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How Microsoft is Using Video to Simplify New Technology

We speak to Microsoft's Lead Videographer, Maria Stern, about how the brand tells human-centered technology stories through video.

Posted 1 Oct 2019
Video marketing

This is a new series where we speak to Envato customers about their experiences of working in creative industries. First up, we talk to Lead Videographer Maria Stern, who explains how she employs her documentary filmmaking skills in her role at Microsoft.

Virtual and augmented reality—or mixed reality—is widely agreed to be the next frontier in user experience, and Microsoft’s HoloLens technology is right at the forefront of bringing it to the world.

The field is already expanding beyond what it’s currently known for—gaming—and finding use in training factory workers with Microsoft’s Dynamic 365 guides.

“Guides is an application that uses the HoloLens to place step by step instructions and holographic overlays in the real world so that people can learn while they’re doing,” Maria Stern, Lead Videographer at Microsoft, told Envato.

It lifts what would normally be a static diagram in the instruction manual into something that can show you what to do where.

To bring this idea to life, Stern created a short documentary film showing off the technology, released on YouTube. It’s a great representation of the power video marketing has to connect people to a technology that could seem difficult to understand.

My primary responsibilities are to tell human-centered stories about the people and companies who use our application.

Maria Stern, Microsoft LEAD VIDEOGRAPHER

The two-minute video makes this complex technology easy to understand. As we watch footage of the HoloLens application at work, we hear from workers who use the technology to train on the job, and we can instantly see why the idea is so compelling.

The effectiveness of her content no doubt comes from Stern’s experience as a documentary filmmaker.

“I pursue documentary filmmaking because I find people really interesting, and love immersing myself in new worlds,” she explains. “Fostering that sense of curiosity really helps me get the most out of a shoot, and out of an edit.”

The opportunity to capture such new technology at work is something many documentary makers would give anything to have. And with Microsoft being one of the companies at the forefront of developing that technology, Stern couldn’t be in a more interesting place as a storyteller. “When I was interviewed, my mind was blown away by the technology. I’ve become accustomed to it, but still have those “Woah!” moments when I play with the HoloLens. It’s a really neat place to work.”

While what ends up in her videos looks like a futuristic spectacle, Stern’s equipment and software setup will be quite familiar to most video creators. Her primary camera is a Canon C300, with a Sony a7S II as a B cam. And she edits her footage using Adobe’s Creative Suite.

The VFX (visual effects) looking shots were actually filmed using a nifty camera that captures what the user is seeing in their HoloLens in real-time. It’s very fun to film in physical and digital space simultaneously.


Stern’s content inspiration comes mostly from working with those around her. “I’m lucky to work with a lot of really smart and talented individuals,” she says. “Quite often, the content I produce arises out of collaboration with the team.”

As for what makes the content she produces connect with viewers, she believes it’s the intersection of compelling technology with personal stories.

“At its best, branded storytelling evokes emotion, shares information, and expresses a vision in mere minutes,” she tells us. “For companies that understand time is money, this is very important. It’s critical… to make sure their messaging stands strong among the rest.”

As her team, and Microsoft as a whole, continue to experiment with new ways to use their groundbreaking mixed reality technology, more opportunities will arise for her to create content that connects these innovations with their effect on people’s lives.

To those who one day hope to be in a position like her, Stern’s advice is to “finish projects you’re passionate about. It will help you open doors you want to walk through.”

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