Framework Archives - CRAFT Media | Digital

So you want to be the next Spielberg?

Since the inception of YouTube and the camera phone the ability to call oneself a filmmaker has been as easy as pressing a button. Setting yourself apart from other amateur auteurs has become paramount, and the recipe for success is minding the fundamentals.

The following list outlines the fundamental steps necessary to get the most out of your video project:


As with most multi-step projects, the most important part of completing a project is in the preparation. It is important to shoot in the order you are going to edit, but details such as time of day and weather can have a major affect on a shoot.

In cooking, the French word for this type of preparation is called Mise en place or “putting into place”. By preparing everything beforehand, it is much easier to overcome any hurdles that might come your way, or avoid them entirely.

Begin with a brainstorming session to determine what the message of the video is. It helps to do this with a team, if applicable, since you may not think of every little detail and sometimes hearing an idea out loud can change your perspective. Begin writing a script that will not only assist you in the actual shoot, but it will give the editor the framework for how it is to be pieced together. If necessary, create a storyboard to help you develop a timeline for how the piece is going to fit together and what shots will be needed to make it complete.

Do you want to see the effects of proper planning? The video below is the perfect example of how planning ahead relieves future problems. Because we did our research, we knew that the day of this shoot was going to be in the low teens temperature-wise. Had we not planned ahead for this, there was a real chance our equipment would have failed due to the cold and our talent could have gone the way of the wooly mammoth.


Once you’re prepared, it’s time to go out and film. There are a million tips that one could give depending on the situation, but there are some that remain consistent throughout any shoot.

Use a tripod whenever possible

Unless you are a world-renowned surgeon, there is a good chance your hand is not as steady as you think. A camera can pick up the slightest movement, so it is important for the benefit of the editor and final product that each shot is still, so that none goes to waste.

Less may be more, but not in production

Just because you think you might have gotten the shot you need does not mean it’s time to start packing away the gear. By getting at least 3 or 4 takes of the same shot, you allow your editor the ease of finding the perfect mixture that will allow for a greater final product.

Once you pack up and call it a day it makes it harder, not to mention more costly, to have to go back and re-film.


Now that you have all your shots (along with second and third takes of those shots) it is time to edit.

Organization is priority number one

Depending on the length of the video you are producing; there is a chance you may have hours of footage or a large number of different shots. Before you even begin thinking about how you are going to piece it all together, you need to organize everything.

By creating a system of organization, it will be easy to find any clip at any given moment, be it an hour or three months after the project has been completed. This is very important when working within a team, as the editor may not always be around to assist whoever needs to find a certain shot.

It might be a visual medium, but the audio makes or breaks your piece

Especially with projects that need background music to help add an emotional flare, it is just as important to make sure the audio is balanced. The point is not to deafen your audience, but you definitely do not want to overshadow the action/discussion in your project. Using instrumentals is the easiest way to avoid having the lyrics or vocals clash with whoever is speaking on-camera.


Knowing your audience should be your first priority. This will point you in the direction of how you are going to create your piece. But now that there is a completed project, it is time to decide how you are going to get this out to them.

Whether it be Youtube, Vimeo, or any number of social platforms, make sure you can get the most out of your video project, as it would be a shame for all your time and effort to be for naught. Correctly titling and tagging your video can increase the chances of your project coming up in a variety of searches.

There are also a number of paid options that, if you have the money in your budget, will assist in promoting your piece to the audience you want.

With these helpful tips, you are more than on your way to winning that Academy Award.

Online Content: Less is More

CRAFT_ContentLength Think of all the distractions you experience when surfing the Internet: multiple tabs and windows, ads on every sidebar, videos appearing at every new page visit. So how do you grab and keep the attention of your online audiences? Besides inspiring creative, at CRAFT we focus on the psychology of the mind. We look through the lens of a content consumer to learn when, where, why and how long users look at content. That’s the basis for Buffer blogger, Kevan Lee’s post, “The Ideal Length of Everything Online, Backed by Research.”

So what does this mean for your social content? For each social sharing platform, sweet spots exist that will garner higher engagement from your audience. That’s where you want to be. Each audience is different, and each member has different content expectations. But human nature dictates that your audience will immediately judge your content by its length to determine if they want to engage.

We get it — content writers are humans too, so to help remember optimal content lengths across platforms, we created a cheat sheet.

Print it out, share it with your friends, keep it handy, and successfully engage your audience.

Quick, what sites performed best for your most- recent network campaign? What drove the most clicks? What about conversions?

Media buyers and planners need to know these answers to key questions to better plan, execute and optimize existing and future campaigns. Yet, many do not, and cannot, know these answers. Why?

Because of a lack of transparency. 

Lack of transparency can damage a campaign in several ways, including:

  • Wasted Client Money
  • Potential Loss of Revenue
  • Brand Dilution
  • Damaged Reputation

All of these could threaten the success of your business, resulting in lost clients and lost jobs.

Let’s look at this through the lens a traditional ad buy. A TV buyer would not spend his clients’ budget on ads without knowing where they are airing. So why should a digital buyer, with greater access to insights, accept a lack of full transparency?

Transparency, more than programmatic or native advertising, is the key to the future of digital advertising.

Notably, without transparency you cannot make truly informed decisions about your ad campaign. Without transparency, your “big data” is misinformed and can lead your campaigns astray. Without transparency, you are generating false data and wasting budgets.

We’re not the only ones pulling back the curtain on this. AdWeek’s Mike Shields wrote a compelling article ”The Amount of Questionable Online Traffic Will Blow Your Mind The World Wide Rip-Off“ that examines this ever-increasing problem for buyers and sellers – lack of transparency. In that article, Zach Coelius, CEO of Triggit, hit the nail on the head when he said, “Whenever you buy from someone who won’t tell you where your ads are running, there is a real danger they are ripping you off.”

Following up on this, Digiday published an article “The Hidden Cost Bots Add to Online Ads,” where they continue to highlight and address the fraud issues facing digital buyers and sellers. The article points out, “Not only are brands paying for fraudulent ad impressions, but they’re also finding bots are leading them astray in their efforts to reach real humans.”

So what can buyers do to help ensure their data is real and their campaigns optimizing correctly?

Demand transparency.

If you can see the sites that are driving traffic you can make informed decisions and more easily detect fraud. If you are running a public affairs campaign, and the bulk of your clicks come from ads on CollegeHumor (mentioned in AdWeek article), you should question the results.

Don’t waste your budgets on fake or misguided impressions or clicks. Before you plan your next campaign, make sure you can monitor and manage the sites where your ads run. Demand transparency.

CRAFT is bound by talented individuals who share creative aptitude, technological expertise, strategic thinking, and political or public affairs campaign experience.

John Randall shares all of these.

John Randall’s experience, skills, and talents make him perfectly suited for the job as CRAFT’s Director of Digital. We know all about John’s thoughts on digital strategy and thought we’d share them with you in this Q&A.

Name: John Randall
Hometown: Holyoke, MA

Twitter handle: @jrandall

Why did you decide to join CRAFT?

In addition to the creative and cutting-edge campaigns CRAFT designs and implements, you can’t help but be impressed with the team they have and their vision for the future.  In purely selfish terms, this is an incredible chance to learn from some of the best in the business. But most importantly, a great opportunity to do amazing work and help push digital campaigns in politics and public affairs to the next level.

What are the current trends in (online) advertising?

The two biggest trends right now are programmatic buying and native advertising. Programmatic is not new, but it is becoming more widely adopted, as it allows advertisers to highly automate the buying process based on data—merging two of the differentiating factors of digital.

How should campaigns use big data?

Data is a powerful tool, but like any tool, if its not used correctly it can do more harm than good. Campaigns need to understand that just because you theoretically have the ability to target small groups of people that are not always the best, or most cost effective option. Effective message targeting is essential, but sometimes it squeezes out blocks of people who may be influenced by that specific message. Big Data is nothing new – just read Team of Rivals when it discusses Lincoln running for the House and having voter contact cards – its just the amount of data we can now access and use is now limitless and it’s important to use the data smartly to achieve your goals. Data is a tool, not an end.

What recommendations do you have for candidates running in 2014?

Start early and be aggressive. Digital isn’t a silver bullet or something you can just role out at the end. Also, don’t nickel and dime digital budgets. Spend what needs to be spent to succeed, or at least to know why something failed.

Have a question for John? Ask him on Twitter.


Using GIF’s Effectively

You’ve probably heard the word GIF thrown around lately. GIF is the acronym for graphics interchange format. They’ve made a comeback online in the past few years thanks to online channels such as tumblr, reddit, and even Twitter. Once a forgotten relic of the dot com boom, gifs now present an interesting marketing and communications opportunity.

It is not hard to find examples of gifs widely used in communications shops. Brands such as Adidas use gifs to share great moments in sports. Coca-Cola’s “12 Days of gifs” campaign made a big impact on tumblr during the holiday season. Nike has been known to place gifs in their press releases. Even journalists have begun to embrace the medium: the 2012 presidential debates were live-gif’ed. We now live in a time in which people use gifs to narrate complicated issues or processes, a task that Buzzfeed has successfully conquered.

Uses for gifs

Why are gifs all the rage around town? Because they can be leveraged in a number of different ways.

1) Gifs serve as calls-to-action. Use an animation that conveys an emotion and overlay it with a call-to-action. In advertising, it’s important to tell the user exactly what to do or how to feel.

2) Gifs can have an emotional impact. Use a gif that relates to your audience. Whether it’s a scene from a popular movie or a famous line, your audience is more likely to relate better to an issue or article if it is juxtaposed with recognizable elements.

3) Gifs tell a story. Find ones that thoroughly explain an idea or a narrative. While a picture can provide context and enhance content, a gif can linearly explain a complex idea.

4) Gifs bring life to boring facts. If you are struggling to highlight dry statistics in an engaging manner, consider utilizing gifs to animate your illustration and show active progression.

Depending on your communications goal, you can either use a pre-made gif, or make your own.

Using pre-existing gifs

Hundreds of “reaction gifs” can be found online, and utilizing the right ones can help convey emotion or make your audience laugh, cry, and huff along with you. Even the Heritage Foundation jumped on the Buzzfeed Community/gif bandwagon, realizing that complicated policy topics are often more easily digested in gif format.

Making your own gifs

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to be proficient in Photoshop to make a quality gif. For example, YT2GIF can convert a YouTube video to a gif without any software. If you’d like to convert a set of still images into a gif, you can use Make a Gif or Picasion. If you’d like to take video on your phone and convert it to a gif, we recommend GifBoom (available on iOS and Android).

A closing thought: earlier this year, a battle erupted over the pronunciation of gif. The inventor of the file format, Steve Wilhite, tried to settle the debate once and for all, declaring it was pronounced “jif.” The Obama e-campaign team responded by saying, “f— that s—.”

Glad that’s settled.


What is a “man on the street” interview?

You’ve seen them on your local news, late night talk shows, and every manner of web videos. It’s one way we capture the thoughts and ideas of every day people, instead of actors or paid spokespersons.

We see them all the time in our industry, but we don’t always see them done right.

Video production is never an easy task, full of obstacles and challenges that require quick-thinking and flexibility. This is especially true when you’re shooting in an uncontrolled environment, like you would be when doing man-on-the-street interviews.

CRAFT has compiled some of our best-practices that we like to follow during these kinds of shoots.

  1. Preparation Makes Perfect – Bring a neutral density filter for your lens.
  2. Shooting and Sunlight – Keep the sunlight behind you. Never, ever put the sun in the shot. Position your shot so that the sun lights your subject’s face from behind the camera.
  3. Listening is Not Optional – Pay attention to your audio. Keep a close ear to the surrounding background noise. You may need to move to a more quiet space to capture good audio.
  4. Take Two – Don’t be afraid to shoot another take.
  5. Proper Direction – Determine beforehand whether you want the subjects to look off-camera or straight into the lens while answering the questions. Make sure you keep this consistent.
  6. Vary Your Looks – MOS interviews give you the opportunity to be in different locations. Find cool visuals!
  7. A Little Coaching – If someone says something good, but you want him or her to say it more succinctly or rephrase, it is OK to feed him or her the line. “I loved that! Can I have you say it again to me this way?”
  8. Start Fresh – Make sure you ask them for their name and hometown as the first question. Otherwise you will never find out who that person is.
  9. Keep It Simple – Keep the content of your questions to a basic level of understanding. Keep in mind that most people you will film don’t know much about the issues, even the big ones. Your questions should be simple, and easy to answer.
  10. Remember Your Basics – Proper exposure (low iso, shutter speed at 1/50, use your ND filter to achieve a lower f-stop setting on the camera), white balance, rule of thirds, etc.
  11. Frame Your Shot – Make sure your background contributes to the testimonial in a positive, non-distracting way. Is there an inappropriate sign or location specific landmark (unless desired) in the background? Simply flipping your shot or finding a new location 5 to 10 feet away can remove anything that draws your attention away from the interviewee.
  12. Slow Down – With man-on-the-street interviews, the tendency is to get the person on-camera and on their way. Take an extra minute to double check your shot and your sound. Always have a second person to entertain your interviewee so they don’t get too antsy or frustrated while you set the shot.

Zachary Hanover is a Media Producer at CRAFT | Media / Digital. Zachary is an award-winning producer and editor, and several of his pieces were featured by major news outlets during the 2012 election cycle. Zachary has been a component of CRAFT’s media production team since August 2010. You can reach Zachary via email at or on Twitter (@zhanover).

Storify: What is it Good For?

The massive growth of social media in recent years is both a gift and a curse.

On one hand, sites like Twitter and Facebook give everyone a chance to contribute to the online conversation.

On the other hand, having so many competing voices can make social media seem like one big Darwinian experiment: a ferocious survival of the smartest, quickest and wittiest.

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CRAFT Wins 25 Industry Awards

CRAFT Collects 14 Pollie Awards, 11 Telly Awards for Work in 2012

In the political space, success is nearly always measured in wins and losses. At CRAFT | Media/Digital, however, we also know we’re succeeding when industry peers recognize our work.

Each year, the American Association of Political Consultants (AAPC) and the Telly Awards distribute awards for the best work in the business. And this year, CRAFT is a proud recipient of 14 Pollie Awards and 11 Telly Awards for our work in 2012.

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Vine – A Walkthrough

Vine – You’ve heard about it. You’ve seen your friends use it. But what exactly is it?

Vine is a new social media app that allows users to share 6-second loopable videos. Think of it as Twitter with video. It’s a new way for people to communicate and share experiences with each other.

It’s also quickly becoming a new tool that communications and PR professionals are using for clients.

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Infographics are everywhere nowadays. Explaining everything from if you should work for free to the relative value of one billion dollars. Communicating complex information in a visually appealing way is the ultimate goal of every infographic. Unfortunately, infographics can be confusing, hard to read, or lack valuable unique information. Here are 5 questions to consider when you’re thinking about creating or commissioning the next great infographic.

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