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PdF Network: How Obama did online video

BY Nick Judd | Thursday, February 4 2010

Kate Albright-Hanna just wrapped up an hour-long talk with PdF Network members about how Barack Obama's campaign used Internet video. Albright-Hanna, now at the online news and entertainment organization VBS.TV, was responsible for the campaign's online video operation.

Here are a few highlights:

  • The campaign didn't ask people to create campaign ads.
    "We're not trying to sell the candidate like a product," Albright-Hanna recalls deciding. "We're trying to engage a dialogue, so if we try to ask people to become marketers that's against our message."
  • After trying to host video itself, the campaign put all of its videos on third-party sites like YouTube — where they got more exposure.
  • The key to video for the uninitiated — and most instructors will corroborate this — is to get good sound. Even if you're using a camera that isn't exactly top of the line, getting good-quality audio with a minimum of background noise will help produce a serviceable piece.
  • Video equipment budget: The Obama campaign paid $3,000 each for quality DV cameras like the Sony PD150 (now about $1,500 used); you'd also need a computer powerful enough to run Final Cut Pro, the video editing suite, and, of course, to pay for the suite itself. Albright-Hanna set the bottom line you'd expect to pay at $8,000.
  • Tell a story: Give each piece a story arc with a beginning, a middle, and an end, and, if possible, a good guy and a bad guy. End with a clear call to action.
  • Unless you've got a teleprompter, scripts won't work. Try interviews instead.
  • The Obama campaign had two different video units: One doing the new job of using video as a way to continue a conversation with supporters, listening to their message and reflecting it back at them through video, and another doing the time-honored tradition of rapid response political video, which was targeted at the press to respond to whatever happened to be the attack du jour.

There's more substance to the conversation, of course, and the whole thing is recorded in full. It'll be up as a podcast in our archives quite soon.