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How To Create Great Looking Videos On A Budget Interview With Kenneth Kebow

Ken Kebow at news desk
Interview with Emmy award winning documentary producer Kenneth Kebow. Ken shares his secrets about how to create great looking videos on a budget. You can listen to the interview here:

Creating great looking videos on a budget can feel like an insurmountable challenge.

You've tried to create professional looking videos and you aren't happy with the results and you're not sure why.

Sometimes you wish you could just hire someone to take care of it for you.

But you don't have the budget for professionally produced videos.

If there were only somewhere you could go to learn a few tips to get you on your way.

I hear you, in my early days of producing, budgets were always lean and I didn't have all the technical skills to create a great looking video.

That meant getting creative, and surrounding myself with talented people I could learn from.

I think I may have an answer for you.

Today's blog is part one of my interview with Emmy award winning documentary producer, and director Kenneth Kebow about How To Create Great Looking Videos On A Budget.

Transcript Episode 25 - Camera Ready With Val Brown

On today's podcast, my guest is Emmy Award winning documentary producer and director, Kenneth Kebow. Ken is going to share his production secrets for creating amazing looking videos on a budget and he has a lots of production secrets that I don't even know, so I'm really looking forward to this.

Next week he's going to take us behind the scenes and talk about his process for creating award winning stories that connect.

Let me tell t you a little bit about Ken. Ken is a friend, colleague, and mentor and has been in the television industry for more than 30 years. Some of his clients include Google, American Airlines, CBS and the United States Marines. He's been honored with a number of awards for his corporate work as well as his documentaries, which include one of the original Disney imagineers, Rolly Crump, and another one with Academy award winner, Richard Dreyfuss in a documentary he did about Lincoln's second inaugural address.

Both are amazing pieces of work. At the end of today's podcast, there'll be a link where you can find out how to watch both of them. So let's go ahead and get started. Welcome Ken.

Ken: Thanks for having me. I'm really excited about being here. Thank you.

Val: Well, thank you. You know, can I want to go ahead and just jump right in, we have so much to share with listeners today. The first thing I want a do is let them learn a little bit about you and how you got started doing documentaries.

Ken: Boy, that takes me back a few years. I was one of those funny little kids when I was probably 8 years old, running around with a movie camera, they were Super 8 movie cameras back in the day, and documenting family trips, and I even made a couple really bad horror movies.

One of my uncles, Uncle Jack McKinsey, was in the film business. He is a lighting guy and I really got excited about making movies from him. He used to tell me about all the stories and times in Hollywood. So I think a seed was planted early. I worked in a couple of TV stations, and continued to do corporate work, but I've always had a real interest in documentaries and telling people's story. And there's just something about the genre, documentary, that Errol Morris who's a really well known, documentary filmmaker once said, you know, the great thing about documentary is you could pretty much do anything. You can. A lot of other genres and film types have pretty set rules that you don't want to waiver from much. When you make a documentary, you can really put the pieces together however you want. And there's no one to wag their finger at you and say, “Oh, you can't do it that way.” And I think it's really one of the genres that allow you to do that. So it's a really fun genre to work in.

Val: Absolutely. And you make it look fun. I love watching your work and I love the fact that you come from a family that actually has been involved in making documentaries. One of the things I always like to talk about is you need to know the rules, to break the rules. That's what I love about documentaries is that you have the freedom to know the rules, as far as good lighting and composition but how you tell the story is your own.

Ken: It's true. And again, it's almost almost like being a writer Val, as a writer, you know, if you look at good writers and writers, period, everyone has a different way of explaining, describing detailing, and there really is no wrong or right way. And I think the genre allows you to experiment. And I've experimented and some experiments, work out and a lot of them don't, but you never know till you try them.

When you make something and you watch an audience and you listen to an audience and share it with friends and family before anybody. And it's really interesting to see what people respond to. I think what I've learned through that process more than anything else, and we're all a little guilty of this, but you get inside your little bubble when you're doing these things and just because you think something works or tells the story the best way possible doesn't mean that that's the direction you should go.

I, I try to make a point now in something's in a decent stage to review that. I get it out to a lot of people for that feedback and that critique, because ultimately when it’s in front of an audience, you want it to work as well as it can. And it's kind of the beauty of it though, is then you can go back and maybe change it to make it resonate more with an audience and be more emotional and powerful.

Val: Yeah, and it's like testing your audience. Actually, you are hitting the mark with this and I really applaud that because you really do need to understand who it is that's in your audience and what matters to them.

Well, you know, Ken, you are absolutely one of the busiest people I know in this business and you are. You're a hard guy to get ahold of and as a producer, writer and director, and you've seen it all. I know you've been out there in the trenches. What is your secret sauce to creating successful projects?

Ken: A couple things, and I'll concentrate not only on documentary, but this goes across the board. You want everyone, and I don't just mean those in front of the camera, but those behind the cameras as well, to be very comfortable, feel at ease and just be glad to be there. So I think there's a lot of value in spending time with the people you're going to have on camera beforehand. Pre-interviewing and explaining very clearly what you're going to do. Perhaps even meeting where you're going to interview them, because especially in corporate people aren't really used to being in front of the camera, so I make a big point of trying to do pre-production. A lot of that is spending time with the people on, on the documentary side. A pre interview I've got to say is invaluable. I have found out some of the most interesting things that ultimately ended up in a program I did through a pre-interview. Someone I'm talking to about something else will say something I had no idea about and it's fascinating and so you just kind of let them go and explain it. Then of course you include that, that in the program. So I think pre-production is key just for everyone's comfort level and knowing what's going on.

And I think the second ingredient and you and I have worked together, and agree on this is, surrounding yourself with really good people as far as crew and I'm not talking skill, there is as a lot of skill out there, but about people with good attitude, right? Passion. Who enjoy what they do, because boy, when you get a good crew that is passionate about what you're doing and of course have the skillset, it leads to the best work possible and I think I can probably say we both have done shoots where maybe that wasn't the case and uh, unfortunately it diminishes the quality of the product.

Val: Great Advice. I agree with you on all parts and one of the things that I encourage people to, is always make sure you're really clear about the purpose of your video and create a plan. And part of that planning is if you're going to interview someone, make sure that you get questions out to them ahead of time. What that does is make you think through, where am I going with this video? Am I asking the questions to get the type of result that I want?

Since today's podcast is all about doing things on a budget, these are things that don't cost a lot of money. These are things that do it on paper before you go out. And if you are working with a crew, it's expensive. And if you're working on your own, it's still expensive because that's your time and energy that you've gone out, spent the day and you are making an investment of your time. B doing this pre production on paper, the payoff is going to be a lot higher.

Ken: I couldn't agree more about. It's invaluable. Like you said, it's not only getting to know the people and give them comfort level, but let's say you're doing a corporate interview with a CEO. You usually go see them on their turf and that's the best way to do because that's where the most comfortable and probably you'll end up shooting in their office. So they're relaxed, but it also you could look around, and listen, how's the sound? Is it going to be a problem? Are there are good places to put the lights? Is there enough power in the room for your lights? So you know it is time and time is valuable. But I tell people all the don't skimp on the pre-production because for the long run and it is your time, it's the best time you could possibly spend. And it really does lead to a much smoother, more efficient shoot.

Val: Absolutely. Well, I want to move forward then and talk about something that I see happen a lot these days. When we first started in television, the barriers to entry were pretty high and the cost of equipment was staggering and the amount of knowledge that you had to have to operate that equipment was substantial. Today, technology has made it easier than ever to create videos. We can do it with our phones and it doesn't require a lot of training the way you and I actually went to school to learn how to do this. Given all of those factors, what are some of the biggest mistakes you see people making today when they're creating videos?

Ken: I think there's two areas are but they are part of the same equation. One is technical. There are basically test tools that give you feedback on your image and the quality and where it needs to fall and they're very important if you're going to broadcast something. If it's just on the internet or you're sharing it with friends, that's one thing, but I found that a lot of people that have just gotten into the business don't necessarily understand these tools and understand that there's a certain range that your image needs to fall within to be broadcast quality and that's really important because people are doing such great work. There's no reason it can’t ultimately be on TV as well as on the Internet and I think there's a little bit of a lack of training regarding some of the technical specs which for you and I back in the day were very important.

You've been in broadcast for years. I've done it enough, and I think the more you understand that, the better pictures you can make, so that's important.

The second thing is, and this will never change, is that the storytelling i