So using a green screen may not  be the best option for a simple sit down interview in someone’s house. Or it may be the only option when you need an interview to take place in 5 different locations in less than 5 hours.

 

So let’s get down to it. What are the Pro’s and Cons of using a Green Screen?

 

Pro’s - Flexibility, creativity, Portability.

Flexibility - You can place your subject into any environment or background and get the most out of the shot.  Green Screen makes it incredibly easy to revisit and update your projects with new backgrounds or company logo’s.

Creativity - You can incorporate your company’s identity with logo’s, style or color schemes into the background.

Portability – All you need is a big room, green screen and lights. The set up can be brought to your office or to another locations. Nothing needs to be built and you don’t need to travel anywhere.

Here’s the Render Crew setting up our Green Screen.



 

But you can’t have the good without the bad….

 

Cons - Increased Cost, Need for professional lighting and guidance, Large space to shoot in.

Increased Cost – It takes time to properly light and set up a Green Screen during productions. Plus a significant amount of time is added to post in order to take out the green and replace it with your desired background.

Need for Professional Lighting and Guidance - It all comes down to the lighting. Green screen is tricky. The screen needs to be evenly lit so it’s all green and no shadows.  Plus your subject needs lighting too. At bare-minimum the project needs at least 5 lights.

 

Don’t do this….

Large Space to Shoot in  – And not everyone has that. But you’ll need it if you want a good shot. You honestly need a lot of room to properly light the actual green screen and make sure your subject is far enough away from it so that green doesn’t reflect on them and that they don’t create shadow on the background.

 

So is using a Green Screen a good option for your video?

Well that depends on your style of video and what kind of background you need (or want). Take into consideration the things covered in post and see if your budget can support. Green Screens are awesome and allow for creativity to shine. But they require a lot of work and attention to detail.

 

 

What is a DSLR?

You’ve probably heard about them and probably have seen them slung around the shoulder of countless tourists and photo-enthusiasts. Or maybe you’ve just heard those 4 letters strung together D-S-L-in association with camera…

But what the heck is a DSLR or Digital SLR? And why is everyone using them to make videos?

 

Well, here’s the simple definition: 

Digital Single Lens Reflex Camera.

A Single Lens Reflex (SLR) camera allows light to travel through a single lens, and a mirror is used to reflect a portion of that light through the view finder (hence the name Single Lens Reflex). The image that is seen through the view finder is also the image that is captured by the camera’s sensor. A Digital SLR or DSLR replaces film with of course digital, giving the photographer an viewable image on the digital camera back.

Right now, there is an explosion of DSLR’s coming out.  They are so popular right that it feels like a new one is coming out every week. Every camera company known to man, from Canon to Nikon to Panasonic to Sony, have a wide range of Professional and Consumer level Digital SLR’s. And the best part? They produce some of the best images both in photographs and video.

 

More Than Just Photos

The DSLR is the most recommended camera for photographers just starting out. But there’s more to this camera than just still images. There’s an increasing trend of videographers and filmmaker out there using DSLR for video.

With the ability to shoot in a wide range from full High definition 1080p (1920×1080 pixels) to standard 480p (640×480 pixels), and anywhere from 24 to 60 frames per second, DSLR’s (or more specially HDSLR’s) are sparking a revolution in digital filmmaking. You don’t need that huge budget to make your movie or commercial. HDSLRs can achieve much shallower depth of field and superior low-light performance, giving your product that top-notch cinema feel.

 

So Let’s Break it Down:

Here are the basic advantages for a Digital SLR:

Size: DSLR’s are small, compact and portable. You can take them anywhere to get that perfect shot. On the video side, they are perfect for shooting a documentary and interviews because they can comfortably fit into a small office or room for an intimate interview with enough room for lights, sound and all kinds of other contraptions.

Sensor: The reason for the great quality of image is because DSLR’s large sensors. Some like the Canon 5d Mark II, have a full frame sensor which is the equivalent of 35mm film. Those little ‘point and shoot’ cameras, like a Nikon CoolPix, use sensors that are approximately 5% and 4% of the area of a full frame sensor. Essentially, Larger Sensors allows for larger pixel sizes and better Image Quality.

Image Quality: Just how good are DSLR’s? Well, a good portion of broadcast commercials, TV shows, and even major motion picture are being shot with them. Marvel’s The Avengers (yes, one of the highest grossing movies of all time) used five Canon EOS 5D Mark II and two Canon 7D to shoot the scenes from various vantage angle throughout the set in attempts to reduces re-takes on complex action scenes.

Here’s just a simple video showcasing the Canon 7d in a variety of locations and settings:



 

Lens: The lenses are interchangeable. In fact, very easily interchangeable. It can take less than 30 seconds to go from a telephoto lens to a nice wide angle lens. Essentially, you have the ability to adjust your depth of field, how close you are to subject, and how wide your field of view is in a matter of seconds.

It all boils down to That Shallow Depth of Field. Everyone wants that nice cinematic look. Because it looks great and it gives your project a high quality look.

 

 

Is DSLR the Right Option for Me? 

That really depends on what you are going for when it comes to video. In most company promo’s and interviews, I tend to lean toward a DSLR. The best way to compare is to compare High Definition DV tape footage to HDSLR footage. Here’s an example from some straight-from-the-camera footage we’ve shot here at Render Perfect:

Here at Render we are making the transition from our Sony HDV (HVR-Z5U)  camera to our Canon 7d.  Don’t get me wrong. The Sony HVR-Z5U is an amazing camera that’s very easy and comfortable to use. But some of the interviews come up a little flat.



If you really want something that stands out and has that high budget look (without having to spend an actual high budget to make), then the a Digital SLR is the ideal option for your project.

Adaptive & Responsive Web Design, The Future of Websites?

Recently the buzz in the web design world has been about Responsive Web Design and Adaptive Websites.  It’s the latest and most popular trend in web design / development, and with Google’s latest “endorsement“, it could very well be the preferred future of most sites on the web.   If you haven’t heard of adaptive or responsive web design yet, let us provide you with a brief explanation.

The Responsive and Adaptive Design concept came about with the introduction of HTML5 and CSS3, and uses one of CSS3′s new features called “Media Queries” to display different layouts of the same site based on the visitor’s screen resolution.  Responsive design uses fluid, percentage based, widths while, adaptive web design uses pixel based fixed widths to conform a sites layout to a given pixel resolution.  By using these media queries, designers and developers make “breakpoints” where the if the screen resolution is smaller than a given value, the website layout changes, or responds (see what we did there?).

Commonly, a responsive or adaptive site is divided up into 4 different layouts to accomodate 4 specific screen sizes (computer, tablet, mobile landscape and portrait resolutions).  However, some designers feel this isn’t enough and add a couple more, like tablet landscape, and media queries for the differing screen resolutions of a laptop and desktop monitor.  The goal is to create just one web presence that will present your content and branding, in the most usable and attractive way, across all viewers screen resolutions.  Utilizing responsive and adaptive design eliminates the need for a separate or mobile site dedicated to only smart phones.

With the increasing migration of people using mobile devices as their primary means to browse the web, make purchase decisions, and share their experiences, you need to start developing a strategy to ensure your web presence works well for both mobile and desktop visitors.  Responsive and Adaptive Web Design does take more in-depth planning and time to develop, but the benefits of cross resolution screen compatibility, and the use of modern HTML5 and CSS3 code, will ensure your web presence is relevant and visually effective.

If you are still having trouble comprehending the idea of a flexible, adaptive website, take a look at some examples we think look great and perform pretty well:

Responsive web design example - desk.com

Example of responsive web design executed beautifully by Desk.com

http://www.desk.com/ - Perhaps one of the best responsive site designs we’ve seen here at Render Perfect. Clean, easy to navigate, and right to the point. Cheers, Salesforce!

Example of Responsive Web Design on different devices

Responsive Design & Interesting HTML5 and CSS3 Features

http://nationallgbtmuseum.org/ - A great example of responsive design, and other features of HTML5 and CSS3 as well.  This site is a little busy in our opinion and may be a little confusing at first, but once you understand how it works, it is effective and attention grabbing.

Example of Responsive Website by cafe evoke

Great example of a non-technology based company using Responsive Design.

http://cafeevoke.com/ - Again, another simple, clean, beautiful example of Responsive Design.  This site is a great example of how you don’t necessarily need to be a technology orientated business to have an effective responsive site.

Example of wmcfest's Responsive Website Design

Effective usage of photos and video as links, and, of course, Responsive!

http://wmcfest.com/ - Lastly, besides being an awesome event, we picked the Weapons of Mass Creation Fest site because it utilizes video and photos in a good looking, effective way. Tip of the hat to you guys.

While these are all great examples, there are thousands more and a couple good directories of beautiful and highly functional responsive and adaptive websites.  Media Queries and Design Bombs are two really good resources for responsive web design examples.

A Little Web Design Can Go A Long Way

Web design has become one of our core service offerings here at Render Perfect.  We strongly believe that an organization’s website is the most valuable marketing / communication tool they can develop and utilize.  If you aren’t presenting your company the way you’d like on the web, isn’t it time to do something about it? Good web design can increase visitor traffic, reduce your bounce rate, convey your messages clearly, and give your website the “wow” factor to grab potential customers’ attention.

Absolute Security, our neighbor here in Towson, MD,  came to us with the goal of improving and modernizing their web presence into a lead generation / marketing tool that they could use to generate more revenue.  We took a look at what they were working with and knew exactly what it would take to get them on the right track to accomplish these goals.

Absolute Security is a full-service security and investigation company.  They offer services such as fingerprinting, patrol guards, and private investigation.  They were using an outdated web design that didn’t lend itself to the flow of the information they were attempting to convey.  They also had about 4 domain names that were all going to different sites (Yikes!).  Needless to say, they didn’t look as reputable as they should, so we did something about it.

First, let’s take a look at the previous web design to get an idea of what we were working with :

Absolute had an older, pretty basic site design, with the equivalent of an “About Us” page as their homepage. They really weren’t taking advantage of the home page real estate to promote and cross-advertise their service offering.  The site lacked a strong call to action for each of the 3 main services they provide, and did not do a very good job letting users know where to go next to find the information they were looking for.  Next, let’s take a look at the design we came up with for Absolute:

We tried to stray as far away from the original design as possible, switching the entire color scheme and highlighting each of their services individually on the homepage. Visitors can clearly see where to go to get the information they are looking for, or how to get in touch with someone at Absolute.  We implemented an image and information rotator was implemented at the top of the page to get as much information to the visitor without them having to scroll down to read it.  We made sure they were happy with the design, and created the rest of the content pages to match their homepage.  Here’s a link to take a look at the finished site design:

http://www.absoluteisi.com

The first weekend the new site design was launched, Absolute had received multiple leads for security, investigative, and fingerprinting services.  They were pleasantly surprised to come in Monday morning to the newly implemented form submission emails with potential leads.

Absolute Security has continued to gain momentum earning more traffic and leads this month.  This type of small business web design success is exactly the kind of results we love to provide our clients with.  A good web presence will go a long way in the online marketing world, especially combined with some of the additional search engine optimization, social network,  and website content creation services we offer here at Render Perfect.

Custom HTML Websites vs Template Sites

We’ve been doing a good amount of web design and development in the past couple weeks here at Render Perfect, and some questions have arisen from our clients that sparked a great conversation, thus giving us the idea for this blog post!

Custom Designed Website or Template Site? If you are thinking about creating a new site or re-designing your own webpage, this may be a question you’ve asked yourself at some point. It’s a good question, and both should be considered when you’re in this early stage of design. A client of ours was faced with the same question recently and we helped her make a decision, which turned out to work well.

Before telling you our recent success story with our web marketing client, i’ll give you a brief description of Custom Websites and Template Websites, and exlain the differences between the two.

Template-Based Websites

A website “template” is basically a pre-designed website that you would purchase, and then insert your own content into. You have almost no control over the design (aside from initially choosing it), and most of the time CMS’s will not let you make changes to their pre-designed web templates. You can insert your own text, images, videos (sometimes), and apps (sometimes), but have little control on how it is laid out.

The benefits of template-based websites is that they are cheaper (initially) to setup than custom designed websites.  Also, they don’t take as long to create as a HTML website design, because (you guessed it!) they are pre-designed. These might be great reasons for choosing a template-based site, and they may work fine for you, but in our experience, they’ve given us nothing but trouble.

Custom HTML Website Designs

A “custom” website is one that has been designed specifically for your brand or company (agreed upon with you and the design company you choose). You get a say in how it’s laid out, what colors are used, what fonts are used, what apps are integrated, etc. Basically, you can have a design team make a website look and function any way you’d like.

The benefits of having a web design company create you a completely custom site to match your brand are limitless in our opinion here at Render Perfect. They are designed with your brand in mind, with you telling the web design company exactly what you’d like! Even if you aren’t sure, most design firms can come up with a handful of preliminary designs (made specially for you) for you to pick and choose from. Also, custom designed HTML websites have much more expandability than template-based sites. If your business or brand grows exponentially after a certain amount of time, you should be thinking about expanding your reach on the web to attract even more visitors or potential customers. With template based sites, you’re stuck with whatever pre-designed templates they have to choose from, and have no say in adding new features or functionality for your users.

One of the most important benefits to HTML websites is being able to transfer your whole entire site to a new host (if ever necessary). With template sites, you are stuck on the host of whoever sold you the template, and if you want to switch to a new host, you’ll have to choose a new design when you get there, because the previous host owned that template! (nerve-racking, indeed!)

A Little Success Story With One of Our Clients -

Just recently, we had a client that was using a “drag-n-drop” or “WYSIWYG” (What You See Is What You Get) editor to edit content on their template based site. She wasn’t doing terrible with her traffic or anything, but we definitely saw some room for improvement. We took a look at the code this site editor was producing, and it looked mangled to say the least. There were all sorts of unnecessary code snippets, and a whole bunch of stuff that she didn’t need being inserted into her pages.

Also, she complained that she had ideas to reorganize some of her content to improve the site’s design and functionality, but couldn’t accomplish exactly what she wanted using the “wysiwyg” site editor. We understood her problems and concerns instantly after taking a look at the editor she was using and the code it produced. (Messy!)

What we did for her was recreated her web site, using the exact same design hand coded with HTML instead of using the editor she had bundled in with her web hosting. It was amazing how much smaller in file size the pages had become when we were finished. We had cut the code in half for each of her pages, causing the page load speed and the site performance to increase almost immediately. We also reorganized some of her content into a more understandable, easily navigable design which (in theory) should increase her visitor flow and decrease her bounce rate. (Because her visitors were now able to easily find the information they were looking for instead of searching for a little then giving up.)

Regardless of whether you choose a template-based website or a custom HTML website design, always keep your visitor in mind. There’s a couple of questions you should always ask yourself when considering your web design:

  • “If I came to this site, would i be able to find what I’m looking for?”
  • “Does it look professional and trustworthy?”
  • “What set’s this site design apart from any other?”

If you can answer those questions positively, you’re in good shape!