To lower video costs while volume grows, change your process

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Over the past year we have had the privilege of working with two large software companies: SAP and PTC. I’ve heard a common refrain from each that is applicable to organizations that want to lower their cost of video, even as their requirements scale.

The refrain is: true value and productivity gains come from redesigning the workflow processes that software enables.

Consider the alphabet soup of video assembly and production tools available to us all: Adobe, Brainshark, Camtasia, KnowledgeVision, Visible Gains and many, many others. We’ve realized value and some productivity gains from applying these software tools. Yet, we still haven’t solved the cost/volume dilemma. For this, we’ll need process change.

Traditional Video Production Process

So let’s look at the underlying process of traditional video production.

Say to anyone, “we need to make a video,” and what images come to mind? Cameras (of course), lights, video editing software, maybe a green screen, thoughts of onscreen subjects as well as shooting locations — and resources.

Traditional Video Process

At the low end of video quality, some tools have removed the camera shooting requirements, and made more people producers by leveraging voice-over-PowerPoint. But how many really want to be producers, or have the time or expertise to do this effectively?

Consider the gap of quality, experience and certainly volume both approaches create. This gap is represented by video that is more educational and informative than promotional. As such, it has potential for inherently longer life — a true asset.

The ad hoc production crafts of individual producers introduces new sets of issues:

  • Dependence on subject experts to do everything
  • Skill limitations (storytelling, scripting, storyboarding, visual development, narration, editing, final production — really?)
  • Time and effort, and practical constraints of individual desires, availability and adverse impact on day jobs
  • Inconsistent results and hidden costs, among others

Before we think about a new process, let’s diagnose the current process and its limitations.

Videos are typically produced for a single purpose. The traditional process was never designed to scale efficiently.

Whether an outsourced or internal production team, production resources are responsible for the “end-to-end” process. This is a remnant from the analog days that required “professional” teams to produce a video.

Producers begin by learning the business and production objectives of the project. They acquire domain knowledge from subject experts. This feeds the planning, scripting, storyboarding, video shooting, editing, graphic and sound production, and final production process.

Video is shot and edited to final productions in standard video formats that are subsequently deployed. Users are provided links to send to audiences. Whatever source video wasn’t used in the final production is usually discarded, and is not generally available.

New End State Vision Requires New Process

Now let’s consider the implications of the requirement for increasing numbers of videos.

I once heard of a Pentagon general who said, “if we knew the Cold War was going to last forty years, we would have approached it differently.” We’ve entered a period where video is becoming an increasingly larger portion of our content mix. Maybe if we think of video as (re-usable) assets, rather than an expense, this would change our approach.

This opens the possibility of shifting to a planned and continuous process for video creation.  The starting point is planning. Scale and cost imply not only process change but decisions about what (not) to produce, and at what production quality levels.

Here is the end state I think we need to get to:

  • Timely deployment — Video needs to be available the instant it’s required. This means it must be pre-produced. This means pre-defining video requirements for all use cases in marketing, sales, the channel and training.
  • Relevance — All content must be tailored to specific audience interests, and this holds for video. This means those closest to the audience must be able to select, or even tailor video, that is relevant for each audience.
  • Lower cost production — Lower production time, levels of expertise and effort are required to lower costs. We need new methods, techniques and operating processes. .
  • A database of digital media assets — Images, graphics, animation, audio and generic video that are source for new productions must be available and easy for people to access. This requires constant acquisition and re-purposing of source assets. Examples include recorded interviews of subject experts (in video or just audio), generic but relevant video (b-roll in the professional world), graphics, animations and images produced or edited by visual experts.
  • Re-usable video modules — Software developers learned long ago the value of libraries of re-usable software objects. The learning business calls these learning objects. Video production must adopt this principle to build and deploy re-usable video modules. This requires embracing new design and development disciplines.
  • Intuitive taxonomy, structure and tagging for video assets — The front line of business must be able to quickly and easily find, select and re-use these modular assets. What if they could do final “tweaking” in a manner they perform now with PowerPoint shows?
  • Leverage video assembly tools — The front line assembles rather than produces final videos using the video assembly tools we listed above.
  • Video asset maintenance — Modular video assets must be easy to update to reflect changes in messaging, product attributes, or other reasons.  The useful life of video assets can be extended from months to years.

In a manner similar to manufacturing re-engineering, the traditional production process can be disaggregated into different coordinated but independent tasks. Planned work requirements can be distributed not only over resources, but over time to deliver new levels of efficiency.

This brings us back to why we need to redesign, video production planning, process, policies, standards, and procedures.

For more operational explanations see our Structured Publishing Process microsite.

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