Crafting a Focused Video: 3 Steps to Get Started

August 14, 2013 Mark Christensen

Creating a video can be a bit paralyzing. You want to capture & show value via video. A new program, a recent teaching hire, an exciting renovation to campus…the story’s screaming to be told, but you’re not sure where to start.

Here at WhippleHill, we know and understand these hurdles. We faced our own anxieties when we ramped up our commitment to video. To get the ball rolling for us, it boiled down to one simple word – planning.

In the spirit of sharing, we encourage you to borrow from what we’ve learned with these first, simple steps. You can mold any and all of them to meet your needs!

1. Ask the question – what is the purpose of this video?

Video is an important marketing tool for your school. While anything you produce should be tastefully done, the requirement for big video productions is a thing of the past. By producing short, focused video clips for your website, you can tell your school’s story through your students, parents, alumni, faculty and staff.

The first question for any video is its purpose. Are you highlighting student culture, reaching out to alumni, or promoting one of your great teachers?

You make the call.

For example, we have an awesome feature in onCampus, our Learning Management System, that we wanted to tell people about. So, the purpose of the video below is to highlight a teacher out in the field using our Grade Book feature. It was important for us to share the value from the teacher’s perspective. The video highlights the teacher’s use of the Grade Book as a learning tool, and her approach gave us a great insight into how onCampus is being used in schools.

Having a purpose when we started the video allowed us to narrow in on the teacher’s hands-on application. Watch below to hear what she had to say.

2. Scripting the outline helps you get results.

During one of our early video projects, we just jumped right in and started filming. The teacher we were filming had many great thoughts to share, but his message was unclear and the shot ended up on the cutting room floor. There is a big difference between ‘ad-libbing’ and ‘rambling,’ and by using an outline you can ensure that your video stays on message (no pun intended).

People rarely like being ‘thrown in at the deep end.’ Whether it’s a student who needs to bring the right gear, a teacher who wants to share a great lesson, or a Head of School who wants to preview the video project direction, they can all respond better if they are prepared. Also, if you give them the heads up with your script outline, they can often share a lot of practical advice that will help you plan. That way you can ensure that your dialogue and/or titles directly refer to important information that could otherwise get overlooked during the production process.

Writing a script means you can be sure to incorporate important, relevant keywords in your dialogue. Here’s an example of a script of questions and a shoot outline we collaborated on with the folks at Cheshire Academy. It really helped us stay focused when we got on location.


3. Determine video style to set the tone for delivering your message.

Thinking about the style of your video helps you prepare for the day of shooting. Will your video be a straight-on interview with the person looking into the camera, or will they be looking off camera as they respond to your questions? Will your message resonate better with a playful, hand-held camera angle to really capture the energy of the student you’re highlighting? Or is the best approach for you to set wide shots in a more formal documentary style?

Each video style has its benefits and helps set the tone for delivering your message to its target audience. One style doesn’t necessarily fit all, and understanding your audience and what might best suit their taste is always good planning.

When we went to The Fessenden School, we wanted the people we interviewed to have a consistent look and feel on camera. During the editing process, this allowed for more control over placement of the content, since each shot had been captured in the same style. It helped us tell their story that much more easily.

Another example of video style can be seen in this Lip Dub from Derryfield School. Their approach really captured the spirit of the school while showcasing their excellent faculty and staff – take a look.

So if you’re feeling stuck, start small by thinking about what you want your video to achieve. Help your next video project go smoothly by making sure you have a outline and determining the style. These steps really helped us focus our efforts and produce an on-target video – and we think they’ll be able to help you too. We’d love to hear your feedback and ideas in the comments below!


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