Honoring Denise Mukwege

The 2018 Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict. Through Vox’s work as media partner for Physicians for Human Rights, we have had the privilege of filming Dr. Mukwege, interviewing him about his work establishing Panzi Hospital in Bukavu in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and his courageous and pioneering efforts to combat violence against women and provide critical medical services in a war-torn country.

The videos produced by Vox have helped Physicians for Human Rights champion the work of Dr. Mukwege, as well as building international support for their efforts to stop sexual violence, and defend human rights worldwide. We are honored to be part of this cause and salute PHR, Dr. Mukwege and Ms. Murad.

Here is an mini-documentary created by PHR and Vox on Dr. Mukwege’s work.

Many Audiences, Many Languages

Increasingly, Vox has been producing video in multiple languages for audiences in the U.S. and abroad. For Physicians for Human Rights, Vox profiled pioneering physician Denis Mukwege from Democratic Republic of the Congo. Dr. Mukwege speaks French, but rather than relying on subtitles alone or dubbing an English version, we worked with graphics on screen to translate his words. This provided an elegant complement to the interview, and preserved the sound of his voice, placing his message front and center for both French and English speakers.

For WGBH and Annenberg’s Learner.org, Vox produced K-12 teacher professional development videos to support Arabic teaching in U.S. schools. We filmed in classrooms around the country, where instruction and class discussion was naturally in both Arabic and English. To make the videos as useful as possible, all Arabic content was captioned in English and all English content was captioned in Arabic, providing accessible resources for teachers themselves, as well as those who work with them in professional development contexts.

The Basics is a Harvard initiative that provides parents and caregivers of infants, toddlers, and young children with practices that support healthy development. As media partner for the program, we have produced custom videos reflecting the specific communities that are participating. Here is the The Basics intro in Spanish.

Looking to produce video in multiple languages? Whether your goal is reaching global audiences, or speaking authentically to a community nearby, Vox can help you with a multi-lingual approach to production, editing and delivery.

Copy Rights and Wrongs

Although we’re all awash in video these days, it sometimes can come as a surprise to clients that a video’s presence on the web (YouTube or Vimeo, for example), does not translate to its availability for your media project.  While it’s easy to understand that the latest blockbuster is protected by copyright, the reality is that this protection is available to anybody, and your organization cannot automatically take video from a third-party source and use it without permission.  (Nor can another party take video you have produced and use it without asking.)  It is best to assume that unless public domain status is explicitly stated (and credible), you should assume that rights will have to be researched, permission obtained, and possibly a payment made.

What does this mean? If you have found the the perfect closing sequence, downloaded it from YouTube, and transferred it over, so the editor can lay it in to the video, don’t skip the rights step. Once the editor has spent a few hours tuning it up and fitting it perfectly with the result of the video, she may not take kindly to hearing, “oops, my bad, we don’t have rights for that.”  Planning is key. Ideally, any and all third party footage will be planned in advance, logged, with usage rights explained.

But how about Fair Use you say? This is the concept that small parts of a copyrighted work can be used under restricted circumstances, such as commentary or criticism to illustrate the point being made. Although it’s possible some content in a video you hire a professional video company for might qualify as fair use, it’s best to avoid this status unless you understand the law (and the attendant risks). There are multiple factors that come into play, and unfortunately there is no clear standard to rely on in advance; instead challenges to fair use may result in litigation. That will clear up the question, but sometimes at quite a cost!

So here’s the takeaway: make sure you have the rights to use the material you want to present, and plan early.

The Wonders of Green Screen

Looking for an affordable way to make a professional video? Green screen might be the ticket.  This is the practice of creating a composite image in video, for instance when a meteorologist stands in front of a weather map which is actually created later and combined with the video.

Although green screen (or more accurately chroma key compositing) has been around quite a while, modern production techniques, equipment, and editing smarts put this in reach of many clients and offer real benefits:

• Green screen set ups can provide the visual power of a location shoot with out the inconvenience and cost necessary to secure the ‘perfect spot.’

• It comes to you, rather than the other way around: The Vox team, green backdrops in hand, can set up a shoot on site at a clients’ office in a morning.

• More flexibility for graphics and repurposing. Green screen footage  welcomes a wide range graphics treatments and repurposing (for instance swapping in other backgrounds).

Here’s a before and after green screen shoot for our client, IIJ, Institutional Investor Journals.


The set up–IIJ’s four experts at a table in front of a green screen.
2. Still from the footage during the shoot.
3. Still from the completed video. The guests are now in a boardroom setting, with IIJ branding and a view of the Boston skyline.

What might green screen do for your communications strategy?  Get in touch to learn more.

Getting started with a video outreach project

Video is a very effective–some might say the most effective–way for a non-for-profit to reach an audience, educate and make change. But how do you get started?

For over 20 years, Vox has helped organizations large and small do this, and today we’ll share useful points to consider as you start any media-based outreach campaign.

1. Think outcome first: being as specific as possible, describe what success would look like and list how it will be measure.

2. Know thy audience, and craft messages that reflect that knowledge. It’s useful to be as specific as possible when thinking about this. Although in theory, it’s never been easier to reach audiences, given the nature of digital communications, in practice it’s a very noisy environment, who are you trying to reach? what is your message for them? why will it matter?

3. Who is at the table at your organization? Often media initiatives start in one part of the organization–the PR or outreach department, which is a reasonable starting point. But they have a way of requiring expertise and/or buy in from other people and departments, for instance program or development staff. It’s natural to try to keep too many cooks out of the kitchen, but if there are importance voices who will contribute to the content, be the final review, or key to the dissemination and use of the video, get them in the room early. If there are issues to be raised, they should be addressed before video production begins.

4. As suggested above, media is a team sport, but it’s also useful to remember that any team is made stronger by smart use of its expert players. Vox works in an editorial partnership model–we work to understand the goals of the project (and all the points above) so we can bring our expertise to your team. Part of our expertise is production efficiency and working with our tools and practices. This partnership does not make clients video producers, videographers, editors, and graphics specialists though. We get that you have an iPhone with a pretty good camera. Ours is better, trust us, and even more important, we’ve got 25 years of experience doing just this.