It's not too often that a book written for the absolute beginner in a subject also turns out to be a useful text for the seasoned professional, but VideoUniversity.com creator and director Hal Landen pulls off this trick with the second edition of Marketing with Digital Video.
This small paperback is aimed primarily at the business owner or manager who wants to produce a video for his business, and would like to do some or all of the work herself. Or perhaps she is unable to hire a professional producer because of budget limitations and has to do a lot of the work herself.
Because his target audience knows little or nothing about video, Landen starts with the basics, and describes the steps in the production process in rich detail and in plain language.
He also takes some pains to describe the huge changes that have taken place in the low-budget video world in the last decade, particularly the advent of the DV format and the computer-based nonlinear editing system. These are the changes that allow the newcomer to the field a fighting chance to produce a successful video on a shoestring budget, and Landen demystifies them by cutting through the jargon and the marketing hype to explain the hows and whys in ways that anyone can understand.
Perhaps most importantly, the book doesn't get lost in technical details. It emphasizes the basics, starting with the importance of a good script, and some techniques to use to write one. In fact, Landen gives great weight to the entire preproduction process; six of the book's 12 chapters are focused on this area. In my view, this is the right mix, since the preproduction phase will affect the final outcome more than any other part of the process. Most importantly, it is the phase in which the least amount of money is spent, but which will have the greatest effect on the overall cost of the finished product.
True to its title, the book focuses on the production of a marketing video, and discusses various outlets for such projects such as their use by sales personnel, at trade shows and conventions, on cable television, on the Web, and distributed on CD-ROM or DVD. However, it also touches on other forms of corporate video, such as training videos for employees or customers, or the corporate "family history" video.
So, how is a book intended for the non-video savvy reader useful for those of us who have been doing videos for years? In four ways: First, it's a great introduction to corporate video for the wedding and event videographer looking to expand her horizons. It's easy to "read between the lines" and see what would be important to a potential corporate client. Second, since the book stresses the need to hire a professional camera operator to do the actual shooting, it gives the videographer looking for this sort of work a good idea of what fledgling producers will need in a Director of Photography. Third, it's an excellent refresher for the experienced corporate producer who may need to step back from the day-to-day details and take a look at the Big Picture. There was a lot in here that was familiar to me, but I also found lots of tips and angles that I hadn't considered. And finally, you may want to give a copy to your new clients to bring them up to speed on the whole process of creating a video.
Landen is well-qualified to write this book; he's worked as a professional cameraman in broadcast and corporate video, and is a successful independent producer. He's also been responsible for teaching the ropes to hundreds of other producers through his books, courses, and Web site at www.videouniversity.com. Put a copy on your bookshelf!
To purchase Marketing with Digital Video by Hal Landen, click here.