I find that great ideas are often born when random events mix together in the right place and at the right time. And so it happened when I met up with Ori Weiser during my holidays in Perth. He was my neighbour while I studied in Tel Aviv, and he later moved to Perth with his family. At GreenHouse Productions, Ori specialises in creating newscasts, commercials and music videos, using a green screen. We started brainstorming about how video could be used to highlight Akvo partner stories in the form of a news broadcast, or ‘newscast’. This also linked in well with the Akvo Comms team’s move towards making more videos in 2016. The Akvo Southeast-Asia & Pacific (SEAP) team was positive about trialling it as a new way to provide updates on our partners’ work in the region.
This blog chronicles some of our experiences regarding the process from inception through to publishing of the newscast, as well as some of the lessons we learnt along the way.
Objective and design
Our objective was to inform and trigger interest in our work with partners, and people or organisations who are already familiar with Akvo, as well as Akvo hubs in other regions. The concept was developed to be lightweight yet serious. We tried to keep it fun, simple, authentic, and truthful. Our regional comms expert Mano has worked with Ori to create an Akvo look and feel using the colourful hexagon design.
When it came to the scripting we knew that we wanted to highlight a variety of partners and projects from the region – if anything it was a challenge to select only three! We decided upon three segments that would highlight the diversity of work and partners in the region, UTZ Certified as an international NGO and certification body that works with promoting sustainable farming practices in Indonesia; the Fijian Ministry of Education, as a government agency and highlighting their work in rapid damage assessment in the wake of the tropical cyclone Winston. Finally we wanted to highlight the recent developments in water quality and soil testing using strips developed in partnership with SNV.
Our most important lessons regarding scripting:
Merge everyone’s input into one single and brief script, and stick to it! This part of the process turned out to be more time-consuming than we expected.
It’s hard to know what the interviewee will answer to your questions. Questions were recorded up front and had to fit the story that follows. It helps to use general questions, that can guide the story a little, but also fit to what the interviewees answers might be. For instance, in the UTZ segment we started by asking Eldo to introduce us to their work, and ended by asking about the next steps.
To remove the background of the video footage, we presented in front of a green screen. A key lesson here is not to wear any greenish clothes, or clothes with complex patterns, as this complicates the editing process. All green screen sections were filmed in Denpasar over two days in late May. Were you wondering how the presenters managed to keep looking in the camera? We used autoQ!
Some other takeaways:
As the lighting and temperature were not perfect for shooting, we’d probably shoot at a professional studio next time.
We are not professional presenters, and we don’t have to be. The fact that we’re ordinary members of the Akvo team makes it more authentic.
To keep things simple, we didn’t need the whole Akvo team to be involved. Showing two Akvo presenters and one Akvo interviewee was enough. We also had to find the right balance for how much each of our two presenters, Aulia and Anna-Marthe, spoke.
Some words suddenly are hard to pronounce when you have to say them outloud in front of a camera. This is especially the case for non-native English speakers. Bloopers can be shared on request later.
Above: Photo by Aulia Rahman – Ori Weiser shooting green screen footage. June 2016. Below: Photo by Aulia Rahman – Joy Ghosh explaining the strip test in front of green screen. June 2016.
Planning & Logistics
The Akvo SEAP team itself is spread widely around the region, making communication challenging. When trying to align plans and activities we found that having one single contact person makes things easier. It’s also important to write things down so arrangements are clear and traceable.
Partners were happy to participate in the newscast.
Showing field footage makes the result more engaging.
As we are dependent on both the partner’s and the film maker’s plans, logistics are often unpredictable, especially when travel is involved.
Editing & finalising
Initially the newscast was planned to last around four to six minutes, with each segment being one to two minutes. It had been scripted like this to focus on a quick overview. However once filming and presenting began, it became apparent that the images and interviews collected in the field were valuable for highlighting just the scale and importance of our partners work. It was therefore proposed to split the newscast into individual segments, to allow for a longer period for each part.
Additionally, we invested too much time in filming shots we ended up not using. For instance, we invested time in filming all the team members at the end. We eventually had to cut it out because of time issues.
Above: Field shoot in Fiji. July 2016. Photo by Anna-Marthe Sessink.
It takes time and effort to get the final results – both from our side and the video producer. On top of that, travel costs are involved for filming, depending on the location. We combined the filming of the presentator elements with a team week we already had planned. Ori joined a field trip to Fiji, to make professional footage for the item in the field. The approach we used is relatively low-cost and is something we are considering to take forward.
What can we expect in the future?
We are evaluating the process with Ori and our global communication team. We are thinking of moving forward with the concept of individual items, and developing two models going forward. One model would be similar to the Fiji item – involving professional footage, and another model would involve amateur footage from the field.
As mentioned before, we created this newscast as a trial. Depending on the feedback from partners and interest from Akvo hubs globally, we could also decide on producing newscasts more widely.
A special thanks goes out to the partners featured in this newscast for participating. And thanks to the comms team for being receptive to the idea of trying this out.
We’re happy for any feedback on the concept.
Anna-Marthe Sessink is Akvo SEAP’s operations manager, based in Indonesia. You can follow her on Twitter (@annamarthe).