Karl Drury, Video Producer at Xero

Karl Drury is an in-house video producer at Xero. He films marketing material, case studies, internal videos for staff, and pieces for Xero TV. Video is his life, and is rarely without a camera in hand.


How did you get into video and your role at Xero?

I’ve been shooting video since I could first hold a camera. It’s a huge passion of mine. My father is a professional photographer, and as soon as I could hold a camera, he put one in my hands. At my high school we had a digital video unit and that’s where I found my niche and realised that this was what I wanted to do. When I finished high school I went to South Seas Film and Television School, then spent a year freelancing. In that time I got on to the New Zealand surf circuit and spent nine months just shooting surfing around New Zealand, which was pretty epic. After that I spent three years doing video journalism across the country for Fairfax, and got a couple of international trips as well, which was awesome. Moving to Xero? I just saw it as a new challenge. The corporate world is something that’s always interested me.

What are the main differences between freelancing and working in-house?

With freelancing, you’ve got to be putting yourself out there and always calling your contacts and working them. You’ve got to have friends in the industry. That’s key – having contacts and being involved in the environment.

Working in-house, you probably have a better understanding of the sort of content you’re going to be producing. As a freelancer you’re coming in for just that one contract, and you’re still going to do your research, your pre-production, so that you’re going to nail your shoot. But when you’re in-house you have a rapport with other staff members, and sometimes they’re a little bit more open and you pick up inside knowledge for when you’re talking to a client. This means that when you go out on a shoot, it can sometimes be that little bit easier.

Tell us about the videos you’re making at Xero

We’re usually producing short videos. Mainly case studies and customer testimonials. Asking people how they use our product, whether they’ve been using a different accounting platform, and then following their story to see how Xero’s changed the way they do business. We aim for the golden 90 seconds. That’s really the ideal length because everyone’s willing to spend 90 seconds watching a video. So we make sure we have really engaging content that gets the message out within that time.

We use video for a lot of internal communications as well, so instead of just sending an email to our staff, we accompany it with a video. Everyone is encouraged to tune in and watch the videos through our intranet.

Why does Xero use video?

It’s such a great way to communicate your message, and it really gives that personal touch. We live in such a digital age, and everyone communicates with visuals, so developing a core video team to produce high-quality, engaging in-house content, is the goal that big companies like Xero are moving towards. We have a huge presence in the video world because it’s a new way to engage with your clients, your potential clients and viewers in general.

What's the biggest challenge in your video projects right now?

I’d say it’s probably trying to giving each piece of work a point of difference. So trying to create something new that’s also on brand. Trying to create something new that’s going to get that message across and tell that person’s story. For me the answer is switching up shots, shooting creatively.

How do you use Wipster in your workflow?

Wipster’s great for us for internal reviewing. Every project’s different; whether it’s for partner marketing, global marketing, or New Zealand marketing. As the project develops we can put different versions into Wipster, and the people involved can make comments straight on the video which is just awesome. And it gives you much better feedback – using it as a feedback tool is wicked.

How has Wipster changed the way you create and review video?

We’re able to get quicker feedback. We are able to put the content on Wipster and share it as soon as it’s done. The speed allows us to move quickly onto other projects rather than having to wait for people to come and sit down and watch the video. Sometimes we’re working with people in Australia, America, the UK and New Zealand, so the online solution is perfect for us. Before Wipster, I didn't use any sort of cloud solution. It was definitely desktop-review, so it was sitting down with a director or producer and having them go through, checking your shots. We did use Dropbox sometimes, but obviously they couldn’t comment on it or give that direct feedback on the video – you’d have to attach a Word document with timecodes. Now,as soon as the video is done, the editor or producer can upload it to Wipster, send out a link and then anyone can review it from anywhere.

Do you follow any blogs or online tutorials about video production?

I spend quite a lot of my spare time looking at blogs and magazines; looking for new ideas and techniques that can help progress my skill set. Philip Bloom and Vincent Laforet would be the two I follow the most, both on Twitter and via their blogs. I'm also in a couple of different groups on LinkedIn – the Adobe Premier and Canon EOS Photography groups. There you’re able to have conversations with other industry people about gear or ideas, which is really valuable.

Do you have any creative projects outside of work?

Last year I travelled down to Antarctica twice, and they were the absolute trips of a lifetime. The first time I went down I accompanied the New Zealand Prime Minister on a media trip for Fairfax, which was such a cool experience. We ended up being snowed in for a couple of days which was an experience in itself. Then I got the bug for the ice and I never wanted to leave. I went back later that year and covered the restoration of some historic huts as well as the Adelie penguin census, which is a big penguin count from air and from land. I got to have my birthday at base of Mt Erebus – we dug a snow pit and slept on the ice.

I also shoot a lot of personal projects in my own free time. I just got back from a holiday in Rarotonga, and will be putting together a clip from that, which is mainly stuff shot on the GoPro and me rocking lots of selfies. I always have a camera in my hand.

What separates a good video producer from a great one?

Versatility, being able to excel in all areas of video whether it’s pre-production, production, shooting, editing, or directing content with a creative vision. But I would say a key part of it all is the storytelling ability. So knowing how to create a narrative that really works for your client.

Is there one piece of advice you would give video producers just starting out in their careers?

Just go hard, never back down from a challenge and always push yourself. If you’re just getting out there in the industry, knock on people’s doors and just work for as many people as you can, even if it’s for a couple of bucks; or pitch in and be extra hands on a shoot. Immerse yourself in the environment that you’re wanting to work in. If you’re on a film set or commercial set, talk to the camera assist – ask what sort of lens cleaning cloth they use, what lenses they’re using, why they are doing it that way. A lot of the guys out there are more than willing to have a chat with you, you’ve just got to pose the right questions. I’d just say get out there.

What do you think about the medium of video compared to other communication channels?

I love it; video is my life. I must say I rarely do anything else in my spare time. In this age of technology, especially with all the social media, you go on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook – video is on all your newsfeeds. There’s video everywhere. I’d say it’s probably one of the best ways to communicate and it’s a great tool to communicate with everyone. Video can add a personal touch, and it can humanise a story. Everyone loves visuals, and it’s fast: if you can watch a great piece in 90 seconds compared to reading an article for five or ten minutes, you’re much more willing to give your time to the video.

For Xero, whether we’re using video for educational or marketing purposes, we’re able to give our clients a voice. They’re talking about this wonderful product, and a viewer can say “ok, this has really worked for them”. By having our customers tell that story we are able to engage a lot better with other people out there in the world.