Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Lights! Camera! Umm!

My fulltime job is with a small company that sells commercial ventilation equipment. We finally decided that maybe this Internet thing is not a passing fad after all. To take advantage of “digital media,” our firm set up our own YouTube channel, on which we can post online instructional videos. For many years, we’ve done presentations in the offices of our clients, but usually only 10 or 15 people fit into the conference rooms. Now with YouTube videos, instead of having a small number of people ignore what we say, we can have HUNDREDS of people simultaneously ignore us.

After much debate, it was determined that I would be the main speaker on our videos. I assume I was chosen because of my vast theatrical resume: I do the readings at church occasionally, and I was in exactly one high school play 40 years ago. I think you’ll agree this pretty much puts me in the Laurence Olivier category.

We wanted the production quality of our videos to be as professional as possible, so we spared no expense. The backdrop is an old blanket I found in my basement; we record the videos with a co-worker’s iPhone; and we edit them using a software program we downloaded for free. From a dollar standpoint, we’ve yet to spend our first buck. But from a time and effort standpoint, this project is kind of like the Normandy Invasion, only with slightly more planning required. I suspect our biggest problem is the fact none of us had any experience making videos. (I take that back. I made dozens of videos in the 1990s on VHS tape, mostly of people singing “Happy Birthday” and my children opening Christmas presents. But unfortunately no one ever got a chance to watch those videos because I accidentally erased them when I used the tapes to record Red Sox games.)

Our first production was a 40-minute presentation, broken up into five separate short videos. So we knew it would take at least 40 minutes to record it, and I figured it might take another hour or so to edit the videos into an acceptable final form. Boy was I wrong. About 50 man-hours later, spread out over three weeks, we were still slogging through the editing process.

We finally finished the videos and uploaded them to our YouTube channel. Then we contacted all of our clients and asked them to watch. The feedback was whelming, but not overly.

We’re still waiting for someone, anyone, to tell us that they learned something useful from the videos. But that’s not to say we received no feedback. Dozens of our clients commented on the videos. Here are the three most frequent observations: 1. “Wow, you guys sure spent a lot of money producing those films!” (I’m guessing there’s a bit of sarcasm here); 2. “Is Bill Dunn able to talk WITHOUT using his hands?” (What can I say? I speak better while waving my hands around); and 3. “Is Bill Dunn’s favorite word ‘Umm’?” (Well, we certainly weren’t about to purchase a teleprompter, so I was kind of winging it from memory, and umm, umm, oh c’mon, gimme a break. My real favorite word appeared often in the outtakes whenever I blundered: “$#*&!!”).

We are in the process of producing additional training videos that will be uploaded to YouTube in whichever decade they’re finally completed. 

If you want to check out our efforts, go to But be forewarned: the subject matter — the technical aspects of commercial air distribution products — is so breathtakingly scintillating, you might find yourself waving your hands around and repeatedly saying “Umm.” At least that’s how it affected me.

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