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Deseret Digital Media Video Labs experiment with digital storytelling

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Making a powerful video doesn’t have much to do with working with the most expensive equipment, filming in the most exotic locations or having the most substantial budget, at least according to Deseret Digital Media’s Video Labs.

“It takes coming up with a really powerful idea and just communicating that visually,” said Terry Brown, a video producer and editor for the DDM Video Labs.

One of the first videos the group created, “It’s Not About Battery Life — It’s About Real Life,” was about various characters missing out on important parts of their personal life because they were looking at their phone or laptop. The second half of the video explains what would have happened had these characters chosen to put the devices away.

“We just started experimenting, and surprisingly some of the first few videos that were actually created started to get some real traction,” said Russell Banz, the vice president of product at Deseret Digital Media. “The first ones that we tackled actually really resonated with people.”

The possibility of having a video lab was first discussed during a meeting in the summer of 2015, while Banz was talking with Chris Lee, president of DDM.

By the end of the meeting, Lee had already authorized funding for the project and soon after, interns were hired. In August 2015, the Deseret Digital Media Video Labs were officially established.

“It started as just a handful of interns, and we’ve turned that into an actual functioning department now that’s created some amazing videos,” Banz said.

In the beginning, Banz said, they weren’t sure about what types of videos they should be producing, so they began experimenting.

After the success they saw with "It's Not About Battery Life — It's About Real Life," they decided to tell stories or tackle family-related or societal issues through videos that last usually under five minutes.

In between issue-driven videos they all collaborate on, individuals on the team produce videos aimed to increase quality and convenience in the lives of their audience members.

Even though they’ve created a direction for themselves, Banz said the group continues to experiment.

“It truly is a lab,” Banz said. “You never know what’s going to come out of a lab. We’ve seen some incredible things come out of it.”

Madeline Pemberton, a DDM Video Lab producer and editor, said her favorite projects to work on have been story-oriented videos because the whole team works together and rallies behind those videos.

“We have kind of an emotional connection to them,” Pemberton said. “We’ll have these ideas that we care about and are passionate about, and when we get to translate that to video — that’s my favorite kind of project.”

Jackie Meijome, a video producer and editor for the DDM Video Labs, said they all work together, taking turns throughout the entirety of the video creation process: all editing and shooting video, finding locations, casting and acquiring props.

“We all kind of take turns doing all of those things,” she said. “No one has a specific role. It’s per project.”

Pemberton said she’s learned personal lessons from creating these videos, both from the concepts others have presented as well as the ones she has come up with herself. Pemberton said she had a memorable experience while putting together a video for a particular concept she’d been thinking a lot about: the importance of not judging others.

Before shooting, she said she thought she was relatively good at treating everyone fairly, no matter their appearance or demeanor. However while on set, she said she experienced this concept firsthand.

While doing one of the scenes, a man came up and started harassing the crew and touching the equipment, she said.

“We were kind of freaked out,” Pemberton said. “At the same time it was like, ‘Here we are, making this video about not judging people and being open.’”

Pemberton realized that she too had some room for improvement, despite having suggested the video concept in the first place.

“I thought I had this concept down. I thought I understood it,” Pemberton said. “After that interaction, I realized that (the video) was for me too.”

Pemberton said another memorable moment working with the video labs was when she made a video about a young boy who stayed home for vacation. In the video, the little boy creates a makeshift beach in his backyard for his parents.

“We felt good about it but didn’t expect a ton from it,” Pemberton said. “It did pretty well.”

Pemberton said the amount of emotionally charged comments is what really stuck with her.

“We had these comments that were like, 'I’m crying,' or 'What a sweet little boy,' and that just really touched me,” Pemberton said. “When you get such specific and emotional reactions it’s like, ‘Oh, people really care about this’ and it makes you want to go out and do that again and bring something positive into someone else’s life.”

Brown said he has loved being a part of building the video labs from the ground up. He said there’s been a lot of hard work and grit put into the labs, but he is happy with all they’ve been able to accomplish.

“It’s been really cool to see the hard work paying off and seeing our audiences respond to the content we’re putting out,” Brown said. “That’s been the most satisfying thing for me.”

He said he’s enthusiastic to be a part of building a future for the video labs.

“Overall, it’s cool to be excited to come to work,” Brown said. “That’s something that I realized — I love what I do now.”

It's not about battery life, it's about real life

"It's not about battery life, it's about real life" is by the Deseret Digital Media Video Labs.