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5 questions for making a better video

I’ve been helping a government department and a host of service NGOs with some service prototyping lately. There’s a veritable cafeteria worth of plates spinning in the air at the moment, and somewhere in there we suddenly needed to brief a video production freelancer to help us make an explainer video.

So how do you brief someone to make a video for you?

I knew a lengthy exhaustive (and exhausting) form wouldn’t be right for this small job. But at the same time, I didn’t want to fly by the seat of our collective pants either; I’ve been burnt by flimsy briefs before (pardon the pun). I treated this a design exercise in itself, and thought: what is the minimum number of questions I would ask to generate the maximum clarity and direction for a video?

Based on several other projects I’ve done, I wrote a list of 5 questions that would really help me if I were to make a video, and we ran with that. So I thought I’d leave them here in case it’s helpful for someone else.

Purpose of the video – Why do you want a video? What is it meant to achieve? How would you know it’s successful?

Audience of the video – Who is the video speaking to? What is their understanding of your video’s domain? What do you want them to think, feel, and do?

Voice of the video – What is the main message you want the video to say? What’s the story that you want to communicate? What’s the tone that you want to capture?

Location of the video – Where will the video be watched? Desktop/laptop screens, smartphone screens, noisy environments, high/low-bandwidth connections? How will people find it?

Timing of the video – When does it need to go live? What other factors need to be lined up to complete the video, e.g. talent, animation, locations, audio, music, products, screenshots

So there you go! Purpose. Audience. Voice. Location. Timing.

Have you ever had to take a brief for doing a video? What works for you?

Sketching Service Design at Service Design Thinks and Drinks
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Sketching in service design

Anyone who stands next to me long enough knows that I really enjoy sketching. The other night I had a great opportunity to do just that: I spoke at a Service Design Thinks & Drinks event (big thanks to Damian Kernahan at Proto Partners for the invitation) on sketching techniques as part of service design thinking and practice.

I skimmed through various ways that sketching helps others to communicate to us (and each other) in workshops, and us communicate to others, through deliverables like journey maps, storyboards and domain models.

But the really fun part was demonstrating some simple techniques and shortcuts to sketch the sorts of things we often need to depict in service design: people and their expressions and moods, everyday objects, pathways and metaphors… even (gasp) drawing in 3D.

You can grab the Sketching in Service Design slides from Slideshare, which also include some ‘pre-fabbed’ sketches at the end.And thanks to Damian’s thinking and camera skills, there’s footage of the sketching here, via Vimeo:

Service Design Thinks & Drinks Sydney : Ben Crothers from damian kernahan on Vimeo.

The best part for me was being able to sketch in front of everyone, rather than just being another talking warm body in front of a slide deck. I’d rigged up an old webcam stuck to a small lamp, and it worked surprisingly well. The lamp illuminated the sketchbook where I was drawing, and the webcam fed the video through the laptop to the big screen behind me. I was also able to flick from the deck to the live capture, depending on what I was talking about.

Here’s hoping to do it again soon!