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Budget multimedia

Everyone is at a different stage of confidence in working with multimedia and ability/desire to invest in it. But everyone can do something. 

FREE - Consume a lot, watch like a producer, and keep a list of the good stuff. This will help you sharpen your critical production faculties, and help you work with producers much more efficiently. Keep a list of all the good things. Then you can show them to a producer and say 'can you make something like *this* please, but that does *this*'.

A good place to check in is the Webby Awards to see who is doing great stuff. But follow lots of filmmakers/photographers/organisations that are pushing things forward. Subscribe to Buzzfeed video,(they started out just making them in the office and they work really well). The School of Life YouTube channel (great at explaining complex concepts in fun/engaging ways). Look for inspiration in strange places. Note down the stuff you like, in Trello, or by liking it on YouTube (will retain a list of 'liked videos' in your account.)

LOW BUDGET - Collaborate - find interesting people who are already making things. YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world, you can find plenty of media on there. Definitely in the health area. From charismatic experts, to patients vlogging their experiences and symptoms. Contact people, they may be happy for you to embed their content, use a few clips for free, even come and film with you/ film something for you. If you don't want to spend money then you need to offer exposure, and think who BMJ exposure means most to...

LOWISH BUDGET - License - contact professionals who have already made something and see if you can license their content. Not necessarily buying thousands of clips in one go. But being more targeted. We licensed some incredible animations about mental health for £500 for the BMJ Learning website. These aren't very time sensitive so we can give people a longer tail for their content without a huge investment.

 

LOW BUDGET - DIY - not always the cheapest option if it takes a lot of your time. BUT. It's one of the best ways to learn, improve your skillset and mix up your work. You can use products like iMovie on a mac, or Windows Movie Maker on a PC for free.  For a small investment you can pick up 'prosumer' level software like Adobe Photoshop Elements, and Adobe Premiere Elements for under £100.

My personal favourite is Final Cut Pro X - £200 and amazing. You can learn how to use these software packages by going on YouTube and watching tutorials (how I learnt). Or by doing excellent simple structured courses through Lynda.com. You can learn absolutely anything if you take a bit of time and try some projects. If you are a people manager, give people a couple days and a project to learn these skills, you won't regret it.

Work within your limitations, don't have editing skills? Try a one shot film like this

Don't have film skills, do a photo slideshow.

I've got some cool free stock footage from Videvo, often some very cool stuff here, you probably need to credit people, but well worth digging around.

Your phone is a great tool, work around it's limitations and experiment.

Speaking of DIY projects... Don't pick something boring and try to make it interesting. At least not at first... Sharpen your skills on a great story/ fascinating piece of content, very visual piece.

You can do some simple visualisations and animation using a service like Biteable.com. Still pay $99 for an unwatermarked film, but you can prototype for free. You could then use this prototype and send to a pro designer. It will be a lot cheaper if you have done the groundwork. They can focus on making it really snappy with a small budget.

MEDIUM BUDGET -Work with freelancers - bring skills in at the right time, Do as much of the production work as you can, come to them with great ideas/stories/characters. If you can edit, then you can perhaps invest in a good camera person who will get some really interesting shots. Search for freelance filmmakers in your city. Contact people who's work you like and ask what they can do for you for XX budget...

The more information you can go to them with, the better. Think about the following. Try and have answers to these questions, and you'll save a lot of time and money, and the creatives can focus on what they do best, armed with your expertise.

Designing your multimedia - have better conversations with freelancers/production companies. Make sure they are solving the right problems, not trying to work out your target audience/ understand all the complexities of your product. 

Examples - Show them examples of things you like. This combined with your ideas about the below can really help discussions of what to make.

Target audience - who is this aimed at, who do we want to reach? Helps you get the tone right.

Objectives - what do we want to achieve, what do we want the audience tosee/think/feel/do after viewing the content? (allows all smaller creative decisions to push towards this goal)

Style - How does the style/theme/ideas support these objectives/audience. Which competitors/parallel industries are making something in a style that fits the platform. 

Volume of information - how much can we realistically get across in a video, image, graph, it’s about trade offs.  Sometimes best to focus on a couple of messages. Some times we just want a short piece to prove value, quality, and to create a 'curiosity gap'. We can then use links to direct people towards the full content/product/service (potentially 'subscription' content.)

Emotion - does it engage on an emotional level? Does that matter? 

Alternative - should this be a video, should this be a picture, should this be text? Why is this the medium?

Budget - How much do we have to spend? People can work to a broad range of budgets. We have to make more of this type of content, make sure you invest in the best great stories.

Defining Success - What would count as a success for this film? 1 billion hits, or ‘this changed my practice’? Perhaps a reduction in calls to customer service, replace valuable staff time. Even just making something creative, experimenting, proving a home at the leading edge, useful, shareable, show a strong quality brand.

Production people from £200-£500 per day.

You can work with a service like Wooshii or People Per Hour (I reckon this guy would make nice infographics from our data on a super tight budget).

INVESTMENT BUDGET - Or when you find that awesome story and really want to invest, find a filmmaker, or a production company whose work you like and invest properly in the project!

Make the project seem really interesting and if you are on a low budget, you can appeal to great producers by giving them creative freedom and being cool people to work with.

 

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Multimedia and Marketing

As we shift from products to services, we are moving from a transactional to a relational interaction with customers.

Helping people to understand our products is vital, The Khan Academy promo film is a great example of this. And adverts that are interesting bits of content on their own, are essential in making them shareable.

It's not KHAN ACADEMY BRAND HEAVY - and It’s more powerful because of it. The more abstract film allows you to piggyback on emotional attachment to other things. Tapping in to wider human experience. Don’t teach basketball but that universal emotional connection is powerful, why shouldn’t we use it?

Other interesting things to look at include Buzzfeed's work in storytelling

I've never been tempted to share a dog food advert before

This video from the School of Life is worth watching, it's kind of an advert for a series of relationship workshops they have, but it's much more engaging than a typical advert, and much more shareable!

I worked on this series of short films to promote a Radio4 programme about social Psychology. Very much inspired by the Buzzfeed and School of Life films. They only had 2 days budget for me to work on them, but they didn't expect perfection and we were able to make something quick, innovative and that got great engagement. I think BMJ could definitely do something similar with Junior doctors acting out some interesting/funny scenarios. Engage with this demographic and then link to our great content that will help them! If you had your scenarios planned out you could film a bunch in one day.

Google are doing some interesting stuff I think the following two are great examples. Technically very simple to produce, they focussed incredibly hard on how to create a story that SHOWS, the product, how it fits into people's lives and emotionally engages you.

We should think about what our story is...

They make emails, and spreadsheet software! We save lives!!!

 

I really enjoyed this article about how these were designed, they really push how vital prototyping, poster and filmmaking skills are in the modern age. Google expects everyone to be able to make things like this (at least to a prototype level).

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Multimedia and Storytelling

I think BMJ has a tough time telling stories about it's products. It's often as a result of having very comprehensive, complex, offerings. But if we can't explain ourselves well, then that's a huge barrier to entry for potential customers. YouTube is the 2nd most popular search engine in the world. And we don't have enough videos that explain what we do and why it's important.

These are cool little story examples from Google, that really SHOW what they do, rather than just tell. Because once people 'get it' they will just get stuck in and experiment.

I struggle to find a better example of storytelling than this. It is a great mix of abstract, concrete, subtle and really clear objectives. I wish I'd come up with this idea for BMJ Learning...


For examples of great, simple, storytelling; I thoroughly recommend looking at the Humans of New York Facebook page. Check out at the insane levels of positive, interesting, engagement on there. We need to get really good at extracting people's stories. They tell you so much more than words alone can. Engaging you sit forward and think how you can help. (Vital for busy health professionals).

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“Alopecia is a weird disease to wrap your head around. It causes your immune system to turn against your body, and your hair falls out. I used to have a big blond fro that was a big part of my identity. It was hard to not get depressed when it disappeared. I started to think: ‘What value do I have if even my body doesn’t like itself?’ As I lost more and more hair, I kept trying to comb my remaining hair over my bald spots. Eventually I had to embrace it. On my 20th birthday, I decided that instead of having a bunch of little bald spots that I don’t like, I'm going to give myself one big one that I do like.”

“Alopecia is a weird disease to wrap your head around. It causes your immune system to turn against your body, and your hair falls out. I used to have a big blond fro that was a big part of my identity. It was hard to not get depressed when it disappeared. I started to think: ‘What value do I have if even my body doesn’t like itself?’ As I lost more and more hair, I kept trying to comb my remaining hair over my bald spots. Eventually I had to embrace it. On my 20th birthday, I decided that instead of having a bunch of little bald spots that I don’t like, I'm going to give myself one big one that I do like.”

I enjoyed this video of the photographer explaining how he approaches strangers in the street and gets their stories. When I ran this excercise in BMJ we got so many great photos and stories.

And we can find these stories on our own doorstep...

I once got a comment on a BMJ Learning video saying 'I just rereferred a patient after watching this video as I now suspect they have dystonia'

THAT'S AN AMAZING STORY... IT speaks to exactly what BMJ Learning should be about. and is much more powerful than us saying 'we change lives'.... A debilitating, but highly treatable disease gets picked up from a BMJ product. Did the patient's life change?

We must have a bunch of stories like this. When we have a great story, let's invest in telling it properly... We can subtly weave a specific story with abstract concepts to create a powerful narrative about our products. Or to enhance our education content. To make people be engaged, and sit forward and pay attention to how they can help. To why they should consume the rest of this content. To have something to share and encourage people to read a full article..

When we don't have the perfect story, we can just make them up! That's the beauty of stories. They should feel authentic, but people will tolerate the abstract, and respond on a more human level.

Dear Sophie is a cheesy, but made up story, we should be doing this for our products... 

Check out Story Corps a series of interviews conducted by friends and family. They now have an app where you can interview people on your smartphone, with question prompts and recording functions. They then picked some of the best interviews and invested in some animations which often go viral. A really good model for online content.

There are so many good story podcasts, check out Everything is Stories, Love and Radio [BEWARE DARK THEMES], 99% Invisible.

I think this piece is amazing, engaging film. I think BMJ could do something similar for Junior Doctors, talking about their life in general and then their mistakes, or times when things didn't go to plan. I really hope we can be a bit more abstract. 

This one is a real emotive one, that again weaves abstract (bad haircuts of being 16) with the specific, disease of malignant melanoma. It's safe to say this had a much bigger impact than any other film they could have made. This film saved lives, because people saw how it fit into their lives and felt compelled to share it on. We need to harness that power in our own content.

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Multimedia 101

One of the key points is that we should try and pick the right medium for the message. Some things work best as pie charts, text, video, interactives, and as far as possible we should commission content in the right medium.  Here is a quick guide and some inspiring examples of what is doable right now, even if you are just starting out. 

I think the biggest skill is actually interviewing, talking to people, making them feel relaxed and comfortable speaking to you. Let alone photographing/recording/ filming... When you're interviewing people, don't project your nervousness onto them, because they'll give it right back.

Audio can be intimate, and technically at least, simpler to produce than video. It's my favourite medium to consume, and whilst it doesn't usually 'go viral' (although for great storytelling check out the viral smash Serial) it's a huge player in modern media.

Check out this great short radio piece. Would the little boy have been so free if he'd had a camera all up in his grill? I doubt it. The whole thing was produced in 24 hours about a young boy with Tourette's syndrome. 

You can enter the 24hr radio race this year if you fancy getting involved. They just email you a topic and you have 24 hours to make a 3 minute piece. Intense, but great fun, and will sharpen your storytelling skills no end!

Video is great for showing rather than just telling; and proving rather than convincing. Both key concepts in good production. This is a really simple, fun one, that gets the point across about collaborative writing software *starts falling asleep*... oh wait a story, 'OK I'm interested...' What happens next). We could tell a great medical story about our products through screenshots. There I said it...

This is a bit of a trick one, as it's amazing and quite complicated to film, but shows a simple premise. We wouldn't speculatively interview people like this. But we should be seeking stories in the same way. Maybe someone has a great story, of how they got back to health, or how running (or other activity) is really important to them. Then we should film them running. Getting people to do stuff can relax them and help get a better interview. Plus it's more interesting to watch!

‘What do we want people to see think/feel/do after consuming our content? - make each decision push towards that

Slideshows can be simple ways to bring your audio into the visual world. Check this lovely short about outdoor swimming.

Photography is a great way to start experimenting with multimedia. Here are my key tips for better photography...


Settings - shoot the highest quality photo you can L or Raw, perhaps HDR mode.

Zoom with your feet. Never 'zoom in' on a mobile phone, move as close to the subject as you can.

Process these photos. There are lots of apps that can improve your photos and it's a great way to experiment in the multimedia production world. Check instagram/VSCOcam

Don't compete with the light, make sure the light is illuminating your subject.

Think about composition, balance vs imbalance, colour, angle, ART [what does it make you feel?) and how can you make your subject comfortable? Some nice mobile phone photography here

Look at Humans of New York, we could all be doing more of this. Our health stories are complex, and sometimes we need to help people see how they fit in. When we meet interesting characters we should be finding, and telling, their stories. Creating curiosity gaps in the audience and making them want to find out more. Making them sit forward and pay attention.

 

Follow lots of interesting people on Twitter particularly people from parallel industries. The more diverse social networks you have, the better ideas you generate (I heard this is true)... 

I'm @thomhoffman, you can see a list of who I follow here, and that's a pretty good place to start!

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BMJ Multimedia workshop launch

I'm Thom, I'm a former BMJ Learning Multimedia editor, now producer and freelance filmmaker, I've worked for BBC, Guardian, Nature, Royal Institution, and many others.

I'm at BMJ in the next few months doing 20 days consulting. Hosting a series of workshops to encourage people to seek out opportunities, commission, and make, more multimedia content. So get in contact, let's get making!

You can sign up for the workshops by adding your name under any sessions you want to attend on this spreadsheet:

https://docs.google.com/a/bmj.com/spreadsheets/d/15RI2f42cmVDqaqvES8ckdN1ngi97s57_cDjTQuH--rY/edit?usp=sharing

Below is an extract from a 3 minute animation I directed for BBC News. By working with artists and creatives it's possible to get some interesting, striking, shareable content. With planning, this can be used in different mediums, on different platforms, to reach different audiences. This animation had no text and was cheaply translated in Arabic for BBC Arabian News. An edited down version was shared widely on social media. It only cost the BBC £3000. With a creative approach we managed to squeeze lots of value and use out of the project.

A video posted by BBC News (@bbcnews) on

YouTube is the 2nd largest search engine in the world, and BMJ needs to be the answer. More people click on, and share, social media posts with images, and there is so much potential to engage, tell better stories, enhance learning and reach into new demographics.

Multimedia doesn't belong as an afterthought. Whenever you see a character or story, think 'how can we make the most of this' and vitally 'what is the best medium for this message?'

For some great examples, and to get your creative juices flowing have a look at the following, why do these things work as film/audio/animation/illustration/photos/combinations? How could BMJ borrow these techniques and ideas?

I'll help you find a way to make something similar for a reasonable budget. Deal more effectively with freelancers and producers, and help bridge the great expertise between different areas of the business.

My two point pitch to you is to:

  • Look out for and identify great ideas/stories/characters to work with.
  • Note down/bookmark any multimedia you see anywhere that you think really works [there is a guide to what to look for, later in this post]. 

Follow Humans of New York. It started as a Facebook blog, and is now kind of a viral movement. At it's heart is very simple storytelling, a photo and a snippet of a conversation. Remember that BMJ is dealing with the same issues of health, life, death and societal progress. These 'vignettes' create a 'curiosity gap'- people want to know more and will be motivated to follow up. Can you think how this type of thing might enhance your content?

“We broke up when she left for the Peace Corps, with the agreement that we’d revisit things when she came back from Mali. But a few days after she got home, she fell seven stories off a roof and died. She actually wrote me a letter from Mali, but it took so long to be delivered that it arrived a few days after she died. She wrote about how her anti-malarial medication was giving her these vivid dreams. In one of her dreams she was trapped in a falling elevator, and she said the last thing she thought about before she hit the ground was me.” 

“We broke up when she left for the Peace Corps, with the agreement that we’d revisit things when she came back from Mali. But a few days after she got home, she fell seven stories off a roof and died. She actually wrote me a letter from Mali, but it took so long to be delivered that it arrived a few days after she died. She wrote about how her anti-malarial medication was giving her these vivid dreams. In one of her dreams she was trapped in a falling elevator, and she said the last thing she thought about before she hit the ground was me.” 

Does that engage you in understanding the side effects of malarial medication? Could BMJ tell these stories? This is compellingly shareable (389,681 likes on Facebook) whilst encouraging people to learn more. This would work to engage a broader potential audience, increase readership of articles, give people a taste of why they must read this story. We have to be thinking about these opportunities when speaking with contributors, audiences, and stakeholders in the company. (Estimated Total Cost - free, if you have the character/story already. You can also get a great photographer for a day for £300, or learn to use your smartphone to take better photos with a guide like this)

On a simpler level, consider using a site like this from Rethink Mental Health. They are offering free stock photos to challenge the tedious 'headclutcher' photos often used to illustrate mental health articles.

Check out some of 'The Atlantic' series answering health questions. Simple to produce, need a charismatic presenter, series with a style and tone to help keep production simple. Do you know anyone like this? Would this work for BMJ?

ETC ( filming £500 - editing £500, time planning, pay presenter for time)

We have spoken to these guys, and they are keen to collaborate. I think their style is not very BMJ traditional, but reaches into a crucial demographic for the future of BMJ. If you can combine BMJ budget and reach, there is a great collaboration to be had. ETC - (£350 filming - £1000 editing)

Taking the Humans of New York set up on a level, consider the storytelling power of this short audio interview. Here a lady and her daughter discuss assisted suicide. It's a really powerful insight into differing perspectives. The tone of their voices, show you what words alone can't tell you. It would make a compelling addition to any article on the topic. (ETC - audio producer for a day (£250, editing anywhere £400-£1000)

Story Corps is a great American project where friends and family sit down and interview each other just as audio. Some of the best ones then get turned into simple animations. This is a great example of seizing a great story and picking the right medium to tell it. The audio interview allows people to feel less self conscious than if they were being filmed. This creates more emotion and makes it more engaging.

Then, the next stage animation, is much more shareable than audio. It broadens out the capacity to empathise. Because animation is more abstract, simple characters and shapes, we can more easily put ourselves into the picture. It isn't just about one person, it's more about our collective experience. Another great example is the Animated Minds series. BMJ Learning ended up licensing these films to go into Learning modules. They would have cost thousands to produce, but only £500 each to license on the BMJ Learning website. Hunting out the collaborations is a great way to enhance our content offering.

TED talks are an example of simple recorded 'lectures' that often go viral. It has everything to do with the character of the contributor and the story. If you have access to a great speaker with a great story BMJ should be the ones to tell it. (ETC contributor -  many days preparation to get your talk down to 5 minutes) 1 day film, 1 day editing per speaker >£1000 [could record multiple sessions in a filming day, potentially 10 filmed and edited for £2500) 

Consider these videos on health topics which have had 8million views on TED.org alone:

This recorded lecture at the RSA was animated by a company who brought it to life with a whiteboard effect. ETC (£3000, big range from £1000 to £8000, depending on the complexity of the animation)

My friend made this for Nature on a small budget, but they identified a great paper with an interesting story that needed some visualisation. It racked up over 800,000 views. Representing a great reach into newer demographics. 


Here is a great example of 'show don't tell marketing'. It's basically a software demo, mostly done via screenshots, but it SHOWS what the product does.

And google just does maps and email. BMJ products change people's health outcomes and save lives! Can you think of a similar story that shows BMJ's products making things better?

Other examples: Again on the 'can we make software interesting' front, check out Google Documents ft Hall and Oates, and This viral marketing film about how Skype brings people together. Do we have any stories like these? The Skype one is real, the google one made up. 

BMJ's how to/marketing films should be as engaging as this. The google ones are technically very simple to produce, apart from shedload of thought, crafting, and a great idea.

Think about what story shows what BMJ does best...? Dear Sophie is a made up story, what would different BMJ product's 'perfect story' be? 

If you have a real great great story that might be worth investing a few thousand pounds in telling. Maybe consider something like this from AirBnB... Is there a parallel example where a BMJ product has changed someone's life. That would SHOW our products, rather than us saying they are effective. 

It can be low budget too...

Also consider this really nice film producer by the BMJ Quality team using the internal skills of Dan Fox from BMJ Learning and his work experience undergraduate. https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B7HPqT4dT27AOVA0TDRPUWJuUFU/view

That animation is a bit rough around the edges, but it's a really nice thing. The idea could be a prototype to give to a professional animator who could step it up a level, make the illustrations really stand out.

If you think a key audience for your product or service are people who are searching YouTube for 'what is a PDSA cycle'?- They should find BMJ giving the answer and directing them towards places they can get involved with Quality Improvement. 

Go to an artist/producer with an idea or a problem you want to solve, if you know the key messages, they can set about creative ways to visualise them. And then put a couple of thousand pounds towards an animator/illustrator who could make it really sing. Collaborating with artists doesn't have to be expensive, you can make something really cool, if you give a filmmaker/artist some boundaries to create within.

Good production is often invisible, it is immersive. It feels objective and like a record of what happened. When in reality it's heavily constructed. As producers, and publishers we absolutely have to think about these things when we watch films/read articles etc. When making something ourselves we need answers to the following.

Here is my simple guide to productive conversations with artists/producer/filmmakers, and for things to watch out for when consuming multimedia, what are the answers to the following questions? You as the commissioner must know as much as you can about this side of things.

Examples - Show them examples of things you like. This combined with your ideas about the below can really help discussions of what to make.

Target audience - who is this aimed at, who do we want to reach? Helps you get the tone right.

Objectives - what do we want to achieve, what do we want the audience to see/think/feel/do after viewing the content? (allows all smaller creative decisions to push towards this goal)

Style - How does the style/theme/ideas support these objectives/audience. Which competitors/parallel industries are making something in a style that fits the platform. 

Volume of information - how much can we realistically get across in a video, image, graph, it’s about trade offs.  Sometimes best to focus on a couple of messages. Some times we just want a short piece to prove value, quality, and to create a 'curiosity gap'. We can then use links to direct people towards the full content/product/service (potentially 'subscription' content.)

Emotion - does it engage on an emotional level? Does that matter? 

Alternative - should this be a video, should this be a picture, should this be text? Why is this the medium?

Budget - How much do we have to spend? People can work to a broad range of budgets. We have to make more of this type of content, make sure you invest in the best great stories.

Defining Success - What would count as a success for this film? 1 billion hits, or ‘this changed my practice’? Perhaps a reduction in calls to customer service, replace valuable staff time. Even just making something creative, experimenting, proving a home at the leading edge, useful, shareable, show a strong quality brand.

Think about all these things as you watch example content, Newspaper films, adverts, photography, animation illustration. What do you love/hate. What are they trying to make you feel/think/do, have they succeeded? How can this apply to your work in BMJ?

Some extras things

Good free stock video site - Videvo, often some very cool stuff here, you probably need to credit people, but well worth digging around.

Check out the 'Webby Awards' the oscars for internet things. Usually some pretty cool inspiration to be had there.

Download Snapchat, start messaging your friends in pictures, images, films. It will help you get a better understanding of the communicative power of multimedia All young people are growing up with these tools. We have to work harder to get used to being digital natives. 

Aeon - curates cool science related films http://aeon.co/video/

Podcasts are revolutionising the distribution of audio content. These podcasts came as a reaction to a restrictive talk radio culture. The producers wanted to create something new, and started their own shows making use of a cheap medium and easy distribution. They got sponsors, and recently formed their own 'podcast network' raising $620,000 from listeners on Kickstarter. The old models are changing and these are the warning signs/opportunities. These are all somewhat tangentially related to BMJ, but worth investigating. Love and Radio - stories from the ambiguous spaces in between, 99% Invisible - lessons from the world of design, Everything is Stories - simple interviews with people on the margins. 

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