On this episode, I was joined by Ben Bradley, Founder and Director at Right Hand Films. I worked extensively with Ben during my time at Rubrik, mostly focusing on customer testimonial videos. We received a lot of compliments on these and I think a large part of that is due to the artistry and emotion that Ben is able to convey through this medium. The quality of these videos was actually one of the reasons I joined the company in the first place because I wanted to learn from and be a part of that creative process.
During my conversation with Ben, we spoke about tips for bringing out the best in your customers on camera, the necessity of capturing good b-roll, and how starting with why is necessary for creating compelling narratives. As customer marketers and advocacy practitioners, we are always telling our customers’ stories in one fashion or another—and I think there’s so much we can learn here about how to become better storytellers. So without further ado, here’s my conversation with Ben.
Margot Leong: Ben, welcome to Beating The Drum and thanks for joining us.
Ben Bradley: Margot. Thank you so much for having me. Super excited to be on here and I’m super excited to talk about customers, talk about beating the drum and talk about some of your passions in this industry.
Margot Leong: Tell us a little bit about your background and the type of work that you’ve done.
Ben Bradley: So my background is in video production. I’m mostly focused on marketing videos mostly in the IT space. So a lot of clients that are in enterprise IT, database management, cloud infrastructure, things like that.
The other, let’s say, 20% of my business is local here in Tampa, Florida. I recently did a video for a company that is creating an app to connect people who have rare diseases. So that was super interesting, sort of on the technology side as well, but also focusing on that human element. I really like to focus on why companies do what they do, and it’s been a lot of fun throughout the years – kind of curating that message with companies and really getting the right things across.
Margot Leong: Fantastic. What do you enjoy the most about the work that you do?
Ben Bradley: I recently read this book called Start With Why by Simon Sinek. You may be familiar with it, and it’s a great, great book and there’s a follow-up called Find Your Why, which I’m currently reading now, but I love the concept of starting with why people do things, like what gets them out of the bed in the morning and when they go to the office, what makes them both individually and as an organization, what makes them tick and what gives them that passion to work at a company for 10, 20, 25 years sometimes, or even just for a series of months, just like going crazy on one certain topic or one certain organization. For me, it’s what is the why behind what people are doing and how can I bring that to light, no pun intended, through video.
Video, really, at the end of the day is just humans talking to humans. It’s a digital platform that takes someone’s face, someone talking to the camera and is putting that out on the internet for other people to experience that because we don’t have the luxury of going door to door, office to office, and talking to people face to face.
Once I realized that a couple of years ago, it was really interesting to think about what can I do to push the limits in video and make it such a unique and emotional experience and a very human experience at the end of the day to where it’s not just a list of facts or some sort of boring talking head where you’re grabbing people by the collar and you’re flying them up in the air in a drone, or you’re slowly moving them through a hallway on a dolly, or you’re whipping around a corner with a gimbal. All these things are just different ways to grab people’s eyeballs and take them on this emotional, really experiential sort of thing that’s really just giving them information at the end of the day.
Margot Leong: Yeah. I think that’s why you and I clicked so early on. So for context, I know you from working together at Rubrik and –
Ben Bradley: Such great times.
Margot Leong: Absolutely. I was really impressed by how you’re able to translate what is pretty dry and quite technical, which is backup software into the emotional, human element. So what’s always really interesting to me is to understand what are the things in your background that have led to the type of approach that you have in the first place?
Ben Bradley: So for me, I actually started in video with my iPhone, creating videos for the student ministry at my church years ago. So it started out just like a fun thing to, hey, let’s make some funny videos to explain the messages. And it kind of trickled into there and it’s something I was like, wow, I found myself every night spending multiple hours in my tiny little office there and studying video production to the point where I could realize that this is something you can really, really change the world with.
Like I said, video is just human talking to humans, and I think more than ever today, like that’s something that’s so important for us to be really talking and communicating about important topics. So from there it led me to weddings, which is the typical lifecycle of a videographer , that eventually goes to the corporate. They usually start at weddings.
And I think weddings are just a great bootcamp for videographers because it teaches you that emotional context, that emotional content you’re capturing. The whole day is emotional. From the getting ready in the morning to the emotional ceremony, to all the fun stuff that happens in the reception, there’s all sorts of different emotions that happen there.
And so going through that, I finally got to the point where I was wanting something even more. I’d sort of like – for all intents and purposes – mastered what I was wanting to do in the wedding industry, and I wanted to take my things I learned from there and take it to the corporate world.
Anybody can create a video of, let’s say a sports team, where you’ve got so much content to capture. You know, really cool things happening. Slo-mo of guys and girls running and all sorts of cool stuff. And anybody can capture a video of, let’s say a coffee shop, where you’ve got really cool shots, cool lighting and cool things happening, cool vibe.
But put someone into a hyperconverged data center –
Margot Leong: I wonder where you got that from!
Ben Bradley: – give them racks of data of a, you know, data racks to work with. And an IT guy who’s just is what he is. He likes what he does and dresses the way he dresses. And put them in that world and let’s see what can happen. Well, that’s kind of where I fell into. I’m really actually glad that that happened because it really challenged me to, not just make cool videos and do a bunch of slo-mo and stuff and just capture what’s what’s happening, but it also helped me to create action.
And I think that’s an important thing to think about in any sort of marketing. Some marketing, like some things you’ll focus on, you just point the camera at it and you just capture what’s happening because the content’s that rich. Well, when you’re in a data center with low lighting and just endless rows of blinking lights or maybe a small office somewhere in the Midwest , there’s not a whole lot of that action to capture.
So you have to do what I call is like creating the content. And so it may not just be capturing that dimly lit office for what it is. It’s maybe like moving the desk over in front of the lighting, by a window, adding in a couple of people in the background and just walking around for no reason to add some movement. You know, switching over to the slow mode, add a little more time to the scene, things like that.
It’s been a really interesting journey and I’m super grateful for everything that’s happened so far and still going. There’s no telling what’s going to be next. And yeah, super excited about it.
Margot Leong: Yeah. I think that I really am impressed by the ability of people in your position to have to manage a million things going on at once. But also to do all of that within a very short timeframe. With weddings, you can’t reshoot any of that stuff, right.
But, for me, I always felt so nervous about shooting these videos because you only really have an hour with these customers most of the time to capture what you need to capture. I was so impressed by working with you and, and how you’ve just been able to retain your cool and calm demeanor the whole time.
Ben Bradley: You should take a look at what’s going on inside my head. It’s usually chaos, but no, I do appreciate the compliment. I try to manifest that into trying to be calm on set, but yeah.
Margot Leong: So then let’s talk about the actual logistics of doing the video shoots themselves. Because this is something that people in the customer advocacy and marketing space do a lot. We tell stories about how our customers are utilizing the product and the benefits they’re seeing and I’d really like to get into some of the more technical and tactical details of how to approach that.
I think that you have this knack for making customers feel really comfortable on camera, and I’ve definitely learned a lot from you in that regard. Prior to filming, what do you do to make the customers feel comfortable in the first place?
Ben Bradley: So, leading up to the actual shoot day is where this process actually starts itself along with on the shoot day after the setup is done. If I’ve got a customer, I’m working with them in the email thread and if I’m working with a client that’s hiring me as their client to film their client, usually that process starts even in the email threads of, Hey, like super excited about the shoot day. It’s going to be very laid back. Here’s what to wear. Here’s where we’re gonna film it.
Even if that stuff isn’t necessarily super important to give them, it just gives them something to grab onto, to paint the picture of how the day is going to go. If you’re giving them something to hold onto, that will actually make them feel even more comfortable because it’s something to think through and to consider.
Before the shoot day starts, I always like to get a feel for their conference room and ask them about some of the best places to shoot in their office and that will also help them to have a little part in the creativity of it, because then they’ll say, well, yeah, well Conference Room 2 is actually better than Conference Room 1. They may send you a photo of it, be kind of proud of how the lighting is or something. And that’s great too. Again, it’s just the human element of like making them feel involved in what you’re doing. It’s just absolutely great and it is very helpful too.
When the setup is done, when the customer walks into the room, I just try to really care about them. And it sounds so simple, but you can’t really show someone and make someone feel comfortable and make them feel cared for unless you actually do really care. I want this person to feel like a rockstar. I want my editing to reflect that they’re a rockstar. I want them to feel confident. I want them to be absolutely successful. You just have to choose to care for this person who’s about to go through this nerve-wracking experience of having a big eyeball staring at them and a big flashing record button and all these hot lights and things.
On the sort of the selfish side, the better they do in this video, the better your company is going to do, the better my client’s going to do, things like that. So it just helps in the end, you just really, really care about what this person is going to do.
I always walk right up to them. I don’t act like I’m just the video guy, I try to be really involved and ask them all the basic icebreaker questions of like, how long have you worked here? Tell me your position again. What are you working on today? Just really get kind of friendly with them. The more you genuinely care about that person, the more that’s going to reflect and the more they’re gonna genuinely feel that. So the only option I have is just to give them my full attention and you know, that care.
And then more on the practical side, when they sit down, I usually like to use a shotgun mic, and that’s just the mic that’s overhead instead of the one that’s clipping on. And that’s for a couple of reasons. The first reason it looks so much better in the video when you don’t have this little black flower popping out of the side. And from a technical standpoint, it actually sounds a lot better. It’s a lot more setup , but it’s always worth in the end. And then also like, you don’t have to have that awkward moment of having to like put it down their shirt and you don’t want them to feel like strapped in or messing with it in their belt.
But I also like to just make them feel that they can redo any of the questions . If what you’re filming is an edited piece instead of a live one-take piece, I always tell them, Hey, you know, if you mess up on something or want to change it, feel free to just go back a couple seconds and redo that.
And I also tell them like, so they can have confidence in me. Like, Hey, I’m going to, if there’s something that you kind of stumble over, I’ll just kind of stop you and we’ll go back and redo some of that. It is important for them to know that, but it’s also just like a psychological thing, like, you want to give them a little safety net to work under, like a trapeze artists. They’re going to try some more dangerous tricks and things if they’ve got a safety net underneath them. And so the same thing for our customers – if they’ve got that safety net of knowing the back of their head, like, if I mess this up, don’t have to be nervous, don’t have to be shaky, I can kind of go back and do it.
And then the other things I do to just set the stage is like remind them, Hey, this is just a conversation between us or whoever’s dishing the questions to them. And the cameras just happen to be here. Like, hey, this is just a conversation we want to have about whatever the industry is – we’re about to have a riveting conversation about hyperconverged data systems or whatever it is.
Margot Leong: I think something you touched upon there is the humor aspect. We’ve had so much fun joking with customers or riffing with them. There’s some customers, you can tell, just already have that really playful sarcastic energy, and so then it’s about mirroring that back to them. We can laugh off camera and then it’s so much more fun when they actually get on camera because they’ve internalized that laughter. You can see it in their eyes already. And there’s that ability for them to let a little bit more loose on camera, which is I think what we want.
I remember at Rubrik, when we were at VMworld one year and we were filming, the deputy director of IT for the city of Las Vegas. Super charismatic guy. We were laughing with him off camera and then also on camera, like I couldn’t stop cracking up. At one point, he pointed down at his shoes and he was like, thanks for the socks. And you used that clip in a separate video for the recap of the event itself.
I think it’s moments like that of capturing the humanity of people is one of the most important elements for videos. I think it’s the times that you’re able to capture where they’re laughing to themselves softly, or they’re kind of looking aside and enjoying their work. I think especially in an industry that’s considered to be as dry as IT, that is where the emotional aspect is super important. Selling is emotional. Marketing is emotional. And so for any human that’s watching this video, they can see those elements and then they can see themselves in that.
And then one other tip that I had read recently that I thought would be interesting to share is that something you can do to get your customers relaxed, is to ask them about a topic that is pretty universally loved or enjoyed. Something that you can ask is tell me about your favorite pet, or what’s your stance on pets? People, you know, they have a favorite dog or a cat, and that’s something that they can just go off on and it gets them to be comfortable. Or if they don’t like pets, they can definitely like riff on why they don’t like pets either.
I think sometimes people don’t even realize the amount of prep that even goes up until the point of filming. But all of this is super important because you only have one hour to capture that person and to bring up the best.
Ben Bradley: Definitely. Yeah.
Margot Leong: The next piece is I wanted to talk about is during filming, how do you bring out the best in people on camera? We’ve interviewed some people who are visibly sweating, right? Who are so nervous on camera.
Ben Bradley: So if you have a situation where someone is visibly sweating and stumbling over their words and really struggling to get the content out, that’s a tough situation. And there’s not a ton of things you can do to make that person feel fully comfortable at the end of the day, because they do have that big eyeball looking at them, the record button, the lights and everything all around them.
But a couple of things you can do just to kind of comfort them on the psychological level is really just – again, it starts with really, really caring about them and recognizing that, hey, they’re in the hot seat. You know, I’m not in front of the camera. I don’t like to be in front of the camera, like to be behind the camera.
And they are – they’re going for it. I mean, their face is going to be in the internet, they are going to be representing their company and making them feel like what they’re doing is really cool, you know, cause it really is to be in a video and to be representing your company at whatever level it is – it’s really cool that they’re doing that.
And so just trying to make them feel comfortable. And dishing the questions in a way that is very conversational. They sometimes will want to try to use rehearsed answers. And I’ve actually found that that doesn’t work quite as well with some people that are exceptionally nervous cause they’re more so focusing on trying to remember that sentence that they have written down there on the paper at their feet, or trying to remember something that they were thinking about in their cubicle 30 minutes earlier when they were sweating bullets before they walked into the room. It’s better just to really let things flow and just get what you can. That magic really happens in the editing floor.
If you’re dishing the questions to them in a way that’s they can kind of openendedly answer it without having to think about the rehearsed answer or scripted, something like that. I just feel like it maybe like activates a certain part of your brain or something when you’re trying to remember what you want to say versus just saying it off the cuff.
And along with that too reminding them that, Hey, you know, this is something that you can redo multiple times. Like, sometimes I’ll just let them stumble completely through it. And even I’ll talk them through it and then we’ll say, you know, we got all the content for that – let’s go back and work on the delivery of it one more time. And so we’ll go back through and we’ll go through that same, just one sentence very cleanly.
But you know, sometimes we do have someone who’s just extremely nervous on camera. And so I kind of flip the switch. Especially as the editor, because I’ll be taking that footage and turning into the story anyways. I’ll flip it and to say to myself, we’re in sort of like survival mode now. We’re trying to just get as much content as we can from this person, usable content.
Maybe I will give them a sentence to say if it has to come to that, like just get like a few words sentence. You know, like the thing about our company is , we really try to focus on customers first and then boom, we just got that tidbit. Okay, now let’s go to the next one. You know, customers are important to us because they drive the humanity of our business or whatever it is.
I can take those two sentences and cut them together in post and make it sound like one really eloquent sentence. So if worst comes to worst, you do come to that, I guess I would call like survival mode of just trying to get as much content as possible. Kind of get as much as you can and think about it. Maybe even make some notes while you’re filming and try to get as much little things you can string together in the end. Because as you’ve experienced too, with some of the customers we filmed that had been nervous, they’ve actually turned out to be really great stories.
It’s all under b-roll, of course, because you know, having to chop together what they’ve said, but, you know, if you’ve got just a couple sentences where they do say something great, you can show them on camera for that brief minute, and then the rest of it, or the majority of their section can be b-roll and their content could be cut up and chopped up.
Margot Leong: I really like what you said about the magic of editing and that all does not have to be perfect, but that you can clip it together to make it sound great, but that requires letting them know about breaking it up incrementally, right. Taking one half of a sentence and another and that, that is doable for them. They’re like, Oh, that’s easy. I can say that, no problem. So I really liked that piece.
Another thing that I find really helpful in these situations is that I often have questions that I’ll ask that may never actually show up in the video or are not part of my narrative outline for what I’m actually trying to get, but I usually throw them in as softballs, especially when I notice the customer starting to get super nervous again or get shaky. And these are just things that are really easy for any person to answer, for example, how did you get into IT in the first place? What is it that you enjoy the most about this job? And so, it really changes the tenor of the conversation because there’s some light that comes back into their voice and some enthusiasm, then you can ride off that momentum and it reduces their nervousness when they continue speaking.
And I think to the magic of the editing, one story that I have is that we filmed this customer out of a massive, massive health insurance company out of Louisiana. And the guy was the biggest sweetheart, but just so nervous. And we went through all of these techniques and tactics with him, and at the end of it, he kept apologizing and saying, Oh, I did so badly, I did so badly. I really hope you can make me look good.
And a few months later, I was able to show him what you had put together at our technical advisory board and he was blown away. I wish you could have seen it because he was just like, I can’t believe that you made me look this good, and that I sounded this eloquent. He was so happy about that and I think that’s the magic of all of the preparation that we put in. It’s the final product and seeing how people, see how you made them look and that, I think, makes all the difference.
So what I wanted to talk about next, selfishly, is that, I’m often the one who’s doing the interviews. We only have a very short amount of time to interview someone and I personally get really nervous about making sure that we hit all the points right? You want to balance making someone feel comfortable and taken care of. At the same time. It’s like, all right, I only have 20 minutes left and I have to hit these three points so that they actually make it into the video.
What I probably err more on the side of is trying to make the customer feel comfortable, but then I only get the footage that I get. Right. So, what are your tips for interviewers like me when the camera starts rolling? What is important to really be aware of in real time?
Ben Bradley: So the most important thing to think about when going into an interview to capture content is where is this going to be in the end? What is even the title of the YouTube video going to be? What’s the main theme of the content?
And you know, sometimes if you are dealing with a customer who’s having trouble communicating it or you’re even short on time, you can only do maybe a 10 minute interview instead of a full 30 or 45 minute, you think about where does this person, first of all, where do they sit in the narrative? Cause sometimes there will be a couple of different customers that are filmed from one organization in the video. So where does this person in particular, where do they fit in the narrative? What are the things that they bring to the table about that main topic of the video, and let’s make sure we hit on those.
Margot Leong: Yep. Absolutely. I think preparation again is key here. Something that I’ve done before and, and worked with my team on is the importance of the pre-interview. So, if we know that we’re going to be filming a customer ahead of time, then we will usually set up about a 20 to 30 minute phone call with the champion that we’ll be filming to understand at a high level how they’re using the product before the shoot. So we’re typically synthesizing those notes afterwards, and then we create an outline of the beats we want to hit, so we know exactly what the end result of the video is going to be, then we know that, then we create the questions to map to that so the interview is as efficient as possible.
It also makes it a lot easier to storyboard the video when you know you’re going into edit mode. The less off the cuff, I think in this situation, the better because as we talked about: limited time.
Let’s also talk about what can make testimonial videos compelling, which is often the b-roll. We don’t just want talking heads on camera or else, why would you even have this as a video, right? You could just have it as a podcast or an audio medium. Why is it important to capture b-roll and what’s your process for doing that?
Ben Bradley: So the b-roll is the fun part, right? I mean, the interview is capturing what they’re wanting to say, and you’re recording what’s happening live. And my philosophy on b-roll is that, you know, sometimes in certain situations you’ll be capturing something like a person with just the perfect lighting coming through their office window, happens to be sitting there and you run up and capture a quick shot of them. But the majority of the time, I’d say over 90% of the time, you’re actually having to create that scene.
And what I mean by that is, you’re not going to just walk into a conference room and just start filming. That may happen sometimes, but the best way to do it is to fully control that situation where you know, we always try to reserve a big conference room for the full day of the shoot and so, we can store some equipment in there if needed, or we can create an entire conference room scene. So we’ll have like a certain person that’s maybe talking up by the whiteboard, whiteboarding a couple of things out, or we’ll have a handful of people just no matter what their position is, sitting in on the conversation and looking up at the person as they’re talking, things like that.
I usually have them bring some notepads and be writing some things down or typing some things or browsing even their own company’s website to get some cool shots of that. Again, you’re really creating the scene and that goes the same for any sort of shot that you’ll be getting in their office.
If you happen to be filming a customer that has a lot of cool stuff, like, at Rubrik years ago we filmed Wabash National, the semi-truck company. It was just so cool because everywhere you turn, there’s semis rolling around, there’s a whole yard of the trailers and we had the drone up in the air and just everywhere you turn, great stuff to capture.
But you don’t always have that luxury, especially in the IT world. So what I’ll do, sometimes I’ll have like a sort of a running list of standard list of shots that I like to get of any company, like an IT company, where there’s not a lot to film. I’ll get a shot of like the VIPs that are on camera for the interview. I’ll get some shots of them, like walking through the office, talking to each other, like one from the back, one from the front. I’ll get a shot of them maybe leaning up against a window on their phone, browsing the website of the topic we’re talking about, or if it’s a software product, I’ll have them browsing through it on their computer in a scene that I set up in the biggest office they have or in a conference room with some nice lighting.
Another thing I like to do is take them outside. That always makes it more dynamic. Sometimes we can even sneak into a coffee shop and get some shots through the window of them chatting in the coffee shop or standing in line or making some notes or something.
I do a lot of drone shots as well. I don’t like to overdo the drone stuff cause that can really easily be overplayed. But most of my videos, we’ll have one to two drone shots – sometimes the opening shot to kind of set the stage and maybe a closing shot to give that impactful closing.
Again, you’re creating that scene. You’re creating what the typical day kind of looks like. Just think about what is your ideal look for this office, like people running around, a lot of things happening, buzzing, people on the phones, laughing, talking, walking through the halls. And you can fully create that scene. You’ve got to be confident though, cause it is kind of awkward to grab Julie from accounting and Brad from marketing and say, hey, like this is a video about IT.
So yeah, again, just the mindset to have about b-roll is just create the moment. Don’t be afraid to ask some people to do a little more here and there. You’d be surprised who will actually want to be a part of what you’re doing and you’ll capture some great content.
Margot Leong: Yeah. I think especially for that City of Las Vegas video, I remember that shot you captured of Lester Lewis where he’s just basically in a government office, and he claps someone on the back and he’s like laughing in that shot. You put that into the video and it’s so powerful because, I think, yes, you are telling the story about your product through the customer, but this is also in a way, kind of a calling card for the person that’s getting filmed as well. You are showing off their personality through this lens and everyone just looks so good and you’re sort of amplifying the things that come out when you meet them in person. I think that really speaks to the magic of getting the right b-roll as well.
Let’s also talk about the editing portion. And so the way that you and I have worked together, is that we would put together the storyboard after you sent us over the audio. And then you would edit it and put in the music and the transitions and you really create the final product.
But I know a lot of the times that that’s quite unique with the clients that you work with. You’re often the one who is owning the filming and then you own creating the story and the video pretty much from scratch. For someone who is not working in house at the company and doesn’t have necessarily all of the information, but is tasked to create a beautiful video – what’s the structure and philosophy that you typically adopt in doing so?
Ben Bradley: So what I usually do is after the interview, I’ll take the audio files from the interview cause those are easier to transfer it through Dropbox or something. And I’ll take the full length audio file from the interview or both interviews and I’ll send that to the client that I’m working for. So basically what I mean is I’ll send them the audio files and I’ll send them a blank spreadsheet of timestamps.
I’ll basically say like, let me know what parts of the video you really want to have included and what sort of key catch phrases that you want to include. You can even go as far as just giving me a couple of pieces. You’re like, hey, make sure to use 3:15-4:20 or whatever. I really liked that timeframe. They can create that whole video – the narrative – themselves, or just give me a couple of tidbits to go off of that are really important to them. That’s the ideal situation if a customer or a client can provide you some feedback on and direction on things that they really want to communicate.
But sometimes, they just say, Hey, just either we don’t have time to do that, or we just can’t right now. It’s honestly pretty rare. A lot of people will listen through and give some feedback, which is great, but if they don’t give anything at all, the really important thing to think about in creating a narrative and an edit is starting with why. It’s that philosophy that I use for a lot of different things.
So if someone is in the IT industry and they’re talking about the success of their customer. What was it that gave that success at the end of the day? Let’s fast forward to the result of someone watching that video and say, what will make them tick after watching this video? What’s gonna make them after sitting down for a minute and a half. Well, it’s going to make them say, wow, you know, this is going to be a product or service that I need to have in my regimen and kind of work backwards from there. So how can we encourage them to make that next step through the elements in the video?
On a more practical side, I really like to start the edit with something that’s sort of emotional, like a high level thing, and that comes back to the interview questions too. I like to have a little, kind of like you said, a softball question either probably at the end of the interview that’s like, tell me about the landscape of your industry right now.
If it’s a customer testimonial, I’ll say, how does this company really make you feel at the end of the day? And, when we did some work for Rubrik, a lot of our stuff was like, you know, Rubrik helps me sleep at night. And that was cool cause that gave me something to go off of. Like, you know, tell me a little bit about how Rubrik makes you feel, that peace of mind that it gives you. Everything kind of fades away for a minute when you tap into that why with someone and so that will give you a nice little nugget to start the video with or to end the video with.
I don’t really ever like to start a video with, my name is Brad from IT, and I’ve worked at XYZ for 10 years. It’s just too abrupt. I love to start a video with, the IT landscape right now is blossoming with opportunity and there’s a lot of great companies that are paving the way for our industry. One of those companies is XYZ company. Starting the video like that really draws someone in so much better than just to say like, Hey, this is me. This is what we do. It’s like a sign on the side of the road saying what we do instead of a passion behind like why they do it.
Sometimes, just on a side note, I’ll actually skip completely them introducing their actual name. I’ll just let the content kind of flow. Like if you show them on camera and they’re saying, you know, I’m XYZ from XYZ. It’s a little too much sometimes, especially if you have that lower name title on the screen, which you always do.
And then, the basic structure of an edit should be, you’re getting that sort of emotional tone set, setting the stage, and then going into how is this company gonna affect my company? What is it going to do to change my company? Really try to capture those things that are just those great nuggets about people having like an emotional connection with your product or service and laying that out in the edit and the way it just really shines.
Something that’s really also important and this tip really changed the way I edit. Anytime someone is not on screen, like if you show them on screen and then you flip over to some b-roll for a few seconds. Anytime that their voice is sort of underneath that b-roll, they should sound like an absolute rock star. You have the opportunity to cut up and chop up their voice without any repercussions of the video being shot because their actual interview is not being shown in that section. They should sound absolutely amazing. And sometimes if I’m have a little more time and they stumble over a word or don’t just say it with absolute confidence, I’ll go through and scrub through the rest of the interview, try to find that same word, just very simply. Cut it from the edit, bring it over to that section, drop it in. And so now they’ve said that a word with so much more power. And you can do that because you know, again, their face is not being shown during that section. So that’s just audio editing underneath.
It’s really a mystery, like the perfect edit.
Margot Leong: It’s an art. It’s an art.
Ben Bradley: It is an art. Yes, it is an art. So who are we to say that there’s a perfect way to do it, but I really think that the whole mindset of starting with why and then going to how, and then going to what is a really, really great mindset that works in a lot of different ways of life itself, even.
Margot Leong: Yeah, I totally agree with that. I think that something to be cognizant of too is what is expected versus what can be delivered. If the whole point of delivering something is to draw someone’s attention in and you also get the luxury of knowing what most people expect when they watch customer testimonial videos, they expect to start off with the, hey, I’m this person, and I do this.
And so you’re basically hooking someone in by doing the unexpected, but doing it very well. And I have the exact same philosophy when it comes to starting videos typically, is that you start off with even something that can be a little bit contradictory or something that the audience would be watching this and being like, oh, okay. This is not what I expected. So I’m going to listen a little more closely.
So even to have the person start off with some sort of prompt like, something that’s really surprising to me about XYZ is this. Or even when someone talks about something more emotional, which is something that I love about this job, is the ability to connect with my vendors and to understand what are the trends that are happening in my space.
Everybody expects a testimonial video to just be about the product and the features. And actually, you could just do that over a white paper, a report or a webpage. What are you utilizing this video for? It’s that emotional medium so tell it in an emotional way, right.
So one of my last questions for you is about the music side, because we just talked about emotion. I think music is everything. I just wanted to get a general philosophy from you about how you think about choosing the right music.
Ben Bradley: So music is like, yes. So important for setting the emotional tone for a video. I mean, so many videos these days, just pick up these background tracks-sounding stuff, something you’d hear in your finest elevator. There’s not a whole lot of that emotion put to it.
There’s a great resource called Musicbed and they’re just an amazing, amazing resource for licensable music that you can purchase and then put in your video and use it indefinitely. So they’re a great resource. Almost all their music, especially their top songs, which is a great way to go by it is just all great songs by independent artists. And even some radio artists are on there and they’re the reasonably priced. In the corporate world, they can get a little pricey depending on the size of the company. Because it all depends on how many employees the company has that you’re representing, but there’s some great resources on there.
Another great resource for music on the lower end of the budget is Premiumbeat.com. And they’ve got more like on that background track sounding stuff. There’s some great, great tracks on there for like $49 a song.
If I have the luxury and the budget of using Musicbed, I like to pick tracks that really set the tone for the emotion. Then in recent years, I’ve kind of gone away from the fully emotional sounding stuff that just kind of drags on for a while there. A lot of videos were using that genre of post rock, which is like building up into like a crescendo. And that was great for awhile, but I feel like where the world’s going now is a little more upbeat, a little more choppy, a little more poppy, if you will, a little more pep in the step, whatever those cliche words you want to use to describe music.
Especially if you’re starting out with the edit being that sort of setting the stage, the sort of philosophical statement that you have someone to say instead of just saying, you know, hi, I’m Bob. If it’s more of like that setting the stage and a cool sentence, try that cool sentence with some cool music and kind of just see what flows, render out a couple options to whoever’s the decision maker and just let the music kind of flow and don’t, you know, don’t forget, like you need to start kind of slow in the music and then build up.
You don’t want to just start full out in the chorus, but scrub through that song and the song may sound great when you’re first browsing it, but if you skip ahead, if it’s a three minute song, skip ahead to two minutes or so and see how it sounds there. Even you and I, like we’ve gone through songs sometimes and we’ve been like this song is great, but it’s not really going anywhere. It needs to go somewhere. Especially if you want to have that like emotional hit somewhere cause it kinda needs that. It’s gotta be something that sets the tone, but it’s also got to have a moment where it crescendos out to something where you can use a cool cut there, drop to the logo or something. So, yeah.
Margot Leong: The last question I have is for those of us that don’t necessarily have as much budget to work with awesome videographers such as yourself or you’re just more cost conscious in general, any sort of tips for more DIY options for filming these types of videos.
Ben Bradley: Yeah. I think everything kind of starts with lighting. It’s something that’s kind of glossed over a lot of times. People think that the camera is the most important part, but really the lighting is most important. There’s some really interesting YouTube videos where they compare, granted, later iPhones with these more advanced cameras and stuff, but they compare an iPhone to like an $80,000 Red Digital Cinema production camera. And it’s actually shocking, like the way they do it, is they show both shots, first a clip of three shots, and they don’t tell you which one’s which, and you have to guess which one. And I’ve actually been wrong guessing, which is kind of crazy.
So bring that up a little bit and get just any sort of a decent, maybe even a DSLR and mirrorless camera these days and a lot of this stuff is really leveling out. For a B cam and a more affordable camera, I’ve really liked the Sony Alpha series, which is like the Sony a7S or the a7S II. And then my A camera is the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema 6K – just a great camera.
So the cameras, they’re not going to make as much of a difference as your lighting. The tip to lighting is to have big lights. A big light source will create a softer look. So imagine if you had like a tiny little spotlight, even if it was incredibly bright and you’ve shown that on someone’s face in an interview, there’ll be a lot of harsh shadows and stuff. Right? You know, the nose would create a harsh shadow and the cheekbones.
But imagine if you were to spread that light out to be like a big disk, a three foot, four foot wide circular disk where it’s that nice soft light that looks like it’s coming through a window – that’s going to give you those soft shadows where things roll off their face better.
So if you’re going to get some good lights, it’s really gonna make a huge difference just to get some lights that are kind of like a panel light. It’s like a longer, like rectangular shape – turn that light on its side where it’s giving that wrapping effect, wrapping around them, their body or their face, and that’s just gonna boost your production values through the roof. The bigger the light is going to give you that softer look. Especially in this sort of field where we’re creating those emotional tones, that softer light, sort of that window light , is going to be the best look.
And then there’s this old thing that people say that better audio is actually more important than better video. Imagine watching a video on YouTube. The audio is absolutely terrible. It’s just like so muffled and really hard to hear. But the video is actually crystal clear. You’re still going to be kind of frustrated.
Like I said before, I like to use those shotgun mics. If you don’t have the ability to do that, there’s some great lavalier mics, like even on Amazon, top-rated , that will give, you great audio. And the trick with audio, like I always like to think in any of these categories of what makes things bigger, what’s the most important thing? With audio, the most important thing is being close to the source. So the closer your microphone is to your mouth, even on a phone call, the better it is going to be, the more you can clearly hear that person and you’ll hear less of that echo of the room and things.
So when we do the shotgun mic method, if we’re in a big echoey room, I’ll actually let the shotgun mic dip into the shot about a foot. If it’s a clean background or something, I’ll do that on purpose and I’ll remove that in post, which is a very quick, like a Photoshop layer. Just mask it out real quick.
Something to keep in mind is I always film everything at 24 frames per second, and that’s really going to add to that emotional vibe of it. That’s more of a technical thing, but video is just a bunch of photos every second, right? A video camera just basically takes 24 photos every single second and plays them back like a flip book. And you’re just watching that flip book and it’s the illusion of motion.
And so if you’re changing that frame rate to a frame rate, like 24 frames per second, that’s actually what the human eye sees at a comfortable speed where it’s not giving them too much information where they feel kind of overwhelmed. You’re really going to have that more cinematic look that you’ll see in movies and that’s the emotion you want to capture for your videos.
Margot Leong: All right. To summarize, big light, close audio, 24 frames per second, that’s all you need.
Ben Bradley: May not be all, but yes, you’ll be in the the right direction for sure.
Margot Leong: Ben, it has been such a pleasure talking to you. Thank you so much for taking the time. Also just wondering where can our listeners find you?
Ben Bradley: Definitely. So I just redid my website. It’s righthandfilms.com.
Margot Leong: Looks really good, by the way.
Ben Bradley: Thank you so much. I appreciate that. There’s actually a section on my Videos tab on the site that is customer testimonial videos. So great way to check out customer testimonials that Margot and I have captured in the past. I’m actually on Instagram as well, @BenBradley. Also on LinkedIn. Just search “Ben Bradley Right Hand Films,” love to connect with you. Feel free to message me with any questions you have about making customer videos or anything in the video world. Love talking about it.
And in fact, I’m actually working on a video course, teaching people my method for making videos, and we do a lot of customer testimonials, so it will be heavily weighted on that. That will be at benbradleycourses.com and I’ll be creating a course over the next few months. Teaching my method for some of these tips and tricks to get just the best videos out of your equipment and some of the philosophies for working with clients, things like that.
Margot Leong: Great. What I’ll do is I will put all of those links in the show notes as well. Thank you again, Ben, and really appreciate you taking the time to join us today.
Ben Bradley: Awesome. Thank you so much, Margot. Appreciate it.