At the heart of the Future Media course is a planning methodology that belongs to one of the world’s most successful advertising agencies. That methodology is a five-step process, developed by McCann Digital and it forms a sequential workflow that covers almost every consideration in a digital communications project.
The five steps cover: Discovery, Planning, Design, Development and Deployment (DPDDD)
In both industry and academic terms, this progression forms a proven model from an authoritative source that demonstrates a logical pathway from concept to conclusion. This route forms the first of the ‘New Rules of Digital Communication’ in this module since it determines every participant’s four-week journey through the pre-production, production and post-production phases of creating their own branded video content, for their own online social media marketing. Put simply, this means making a ‘shareable’ video résume of themselves and their brand.
In the Discovery and Planning phases (week 1) students are given their brief to write, produce and direct their social media videos as well as deliver a formal written report of their progress throughout the project. As part of aligning their learning objectives to their learning outcomes in this module, students also receive in-depth lectures and seminars on the branding principals, creative approaches, technical specifications and multiplatform strategies essential to the final delivery of a measurably useful and enriching extension to their online profiles.
These sessions, given by industry practitioners, link to previous modules and field trips as well as providing insight and strategy into the actual production process in hand. The overall aim here is to develop a holistic approach to convergent content creation whilst utilizing the DPDDD methodology in practice.
This approach translates into establishing and positioning a brand within a competitive market, developing concepts to carry that brand, identifying targets and effectively delivering messages to and via those targets. This last point is key since the “new rules of digital communication” give online marketers the opportunity to both ‘pull’ audiences ‘in’ to their message (through ‘sticky’, “get it here” exposure on ‘closed’ channels like TV) and ‘push’ audiences ‘out’ with their message (through ‘sharing’, “recommended” exposure on ‘open’ social media channels like YouTube). This is a lucrative and cutting edge arena in today’s predominantly mobile marketing universe; and here, students are exposed to both professional and academically useful research, as well as the experiential practice of creating content that is both ‘sticky’ and ‘shareable’.
As this pre-production phase segues into production, (week 2), students begin to exploit the Design and Development options in the DPDDD methodology. In line with their brief and brand, students’ concepts and messages become visualized in mood-boards and treatments and, in turn, their treatments become scripted into copy and storyboards for peer and target audience feedback. This process keeps the creative direction of each project on brief whilst at the same time refining their overall strategies and the allocation of resources required to deliver them. Importantly, professional resources and expertise are put in place to maintain the momentum and quality of the creative production process. A commercial image bank and music library is made available to download licensed pictures and compositions for example, and whilst students might source shots from their own archives or shoot material on their iPad minis, there is also the option to shoot ‘links’ in commercial studios with industry camera operators using broadcast quality equipment.
This is important because high-end production resources require thorough preparation and accurate decision-making, particularly when budgets and schedules are tight. In addition to saving money and time these disciplines also add authority to every stage of the project, especially end-user perceptions, by establishing high production values from the outset.
In the post-production phase of the project, (week 3), all the ‘Design’ and ‘Development’ preparation from the DPDDD model is funnelled into its ‘Deployment’. Here, students corral their carefully selected media into folders for non-linear editing. As an added discipline, they compile these choices into detailed ‘edit scripts’, pinpointing all the precise video and audio clips required to make the completed linear timeline of their production. The ‘edit script’ offers students the chance to make a ‘rough-cut’ of their productions or, more usually, organize all their creative and editorial decision-making before committing to the finite resources of an online edit session in a professional high-end edit suite.
Working with professional video editors and sound engineers at broadcast facilities, students are allocated a single four-hour slot to cut and mix their completed productions. This practice is, (in addition to their earlier filming with industry camera operators), valuable experience of creative collaboration at a professional level. Here, specialist know-how and expertise enhance students’ decision-making as well as adding contextually relevant experiential learning through knowledge transfer amongst all the pressures of an operational environment.
On completion, the finished productions are saved at high resolution (along with all their associated materials) and then exported in web friendly codecs ready for uploading to targeted destinations. Students may choose, for example, to upload a high-resolution .mov file of their final cut to Vimeo for industry professionals whilst also uploading a lower resolution .mp4 file of their final cut to wider audiences via Twitter, You Tube, Linked In and Facebook. In all cases, they are ramping up their online presence and exposure as well as consolidating their brand and its proposition. As ‘hits’, ‘likes’ and ‘shares’ build, so too does the amplification of their messages across their target audiences and social networks. In one case, within hours of upload, a ‘like’ from a student’s ‘first’ Linked In connection (Visiting Tutor) triggered an unprompted ‘like’ from the same student’s target media organization and more specifically, target individual! Hard evidence for the power of recommended views over browsed views and DPDDD methodology in creating branded content for ‘social video’.
In the final phase of the project, (week 4), students write up their experience in a 3,000 word ‘portfolio of practice’ that combines their academic research and learning in this digital arena with their experiential learning. This is, essentially, a reflective document that serves two functions; it consolidates the DPDDD methodology in ‘real’ and contextually relevant circumstances whilst delivering an industry standard project report as proven preparation for their final module in the Future Media MA and MSc courses: Masters by Practice, where working with industry partners, students deliver an integrated, multiplatform campaign for a commercial brand.
Mike Villiers-Stuart BA, Prof. Cert. TLHPE, FHEA.
Senior Lecturer Future Media and Digital Communications.