Video Production Led me to a Teaching Degree

It’s been a while since I checked in on my blog, and there’s a very good reason for that. I’ve been in school!  I’m about to graduate with a Masters Degree in Education – Technology in Education, to be precise.  What is the story behind this?

I have been a freelance video producer since I left my career in advertising about fifteen years ago.  No offense to advertising, but this transition was one of the most rewarding changes I ever made (and I’ve made quite a few of those).  There was always something hollow at the core of advertising for me.  The reputation it has for being superficial, fast-paced and cutthroat is well-earned, and just didn’t suit my personality at all.  I wanted it to suit me because I had always thought I wanted to be in either the movie business or in advertising, with a secret longing to be a talk show host.

After leaving a position at one of the biggest ad agencies on the East Coast, I knew it was time to get back to my roots and do something that was rewarding.  I bought a high definition video camera, considered new technology at the time, and went into business as a freelance video producer.  My niche was to work with professional speakers, shooting and editing their marketing material; and this proved to be a very successful lane for me, at the time. I’m a self-starter, so I brushed up on all my editing skills, went online and taught myself some new ones. I used a platform called to learn Final Cut Pro, Motion, Premiere Pro and After Effects.  These are the tools I needed to be competitive as a video producer.  I really only knew how to edit on celluloid from my university days as a film student. (To get a sense at to how editing has changed over the years, you can check out this concise and informative blog.)

Shooting speakers was fun, and it even rekindled my dream of becoming a talk show host!  It was also rewarding and a little bit like advertising.  I learned a lot from the different speakers I worked with, because each of them had a unique topic or concentration.  Mostly, the topics centered on corporate interests, but sometimes I got a chance to record a lecture about engineering or science. In particular, I loved working with Karen McCullough, Dayna Steele (now running for congress!), and Craig Karges.  Slowly, as I became more successful, I started working with other businesses like PR firms and small advertising shops.  Then, one day, I got a call to do some work for a company called STEMscopes.

OK, now this is where sound effects come in and you hear a car come to a screeching halt.  STEMscopes was an incredible experience.  All of a sudden, a whole new world opened up to me.  This was a small business at the time, made up of science teachers, tech people and a small sales department.  They worked together  to create an online science curriculum for grades K through 12 in Texas. The people working here were amazing, most of them teachers, lots of them students right out of college (at the time, the company was part of Rice University). This was the environment in which I knew that I belonged.  I began to see my skills as a storyteller and a video producer being used to help young people learn. This seemed so much more important to me than selling something or embellishing on someone’s qualities for their website.  At STEMscopes, I had the opportunity to help shape the way children learn, and to help them be more successful students!

This was all happening at a time when incredible growth in the education world was also occurring.  Technology was weaving its way into the classroom, just as it had done in many other areas of our lives. Teachers were finding new ways to teach, exploring ideas and systems online and getting support from unlikely places all over the globe. E-Learning was beginning to take ahold, and STEMscopes was a pioneer in this new concept called the “blended learning.”  Things like a “flipped classroom” began making sense to teachers.  This was a new idea where the educator videotaped their lectures so that students could watch them at home and spend their time in class doing hands-on projects.  In fact, one project that I worked on was based on a grant for two Rice University professors to develop a flipped classroom for their engineering department. This was cutting edge stuff!

As STEMscopes grew, so did the need for more video on the website. We were producing several videos for each lesson, and these were all based on the Texas Science standards, or TEKS. When STEMscopes began moving into other states, we had to adapt everything for other state’s standards, and eventually for the Next Generation Science Standards.  I was offered a full-time position, and I jumped at the opportunity without hesitation. Never had a career move felt more natural than this one.

There was a small issue, however, and that was my limited knowledge of pedagogy and new technologies in teaching.  I felt under-qualified sometimes, especially when discussing concepts and ideas with other teachers.  For me, this was the inspiration to go back and get my Masters in Education. I didn’t have a clue what to expect, and to be honest, my mind was blown. Education and Technology are experiencing such rapid change right now that they need people like me!  Not many people I know go back to school for a new career at my age, but I’ve always seen myself as a lifelong learner.  What could be more exciting?

Who knows, maybe when I’m in my eighties or nineties I’ll finally get a chance to have my own talk show!

How to Make your Video More Interesting

Mike ThreeSixty: Are You Doing It Consistently?

Mike ThreeSixty: Body Language is the Key to Video Success


Mike ThreeSixty Stands in Your Shoes!

Oh, And Make Sure It Goes Viral!

So you want to make a viral video. Oh, and you only have a very limited budget.
Well, producing a video is a big endeavor in the first place. You need a good story, or at least some interesting information to convey. You need decent lighting and sound. You need patience and time. Sure, you can get by with very little these days. Most phones can shoot and edit video, so equipment is not as big an issue as it was just a few short years ago. Sound, on the other hand, is still a big hurdle. With a little research and some money, you can get good sound…but not with your phone. All that being said, to also want your video to go “viral,” meaning having it garner 10,000 views on Youtube, or more; well, let’s just say that puts your challenge in a whole new dimension.

When I get a request from a client to produce a video that goes “viral,” I always want to laugh out loud. That’s like saying, please go out and find a $100 bill somewhere. Maybe that’s a bit of a stretch, in terms of a metaphor, but you get the idea. Unless you have a huge following, meaning a built in audience of thousands of subscribers, just heading out of the gate with the intention of having a video go viral is ambitious.

Nevertheless, here are some hints that may point you in the right direction:

  • Tap into something that has a strong emotional connection, like inner beauty, true love, nostalgia…something deeply human.
  • Create a ‘Prankvert.’ This is a set-up in which an innocent bystander gets lured into a prank. The most important elements of a ‘prankvert’ are hilarity and surprise. You can try to take this one step further by making the prank ‘exhilarating’ in some way.
  • Tap into a trend, but only when it is very young.  Like the Harlem Shake trend. Even though there were about 40,000 variations on this dance craze video, collectively they were all seen about 175 million times. Don’t try to create a copycat video after the trend has faded. That’s the trick.
  • Think about timing. For example the ‘Spock vs. Spock’ video for Audi that came out just before the new Star Trek movie. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have actors Leonard Nimoy and Zachary Quinto on hand. The success of ‘Spock vs. Spock’ really was due to the timing of its release.
  • The old standby: cute animals. Take for example this video of a Shetland pony doing the moonwalk.
  • Create an animated info-graphic, preferably about income inequality. Those usually do quite well, depending on key elements like good animation and a professional voice over talent.
  • Do an expose on a criminal underlord in Africa.

(Thanks to HuffPo for doing all the research!)

Is Lighting Really That Important?

I love this funny, creative video on how to achieve quality lighting effects with inexpensive lights you can buy at Home Depot.

Does Sound Really Matter That Much?

I always impart upon people I work with how important the audio is to your video. So many times when they are planning to produce a small, homemade video for their blog or website, they don’t think about the quality of the sound.

Well, this is an absurd example, but it makes a point. Without the music to Gangnam Style, the video becomes dull and comical. Add a few well-placed sound effects, and it becomes a very surreal, bizarre piece of work..

What’s Your Plan B?

Recently I’ve been reading about getting a Plan B in other blogs, and I even created a video for a client about the importance of a Plan B. I had no idea I would come up against this very problem myself.

In fact, days after the completion of the “Plan B” video in question, I was contacted by a Houston advertising firm to create a web commercial-slash-intro video for a new website for a national skin care company.

After I bid the job and it was awarded to me, I quickly began the process of casting and scripting and getting ready for my video shoot. Sometimes I’m asked to work within a strict budget, and this project was one of those times. The client wanted me to find four “regular, everyday female” models between the ages of 35 and 40 and make them look radiantly beautiful…without a heavily made-up look.

So the first step was finding a make-up artist who could tackle this kind of work. I knew after I completed this task, everything else would basically fall into place. I had worked with a woman recently on an interview-style shoot who was quite good, so I contacted her and was relieved to hear she was available and fit my budget.

After having booked the make-up artist, I began the casting process and found four lovely, everyday looking women with radiant smiles and beautiful skin (see photo above). I booked the studio where I would be filming and scheduled for all the talent to be there in a week. (Did I mention this was a rush job?)

Since the models were not professionals, and I did not need to go through a modeling agency, the negotiation of fees was a challenge.

After I had crossed all my t’s and dotted my i’s, I felt I was more than prepared for the big day.

On the day of the shoot, I arrived extra early to the studio and set up my backdrop and lighting. The shoot was scheduled for 10:00 A.M., and it was already 9:30. That’s when the executives from the agency arrived. (Why did they have to arrive so early!?  In fact, why did they have to be there at all?  Just to make me more nervous?)

Shortly after that, the first model arrived. She looked wonderful, but I knew that I had to get her into make-up right away…. Hello? …The make-up artist was nowhere in sight. I started calling her to see if she was lost or was running late. No answer. All of a sudden, the second model showed up!  Everyone’s timing was like clock-work, because I had staggered the models so that I could shoot them one at a time, and so that they could get in make-up one by one.

But still no make-up artist. Now I was beginning to panic. What if she didn’t show up? I didn’t have another one lined up!  Oh, no!  That was the Plan B I had been hearing about so much recently. And I didn’t have one!

After about an hour I realized the make-up artist was just not going to show up. I had to send all the models home and ask them to come back in the afternoon. That gave me a little time to find another make-up artist. Luckily, the models were all very accommodating, and I ultimately only had to pay them for the extra hour.

Once I found a back-up make-up artist (alleluia), the rest of the day went very smoothly. But I knew that I had been lucky. I was only out the one hour in fees to the models, and I produced a top notch video. Unfortunately I cannot show it here, because it is still in the client’s hands, and they have not launched the website yet. You can bet that when they do, I will post it for you…and for me to always remember to get a Plan B!

Here’s the Plan B video I created with Karen McCullough:

You Need a Youtube Channel! What Are You Waiting For?

I’ve been saying this since I joined YouTube in 2006. The thing is, most small businesses aren’t taking advantage of this remarkable tool. By creating a YouTube channel, a business can immediately begin to see it’s benefits. It is an advertising platform, a social media platform, a content platform as well as a storage site for video. By linking it to your website, it’s a great way to increase traffic and improve your SEO. Your channel can provide back links to all your other social media accounts like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, strengthening your company’s web presence.

By creating a branded Youtube Channel, you are in essence creating another website for your clients to see and learn about your business. But this website is part of the nation’s second largest search engine following Google. Think of the kind of content that you can post related to your business: product launches and developments, introductions to your staff, how-to’s and tutorials, editorials and video blog entries, public relation messages and communications, advertisements and any other video content you can think of. It’s like having your own television station.

If you are a professional speaker, you shouldn’t even be reading this! You should be on YouTube now, creating your new channel.  By clicking on the image above, you can take a peek at speaker Cecilia Rose’s channel.  I helped Cecilia create this, and since it has gone up, Cecilia has had an increase in speaking engagements and customer traffic.  It’s easy to do, and if you need help, just send me an email.  (My contact link is at the bottom of the page.)

In an age where content is king, a YouTube channel is a no brainer.