Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Don’t be dissin’ on 'em corporate videos !

Spent the day jazzing up a corporate video for a client. At this second cut, offline stage, we already have to work in music [not temp tracks], text effects [with motion backgrounds] and keyframed motion on photoshopped stills because otherwise, the video won’t fly with the clients - they’ll panic and we’ll not get the approval on the cut that we need to move on.

In an ideal world, clients would approve a rough cut based on content, with the understanding that text effects, fancy transitions and pumping music would come in AFTER that. But hey, we know we ain’t living in a perfect world!

Gripes aside, I guess it’s a common scenario many working editors have to face. Clients have come to expect more polished looking drafts/comps/”rough” cuts and in all honesty, with digital editing, such finesse could be achieved at an earlier stage of post. It’s all about keeping the workflow flowing, man – approval processes included.

Also, as a working editor coming from a background where ‘I edit corporate videos’ is usually met with ‘man, that sucks’ / ‘when are you moving to TV/drama/film’, I do think that the ‘hierarchy’ is not always justified.

Yes, there are MANY horrendous corporate videos [still] being produced. The ones with the gratuitous ‘3D Transitions’, music library from the 80s, washed out colors, loose cuts… I watch them and I get physically queasy [truth!]. Yet, like a train wreck, I can’t avert my eyes and would sit through them, perhaps as a reminder that ‘thou shalt not let thyself languish’.

It’s quite the challenge to make a corporate video exciting, entertaining, informative, comprehensive, pleasing to the clients [and their superiors, bosses and bosses’ bosses]. And when you work with archival footage and photos provided by the clients – it’s a whole new ‘bonus’ level!

It’s been said that it’s not always possible to judge how good an editor is by the final cut. Like teachers grooming students of different caliber for a final standardized exam, editors who start off with excellent footage [great performance, abundance of coverage, interesting angles] already have a leg up. Whereas editors who manage to piece together something pretty nifty from bits and pieces of not-the-best footage probably had to sweat it out much more.

As if the art of editing is not invisible enough, the art of rummaging and repairing is possibly even more invisible!

Just as TV and films aren’t necessarily creative or entertaining [please refer to local media for case studies], corporate videos aren’t always dull or cringe-worthy. There’s always a lot of experimenting, exploration and jazzing up to do - or at least that’s the ‘horror’ I’ve been subjected to! [Well, helps that I’m a masochist]. My timeline usually looks like a patchwork quilt [but a neatly organized one] by the second cut.

Corporate videos aren’t the most fun things in the world to edit but as a working editor… you gotta do what you gotta do!


john said...

What makes me cringe is the idea that corporate videos need to be "jazzed up" at all. While technique and technology are critical, it's also true that if it's not in the script, it's not on the screen.
The most common problem that I see with corporate video is poorly written scripts. Typically, they are written like a brochure. The writer doesn't give a thought to the visual until the voiceover narration is finished, then the visual descriptions become an after thought.
And when someone tries the get "creative" with a dramatization, the dialogue is so wooden and on the nose, no amount of talent can breathe energy into it.
These are things that can't be "fixed in post." If you don't have an experienced professional writing the script, the resulting show will most likely deserve its "dissin."
John Morley

Kai Cheong said...

Hi John,

Yes, I do agree with you that the script is the foundation of all good videos. Sometimes, in order to cut costs, some clients would suggest they write the script themselves... after all, aren't we 'just' the 'production company'? We only need to do all that video/jazzy/technical things that they can't do!

Usually, we dissuade them... or prepare ourselves to buffer for a script rewrite on our end. But it sometimes does get difficult to convince them otherwise - afterall, anybody can write, right? And they have ALL this corporate-speak they want to squeeze into a 5-min video. Can't we make it... 10mins, instead?