November 1, 2011

Creating compelling advocacy videos for nonprofits

This is the first of a three-part series on how nonprofits can create powerful multimedia stories. Part one is an overview of multimedia options available to nonprofits.

Target audience: Nonprofits, NGOs, cause organizations, social enterprises, brands, educators, video producers, Web publishers, storytellers, individuals.

Lauren MajorWith the power of online video, social media and crowd-funding at an all-time high, nonprofits need a better understanding of how to create compelling multimedia stories that inspire a call to action.

Most nonprofits don’t have the resources to hire large film production crews to tell their stories. With recent innovations in digital video technology, nonprofits have more options for creating powerful visual stories in a timely and cost efficient manner. Socialbrite’s media resource round-up is a great list of tools and techniques to create media.

If time and staff resources are a scarcity, or technology just isn’t your thing, Socialbrite (I’m a partner through my consultancy Major Multimedia) can provide the expertise and training to help your nonprofit get its stories heard.

There are several options for nonprofit clients depending upon your needs, resources and technology know-how. We can offer training to nonprofit staff members and/or volunteers to learn how to create stories with an impact. Training will typically include uses of capture devices (Flip, iPhone, digital video/still cameras). Continue reading

September 22, 2011

How to make cause marketing video that doesn’t suck


10 tips you need to know before picking up that camera

Target audience: Nonprofits, NGOs, cause organizations, social enterprises, brands, educators, video producers, Web publishers, storytellers, individuals.

Guest post by Steve Stockman
Writer/director/producer, Custom Productions, Inc.

Stockman headshot Videos are made out of passion you have for your cause — the people you are helping, the changes that need to be made, the story that has to be told. They’re a powerful cause marketing tool. But no matter how good your cause is, one truth stands between you and successful communication: Nobody watches bad video. A poorly done video — one that bores people to the point of clicking away — gives you no chance to inspire, to inform, ask for donations, or share your passion. And if nobody watches, you might as well not bother.

The good news: stories about people, struggle, challenges and passion are entertaining — as long as you know how not to push your audience away with a lame video. Turns out that with a little bit of awareness, planning and practice, you too can make video that doesn’t suck.

Here are 10 things you need to know:

1The audience comes first. What kind of experience is your video providing for the audience? If it isn’t going to take them on a fun or emotional ride, maybe your project should be a memo instead. Give the audience a good time and they’ll love you. And vice versa.

2Video shines at communicating motion and emotion. Facts and figures? Not so much. It’s a human thing — as animals, we’re wired to pay attention to things that move (Food! Danger!) and the communications of the tribe (Is he going to hit me? Does she want sex?). If what you have to say is best said with charts and lists, it may just not be good video material.

3A good video can be summed up in a single sentence. That sentence should consist of a noun, a verb and a result. “Our executive director” is not a video. “Our executive director confronts congresspeople on the street to ask about Global Warming” is.

4Think in shots. You won’t see a lot of long, rambling shots on TV. That’s because a video needs detail and action to hold our attention. Don’t run your camera non-stop. Instead, find something interesting. Aim. Shoot. And, when it stops being interesting, stop shooting and point somewhere else. Your short shots will add up to a shorter, more professional video. Continue reading

July 28, 2010

Guide to shooting better online video

canon vixia hv40
The Canon Vixia HV40.

Tips on video equipment, interviewing people on camera & more

Target audience: Nonprofits, social change organizations, videographers, educators, foundations, businesses, individuals. This is part of Creating Media, our ongoing series designed to help nonprofits and other organizations learn how to use and make media.

Guest post by Diana Day
Online Journalism Review

With the increasingly affordable equipment and editing tools available today, it’s possible to turn out professional-looking online video quicker than you’d expect.

You can hire an outside video producer, but we think the tools have become simple enough to bring in-house. Make sure you have the right setup before starting to film, and make sure to follow our suggestions below on how to conduct an effective interview.

Equipment you’ll need


The prices of high-quality hi-definition video cameras have plummeted in the past two years. Nonprofits, cause organizations and citizen publishers can choose from two basic types of camcorders:

• The Flip cam has revolutionized the way people capture and share video. You can get a hi-def handheld recorder for less than $200. (Cisco purchased Pure Digital, the Flip’s maker, last year.) Other options include Kodak’s Zi8 and the Sony Bloggie.

• There are an astonishing range of professional-quality video camera in the $450 to $800 range today. The Canon Vixia line is a good place to start looking. Another good choice is the Panasonic TM700K. Try this CNet camcorder buying guide to help you price, research and select a video camera within your budget.


While you don’t need a top-of-the-line camcorder, you do need acceptable sound. A microphone for man-on-the-street interviews is very helpful and is a real improvement over the camera’s on-board mic. The following are specifications for a hand-held stick microphone. You should be able to find one at a Radio Shack or Best Buy for between $20 and $40.

  • uni-directional (cardioid) pick-up pattern
  • lo-impedence (ohm symbol) 600 ohms or lower
  • frequency response range: 50-100 hertz to 10,000-15,000 hertz
  • 1/8″ mini-plug or a ¼” phone plug with a 1/8″ adapter
  • 10-20 foot cord (shorter is fine, too; you might find it a pain to wrap up and store such a long cord, but it’s indispensable when you really need it; a detachable cable is OK)
  • No battery required

A lavaliere (clip-on) microphone for planned sit-down style interviews is a plus, but it’s not imperative if you’re trying to save money at the beginning. Again, you can find one at Radio Shack for $25. Some stick microphones available in the price ranges detailed above come with those cheesy little plastic stands, and believe it or not, these are fine for getting started. Just place the mic on the stand outside of the frame and shoot. Try to shoot in a quiet place to minimize audio distractions, and you’ll be surprised how well this will suffice to get you started. Continue reading

July 14, 2010

A chat with the founder of dotSUB

A chat with the founder of dotSUB from JD Lasica on Vimeo.


Service provides subtitling of videos into multiple languages

Target audience: Nonprofits, social change organizations, educators, businesses, foundations, individuals. This is part of Creating Media, our ongoing series designed to help nonprofits and other organizations learn how to use and make media.

JD LasicaOne of my favorite Web 2.0 collaborate production sites of all time is dotSUB — tagline: “Any video. Any language.” I’ve been bumping into Michael Smolens, CEO and founder of the innovative startup, for the past couple of years at video and citizen media conferences on both coasts.

dotSUB is a Web-based tool that enables the subtitling, or captioning, of Web videos into other languages using human translators. The videos can be subtitled through volunteer crowdsourcing or restricted to professionals hired to complete the task for a business or project.

“Anyone in the world can volunteer to translate any TED talk into any language.”
— Michael Smolens

The genesis for dotSUB was Michael’s realization that English-only independent and documentary films, TV programs and videos could have a powerful, transformative effect if made available in dozens of other languages – and the same could hold true of foreign works shown in the U.S. with English subtitles. The service’s early years relied on the Wikipedia model of crowdsourced translations: Anyone could begin subtitling a film into his or her own language, and others could come along afterward to tidy up.

Apart from open, collaborative uses, dotSUB more recently has been used as a closed platform where media and entertainment companies or other organizations that don’t trust the open community could hire a team of professional translators to provide captions of TV programs, CEO speeches, corporate videos, training videos, marketing and advertising messages in multiple languages. And this, no doubt, is where dotSUB generates the bulk of its income, given that it can accomplish this task at a price considerably below traditional methods.

In a very real way, dotSUB is removing language and cost as barriers to cross-cultural communication using video.

Watch, embed or download the video on Vimeo Continue reading