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Video Production for your Content Studio with Shanna Ferris

Chief evangelist at Creative Force

Summary

Joining Daniel for this episode is Shanna Ferris, video production specialist and new member of the Creative Force team. We touch on some best practices for developing video content, engaging your teams across workflows, and how to create a unified presentation between stills and video.

Key Takeaways

  • If you're trying to introduce video, take the time to strategize. Define your goals and expected outcomes, avoid treating video like just another strategy.
  • Providing value with video can mean something different depending on where the video is used.
  • An added dimension to video content is accessibility, and should be considered as part of your strategy.
  • For video content that is cohesive to other visual content, reducing silos in your org is absolutely key.
  • Video content production really necessitates more transparency in your teams to improve communication and add value to the customer.
  • Consolidated asset review can make your content more cohesive, and provide opportunity for cross-functional relationships.
  • Video production is more accessible to studios than ever, because technology, including hardware, has made it very simple and inexpensive to produce high quality content.
  • Data and reporting are vital to understanding if your strategy is working, and learning how to increase velocity in your production.
  • Pilot, test, and iterate, whenever possible.

Links & Resources

Full episode transcript

Daniel Jester:
From Creative Force, I'm Daniel Jester, and this is the e-Commerce Content Creation Podcast. My guest for this episode is Video Production Specialist, Shanna Ferris. When it comes to video content for e-Commerce, the opportunities are ripe and as Shanna and I discuss, video production at scale has never been more accessible. Shanna shares her insight on how best to approach video production, build your team and make sure that you're measuring the right performance and making smart decisions. But the bottom line is this, we are just starting to see what video content at scale can do for a brand.

Shanna Ferris:
If I were to start a studio tomorrow, I had this thought of, "Okay, I'd probably take a deep breath and be like, 'Man, okay, this is going to be a lot, but it's going to be so awesome,'" because we are in this, what you were talking about, this golden age of opportunity with video and the results are there for the marketing sphere for return on investment with video.

Daniel Jester:
I was so impressed with Shanna's expertise. And as of the published date of this episode, I'm excited to share that I can call Shanna a coworker. So to Shanna, welcome to the Creative Force Team, we are very excited to have you. And now let's go listen to this episode.

Daniel Jester:
Welcome to this episode of the e-Commerce Content Creation Podcast. My guest today is Video Production Expert, Shanna Ferris. Shanna how are you? Welcome to the show.

Shanna Ferris:
Thank you so much. Hi, I'm doing great. How are you?

Daniel Jester:
Good. Good. We brought you on the show today just to cut right to the chase here, to talk a little bit about video production for e-Commerce and today, we're going to keep the conversation kind of high level, because this is a deep, deep vein of information that I think a lot of listeners will be interested to hear from you on. But why don't you give us a little bit of your background, how you kind of got into this niche of e-Commerce production, and then we can start dissecting out how best to approach video content for your brand.

Shanna Ferris:
Yeah. Perfect. That sounds great. Thank you so much again for having me. I am a Video Operations Specialist, so essentially I'm at this intersection between a passionate video production strategist with a specialist in post-production, and an analytical studio technical operations subject matter expert. You can think of this along the realms of being able to take people and process and how we mobilize and build teams across the video production sphere, and being able to look at that through a lens of our technical tools, right? So all of the applications, hardware, software, and systems that all come into play to create effective workflows. Throughout the e-Commerce sphere, I've also touched broadcast, social, performance marketing, digital marketing, all that good stuff, so full scope over here.

Daniel Jester:
As you're detailing all of that, it's occurring to me, how little I know about the topic, number one, and number two, how many different facets of it there are because you're absolutely right, capturing video to some medium to record it versus live broadcast versus stream are all dramatically different requiring I would assume, different equipment and different setups and things like that. And full disclosure on my part, my background is in photography and in the year leading up to the COVID shutdown, I was working in a service provider, boutique studio where every client was asking for video and we were learning as we went. And one of the things that really struck me about the process is how little visibility into the process there can be because there's so much software and support out there for stills production, and ways to understand where you are at and the workflow and what assets exist.

Daniel Jester:
And with video, it can sometimes feel like the videos are getting captured, they're getting recorded somewhere, and then you don't really see them again until there's an edit or something. And so I'm really excited to learn from you a little bit about some of the things that we can do to set up for success. And to frame the conversation a little bit, my opinion on the industry today is that there've been plenty of brands and retailers out there who have dabbled in video. Obviously video's a big part of editorial and campaign content, but I think we're still trying to learn how to use video in the context of a product page, of a PDP page. Brands have started doing video for certain things like an on-figure apparel and scaled back, ASSOS comes to mind. ASSOS had a video for every skew on their site, and the last time I was on there, I couldn't find a video on a PDP page. So there's a lot to talk about there, but you tell me where to start. I actually don't know. Yeah, let's figure it out.

Shanna Ferris:
No, it's all good. Yeah. So, when I think about some of the different things that you're talking about, even just, when it comes down to the tools, right? So there's a lot of tools out there for photo production. And then it's like, how do we begin to introduce our video into our sphere at scale? I think about video production and video operations, almost at like a crawl walk, run type approach. If you're trying to look to introduce it into your sphere specifically around making sure you define your strategy.

Shanna Ferris:
So when we talk about different verticals within maybe the e-Commerce sphere, or even other different platforms that you may want to produce video for, it's a lot about really defining what are your objectives? How do you want to reach your customers? And then being able to define that from not only a company-wide vision and for your marketing department, but then not only necessarily thinking of video, like, "Hey, now we need to put a video on our website," or, "Oh, we need to put a video on our social media page," but introducing it more into the actual integrated strategy and not just as an extra deliverable.

Daniel Jester:
So not jumping on video, just because you're seeing other brands do it and jumping on as a trend, you want to treat it at scale, like anything else. You want to have a specific goal in mind, and then find a way to work towards that goal. And the goal is it's not good enough to say, "We should have a video on our PDP page," or, "We should post it here or whatever we want." You tell me if this is a thought process that makes sense to you, but, for my part of it, it would be, will this add value to our customer shopping experience?

Shanna Ferris:
100%.

Daniel Jester:
And how can we make sure that we are adding that value and we're spending the money in the right place?

Shanna Ferris:
Yeah. And I think there's a lot of avenues you can explore when it comes to creative ideation and strategy too, right? So there's probably overarching strategy you want to define, when you're starting to introduce video, or maybe you don't even have a content creation pipeline in your company yet, but you want to bring it in, bringing value to the customer. Also, are you trying to focus on conversion? Where is this living? What platform are you deploying this on? So on a PDP page, for example, you're trying to be able to increase conversion when they're on that product page.

Shanna Ferris:
So what information would the most value and in what form? And usually when you're talking about video, how it ends up being different with photo, where you may be showing similar imagery, but, now you have the component of duration. So if something has different features or key components of your product that you want to be able to showcase, you'll be able to do so over time with a video, and introduce an auditory component as well, which is something that really provides a lot of value for different customers, especially when you start to get into the accessibility realm for different types of consumers, which continues to broaden your market for what type of consumers would then convert, when you're on that page.

Daniel Jester:
That's a great point because I think especially a lot of a us with photo production backgrounds, think of video as a moving still image, and so it's going to have the look and feel potentially of a still image. And again, it is, it's a moving picture. But my thought goes to a really great candidate for video content, adding value to a customer, is differences in materials of apparel, right? A former client of mine sold really high quality women's shirts. And some of those shirts were made out of a liquid lyocell material, and some of those shirts were made out of linen and some were made out of spun cotton. And those fabrics all behaved dramatically differently on figure, and a video is a really great way to kind of share that.

Daniel Jester:
And that video ends up kind of looking stylistically a lot like the stills. If the model's on white and she's standing there in a nice pose, in the video, she's kind of mimicking that same, maybe she's walking on or walking off. But a whole other idea of video adding value is explainer videos, explaining what the product is or how it functions, and this may be more of a hard goods thing, but you could do it even in apparel where you can have somebody kind of walk through the features and highlights of a product, and speak to it and speak to that product. Which again, accessibility is, that's a really great point, because visually impaired people may be able to listen to somebody talk about a piece of apparel and gain a better understanding and maybe feel more comfortable buying off of the internet, than with just the visual aspect of it.

Daniel Jester:
But when we're talking about video, one of the things that always really troubled me and you tell me if I'm putting the cart before the horse here, but, I want to touch on this, is color accuracy between the two? Because, one of the things that can really kill a deal when it comes to gaining your customer's trust and getting them to the point where they want to buy from you, is which one of these is accurate? I just experienced this buying Easter dresses for my girls, because there was color discrepancies between the front shot and the back shot on stills, which should be a slam dunk. But then it turns into, "Well, which one of these am I going to get? Because I like this one, and I don't like this one. So which one is it? I won't know until I get it." And nobody likes to deal with returns. So if it's not jumping too far ahead, what are considerations that we can make for solving for this?

Shanna Ferris:
So I think this goes into a lot of operational and reducing silos, increasing transparency across teams, across the entire production pipeline, right? So this is where you're able to build partnerships across different functional user groups. So when you're talking about photo posts and video posts, oftentimes, they have their own separate workflows, right? They have their own software that they're working in. Usually there's the Adobe Suite that retouchers are working in Photoshop. They have their own stations. They have their specific needs. Same thing with video, historically in something like DaVinci Resolve, right? But when you come down to it, especially when you're thinking about physical space, when you're working with footage or you're working with photography, you're both working with the same product, and you're both working with probably similar production teams and producers all down the pipeline.

Shanna Ferris:
This is where it could very easily go where, "Hey, we have to increase our velocity. We need to get as much content out as soon as possible." And sometimes, there's a executive choice to of, "Hey, we need to just get this done and stay in your lane." But where I think there's an opportunity to create a culture of transparency is when you're starting to build this out for your teams, right? You're starting to build out expectations for how you want your team members to be working together, to provide the best end result and experience for the customer at the end of the day. This is where at the beginning, at the process way before you're publishing out, where you're going to be able to create connections between photographers, videographers, video posts, and photo posts. Because at the end of the day, if they all are working with the same products, physically, they can hold it in their hand, they can see it, they can discuss it.

Shanna Ferris:
They can have that connection with creative or potentially the stakeholders and the merchandisers, that are responsible for purchasing those products for the website, you're able to have this pipeline of, "Hey, when I say this red for this product is going to be this hue, we all are now moving together in that singular space. And we're able to provide that as a singular experience for the customer at the end of the day."

Shanna Ferris:
So, when I think about what that looks like in practice, it ends up going down to, I would get them in a room together. I would have consolidated review and approval with those same assets. I would have the creative looking across deliverable types. So maybe even though your photo and video timelines may be different, having a moment, if it's a product launch or you're releasing a new page or whatever it is for your site, having a moment to be able to compare the assets that are going to be deployed on the same page together, so that there can be a holistic creative decision, again, with probably looping in your merchandiser. So like, "Hey, is this accurate in how we want to portray this on web?"

Daniel Jester:
Yeah. And very, very nice work, pulling back my hyper specific question into the larger conversation around having... I'm going to pretend like that was my plan all along and that you didn't just solve that problem for me. No, but I love the sentiment the there, right? Because we do sometimes think of these teams in these workflows as being siloed. And my personal experience has been that we ended up needing to have a singular person whose job it was to oversee these things and be the person who decides that yes, this video is accurate compared to these stills.

Daniel Jester:
And then it boils down to, like you say, space becomes a huge consideration in your studio for these workflows. And all of it ends up tying together. Even my hyper specific, jumping the gun question about color accuracy boils down to like, "Well, are you shooting? Is your studio an integrated studio by which, I mean, are you shooting stills and video on the same set? Or do you have separate studios or separate workflows? And then do you shoot stills first, and then send stills off to post-production to get color corrected and then use that as a master file to color correct the video too?" That makes sense to me, but it may not jive with everybody's timing and their workflows.

Shanna Ferris:
I think there's a lot of room there to be nimble. When you're trying to define your goals, you're trying to define what you're specific teams' capabilities are across the board. It may be that photo leads with what they need to do, because it may have the least physical impact on the product, and you're trying to share products across both sets, for example. But, there could be the opposite depending on what type of content you're trying to make and the physical location of studios, whether or not they're in the same studio space or not, who has specialties where, and when you introduce remote working, right? That's a whole nother sphere as well. But yeah, I think there's a lot of room for nimble workflows.

Daniel Jester:
Can I share with you the thing that bothers me the most about video production?

Shanna Ferris:
Tell me I'm ready.

Daniel Jester:
It's that there's not a cheap or easy way to shoot tethered and it seems so necessary to me. A huge hangup for me, who is a guy who spent his entire career in photo production processing. And so much of that hinges on those images going from the camera directly into the computer and getting immediately named properly where they need to go and into a pipeline right away. The idea of having an assistant running memory cards back and forth between a video production is just the hangup that I can't get over. Shanna, can you fix it?

Shanna Ferris:
I have really good news for you.

Daniel Jester:
Hit me. I'm ready.

Shanna Ferris:
Are you ready? It's very exciting.

Daniel Jester:
Yeah, I'm ready.

Shanna Ferris:
So I've actually been a massive advocate for this new tech that's been coming out recently, this year. Frame IO is one of the industry leaders for review and approval, for example.

Daniel Jester:
I'm familiar. Yeah, I'm familiar.

Shanna Ferris:
Yeah. So not really to dwell too much on specifically that, but the tech that they're introducing, this is the part that I get excited about, because it's more about starting the momentum for the first step into the sphere of cloud transfer and removing that physical touch from what you're talking about. Where at the end of the day, you really just want your assets on your computer as soon as humanly possible without having to send a assistant editor, whoever to go get it, right?

Shanna Ferris:
So I love the capabilities now of being able to send assets from your camera, while it's writing it, through other hardware that are partnered with this whole system, to be able to ingest on the cloud platform, and then be able to distribute out to whoever needs to create dailies, whoever needs to create edits very quickly, get them out to creative. This whole cloud transfer system, is something that I think that we're starting to move into this sphere of eliminating that physical touch, for video production assets to get down into post-production, for example, I think that-

Daniel Jester:
That's extremely exciting.

Shanna Ferris:
Oh my God, it's amazing. We're going to so much, I think, growth in this sphere in the coming years, because with all of the needs of, "I need to shoot on this location, I need to be able to edit in this location. I have specialized team members in X, Y, Z places," really being able to scale effectively and eliminate that requirement of being in the same physical place, I think guess is going to be very, very important. So yeah. Being able to transfer, oh, I'm recording. And now my editor has it in a reasonable amount of time without having to go through sending hard drives or having someone go run it and drive it somewhere. I think it's really, really going to be amazing, yeah.

Daniel Jester:
Not to mention a huge heartache for me was also just the backup process, because you're often at the end of a day, especially if you're a service provider studio who has a lot of different clients, at the end of a shoot day for a video production day, your video team's sitting around just waiting to make sure that there are appropriate backups. That you've got gigs and gigs and gigs, and in some cases, Shanna, this is going to be no surprise to you, but we were pretty shocked the first time that we broke more than a terabyte of data on a video production day. Granted our client, we were shooting very high resolution for stuff that was going to end up on the internet, but you got to do what the client wants you to do.

Daniel Jester:
But you touched on something that I think is really interesting. It's not intended to create a sense of urgency for our potential listeners who may be thinking about getting into video production or reassessing video production. But we really are in a sort of a golden age of technology, that's going to make this so much more accessible for so many smaller brands. LED lighting has come so far in the last five years, that you can get high quality, video lights that are low heat. We're not talking about creating a 90 degree set anymore where your models are sweating their makeup off. You can buy high quality video lights for relatively cheap and build yourself a set that works really great. Most cameras now can shoot in 4k. Most inexpensive, sub thousand dollar cameras. Obviously there's plenty of reasons to spend a lot more money on a nicer camera, but a sub thousand dollar camera can shoot in 4k.

Daniel Jester:
It really is sort of an amazing time. The barriers are much smaller than they used to be, but they definitely do exist. If I can kind of recap for our listeners. Some of the key things in video production here is first and foremost, have a goal for your organization, a meaningful goal, that can trickle down into tasks and things for your teams to understand. The next thing that you need to do is identify, staff your teams and make sure that they're all working together, that they're communicating effectively. If you're not having effective meetings, figure out how to have effective meetings and then start including more stakeholders because your company's going to be the better for it. And then, and then, and then you can start thinking about equipment and workflows and you can get on the horn with somebody like Shanna who can tell you exactly how to do it. Is that all kind of fair to say about a good way to approach this, if you've never done video production or if you're maybe rethinking from the ground up?

Shanna Ferris:
Yeah, totally. I was thinking, if I were to start a studio tomorrow, I had this thought of, "Okay, I would probably take a deep breath and be like, 'Man, okay, this is going to be a lot, but it's going to be so awesome,'" because we are in this, what you were talking about, this golden age of opportunity with video and the results are there for the marketing sphere for return on investment with video. I think that, that's a really crucial part for why additional companies are starting to get into video and why others are expanding out their video production capabilities. And I think, you are going through it the same way I would. And really from just because I'm so biased towards people and process, I love being able to, while you're building out these teams and your strategy and what their expectations are, is really to define clear roles and responsibilities as well, right?

Shanna Ferris:
There's one thing to be able to say, "Hey, we're going to hire these types of roles. We know that they're going to be at a high level doing X, Y, Z," but what their responsibilities are in their lanes, as the workflows start to get more mature, I think is going to be really important and being able to pivot as you start to scale. So, there's a lot of risk for duplicative work. If you are not able to define roles and responsibilities across similar types of functions of roles, right? Where I would probably say that, "Hey, bring in an operation specialist, once you have your clear strategy. Bring in an operation specialist, bring in your producer, bring in people that are along those lines, but then also build out your teams that need to execute." But along that way, you can have a lot of overlap.

Shanna Ferris:
There's a potential for overlap. So really being able to define, what are you responsible for? What is your focus and how can you bring value to the production team that you're building. And also, how are you going to capture data around that? If I could go back and start any sort of studio from the ground up, I would start capturing data from day one, straight up. I think that data and reporting against your strategy and against your goals is going to set you up for success, to be able to increase velocity and evaluating efficiencies down the line.

Shanna Ferris:
Instead of, we need to just run and go and start shooting and be able to deliver content. But then at a point, you're going to need to evaluate how much are you doing? Who's responsible for it? How are moving through, right? Where are you seeing creative hangups? How can we start to improve our creative so that we can deliver better for the customer, an increased conversion, right? So really being able to collect your data and metrics and never underestimating the value of pilots and testing and iterating 100%.

Daniel Jester:
Great point. I'm going to ask you this question and I can only give you the 92nd answer opportunity for it and we'll have to definitely have you back for another episode to dive into it. Do you have any experience with AB testing PDP pages with video versus not with video and what have you learned? And I can give you 90 seconds on it, because it's a rich topic. So we got to do it quickly and we'll have you back to dive in.

Shanna Ferris:
No, for sure. So, this one actually is interesting. So we've been very siloed as we've grown up in my experience. So I've really been more on the operational side and not necessarily seeing the return on investment from the customer perspective. So, this is a place where I do see opportunity to build partnerships from the beginning with the teams that are managing your CMS system, managing how your website is performing, right? And really being able to understand how creative is performing, I think is a very easy gap to both fix and also end up in. So, I actually do not have a lot of specific experience with that on the econ side.

Daniel Jester:
Well, here's what I'll tell you, Shanna, why that was extremely valuable to hear that from you, because this is not the first time on this podcast, that this concept has come up of needing more cross-functional relationships between web and e-Com teams and the creative studios that are doing the work. Because, they're inextricably linked to one another and they don't often get into the same room together. And I'm going to make a note for our producer on the show that we need to find somebody to talk to for this show about how to have effective meetings, I think, because my big concern, when you start adding stakeholders to various team meetings, is that if you're not having effective meetings, those can quickly devolve into problematic situations that make you not want to have those meetings anymore.

Daniel Jester:
And I think they're really important. I think communicating effectively and having effective meetings, that people walk away feeling good about, will allow you to add more stakeholders and you can have more cross-functional meetings between e-Comm and web teams and the creative studios that are producing the content. Shanna thank you so, so much for coming on the show and talking video production. A couple of things, if you have any last thoughts for our audience on this, I'd love for you to share them. And then also let our listeners know how they can potentially connect with you, if they're interested in learning more about some of the things you've learned in the video production world.

Shanna Ferris:
This was an awesome conversation to have with you. Thank you so much for having me. I am so grateful to be able to dive into some of these topics that I have this experience with, that I am extremely passionate about, and really being able to connect the dots across different spheres that maybe might have a little bit of a blind spot for others, right? And I think being able to introduce video operations and video production into any sphere is, specifically around e-Comm, is an amazing opportunity for so many different brands to be contemporary in the marketplace and to be competitive in the marketplace, and to really position yourself for success. So I love being able to speak to a lot of this stuff. I'm looking forward to potentially diving into more specifics at a later date. But if you guys wanted to get in touch, if you have specific questions, I love getting down into the details. So feel free to hit me up on LinkedIn, Shanna Ferris, and I would love to be in touch.

Daniel Jester:
That's it for this episode, thanks to Shanna for being an incredible guest. And again, welcome to the Creative Force Team. If you have feedback for us or want to pitch a guest or topic idea for the show, email us at podcast@creativeforce.io. You can also connect with me on LinkedIn. I'm Daniel T. Jester. The show is produced by Creative Force, edited by Calvin Lands of Calvin Lands Sound. Special thanks to Sean O’Meara and Shanna Ferris. I'm your host Daniel Jester, until next time my friends.

About the host

Chief evangelist at Creative Force

Daniel Jester is an experienced creative production professional who has managed production teams, built and launched new studios, and produced large-scale projects. He's currently the Chief Evangelist at Creative Force but has a breadth of experience in a variety of studio environments - working in-house at brands like Amazon, Nordstrom, and Farfetch as well as commercial studios like CONVYR. Creative-minded, while able to effectively plan for and manage a complex project, he bridges the gap between spreadsheets and creative talent.