Speed, Quality & AI in Video Editing with Michael Cheng

Speed, Quality & AI in Video Editing with Michael Cheng (Episode 98)

ai diy video production technical tips video coaching video marketing podcast video training Mar 11, 2022

With the proliferation of video editing apps that offer quick editing services of user-generated content to social media platforms, creating and sharing videos has never been easier and faster. But can the same convenience be expected for professional videos meant for business?

Are we compromising quality for speed to satisfy the algorithm?

Welcome to ‘Video Made Simple’ video podcast featuring marketers, entrepreneurs & clients who take the mystery out of video and break through the monotony of day-to-day communication.  

In this episode, Chris Schwager (Video Marketer from Ridge Films) is joined by Michael Cheng (CEO and Co-founder of Lumen5) and talks about how their online video creation platform for business is marrying technology and creativity by helming the editing process with artificial intelligence. Learn how AI works in this creative space, and how you can leverage technology in your video marketing campaign. 

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Video Transcription:

Mike Cheng 0:01
Well, we like to think of it as the machine gets you a draft. And very rarely do we expect users to go and hit Publish right away. But we get you 50 or 60% of the way there. Then you go you tweak some colors, you add your logo, so it's a fun creative process.

Chris Schwager 0:16
Hello, video marketing professionals. Welcome to the podcast that takes the mystery out our producing videos. I'm your host, Chris Schwager. joined this week again with my good man, Mr. Brendan Southall. How are you Brendan?

Brendan Southall 0:26
I'm well, thank you, Chris. How are you?

Chris Schwager 0:28
Very nice technology, creativity. AI. Oh, my God. It's the future. Right?

Brendan Southall 0:34
It is. Yeah, it definitely is. I mean, it's definitely come a long way since we first started looking into it some Gosh, 10 years ago, or more, you know, we've always I suppose battled the technology verse creativity, and you know, what's more important, which adds the most value? Where does it fit within the the final outcome of the video? Well, today,

Chris Schwager 0:52
Our guest is Michael Cheng, CEO and co founder of lumen five, an online video creation platform designed for brands and businesses to produce engaging video content through artificial intelligence. He has grown the platform to 200,000 users without employing traditional marketing strategies. Mike is a serial entrepreneur who co founded SNIPLY, Witty Cookie and about 15 other ventures. He has a track record of bootstrapping successful companies, including Lumen5, which has grown into a multi million dollar company within two years, and considered the fastest growing startup in Canada. So to learn how you can leverage technology in your video marketing journey. Here's a chat with Michael Chang.

Michael, impressive resume, Brother, tell us a bit about all this. How did you get started?

Mike Cheng 1:45
Yeah and I don't think I need to tell you guys how important video is. And this was all started about five or six years ago now. And at the time, we were kind of brainstorming what's the next big thing? What's the next big wave that's happening. And you guys have been in video long enough. And you saw the explosion of video. The trend that we picked up on was specifically two things.

Number one, smartphones were basically televisions in everyone's pockets for the first time you don't need a monitor, you don't need a set up, you can watch video everywhere you go. And then the second major trend that triggered that idea of Lumen5 is mobile data. So if you think about 4k video, HD video, you just couldn't watch that without racking up a bill of a couple 100 Maybe $1,000 back in the day. Around five years ago, all the trends just converged. Everyone had many televisions, you've got unlimited data plans, people could stream video content online. And so the natural question that popped in our heads was the demand is there to support ecosystem is there who's making all these videos?

They've got Instagram Stories, you've got people posting videos, they disappear after 24 hours, who's making all these videos? Where's this volume going to come from? And on the consumer side, you've got you've got selfie cameras, you've got funny filters and those consumer created content. What about businesses, our business is going to keep up one thing led to another and we just thought oh, well, you know, you've got Adobe, which is obviously a major player in this professional video editing space. But as video content creation becomes more of the average office workers job, you go into marketing today, they expect you to be able to create video content without having studied video editing. How do you do that. And so we imagine that that's what PowerPoint was similar back in the day, they kind of normalized the idea of creating presentations, they made it so easy that anyone could do it. And we wanted to do the same thing. We wanted to do what PowerPoint did for presentations back in the day. And we wanted to do it for video. And that's what Lumen5 is.

Chris Schwager 3:37
Impressive. How were you able to grow Lumen5 to 200,000 users without spending a single cent on marketing?

Mike Cheng 3:43
It's a good story for sure. And I think so much of it is when you think about the nature of what we produce, and there's inherent virality to it. When you create a video using our software, you go and publish that video and that video almost becomes the marketing piece. Every user is one of our marketers, when you create that video, you share it, we made a really good decision in the early days which is offer a freemium model, anyone can use Lumen5 for free. The only kind of catch if you will, is there's a Lumen5 watermark. And if you don't mind it great. You can create the video with our watermark, you don't need to pay us and in those early days, people created videos, they posted those videos, people watch those videos. Sometimes they have 100 followers, 1,000 followers, 10,000 followers, and people go oh, wow, this videos is quite neat. How did you produce that? How are you making these videos every day? How are you creating multiple videos a day they see that watermark. They go check out Lumen5 and it creates this viral network.

I'm very happy to share that since those days we've reached over a million users now. And it's been quite a journey, seeing the interest of video really explode over the past five years and also seeing this increasing differentiation. And this is one of those fascinating things is the work that we do will never replace the work that you do. And the way I kind of look at it is is a PowerPoint presentation is a PowerPoint presentation. It's inherently different than a professionally-produced presentation. There are presentations out there, like Apple's not using Keynote. Well, maybe they are using Keynote. But you know, then the average person isn't producing these highly polished, high quality video content. And what we've been able to fill in are these daily LinkedIn videos that people just need to create as part of their brand communications,

Chris Schwager 5:19
I'm curious to know Is it is it all been about the tech for your what has led you to create Lumen5?

Mike Cheng 5:26
I have this conflict where I love creativity, I love arts, I love media. And I love technology. I love machine learning. I love the complexity of technology. And very rarely do you get to do two things, both of those kind of conjoined into one opportunity. So when we came upon the idea of Lumen5, that was really the perfect marriage between arts and science for me. And it's what it looks like day to day is yes, we can produce a very well structured scientific video, maybe we can have the AI script is perfect. But there's always gonna be something missing because you need that, that there's a subjectivity to arts. What is a good video? What flows well? What are -- there's no scientific way to represent the rule of thirds. There's just something the way we perceive video content. And it's reflected in our team as well. We've got a creative director who's constantly thinking about how we can design for better flow, better communication, and kind of a lead engineer who's who's providing that counterbalance. But how do we do it at scale? How do we enable the average person to be able to produce good video content that flows well, and that tension? There's always that tension is what I love.

Chris Schwager 6:33
Can you take our audience through a little bit of how Lumen5 works to some basics?

Mike Cheng 6:39
We're trying to create a new category, which is this idea of video creation. So if you think of video editing, implied in the concept of video editing is you capture a footage, you splice new edit that footage is a bit of a two step process. The problem that we want to solve for a lot of people is for let's say, you want to produce a daily video for your LinkedIn channel or YouTube and whatnot, you don't really have the time budget or bandwidth to go and capture content, many of your users don't have a camera at all. So as what we mean by video creation is you come with nothing but an idea or a story. And you can use stock media, you can use illustrations that are built directly into our system to try and tell that story in a visual way without necessarily capturing or uploading your own footage. And I think that concept has really resonated with a lot of people.

Putting that into context, one of our most popular features is turning a blog post into a video. So we say to the average marketer or communications expert Hey, don't worry about a video, don't even think about it. We know you've been writing blog posts for the past 10 years, we've got a neat little feature, you just copy and paste the link to your blog posts, we'll set you off in the right direction. So how Lumen5 works is you paste in the link to your blog post. And that's where a bit of the technical stuff comes in. We use a specific field of knowledge within AI called natural language processing. So in the machine understands what the blog post is about, summarize it into kind of a nice one minute video, helps you match with stock media that are provided from Shutterstock. For example, let's say you put in a blog post about coffee goes in fetches beans being grinded fetches someone pouring latte art, and that kind of spits out a one minute video that tells the story with all the visuals and imagery. And then well we like to think of it as the machine gets you a draft. And very rarely do we expect users to go and hit Publish right away. But we get you 50 or 60% of the way there and then you go you tweak some colors, you add your logo. So it's a fun, creative process.

Chris Schwager 8:33
That sounds actually really smart. Everybody's looking for faster ways to create videos. And with that type of innovation, I think that's could serve a beautiful purpose. And how many of your customers are using that for awareness if you like or just trying to get content out versus more SEO strategy to get more people or to get Google looking at it effectively.

Mike Cheng 8:59
In the early days, there were well defined use cases now that we've crossed a million user threshold, it really is all over the place. We see everything from marketing communications teams using it for SEO, or for just general applications purposes, all the way through to HR team. They're trying to tell the story of why you should apply to their job positions. They're promoting culture, all the way through to direct sales, you're trying to reach out to someone maybe an email is not engaging. So you quickly whip up a video that you can send directly to a prospect. So what I'm and I'm sure you guys see it too video isn't necessarily a strategy. It's just a medium. It's like photo or text. You can use it so adaptive, you can use it for so many different purposes.

Chris Schwager 9:37
How does AI enhance your product?

Mike Cheng 9:40
If you think about video editing, I mean there there is always a process where you got to make the video look good, you got to make tweaks. And one of the things that I've personally found most daunting the first time I ever launched a video editing software is that there's no guidance. It's kind of a blank canvas. The beauty of that is you can really apply your creativity but you're if you're an Average marketer, a communications expert who's never sat through a theory of video composition, that's really challenging. And that's where automation comes in. And so earlier I mentioned something like the rule of thirds. That's something that we do try to apply scientifically, when it's very common for a photo to have a person on a human being a human face. And I'm sure you've seen on your own smartphone cameras before the technology exists to detect the human face.

And so with that information, our system can start to make decisions. Where should the human face be? And you can start to algorithmically make calculations, like well make sure that the human faces never direct center. Because according to the rule of thirds, it's more visually interesting if it's placed on 1/3 of the scene. And so we automatically move images, we automatically crop images, we do color correction, if we detect that the font colors too close to the background color. So a lot of those, those things that are seemingly invisible, and that's what I love about the AI component of our product is you can create an entire video and you won't be able to articulate what the AI did.

You create the video, it kind of looks fine, you publish it. And what you really notice is if you go use a different tool that's not that doesn't have that kind of automation. And then you notice, oh, why do I have to move the image? Oh, how come I can't read the text. The other thing is also flow to scene transitions, and the timing of those things, we calibrate it to the language. So you know, if you're creating a Chinese video where the words per minute is different than an English video, the flow changes automatically, completely in the background. So those are the some of the things that we do through automation, so that when the user gets that draft, it's closer to 75%, as opposed to 25% and minimize the amount of editing that they have to do.

Brendan Southall 11:40
That's amazing, isn't it Mike? And what about humanization? Like we big on trying to get people on camera and and start to be the face of their business? How does Lumen5 kind of address that? And can you walk us through what that might look like?

Mike Cheng 11:56
I'm incredibly excited about this. And this is a big part of our roadmap this year, especially is we found that five years ago, not everyone was comfortable being on camera. Not everyone has good microphones like everyone here, right? But over the past two years, that's changed people working from home people investing in microphones and cameras and lighting. And so now there's this explosion of competency that the average person actually has sound and video equipments. So some of the things that we're building actually, right now is how do we take a talking head clip like this? And we apply the same kind of smart tactics? How do we, as Chris kind of showed off earlier, you've got multiple camera angles? What about a person who only has one camera? How do we use smart editing to create the illusion that there's multiple camera angles, like cropping different parts of the screen? How do we use automatically use color filters to create variation within a scene, we're switching from the blog to video to really this talking head to video where if you've got a zoom recording, or you've recorded a footage of yourself talking, how do we make it easy to splice in B roll footage, it's using the same technology, you know, before we apply natural language processing to a blog post, now we use text to speech or speech to text to generate the scripts, which then feeds into the same natural language processing system to understand what you are saying and then be able to splice in relevant B roll footage. So that's all I got. I'm already seeing prototype of these things. And I'm so excited about this because it's it's a new chapter. It's a new value proposition for a lot of people.

Brendan Southall 13:21
It's incredible. And how much of that is stock footage and and and how does all the licensing work.

Mike Cheng 13:25
So we have partnerships with a number of different stock providers. And I found that in the very early days, when we were starting to educate the market, it was all stock. But over time, you start to see that as users build competency, they splice it in and out, they'll upload some of their own stuff, they'll splice it in with some stock. Let's say you're producing a one minute video, which is pretty standard for social media. And let's say it's 10 seconds per scene. 10 footage is a lot of footage. And so you might do kind of 80-20 maybe, you've got eight stock and two uploads. And so we're seeing people play around with this composition. We also find that it does differ depending on the size of the company that the user works for. If you're working for an enterprise organization, they probably already have all the stock all the approved stock that you need. And a key part of our value proposition as well as some of those integrations making it easy for them to be able to bring in their stock library. Their brand has approved, being able to import their brand guidelines so that they're using exactly the right fonts. And so Lumen5 is used differently in different sizes of businesses as well.

Chris Schwager 14:28
We'll be back in a short moment with Michael Chang. Well, working remotely using videos or producing videos at scale means adopting some new processes. Nowadays video is everything and to do it yourself. You need videos should be easy to produce and they should work the Ridge Films DIY Video Program is the easiest way to personalize your sales and marketing. You'll be able to produce sales video emails, record regular social Record regular social media updates. And of course, look and sound amazing in every video meeting without tech hassles, create your own professional videos with a push of a button and get a ridgefilms.com.au/diy.

Speed versus quality. Michael, what's your thoughts on that?

Mike Cheng 15:21
I love how that evolved over time too. So speed didn't used to be as important. If you think back to, you know, once a year, you produce a Super Bowl commercial and and it's all hands on deck to produce this one video piece. And you want to take your time you only have this one shot, that's 30-second spot. So quality was everything. And then as social media evolved, in the early days of social media, you've got people posting videos, maybe once a month or so. And now we've kind of come full circle, Instagram Stories, LinkedIn stories, things that kind of disappear after 24 hours. And I think that's so staggering for lots of businesses. What do you mean, I produce a video, and it disappears after 24 hours?

So speed is more important than ever before. And I would argue that quality has also changed our perception of quality. If you're sitting in front of a television, you expect a certain level of production quality. But there's a genuine and authentic nature to social media where brands want to appear as though they're, they're more personal and that there isn't a big ad budget behind and it's a genuine message. I think quality is less important than it used to be if we kind of zoom back five or 10 years ago. Nowadays, the quality and the speed is I would say speed is more important in the current state of things. Where people are brands and businesses are really trying to figure out how do I keep up with the communication cadence, I post something. It's in a sea of content, it's very easy to get lost in the noise. So how do I post three videos a day, four videos a day. And depending on the brand, it's not just four videos on one platform a day, it's four videos on each of their seven networks across Tiktok and Instagram. So speed and scale has become so incredibly important.

And what we're trying to bring our work at Lumen5 is to minimize the sacrifice of quality. How can we do as much as how can we help our users do as much as possible through automation, one of our most popular features is being able to re rejig the aspect ratio of video that they already create. So they can produce one video with a click of a button turns into a square turns into vertical that they can redistribute. And a lot of that uses the same AI to is you can't just brute force and changing aspect ratio, you have to make sure the padding is correct. We, as I mentioned earlier, when things like rule of thirds are automatically generated, you got to reapply that in the context of a new aspect ratio. So so those are all the things that we try to do. We know our users care about speed, and we try to minimize the sacrifice that they have to make on quality.

Chris Schwager 17:43
So let's talk about repurposing content. Because we know as professional video marketers, that it's no longer about just producing that one polished video and hoping for the best that it actually does what you intended to do. It's all about how do you multipurpose How do you divvy that up into several shorter videos, use them for ads, use them to constantly repurpose, refashion and reuse in the marketplace? How does Lumen5 help repurpose content?

Mike Cheng 18:14
Such a big use case and it's so capital efficient and time efficient, you've already sunk in a lot of your resources to producing a single piece, might as well just repurpose it across different platforms. And for example, as we discussed earlier, blog to video is one of the best examples of how we help people repurpose videos, you've already written a blog post. And it's not even that they new blog posts, right our users take blog posts that were really successful from eight years ago, and they repurpose into video. And of course, it's successful again, because it's it's successful for the same reason it's the message is what's unique about that piece. And the other thing we discussed earlier that we're moving into is how do we help people repurpose these zoom recordings? These talking head footage? How do we turn those into compelling pieces of video content? We see users who turn PDFs into video content, you've got a white paper, it's it's kind of 30 pages long. How do you copy and paste some of that text and it's similar to a blog to video technology where we're taking written content, you're using the same natural language processing, you're attaching visuals to some of those more complex stories. The average lumen five user kind of wakes up thinks about all the different non video types of content that they have. And you throw things at Lumen5, you throw it a blog post, you throw a PDF, you throw it a footage, you throw it out, maybe a podcast, audio clip, and out the other end is a video version where you can tell that same story in a more engaging way in in a more engaging format.

Chris Schwager 19:33
And what about measuring performance? Do you assist your clients with that?

Mike Cheng 19:43
It's something that we've tried to do for so many years, but because of such a vast difference in different industries, different metrics, different people care about different things. We've kind of figured out that our focus is to assist them with the creation process. So we define our success in enabling our user to create The video that they perhaps imagine or envision, when it comes to the tracking and an analytics, like I mentioned earlier, HR departments that use Lumen5 have a very different set of expectations they're looking at, are they increasing the application rates or when people show up to the interviews, are they more excited than if they hadn't watched a video all the way to more classic marketing metrics, so we don't really have we have simple analytics on our platform. And there may come a time if we feel like we've, to some degree perfected the creation process, maybe we expand into data and analytics. But what we found is even after five years, it's really the tip of the iceberg. There's so much room for us to help our users create the perfect video that they want. And then the other side of it is the perfect video is always changing, trends are changing, aesthetics are changing, aspect ratios are changing. And I even seeing like the beginnings of VR and AR and creating that type of content is going to be so much more complicated. So our wheelhouse is really in the creation aspect.

Chris Schwager 20:57
Technologies over the years, though, are really governed by the market and whether they want to grab hold of it. There's so many interesting discussions around 3d video and virtual reality, you know, all of that stuff. And it's like, well, it still will come down to whether the market grabs hold of and there's nothing stronger at the moment, then low grade. It is trending definitely, you know, it's actually when you think about how degradative quality is not relevant when it comes to something that's actually really interesting. It's it almost is a nice marriage of video that yes, obviously authentic, no doubt, you know, someone's that literally pulled a smartphone out of the pocket and, and punch something out. But that that is still, that is still interesting. And it's certainly, you know, you don't go into a movie cinema and expect to see some Tiktok video, you know, you as you said, you know, you've got great expectations. And I think the expectation when it comes to online video, mobile video, is that yeah, anything is, and that's interesting, that can be actually really interesting, rather than this style, over, over corporatize over governed, that can often get in the way of creativity and having a final product that is, you know, ultimately interesting.

You know, and I think, you know, this is kind of like a journey for Ridge Films at the moment is like, how do you hit a market like LinkedIn, for instance, hit or hit a platform like that, with content, that's, that's not so much about relevance, but more about it being interesting, you know, interest level actually getting attention. And if you can get attention first, then you can kind of lead them down the path, you know, but we're just finding, you know, the, the level of quality in terms of video creativity is pretty is pretty green. It's, it's a long way to, to go with that. How do people start using Lumen5?

Mike Cheng 22:18
Yeah, it's, we've made it super accessible. Like, like we talked about earlier. Being accessible is such a key part of our own growth strategy. And so it's, it's a freemium model, you can go to Lumen5.com, sign up for an account doesn't ask you for credit card information or anything like that. And you just create your video. And there are some bells and whistles that you can upgrade for, you know, if you want to collaborate with multiple people, you want additional security measures for your enterprise organization, those things you can upgrade for. But by and large, you can create videos without paying a dime, as long as you're comfortable with the watermark. And the watermark appears at the very end, we only show up if we've earned your viewers attention all the way through to the end of the video. So it's very assessable and low barrier in that sense. Now, Lumen5.com free account site.

Chris Schwager 23:39
Well, it's something that we'll be definitely checking out. And if you want to learn more about Lumen5 or Michael Cheng, have a look at the show notes for all the details. Michael, thank you so much for joining us, brother.

Mike Cheng 23:50
Thank you so much for having me. It's been fun.

Brendan, AI, Lumen5, there's so much opportunity for AI in video right?

Brendan Southall 23:59
There is huge, huge amount of opportunity for AI within video. It's again coming back to what we said right at the start of the podcast. What wins creativity technology, but it sounds like after chatting with Mike it's it's a bit of both. Yeah.

Chris Schwager 24:15
That's awesome. And look video is the future for marketing. Yeah. Thanks for tuning in. That's all for this episode of video made simple podcast. Thank you again to Michael Cheng and see you next week.


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