After 30 years of roaming the country, reporting Scotland for a wide range of programmes on radio and television, David Calder is moving into a new sphere - online training.

A director of the online video production company, BITWeb.tv, he's been asked to advise firms on how best to use video as a marketing tool. So he's created a course that covers everything from the kit you might need to the content of the videos, from creating a digital marketing strategy to optimising and promoting the videos you make.

Working with his wife, Penny Haywood Calder of PHPR, he will also be producing a series of webinars on Public Relations as well. And to complete a trio of services, he'll be developing a series of media and communication skills courses as well.

Making video from stills

Posted by on 18 June 2014

Did you know that many video editing systems let you edit your pictures into a video – with the soundtrack of your choice?

Here’s one created in just five minutes using Pinnacle Studio 17. 

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Smartphones and video

Posted by on 3 June 2014
Today’s smartphones are incredible devices. They have more computing power on board than the majority of PCs had just a few years ago. And the great thing is that they all have high-definition cameras as standard – back and front. 

Galaxy S5It means that it’s never been easier to produce online video – in fact, there’s no longer any excuse NOT to make them so long as you follow a few simple rules.
The first rule is NEVER HAND HOLD the phone when shooting video for business. It’s fine when you’re making a movie about your holiday but not when you want to deliver a message. You need to look more professional and a video ‘selfie’ is not a professional look. It’s also tempting to hold the camera the wrong way – upright, the way you use your phone. But we don’t watch video, TV or films like that. We watch them widescreen. So remember to turn the phone on its side when filming.
It’s easy to find an affordable tripod from Amazon or eBay. This one is currently on sale for £20 ($30 or €22). Desktop ones are fine – but you need to position them so that the phone is at eye level. A tripod by itself however is not much use. Unlike a dedicated camera, a smartphone doesn’t come with any way of attaching it. But there are several specially designed clamps which will do the job perfectly. Some have been designed specifically for iPhones. That means that if you’ve a Samsung Galaxy S4 or S5 for instance then it will be too big for the clamp. But this one from Jobi has a powerful spring inside which means it can hold anything up to a Galaxy Note. The two simply screw together and you have at least the start of a mini-studio.
The second rule is DON’T USE THE PHONE’S MICROPHONE. That microphone is designed to be used while holding it very close to your face. You’re certain to be sitting or standing a few feet away from the camera so it will pick up all the ambient noise in the room as well. I know there are all sorts of Bluetooth, hands-free devices but they’re not that great either. And once again, having that ear-piece doesn’t really look that great. So invest in a tie-clip (or Lavalier to give it the correct name) microphone. You have to make sure it’s designed for use with a smartphone because they have a different jack from a standard audio plug. This one is made by Rode and costs £35 ($50 or €40). The microphone needs to be attached about a hand-span below your chin.
The final things to think about in this section are light and location.
Light is particularly important when using a smartphone because the lens is so small. The best solution is to use natural light wherever possible. However, it’s best not to have sunlight come streaming in the window straight on to you. That’s too harsh. It’s a much better idea to sit near a north-facing window. Even then, it can actually be rather a good idea to sit not quite side on to the window and use a piece of card (or a reflector if you have one) to light up the other side of your face. It’s quite a flattering effect.
Location is also important. The last thing you want is to have people concentrating on the plant that appears to be growing out of your ear. You also want a location that’s reasonably quiet – or, if there is any noise in the background, it’s something that can be easily explained by the context. So if you’re recording in an office and there’s a certain amount of chat, ringing phones, etc, then making the recording with that in the background. You finally need a space where there isn’t to much of an echo. Radio studios are draped with cloth to dampen that kind of effect. You don’t need to go to that trouble but just pick a room with books or curtains or a lot of space!
The next choice you have to make is whether to shoot with the front or the back camera – assuming the phone has two (as most do). The back camera usually records in higher quality. But it also means that someone else has to set up the shot for you and then hit the record button. That leaves the front camera if you want the complete DIY solution.
When framing the shot, go through the various menus in the camera and make sure that the frame guide is turn on. That brings a grid on to the screen which splits it into thirds. The bottom third is where you put any captions. Your head and shoulders should just about fill the screen with the eyebrow on the line of the upper third. It also helps to be slightly off-set rather than straight on – it’s a personal choice but it looks a little better that way.
All you have left to do for the time being is decide on content – well, you should really have thought about that before you set up the equipment. There’s another post which looks at that whole issue.
KineMaster Home Screen

KineMaster Home Screen

When you’ve recorded your masterpieces (one video producer who helps clients gets them to record 25 1-2 minute videos in a three hour session!), what do you do with it? You can’t simply upload the raw footage to YouTube or any other channel without editing it. In fact, you CAN upload to YouTube where there is a simple editor – but everyone who’s tried it agrees that, for the moment at least, it’s dreadfully slow. One producer claimed that it took several DAYS before her video finally was ready in its completed state.

It is possible to edit video on the phone itself – though it is a little fiddly! Because we don’t use iPhones, we’ve looked at what’s available on Google Play (its app store). There, you will find dozens of video editors waiting for you to download. The majority of them are not worth considering – several crashed the moment we tried loading a video file. The editor supplied by Samsung wasn’t that great either. It’s definitely worth checking the star rating and reading some of the comments. The one that seems to be best is a paid app called KineMaster Pro which you can download for £1.73 (€2 or $2.50). It’s an astonishingly versatile piece of software with features that some desktop applications don’t have. And for the simple kind of videos which most business people might want, it’s so simple and straightforward, even to the point of adding titles and credits. There’s also a really good training video on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rPMs4cy10Hc made by someone who calls himself the HiTech Nomad!
Since this feature is all about making video on a smartphone, that’s evidence that you CAN do it all!
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A new direction

Posted by on 17 April 2014

When we set up BITWeb.tv six years ago, it was with the aim of making video for business – that’s what the initials stand for ‘Business Internet Television’.

BITWeb LogoHowever, the recession meant that a lot of companies simply withdrew from a lot of the activity they’d done before. The purse strings were really tightly drawn. The didn’t want to know about video marketing or anything that would cost them extra. They stuck with what they knew.

Today, there are signs that things might just be improving in the economy. We’ve seen employment and real incomes rising. We’ve seen construction work get under way again. And we’ve seen a plethora of new starts – many encouraged by the universities.

That doesn’t mean that businesses are queueing up to get videos made – but they are starting to show an interest. They’re looking for impartial help and advice about what they need to do. The questions are quite straightforward.

  • Can I use my SmartPhone to make video clips? Yes, but get a tripod and clamp to make it stable.
  • Can I use a webcam? Only if you use external light to stop the screen making you look like a ghost!
  • Do I need an external microphone? Always!
  • Should I DIY or buy in the services of a production company? It’s all a question of ‘horses for courses’.

To answer these questions in more detail, we’ve started an online course using webinars. The first free session aimed specifically at accountants (‘Video for Accountants’) has just been held. The next starts on the 1st of May with a paid-for six-part course starting a week later.

It’s all very exciting. Please spread the word.

The New Sales Funnel

Posted by on 23 July 2013

There’s a considerable reluctance to embrace video as a sales and marketing tool in the UK. In Scotland in particular, the whole idea of using videos a marketing tool appears still to be viewed with some suspicion. However, the basic principles of using YouTube for example are no different from the traditional sales techniques used for generations. You just need to understand that there is a slightly different language and a slightly different technique for achieving exactly the same result.

Like it or not, the customer is likely to be looking for YOU on YouTube – it is after all the second most popular search engine in the world. You have to make sure that what you’re doing is providing them with the same kind of information as you would when using the traditional “sales funnel”.

In the traditional sales funnel, you knew you had to make contact with your customer several times – these are known as multiple touch points. So what do these actually involve – at what is the video equivalent?

In the traditional model, you start off by “creating awareness”. You do this to a range of means: brochures, sales material, personal contact through networking and so forth. In video, you produce a series of short films – either commercials or, for professionals, demonstrations of your expertise – which achieve the same result.

Again in the traditional model, you seek to generate interest in your company or product. With video, you could achieve this by using endorsements of one country another – if you can manage to sign up a celebrity, so much the better!

You then need to think about building credibility. This is actually easier within the video model than the traditional one. What you need to do here is to create a series of tutorials and product details which are potential customers understand exactly what you’re offering.

By this point in the sales funnel, prospective customers are getting quite warm. But all too often they raise objections – or appear to do so. However, business gurus argue that when somebody is raising an objection, or they are actually doing is making sure that the decision to buy (probably already taken) is really justified. With video, the best way of achieving this is true the use of user testimonials.

Finally, to keep your customer happy, you need to ensure that a constant stream of information which provides additional service – see you continue to produce short videos offering hints and tips about the best methods of using your product or service.

What you really have to AVOID is following the traditional model adopted by advertising agencies have been used to traditional media such as television. All they are managing to do is to solve the first part of this five-part program – creating awareness! When you think of this as funnel, their videos are stuck at the top and do nothing to tempt the customer to explore further.

Those who are most successful don’t just dabble with video. They produce enough material to fill that funnel overflowing – they don’t just produce videos, they produce lots of them!! And they learned the key to success – make sure you focus on the story. Good stories sell product – that’s been true for generations! And the important thing here is to keep it simple and as appropriate as possible.

There’s no point in trying to produce the equivalent of a Hollywood blockbuster complete with green screen and other technologies when all you really want to do is get a simple message across! Spend your budget wisely – and that also means thinking about how you promote your videos using social media and other networking. Putting a single video up onto YouTube without thinking about how you’re going to promote it is just a waste of time and money!

The consumer is increasingly sophisticated. Today we have the YouTube generation who probably don’t watch traditional television that much – they may not even have a TV! This is the audience are trying to target and YouTube is a highly effective way of reaching them. In this game, what matters are views, especially when they lead to actions. The whole aim of video marketing is firstly to get customers into that funnel and then to suck them through it. But it only works if you video content is compelling enough to make them want to believe in you and to buy from you.

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The new Editor of the Caledonian Mercury

Posted by on 7 September 2012

I’ve just taken over the editorship of the Caledonian Mercury, Scotland’s award-winning online newspaper after founder, Stewart Kirkpatrick recently took up a post as Head of Digital at the Yes Campaign. This video outlines the challenges ahead.

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The new Digital Station for Edinburgh?

Posted by on 17 August 2012

The race is on to run the first of the new local television stations in cities around the UK. Edinburgh and Glasgow are among them. In what amounts to the biggest shake-up of British television since the advent of satellite TV, the government’s aim is to change the broadcast landscape with much greater emphasis on local service.

The Caledonian Mercury is part of one of those bids. We have joined “Made in Edinburgh” as a media partner and will produce regular current affairs programmes for the channel should it be successful. Under the working title of “Called to Account”, the plan is to host a series of debates in which local politicians and officials are put on the spot.

On a personal note, I have been appointed as station manager for the new service. This will present a series of challenges, not least how to engage with the local community in an effective way. Lord Reith’s maxim for the BBC – “inform, educate, entertain” – applies as much to a local service as it does to a national one.

“Made in Edinburgh” is part of a larger organisation, Made TV Ltd, which is bidding for a total of 11 local television licences across the country. The company’s business model is based on one that ran successfully in the Irish Republic until the economic crisis caused advertising there to collapse.

It is chaired by former Sky Entertainment and TopUp TV founder, Ian West, and has been working on its plans for three years. The company believes there is a huge gap in the market for truly local TV – not regional. “We are massive supporters of local television,” says chief executive Jamie Conway, “and really think this will be a revolution in viewing at a local level.”

Our plan, as submitted to Ofcom, is to launch a raft of new programmes dedicated to Edinburgh, concentrating on the city itself. We have formed partnerships with local organisations including Radio Forth One, the Filmhouse, Fluid Eye Productions, PHPR, the Traverse Theatre and Jewel and Esk College.

The last of these will be significant, especially after the three Edinburgh colleges merge in October. Not only does it give us access to some of the best studio facilities outside of the mainstream broadcasters, it also means that we can give media students real-life experience of what working in a broadcast environment really means.

But it won’t mean relying on student internships – that will only be a small part of our relationship. We will be employing journalists, producers, sales staff and technicians. But we will also work with the colleges, helping with their teaching programmes and providing air time for students to showcase their material.

“Made in Edinburgh” will be as much about opportunities for local businesses as it is about creating local content. “Relying on national advertising misses the point,” according to Conway. “Local TV needs to be for local content and local advertisers. Big brands can already afford to advertise on TV. Let’s give small businesses the chance to communicate with their community.”

He is also keen to stress that “this is not another ITV. All of our stations will be locally run with local news editors and producers and local editorial control. We will produce distinctive bespoke programmes in every city every day, but because our channels are structurally linked, we can share resources, which enable commercial viability.”

And that is vital. At the end of the day, no matter who wins this contract, local television must make financial sense. Made TV has a deliverable business model which the founders believe will stand the test of time. The company is well funded, having already secured £15 million from investors.

A little frustratingly, local television in Scotland will be available on Freeview Channel 45, whereas viewers south of the border will receive it on Channel 8 – which is currently reserved for BBC Alba here. However, that simply means that we have another challenge to face, a publicity challenge and we have partners on board who can help with that.

Edinburgh has long been neglected by not having proper local coverage, and we are looking forward to creating content by the people of Edinburgh for the people of Edinburgh. We will provide news, sport, current affairs, cultural and entertainment programmes that go to the heart of this great city. This is the capital of Scotland – let’s be proud of it.

Other bidders for the Edinburgh and Glasgow franchises include STV (under the ETV and GTV banners), the Edinburgh News Network and Metro8 (Edinburgh and Glasgow) and Glasgow TV. The successful bids are likely to be announced by the middle of September.

The Famous Grouse and the Biggest Bottle of Whisky

Posted by on 17 August 2012

We’ve been working with The Famous Grouse for several years now; so when they said they planned to go for the World record for the largest bottle of whisky ever, it just had to be filmed. The trouble is that nowhere in the UK has the facilities to make a glass bottle of that size any more. In fact, the only firm that can is Bomma in the Czech Republic. Sadly, we didn’t get to film there — a local crew did that; but the final shots were taken in Scotland and the whole piece edited here. The event took place on the “birthday” of The Famous Grouse — Sunday the 12th of August 2012 — at The Famous Grouse Experience just outside Crieff in Perthshire and a representative of Guinness World Records was on hand to confirm that the old record (held by Jack Daniels in the USA) hadn’t just been broken — but smashed! 228 litres is a LOT of whisky.

Why lawyers and other professionals need to use video

Posted by on 18 June 2012

The law, accountancy and other professional services aren’t just sold on skill alone. Clients want to know something about the person they’re buying the service from. They need to like their personality and trust them as well. They can get a real feel for those qualities from a series of videos where the professionals demonstrate their knowledge and expertise. For this to work, they can’t talk about how wonderful they are — they have to prove it, as some American lawyers are doing very successfully. At BITWeb.tv, we’ve been in touch with those US firms and have learned what makes video work for them. We’ll discuss how THEY make it work shortly.

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What is a viral video

Posted by on 13 June 2012

You can never tell what will become a “viral video”. The people commissioning and making the video certainly can’t make that decision. It’s entirely up to the viewers when they share what they like. At BITWeb.tv we can advise on what might give you a head start…but then it’s up to the audience.

Scottish Technology Showcase

Posted by on 13 June 2012

I wasn’t expecting to meet quite as many people that I already knew at the Scottish Technology Showcase in Glasgow. But it felt as though everyone I had ever interviewed for a business or technology feature had decided to visit the event this year. The press officer from Scottish Enterprise, Ruth Andrew, was very helpful and I managed to get a raft of interviews lined up quickly and easily.

I was really impressed with my first view of “Beamshare“, a new, secure video-sharing program from an Aberdeen-based company called OneCodec. At the moment, it’s mainly being used to share personal movies — but the company’s convinced that it will have attractive business applications as well. They’ve asked me to try it out as a beta tester so I’ll write about it once I’ve used it for a while.

It was pretty well attended and we made a video feature for the Caledonian Mercury. Here’s what is on the site:

Scotland has a reputation for its technology—the country has a long tradition of innovation. The evidence for the continuation of that was evident at the Scottish Technology Showcase. Over 1500 delegates were at the event, now in its fourth year, to meet over a hundred exhibitors, take part in matchmaking sessions and hear talks from leading figures in the sector. Some firms chose to launch new products or service at the show in Glasgow’s SECC. Supported by Scottish Enterprise, the event is designed to help Scottish firms forge new links and build new business for the future. And as the Caledonian Mercury’s been hearing, there are clear signs that Scottish firms are continuing to invest in innovation despite the tough economic conditions.

The link to the Showcase Website was included as you’ll be able to see the list of exhibitors.