Telling a Story with Client Testimonials

Telling a Story with Client Testimonials

Filming consumers giving their testimonials about a product or service has its own challenges. Chief among them is keeping subjects relaxed and confident to present themselves well and focussed enough to clearly articulate what is on their minds.

Generally I usually have less than an hour to get in, get set up, wire for sound, get the footage, and get out. Any more than that I feel is an intrusion that the client does not want to inflict upon their customers, plus it tires out the subject. Normally this means available lighting only for a retail client. Setting up lights can just make them more nervous. If it the subject works at a business which is involved in some way, there can be a bit of leeway and I can get lights in there. The fact that I am there acting solo means that the client is more comfortable, but a crew would really make things quicker and easier.

The trickiest part for me is taking an unscripted and generally un-coached narrative and blending it into a story. Case in point was my trip to Temple, Texas to film clients of Eagle Ridge Builders. We felt that a video of this sort was necessary to illustrate the message behind the web site we were developing, I was there for a short time and had less than an handful of clients that had the time during that travel window to meet with me.

To weave their comments into a film that has some cohesiveness I tried to find a narrative that I could turn into a story. Right away it was clear from talking to the homeowners that key to their positive experience with the builder were four elements: personal attention, commitment to detail, respect for the environment, and quality construction. So I arranged those sound bites into a basic story line in Final Cut Pro X. When I interviewed the builder about his building philosophy it was interesting that his objectives were echoed in the comments of his clients. Again the interview was unscripted. Juxtaposing the client comments with the builder’s philosophy put the four themes of the video in high relief.

I like symmetry so we started and ended with a jib shot, the first going up and the last coming down. The pool shown at very the beginning bookends at the end with the background water effect behind the graphics. The jib was a Kessler Crane Pocket Jib, and of course I had my handy Philip Bloom Pocket Dolly with me which I put to good use. I am still working on my upper arm strength and skill level to make the best use of my Glidecam HD 2000, and I love the motion it adds to the storytelling.

Sun SeekerI shot all the stills except one which was provided, all on a scouting day. I also needed a few stills for the web site. For 5 interior stills I used HDR in photoshop to get the outside through the window shots to blend in with the indoor exposures. I had the 5D locked on the tripod, exposed for the interior, then another for the exterior, then combined the shots. You can guess which still I didn’t take easily enough, just look for the overdone flash exposure with the whiteout windows. I needed it to cover a cut.

I was going to come back for video the next day after scouting the locations. I wanted to get some sunrise jib shots. I used the Sun Seeker iPhone app to figure out what time I needed and where I needed to get set up when I came back in the morning to get the shots. When I went back the next morning the whole area was socked in with fog, so I ended up making good use of the scouting stills.

To bring life to the stills in the video I added some animation. I found that the Ken Burns effect in FCPX arbitrarily cropped the starting image and was unreliable so I had to key frame the shots rather than trust the built in Ken Burns effect.

There was a lot of audio work cutting and splicing, cutting out umms and ahhs, pauses and tangents, etc. I used the Channel EQ effect to clear out the frequencies in the music where the voice would be occupying the sound spectrum. Some basic color correction was helpful.

The video tells the story and I’ll say one thing for sure: If you live near Temple, you really need to call Chris Hodges to build a home for you. If you need a place to retire, you simply can’t beat the cost of living in Texas.

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  1. January 25, 2012 at 5:00 pm

    I had no idea you were that talented in the video field.

  2. February 4, 2012 at 7:04 am

    Well done Chris. Thanks for blogging on your thought process and how you approached this.

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