Video producer Chris Hau streamlines collaboration with Adobe Document Cloud

Person typing on a laptop with food next to them.

Throughout the past few months, we’ve been profiling entrepreneurs and creatives who are using Adobe technology to multiply their collaborative power and empower their teams to create more innovative work.

We caught up with Chris Hau of Know Hau Media, a Toronto-based video production company, to talk about how his team’s creative process has evolved to keep pace with the changing state of the world.

Along the way, we chatted about how Adobe Sign and Adobe Document Cloud have kept collaboration flowing smoothly among his international network of collaborators and clients — and how sometimes the most powerful sources of inspiration can be found right at home.

How are you sourcing your inspiration these days? Has that process changed in light of the current state of the world?

The most beneficial thing that’s come from the state of the world right now, at least as far as I personally am concerned, is that I’ve stopped depending so heavily on external inspiration and really started to trust my own internal creativity. I’m finally listening to my own voice — because for the first time in my life, I have to trust that voice. These days, I’m more in tune with my own creativity than ever before.

Do you think the type of content you’re creating has been changed by that creative shift?

It’s changed the way my team and I think about deadlines, for sure. We used to be really motivated by trying to put out a YouTube video every single week — or, to put it more accurately, we put a lot of pressure on our team to deliver on that, which created a general state of stress and anxiety for the whole team.

These days, we’re much more focused on building our skillsets and pushing ourselves in new creative directions. For the past six weeks, every video we’ve made has been all about learning new skills and trying new techniques — for example, making more documentary-style videos or even ones that look like old silent movies. This has led to a massive shift in our team culture because now everyone on our team is proud of every single video we put out.

You make it clear that you’re part of a team. What size are we talking about?

Our core team can be anywhere from two to three people, depending on the project. I have a full-time editor named Lucas, who actually wears many different hats. I also take a lot of inspiration from my business partner Lizzie Pierce, who assists on a lot of our bigger commercial projects. And then I bring in a lot of freelancers and indie photographers to collaborate as needed — and that might be anywhere from five to 30 people, depending on the project.

Since you’re drawing inspiration more internally than externally these days, do you think there’s a theme behind your work in 2020?

The first words that come to mind are “momentum” and “fun.” We’re really trying our best to enjoy every video we make — and we only say yes to a concept if the whole team is really jazzed about it. Once everyone’s on board, that gives us a lot of natural momentum and excitement, and it makes the whole process a lot more fun for the whole team.

Planning-wise, have you had to pivot over the past few months? And if so, what has that looked like for your company?

The biggest thing that’s changed for us has been travel, which was a major pillar of our whole workflow — and, of course, all our travel plans evaporated practically overnight. That changed not only our social-media branding, but also our whole approach to making videos. It’s really shifted our focus toward making home more of a creative space. Since we don’t go out into the world as much, we’re really exploring the nooks and crannies here in Toronto and discovering new experiences here in our own city. I’ve also been going back through our archives and bringing some of our older material back to life with new editing and fresh creative eyes.

Any advice for fellow creatives who’ve experienced frustration or discouragement on recent projects?

It can be easy to mistake a steep learning curve for a setback. For example, when we set out to make a documentary-style video recently, our whole team had to learn new skills as we discovered this whole new way of approaching production and editing. But where we could’ve got discouraged when things didn’t work, we decided to approach it as a learning experience and take every mistake as a lesson. So my main advice would be to ease up on yourself a little and remember that pushing yourself creatively means making mistakes. Plus, you can always come back and repackage the best parts of your mistakes in ways that bring out their good qualities. A lot of times, the projects that seem the most frustrating will turn out to be your favorites.

How has your approach to networking changed these days vs. pre-COVID-19?

The biggest thing that’s changed is that instead of meeting up with people right away, we have video calls, which gives me a chance to get to know them a little better before I make a decision about whether to work with them. In fact, just today I was on a video call with a person who’s been working with our company for a long time, but we both got to know each other better than ever before — because we’d committed the time to spend together in this little shared space.

How did you get involved with Adobe, and what are the inspirations behind that?

I’ve had a fruitful relationship with Adobe over the past two or three years. We started out with a project focused on Lightroom because most of my work has been focused on the photography side. Then it grew from there as we started to work on some projects with Premiere Pro and other products. As a creative who works on both the artistic and business sides, I also discovered a lot of benefits to working with Adobe Document Cloud. Our team uses Adobe Sign and Acrobat daily. So I worked with Adobe to create a PDF kit that helps you dial in your purpose and take your creative business to the next level with tips and thought-provoking questions.

Are you using Adobe Sign just for contracts or for other things as well?

We definitely use Sign on the contract side and also on the model release side. In our ongoing quest to make all our operations paperless, I’m always searching for easier ways to handle interactions from my phone. We get a lot of contracts via text message and email, especially while we’re traveling abroad — so I was already on the lookout for ways to review those, sign them, and return them without having to fall back to desktop software, much less physical paper. Since we already used Adobe, Adobe Sign was the most natural choice for our contracting because we didn’t even have to onboard any new apps in order to get that functionality.

And Document Cloud must also come in handy when you’re working with a team distributed across multiple countries.

Absolutely. Document Cloud gives us a single place to keep all our — well, what we used to call “paperwork,” though today it’s just “documents.” Everyone can get to the forms and docs they need, no matter where in the world they are or what device they’re using. I especially love that it sends out little digital nudges when people haven’t signed a contract on the agreed timeline — which saves me from having to send those emails myself.