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Nonprofit Filmmaking for the Web

By Nick Conti

Avatar for Nick Conti

There is no denying the importance of video and visual storytelling as a key marketing tool.

According to Into Focus: Benchmarks for Nonprofit Video and a Guide for Creators,  80% of nonprofit respondents say video is important to their nonprofit. And 91% feel it will only grow it’s importance in the next three years.


Your impact story is one of the most alluring tools you have at your disposal, and every nonprofit has one.

Sharing that story of the lives you’ve changed with video captures their struggle, defines how things turned around for them and offers your audience a clear message of your influence in the community & the world.

Dissecting Successful Nonprofit Videos

300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute. Over 4 billion videos are viewed each day on Facebook alone. If you want to compel your audience to watch hour after hour of what you have to say, your story needs to stand out.

Pulling out your cell phone and quickly hitting record may be all you need to capture that key moment of your story and share it to the web, but it isn’t always the best solution. When you have the opportunity to plan and execute a quality filmmaking process, you can focus on the three elements that make good videos great.

Robin Hood Relief Fund: Hurricane Sandy from Robin Hood on Vimeo.

When you watch the video, notice the choices being made.

Subject placement is spot on in every shot, working with natural and planned lighting to create. The composition reinforces the hero’s tale with planned shots, timely b-roll and detailed photographs. The voices that carry the story are crystal clear and the music helps set the tone and pace.

Understanding the power of simple tools such as lighting, sound and Imagery can help turn even a cellphone video into an impactful, quality production. Follow along for a few things you should keep in mind when looking to improve your nonprofit’s video marketing and storytelling skills.

Get Your Lighting Just Right

The mood of the video, how much time you spend editing, and even the quality of your project can all be determined by lighting. It’s amazing the effect that changing a lightbulb, sitting by a window, casting shadows or even a change in color temperature can have on how your audience feels and interprets your message.

Sparkles and Wine – Teaser from Nacho Guzman on Vimeo.

One of the most common lighting setups is three-point lighting.

  1. Primary, or “Key” Light: This will be the main and brightest light in your setup. It should be the strongest, and have the most influence over the look and feel of your scene. It is usually placed to one side of the camera and subject to highlight features and shadows.
  2. Fill Light: Your secondary light, known as the fill light, should be placed on the opposite side and a bit further back than the key light. It is used to fill the shadows and soften your subject.
  3. Backlight: The backlight is positioned behind the subject and provides lighting from the rear. The backlight helps create a 3dimensional look on screen helping your subject look like they are actually sitting in a room and not in front of a backdrop.

Utilizing these techniques will enhance production quality immediately and very noticeably.

Composition: Shooting Outside the Box

What lens should you use? What angle should you capture? Should you use a tripod, or focus on steady handed camera movements?

Similar to photography, the composition of the shot you take is essential when using video to convey your impact story.

This is when taking the time to plan every shot and storyboarding your video pays off. Knowing what shot you want ahead of time will help you know when to set the scene with the full picture and when to get as close as you can for impeccable attention to detail.

When deciding the angle and composition of a shot you should keep two things in mind; be creative and be appropriate. When you’re filming an interview, placing the camera at eye level and the subject off to the side of center screen is appropriate. But when shooting action or other b-roll footage, change the angle! Get low or reach high. Get on top of something and look down to provide a new perspective. Use a steadicam to capture fast-paced movement.  When you take the time to storyboard and plan each shot, you’ll see the difference instantly.

Set the Tone of Your Story with Sound

It’s easy to neglect the importance of sound when it comes to filmmaking, especially with your budget is less than ideal. But what your story’s hero has to say is the driving force behind your message. It should be crisp, clear and free from distractions.

When setting up an interview, consider the ambient sound around you. What echoes do the walls make? What is happening in the background? Are the neighbors too loud? Is traffic to distracting?

Even if the time of day doesn’t affect your lighting, it could strongly influence your audio.  Choosing the time and location wisely can help balance your video’s sound. And choosing a dynamic microphone over a condenser mic may counteract busy background noise. all casinos in Canada online

And while recorded sound is of high importance, don’t forget about the sounds you add in post production. Music can help set the tone and when used correctly, sound effects can place emphasis on key points in the story.

Blending the Three

Sure, you could take that quick video on your phone by swiping and tapping record. But doesn’t your story deserve something more?

Taking the time to plan every shot, refine each sound and adjust every light can help your impact story take on a whole new meaning.

Video is already a huge part of the web, and it is only getting bigger by the second. Don’t be the last brand to push your mission forward.

Find out how we can help get your message in motion.