Journal: Dreamtown goes to NAB2014

When I was a teenager during the ’90s, there was one week a year I could always count on spending with my father – the week of the world’s largest B2B media show, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) convention.

The 90’s

Dad was an inventor and entrepreneur, and for much of my childhood his focus was on a product called the Tentelometer, which helped VCR repairmen gauge the tension of magnetic tape in order to diagnose problems. It might not sound sexy, but the fact is it was the only product of its kind, and it paid my way through private school.

Dad had employees, sure, but none quite as cost-effective or eager as his eldest son. So I found myself each Spring Break in the exhibition hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center, awkwardly chatting with he dolled-up models Dad hired to attract convention-goers to our booth (I’m sorry, but it happened).

Soon the magnetic tape era ended, and we stopped going.


After spending nearly a decade working within the creative video/ad industry, I had developed many close friends on twitter with various other directors, writers, and camera geeks. After some peer-pressuring and friendly “words” between online friends, I bought a ticket and headed to Vegas to see what was happening on the floor these days. In the years since Dad and I had attended together, my interests had shifted to cameras and camera equipment, and NAB offered the latest and greatest in both those categories, set up and ready to touch, try, and compare.

It was a magical week, spent hanging out “IRL” with a bunch of fellow directors, editors, and gearheads I’d previously only known on Twitter. The whiskey flowed, and I think we all relished the opportunity to talk to people who weren’t bored by our detailed discussions of LED lighting CRI (that’s color rendition index if you didn’t know), Lens MTF (Modulation Transfer Function, who knew making images was so geeky), and other elements that we could probably spend all day arguing about. It’s always fun to geek out and build relationships with those you share interests in and I left that week feeling inspired about my choice to be a part of this constantly-developing industry.


A year later, I find myself back at NAB once again, browsing the acres of cameras, rigs, lights, and audio equipment from all of the world’s top manufacturers. Like any true cameraphile, I spend a good bit of energy to keep up with the industry’s every move on a daily basis, so very little of what I see on the floor surprises me.

Call me jaded, but it’s been a while since a camera has come along and truly revolutionized the industry. Maybe I’m partial (since I’m a proud owner/operator), but the RED One is the last example I can think of – a digital camera that produced an image close enough to film that legitimate directors started to switch formats.

This year, there are two clear trends dominating the new products at NAB:

  • 4K
  • Gimbals

Those things probably don’t mean much to the average reader, so let me explain.


4K is a very high resolution format, one step up from 1080, which is the highest resolution most TVs can present at the moment. A 4K video won’t look very different from a 1080 video on a TV monitor, but on a movie screen or a 4K TV, it will look eerily sharper. Like the RED, a few more cameras are now able to shoot in 4K, which also offers some advantages for editors (you never want to rely on “fixing it in post,” but the fact is, having a higher-resolution image allows you a little more leeway if you have to crop or adjust it).


Electronic Gimbals

Gimbals are a pivoting support that rotates around an axis. When you mount a camera to one, it enables the camera to balance at a steady angle, even when the operator is moving. This year, they’re appearing on remote-controlled drones and handheld rigs in increasing numbers. That’s a great thing, but we’ve joked that manufacturers have run out of ideas and have resorted to releasing the same products “Now with more gimbals!”

Camera Automation

Still, there are some notably cool things happening on the floor. The “Jigabot AIMe” system helps cameras capture people and objects in motion (think water skiers or flying baseballs) without using a human camera operator. Just stick a small dot on the object or person you want to track and another one on the camera, and the camera will automatically adjust to follow the action.

I also had a chance to play with the DJI Ronin remote-controlled Gimbal rig and found it to be a smooth ride and much cheaper than the others on the floor (although that’s mostly because it’s made in China).

Take Away

It’s a crazy thing to feel underwhelmed in the face of technology my dad and I couldn’t have even begun to imagine during the Tentelometer’s heyday. Analog devices have gone the way of the “booth babe,” both relics of an older and much more easily impressed era.

But the fact is, the magic of video never came from the gadgets and devices. With the playing field leveled by the much lower cost of entry into the film world, it’s become apparent that a person’s technology is not nearly as important as their creative vision. Not everyone with a handicam can become Darren Aranofsky.

Our equipment is just a tool, and our artistic vision is the only thing that can actually set us apart.

Growing up my father always pushed me to be as creative as possible. He wasn’t fooled by all the shiny new tech. He knew that no matter the job or the tool, success only comes with hard work and creativity. That’s just much harder to hold a convention on.


Love and miss you Wayne Graham, an amazing father and engineer. April 24, 1943 – January 20, 2013

How to Avoid Making McSweeney’s “Generic Brand Video”

This week, AdWeek posted a satirical video called “This Is a Generic Brand Video,” written by McSweeney’s Internet Tendency and produced by stock footage company Dissolve. From stock footage of “scientists” performing unspecified lab research to a list of buzzwords dissolving over a cloudy sky, this video makes fun of dozens of video marketing cliches.

Anyone who’s ever made a branding video will probably snicker a few times watching that. We at Dreamtown certainly rolled our eyes and laughed at the sheer familiarity of it all.

But it got us thinking: Beyond avoiding those specific tropes, there are probably a few lessons to be learned from the “generic brand video.”

Three Lessons from the Generic Brand Video:

1. Understand where the cliches are coming from.

We’re all part of the same culture, living within the same zeitgeist, so sometimes we’re going to have the same ideas. It’s only natural. Often, cliches come about not because creatives are knowingly mimicking each other, but because they engage with similar media and customs, they have similar mindsets which lead them to similar conclusions.

To avoid this, we have to make sure we don’t just passively watch, but thoroughly dissect the latest advertising trends:

  • Have you noticed campaigns where an old man reads poetry while young people frolic on sweeping vistas? (Examples: Computers, Liquor, and Autos)
  • Take a step back and assume they weren’t trying to all be clones.
  • Then ask: What were they trying to convey? Where did the idea start?
  • How are they connecting the cultural theme to their personal brand?
  • What truth in today’s culture did they all identify, and how else could they have approached it?

It’s also a nice reminder not to use the first idea that comes into your head.

2. Write the script with images in mind.

Many times video editors resort to using cliched images because they simply don’t have much of a choice. Usually the problem is that the video’s script was written like a radio narrative – where the audio stands wholly independent of any action taking place within the video.

To prevent this, companies should develop scripts where the voice over is actually complemented by what’s going on in the images.

  • Can you use voice over ironically, where what’s being said is the opposite of what’s being shown?
  • Can the content of the voice over describe a metaphor for what’s being shown?

3. Use original video content, if possible.

There’s a reason stock footage is used and abused so often – it’s easy to get, and it can offer companies a level of production value they might not be able to afford otherwise. But the problem is, the more companies use stock footage, the more it starts to feel cheap.

A better option is developing a strategy that enables you to create and use original video content by narrowing the story’s scope while keeping the production value high. For example, you might spend the same amount on an original story that takes place within an office as you would have on a video full of stock footage of sweeping vistas. Maybe even less, depending on the production company.

And when everyone else’s stock brand videos are starting to feel played out, guess who suddenly looks like the big-budget trendsetter.

In the end, is having a generic brand video going to kill a company’s image? Of course not. That’s the point: It’s safe, easy, and allows executives to check that box they wanted to check. Many viewers might not even notice the content of the video.

But then, good marketing isn’t really about not being noticed, is it?

 Contact us for a free consultation

5 Steps for Writing an Exciting Explainer Video

As startups and big brands alike have become more invested in online video marketing, the animated explainer video has emerged as a staple on websites across all industries.

Writing a great explainer video

Typically 60-90 seconds long, explainer videos have the common-folk appeal of a buddy telling you about a great new product he just discovered.

They commonly feature an unseen narrator speaking over screenshots, animated characters, charts, and other images to explain a company’s offering in a visually engaging way that written content can’t.

When done well, explainer videos can be extremely effective, increasing conversion rates by anywhere from 15 to 75 percent.1 But just like buddies, some explainer videos are better at telling stories than others.

Recently, we created an explainer video for Austin-based startup RealMassive, a commercial real estate website (think Zillow for commercial real estate).

Here are a few key steps we took in order to make our video as engaging and exciting as possible, starting with a clear content strategy.

Five Steps for Writing an Exciting Explainer Video:

1. Identify the persona(s)

Before you start talking, figure out who you’re talking to. Do you have one audience for the video? Multiple? If multiple, should you create separate videos for each, or is there a way to include all the personas in one video?

For the RealMassive explainer video, we knew we needed to address three groups of individuals—business owners, tenant representatives, and property managers. We created a character to represent each group in order to show the pain points that each experiences and how those frustrations affect the characters’ dealings with each other.

2. Pick a relevant, creative theme

The CEO of RealMassive wanted to convey that commercial real estate is still done the old-fashioned way, and RealMassive will bring it into the modern age by placing commercial real estate data online in a collaborative, cloud-based environment.

To convey that theme, we mimicked the style of a 1950s newsreel or World’s Fair intro film, seguing into a more colorful, modern look when RealMassive enters the story. We felt this thematic choice would allow the script to carry a “cheekiness” that people could engage with, enjoy, and share.

3. Tell a story

Sometimes the best way to explain what a product does is to show a scenario where it’s being used (or should be used). For RealMassive, it was important to point out the pain points that existed in the current industry before explaining how the company’s service would solve them. This led to our decision to tell a relatable story about a typical transaction among the players in the commercial real estate industry, where it would be apparent that things weren’t going as smoothly as they could, given the benefits of modern technology.

4. Write for visuals

If you write the script without specific visuals in mind, you’ll find yourself scrambling when it comes time to animate. Ideally, you’ll have visuals that complement rather than mirror the narration. Even more ideally, they’ll do so in a funny (or at least entertaining) way.

For example, rather than just showing Andy working in a crowded room for the entirety of his segment, we had characters pop in absurdly, crowding him, as he sits at his desk for days, with the sun rising and setting behind him, the camera pushing in slowly before ending on a desperate facial expression. Meanwhile, Cindy rushes back and forth between her printer and her desk, papers flying around her, before one lands on her head to highlight her exasperation.

If you aren’t animating the video yourself, you’ll have to provide these kinds of detailed instructions to the animator, so it’s important to picture the video’s visual content as you write. Our director created a complete animatic (moving storyboard) of the video’s events to help the animator hit the story beats.

A “quick and dirty” animatic like the one above allows our director to share his vision with the client and get an approval on all the explainer video style and timing before spending the effort on animating the final version.

5. Get feedback & adjust

The fifth and final step is to share the script with a few people you trust, ideally a couple of whom aren’t familiar with the details of your business. After watching the video… Do they understand the information? Does it tell the whole story without getting bogged down in details? Would they be able to explain what you do to someone else after watching the video?

And finally, did it make them laugh? Smile? Is it worthy of the many hours of work you’ve put into your business’ mission and message?

By keeping these lessons in mind, your explainer videos will be more targeted, more entertaining, and bring larger returns on your marketing investment.

Dreamtown Creative offers affordable strategy, writing, direction, and animation of custom explainer videos that tell your company’s story in an exciting and engaging way.

 Contact us for a free consultation

10 Statistics on the Power of Web Video

From sleek brand ads to explainer videos, companies are using web video to enhance their web content, reach new audiences, and breathe life into their brands.

Web video statistics austin texas

If you’re new to using video as part of your marketing strategy, you might be hesitant to pull the trigger. Is it really any better at influencing prospective buyers than other forms of marketing content? And do the benefits outweigh the costs?

Here are five ways video has been proven to help companies reach their marketing goals, along with ten statistics that back them up.

1. Video Leads to Purchases

  • Shoppers who view web video are 174 percent more likely to purchase than viewers who did not. 1
  • 52 percent of consumers say that watching product videos makes them more confident in their purchasing decisions. 1
  • Nearly 40 percent of consumers report that web videos increase their likelihood of making a purchase on a mobile device. 1

2. Video Educates

  • Approximately three out of five consumers will spend at least two minutes watching a web video that educates them about a product they have considered purchasing. 2

3. Video Engages

  • Video in email marketing has been shown to increase click-through rates by more than 96 percent. 2
  • 59 percent of senior executives prefer to watch a web video instead of reading text, if both are available on the same page. 2

4. Video Draws Eyeballs and Promotes Sharing

  • Web videos are 53 times more likely to appear on the first page of Google’s search results than text content. 3
  • The average user spends 88 percent more time on a website with web video. 4
  • 66 percent of Twitter users regularly watch brand web videos, and 49 percent of users retweet web video content. 5

5. Quality Video Performs Best

  • Professionally produced web video outperforms user-generated video by more than 30 percent. 6

The ROI on video is indisputable. Whatever your goals for company growth, making video a cornerstone of your marketing strategy is a great way to make your content stickier, more shareable and, ultimately, more effective.

If you have any questions about producing and distributing web video to improve your marketing content, feel free to contact us.

 Contact us for a free consultation

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