When We Know Better, We Do Better – Quality Video is Affordable for Small Organizations

The Mears Foundation video utilized specific strategies to meet a limited budget.

If you run a small organization with a small budget and think you can’t afford a professionally done video to promote your organization or event, think again. Last summer I produced a promotional video for a small start-up non-profit that achieved all the client’s goals and came in significantly under his very small budget. While a number of concessions were made to stay within budget, NWS implemented several strategies to minimize the impact of those concessions. The same, or similar, approaches can be used to produce a quality promotional video for any non-profit or faith-based organization or business. 

The Johnathan Manesseh Mears Foundation hired me to produce a promotional video to be shown at events and to potential donors and other stakeholders as a way of introducing the foundation and its purpose. Having only recently been chartered with very little fundraising done, the organization had almost no money to work with. To come in under budget and still create a fantastic video we employed three key strategies:

  • Focused on an interview with foundation President Bill Mears as the centerpiece of the video.
  • Filmed the interview at a location already accessible to Mears.
  • Selected shooting strategies that provided more options for splicing that minimized the need for b-roll.
  • Used stock video and photos to build b-roll sequences rather than shooting original b-roll footage.
During the shoot, I (left) hung a diffuser overhead to control light from a large fluorescent to minimize glare off Bill’s (right) very reflective scalp.

Interview as Centerpiece

By focusing on one primary interview with the head of the organization — which we planned as our only shoot for the project — we minimized the amount of shooting time and eliminated the time and hassle of coordinating schedules with multiple interview subjects. It also eliminated the potential need to shoot in more than one location, if there was a need to shoot some interview subjects in different locations. Nor did we have to write a voice-over script or hire a voice actor, as would have been necessary if we’d focused on documentary-type footage of the foundation’s work. 

Having Bill do the interview was also the right way to go for delivering the foundation’s story and message. He founded the organization and his son is its namesake. The foundation’s story is HIS story. He is also a fairly charismatic speaker whose passion for the foundation’s efforts is easy to identify with. This lends the video a Voice Of Authority and Sense Of Authenticity that helps viewers agree with the message internally and start to form their own passion for the foundation.

Readily Available Shooting Location

Many times, it’s possible to film an interview in a subject’s office or an organization’s headquarters. But sometimes that’s not possible. In this case, the Johnathan Manesseh Mears Foundation did not have a home office yet and using Bill’s day-job office may have confused the message. Other reasons for needing an external filming location may be that someone is uncomfortable with filming in their office or home, or there may not be an in-house location free from distractions and interruptive sounds. 

Fortunately, Bill also teaches boxing at the Southside Spartan Gym, which has plenty of hours in which it’s not used. Inside we found a space with a terrific looking bare brick wall for a background that was easy to clear the workout gear from. As a bonus, the high ceilings enabled us to position lights at any height we needed or wanted.

With two camera angles, it’s possible to cut at one point in the interview and begin again at a different spot and make it seem like a continuous dialogue. It’s even possible to place clips out of order using this technique.

Shooting Strategies for Maximizing Options

So what does this mean? No one gets through an interview without some stumbling, some unwanted pauses or rephrasing, or other factors that shouldn’t make it into the final video. However, just cutting those things out leads to jerky looking footage. It’s common to hide these cuts by showing b-roll footage — different footage that is relevant to the subject being talked about — while the interview audio plays overtop. But we didn’t have the budget for shooting b-roll footage. We were going to rely on stock footage and photos instead. This meant finding other ways to hide cuts that didn’t require b-roll — cuz too much stock is too much stock. We achieved this with two key strategies:

  • 2 Cameras at slightly different angles — Hide a cut by ending one camera angle and starting on another angle. The visual transition is so significant, there’s no way to tell that a part was removed from in between.
  • Shoot in higher resolution — The final video was rendered in 1080p or Full HD, but we filmed the interview in 4K or UHD. This allowed us to zoom in from a hip-to-head shot to just a headshot without the picture pixelating or getting fuzzy. We can hide a cut by making the second clip zoom in tighter or zoom out further than the first clip. Just as with using two camera angles, there’s no way to tell something was removed between the two clips.
Cuts in an interview can also be hidden by changing the zoom distance in post production. To pull this off without losing resolution, you need to film the interview in higher resolution than the final product will be rendered in. In this case, we filmed in 4K or UHD, and rendered in 1080 or Full HD.

Stock Footage as B-roll

In a documentary about JFK’s assassination, you might see some footage of an interview with a Secret Service agent who was there the day of the assassination. Then, while the voice of the agent continues talking, you might see footage of the JFK getting shot and footage of people reacting to the event. That second set of footage is b-roll. While it’s playing the interview keeps going and the agent seems to be giving a perfect speech about his point of view. But most likely, the original interview has been hacked to pieces and reordered to leave out unwanted errors and make a better story. These cuts are covered by b-roll. B-roll also serves to enhance and illustrate the story being told by the narrator or interview subject. 

But shooting b-roll costs time and money. And, in the foundation’s case, there wasn’t a budget for it. So we used stock footage — footage filmed by other people and made generally available to video editors for a price — because we could find what we needed for the price the foundation could afford. In the end, it did a great job of enhancing the foundation’s story and helped cover some sections of the interview with heaving editing. 

Samples of stock footage used as B-roll to add more interest to the foundation’s video and hide points in the dialogue where there were too many cuts to jump back and forth between shots. Images courtesy wwwstoryblocks.com.

Custom Video is Available for Most Any Budget, But Budget Video Isn’t Always the Best Way to Go

These and other strategies can be used to create a custom professional promotional video for almost any budget. Video is one of the most effective tools for promoting a business, organization, product or event. Don’t let the fear of high-priced video production stand in your way. 

That being said, if you can afford a video with higher production value, deciding to take the budget route can do more harm than good. If an organization like The Salvation Army used stock footage for b-roll in their fundraising videos instead of footage of volunteers out doing their thing and footage of people being helped, they’d hardly raise two nickels and their reputation would start to tank. Your video budget should be commensurate with the size of your organization and it’s brand reputation. 

If you’d like to see how a promotional video could fit in your budget, please give me a call. The first 30-minute consultation meeting is free and so is the quote. I can be reached at 419-995-0324. Or shoot me an email: