The Phenomenon of the Food Hack Video

Mendip Media Hacks Food

Mendip Media Hacks Food

Right now food video is mighty popular.

The figures don’t lie; Buzzfeed’s Proper Tasty Channel, which is king of food hack video production, has 49 million likes.

Unsurprisingly these are professional, well-produced, well-lit, budgeted-for videos, which drive viewers through the platform to create ad revenue.

No user-generated content here.

And the people watching these food hacks are not just ‘cyberloafers’ but those genuinely interested in the recipes and the ‘how-to’ aspects of the videos.

So what?

Food hack videos are inventive; they bypass the need for a presenter and cut to the chase by providing visual information about culinary techniques.

But more than that, ad revenue driven media platforms like Proper Tasty or Food Tube or Delish long ago cottoned to the fact that the universal language of food, which all of us share and a majority have an interest in, is a money spinner.

Food, like sex, is a no-brainer for show and tell and making dough (no pun intended).

Food hacks are a short form entry into the world of food video and all it can bring in terms of audience, engagement and brand recognition.

Even more so because as a format that has only just come into its own with its jangly music, semi-animated, overhead-angle, graphic- driven, ‘eazy’-recipe identity, trending high and grabbing eyeballs style.

But don’t be fooled by a food hack video’s seeming simplicity.

They are devilish complex little shorts to make; relying as they do on well-conceived but quick recipe ideas, food preparation and the high production needs of studio-lit, precision filming.

Anyone who tells you otherwise has never made one of them.

This is our latest kitchen hack (a derivation on the food hack) which plays with the stop-motion format to create a fun short.

Is Video A Good Training Medium?

Training Dramas Engage & Motivate Staff

The benefits of video as a training tool are too often assumed to be self-evident.

Video can be delivered over the internet and is therefore a centralised method for distributing demonstrable skills and knowledge.

Learning can therefore be updated and replaced regularly and simply with a built-in cost efficiency over paper-based learning tools.

Video is engaging and can show practical demonstrations in real-life environments which saves on a cohort of trainers, who themselves need the training both in the work place skills they are to demonstrate and the ability to teach.

Video training can be viewed by individual employees when it suits them from multiple locations on multiple devices, which means an efficient implemented

Whilst all of the above is true and HR should always consider video as means of delivering training, the implementation of video programmes is far from a panacea for quick and easy teaching on the cheap.

Uploading videos to You Tube doesn’t really cut it if you want to find out if the work force have watched and understood the training lesson.

Developing a training website for video content, with a login system and questionnaire assessment software for hundreds of employees is of equal importance to the video content for a properly implemented training package.

Once the website is there, the training packages then need development, with the video content – scripts, storyboards, production – aligned to the learning outcomes. This means the video producers and trainers should always work in tandem to develop specific material for specific packages.

There is no getting away from the hard fact that client time and input is vital to making the video content work as a training tool.

The video producer is not a specialist in the skills that are being demonstrated in a training package but IS a specialist in creating the look, feel and clarity of a module. It is the client who knows what messages they want to convey and what skills, services and behaviours are prevalent in their workplace.

Mendip Media has produced many large scale training programmes.

The least successful was when video content was commissioned as an afterthought to the training website.

The most successful and best videos have been training dramas, which recreate workplace scenarios that employees recognise and that can be distributed either via training websites or used in workshops. These videos not only have the benefit of being useable both as online and classroom material, but they have high engagement and therefore memorability value.

Video content is a proven way to skill up a large workforce, but it only works as part of a larger strategy to deliver training.

Long term partnerships with video providers or the creation of an in-house video team are recommended to create the very highest quality training content as well as a commitment from HR to require its training staff to be closely involved with the video production process.

Video Comes of Age In Retail Stores

Video Now Entrenched In Retail Environments

In-shop videos, point-of-sale display, video walls, holograms (no really) … does this all point to an unstoppable digital revolution in big retail outlets, whether department store or shopping centre?

Maybe.

Video has in fact been used for a considerable time in a lot of bigger shops.

One of Mendip Media’s first commissions was to film the girl-band Bond at Westfield promoting the launch of a new Peugeot. The film was then re-run on big screens across the centre and at point of sale in franchises.

Nowadays fashionable capital city centres are alive with shop fronts integrating video into their campaign display.

The little tellie screen in the corner of the garden centre still plugs the latest plant gizmo with grim determination.

Screens in toilets and by the tills are regularly seen in stores.

And in Korea, there are shops that have only video walls of product demos with QR codes allowing for a swipe and order system.

But in terms of making video content (as well as the technology it’s distributed by) a truly valuable part of the shopping experience there’s still a way to go. It’s early days. Shop designers are only just beginning to assess and understand the interplay of video, design, product and theatre within the store environment.

As the online space demonstrates, video has a very robust role in the consumer journey and is now being well integrated into ecommerce sites (if not always from the UX side at least technologically).

This can be replicated in-store, but the screens and their siting need careful planning with high quality content that matches product display and shop promotions.

No doubt digital technology can enhance a visit to a favourite department store but really the best experience involves human interaction.

A highly knowledgeable and helpful store assistant will always be of the greatest help to a customer who wants detailed product information.

Video is only useful if it complements the overall experience, but it can work spectacularly well and create cost efficiencies which is why WHSmith has recently announced it’s introducing digital screens to a hundred store fronts.

The Art of Outsourcing

Happy Client Supplier Relationships Work

All businesses at some point outsource work.

Whether you’re a video production company, self-employed or a corporation, it’s a fact of working life that some functions of a business have to be done by contractors.

But do most businesses understand how to outsource competently and successfully?

Video producers know all about being an outsourced contractor. Most of our work is project based and we’re hired because our specialist skills are not covered by our clients’ in-house team.

As it turns out, most marketing content is outsourced and project managed.

A marketing supply eco-system exists to service the very many different content requirements of thousands of businesses. But unless the relationships with contractors have existed for some time with the same in-house liaison, strains often develop through the project stages because commissioned content requires quality time with the client – time they often don’t have and inputs they are too distracted to give.

What is certain is that most businesses who hire us have little experience of managing video projects, which is hardly surprising. So we aim at the beginning of a project to give as much guidance as we can as to the process and structure of the job.

Creating video is particularly process driven. And it is especially dependent on liaison with the commissioning client during a prolonged period that encompasses concept development and the scheduling of the filming.

And here is the rub.

Projects that have been commissioned, and in some cases paid for, can take an age to swing into action through a number of phases, including sign off of the final versions.

It is as frustrating for the client as it is for the provider to be unable to speak for weeks about half finished content due to layers of authorisation, time management, missed deadlines etc.

It all comes back to the art of outsourcing.

If a business commissions a contractor it’s not a case of ‘auf wiedersehen’ and see you when content drops into my inbox. Most companies would not ignore their own employees for weeks and then expect them to produce sparkling work.

There must be open door communication, clear project time management with realistic delivery stages to be met by both parties, and above all, engagement with the creatives.

This is how to save time, money and stress, and is a sure fire way to produce some of the very best work from outsourced video producers.

The Live Video Revolution

Watching Paint Dry Has Never Been Easier

It’s out. Not a video release, but the new one-take film Victoria directed by Sebastian Schipper.

And according the Guardian’s film critic Jonathan Romney, “more than a technical prodigy, Victoria is an authentic piece of cinematic magic.”

All of which got me thinking about the single-take video and live streaming.

Digital technology has a big part to play in the making of a film like Victoria – smaller lighter cameras, longer battery life, more toys and kit to support the camera operation, online distribution for those who can’t make the cinema.

And live streaming is here and present. Facebook Live and Twitter are hard at it, with Periscope announcing in March that it had more than 200 million broadcasts and Google rumoured to be creating a live streaming app called YouTube Connect.

But is this drive to be seen ‘doing stuff’ in one take, whether heavily directed or just random slices of life, a result of technology or does it point to something deeper about the video experience?

Victoria is literally a one camera shot that follows a scripted drama as it unfolds. Given that it is an absorbing watch in which you totally forget there’s no editing, it seems to belie the incredible choreography and sleight of hand that has gone into producing such a long (140 minutes) take.

Today’s uninterrupted Periscope experience is reminiscent of the documentary technique that revolutionised the format in the 80s. Roger Graef’s ground breaking work ‘A Complaint of Rape’, which had only 4 edits in 45 minutes of screened footage was a momentous breakthrough, because it created the ‘fly-on-the-wall’ forerunner of live streaming.

And this is perhaps the key to understanding the developing interest in the ‘slice-of-life’ format.

Whether heavily choreographed to seem real or a camera on an event that is real, the viewer thinks or kids themselves into thinking they’re witnessing events uninterrupted by any third party mediation.

Although this couldn’t be further from the truth, it’s a another move towards the democratisation of mass video production.

Video, Procurement and the Public Sector

Procurement Wheels Within Wheels

Video projects and public sector procurement; two phrases that shouldn’t ever be heard together in the same sentence.

I’ve done a fair few public sector tenders in my time and so have been subjected to the full force of procurement jargon and endless pages of baffling questions that seem to relate to anything but creative work.

And to be frank I’ve never won a public tender through a formal process.

Mendip Media has, however, worked for many, many public sector organisations without going through the nonsense of a tendering regime designed for multimillion pound deals or technical projects that are as far removed from marketing as I am from the moon.

This week I had a call to let me know Mendip Media had come a ‘very close second’ to another supplier in a bid to create a recruitment video for a Bristol quango’s HR department; this despite the fact we’re the incumbent video production company and we’d been to a very jolly meeting with the team, where there was a lot of nodding and winking that the tender was a formality,

In the same breath I was told that our previous work, although being universally acclaimed within the institution, couldn’t be taken into account because the catch-all ‘public procurement’ rules prevented it.

According to the email I later received this was confirmed in the following way, ‘regrettably, we are unable to consider previous working relationships for this type of procurement. As we are spending public money, our procurement processes have to be as objective as possible.’

Ahem.

Not to pick the bones on this but wasn’t the money we received for the work we’d previously done for them ‘public money’. And surely ‘objectivity’ would mean assessing the ability and conduct of the supplier in the past to judge their capability in the future.

So was this decision based on cost? No. But on the answer to one question that had a score of 10 points in a poorly worded tender document.

To be fair there is no nice way to tell someone on the phone that you don’t want to work with them.

Rolling out the old line, which is reminiscent of a patronising teacher, ‘you did very well with a strong bid and came close second’ is probably the best anyone can do in the situation.

But that’s me done with public sector form filling.

Counting up points based on a subjective (not objective excuse me) response to answers to questions designed for a technical project is no way to ensure that the best company wins.

Pitching, although it has its faults, is a far more dynamic and fairer way to judge whether client/ supplier relationships can be formed, who will perform well under pressure and who really wants the project the most.

Food On Film

Food Porn to Feast On

The differences between food filming and photography are day by day becoming more evident as Mendip Media gets to grips with both creative video and photography in its studio.

Both forms of filming require similar inputs to get the perfect image; great looking food, stylish presentation, precision lighting and the right lenses but … and it’s a big BUT …

… the photographer has the advantage of only (and I say only guardedly, because I know how much work goes into it) having to take an image one frame at a time, whilst the videographer has to take thousands of frames of the same object under the same lighting conditions before being able to make adjustments.

If this all sounds very technical, it’s not really.

It’s common sense, but it puts food videography at a disadvantage because the benchmark for food video is always nearly always a photograph of some gorgeous food in a beautifully lit surrounding.

The transition for photographers and food designers who primarily style for photography to creating food videos is a sharp one.

And for clients the learning curve is even steeper.

Much of the art of video, whilst it lies in creating the very best reproduction of the filmed object, is in narrative that works along a timeline. Whilst there’s no denying that a photograph can tell a million stories, it doesn’t have a beginning, middle and end.

A classic line from a graphics agency client about a video we were filming was ‘don’t worry too much about the stain on the counter we’ll get rid of it in post’. Whilst photographers can air-brush a single frame in Photoshop without too much fuss, a video editor must deal with thousands of frames (1500 frames every 60 secs) to achieve even a small change in the colour, light, look of a sequence.

This fundamental distinction between the two film forms, video and photography, has become a stark point of differentiation for us as we continue to learn about how to create the very best food videos and photographs.

But it’s fair to say that video and photography, whilst they may derive from a similar creative and technical root, are different species. They might sometimes converge and mutate, but largely they remain governed by separate rules.

AI and the End of Human Genius?

As video producers in a commercial world where there are no hand-outs, we live and die by concepts, ideas and creativity.

The cut and thrust of commercial art in the early 2000s in the UK is not yet so far removed from that of the bustling, prosperous 1700s Netherlands; both periods are marked by an explosion of creative, experimental and vibrant artistic endeavour despite threats of war, violence, political intrigue and epidemic illness.

But the greatest artist of probably both epochs, Rembrandt van Rijn, would be astonished at what has just been done in his name.

The Next Rembrandt is a project developed by ING, Microsoft, Delft University of Technology, The Mauritshuis and Museum Het Rembrandthuis to train artificial intelligence software to replicate and produce original paintings based upon the works of the great man.

Across 18 months, Rembrandt’s works have been scanned for multiple variables such as lighting, attire, style and painterly attributes. This data was fed into a software package that surmised the Baroque artist most often painted men around the ages of 30-40.

An algorithm then measured the distances between the facial features in Rembrandt’s paintings and calculated them based on percentages. Next, the features were transformed, rotated, and scaled, then accurately placed within the frame of the face.

Finally, light was rendered by analysing gathered data in order to cast authentic shadows on each feature. And from this information, the software assembled a completely new Rembrandt painting.

Next Rembrandt Project

The Next Rembrandt is a collaboration between:
ING / Microsoft / TU Delft / Mauritshuis / Rembrandthuis .. not sure who to copyright the image to?

The result is eerie. It looks like a Rembrandt, it feels like a Rembrandt (having been recreated by 3D printing to replicate the artist’s paint strokes), it could be a Rembrandt.

But it’s not.

Are machines taking over even that area of human endeavour we hold most sacred; the creative soul?

I don’t think so.

The machine could only do its work based on sucking in the data that had been pre-created by a genius. Without the original paintings, there couldn’t be a copy.

The AI just showed us how to perfect forgery.

But in a time of technological revolution it’s a reminder that finding a quiet place, either in your head or in the studio, to let the human spirit soar has never been so challenging or so critical.

Going Native – The Best Kind of Video

Native Video Means More Engagement

Native Video Means More Engagement

Video producers love to be commissioned to make multiple native ads for specific social media sites like Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.

It’s a truly creative challenge to work within the parametres and context of the platform and to let rip with a brand message.

And now evidence of the power of native advertising shows just how much it’s helping to shape consumer behaviour around a brand message.

eMarketer is predicting that spending on native ads will reach $5.7 billion in the US this year.

What does this mean for brand marketers?

In the first instance they will have to look beyond You Tube for video content distribution. Native ads must be created for and delivered in-platform.

You Tube videos cannot be embedded into Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.

Above all the move to native advertising means more budgets and resources will be required to produce quality, engaging video content.

 

The Importance of Creative in Video Planning

Plan To Be Creative

Plan To Be Creative

As mass online video campaigns resort to programmatic there’s a fear that a data driven approach to delivery and tracking is squeezing the very life blood of the content to prove ROI to the advertisers.

It’s a turn off for those of us who are expected to react favourably to soulless videos popping up in our feeds, even if they are on subjects of potential interest.

The point of a video advert is to demonstrate & show in a creative few seconds the wow factor of a product.

This requires skill and experience.

Several images stitched together will never grab a viewer and less engage with them.

Concepts, high production values and being involved from the outset in the campaign planning, will give a brand video a higher chance of success in front of consumers.

And there’s every chance that the pendulum is swinging in the right direction.

As many consumers choose to block ads because they are tired of bad advertising and can now vote with their feet, brands must strive to deliver campaigns that engage and entertain whilst working in an era of programmatic delivery for mass video.

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