When trying to produce a short film in only 48 hours, or complete a video project with a tight deadline, you learn certain things about how to work more efficiently. When every shot has to count and there’s absolutely no time to waste, you have to know how to stay on task and how to keep everything focused.
We recently participated in the Sidewalk Scramble, a competition in which participants only have 48 hours to make a short film. Over the years, we’ve been involved in a few of these Scramble events, and we have also worked with clients who have very tight deadlines. In both scenarios, we have learned valuable lessons about how to produce a quality video project, even with certain time constraints.
When brainstorming, there are no bad ideas. For the Scramble, our team received a genre and a prop. After the initial meeting, the Scramble organizers turned us loose to begin work on the film. We began to brainstorm ideas for the story. When you are faced with a tight deadline for your video project, remember that in the beginning stages, no one’s idea should be censored. Give everyone an opportunity to be heard. Consider every idea that is put forward.
When shooting, keep your locations to a minimum. If you’re up against a tight deadline, the last thing you need to do is waste time driving from one location to another. Understanding our constraints in both production time (48 hours) and the running time of the final film (4 minutes), our Scramble team shot in only one location. It helped us move from scene to scene quickly, with minimal set up time.
When you start the day, assign someone to slate every shot and maintain a log. This is extremely valuable when you get into post-production. It will speed up the editing process tremendously. Rather than wasting time sorting through all the raw footage, re-watching each take, you can quickly consult the shot log and know immediately which shot you liked the best.
When working with on-camera talent, shoot dialogue scenes first. In our experience, shooting scenes with dialogue takes the most amount of time. Those who will be on camera need time to memorize, rehearse and block. The timing needs to be nailed down. The video production company needs time to cover the scene from various angles. And there will always be multiple takes (actors will stumble over lines, forget lines, or deliver the lines in a manner that isn’t quite right).
When selecting camera angles, shoot establishing shots first. Once you have covered the scene with your establishing shots, then you can move in for pick-ups. It won’t do your film/video project any good if you have a ton of close-ups and pick-ups without any establishing shots to frame the context of the scene. You will quickly discover that you don’t have enough footage to tell the story adequately.
When b-roll is needed, delegate to a 2nd unit. In our Scramble film, we knew that we would need some POV shots of our main character. However, it would be a waste of time to have the actors and crew wait while the director ran off with a camera to shoot this footage. So, while the director continued to work with the actors on scenes that were most important, the b-roll was captured by utilizing a second cameraman with a second camera. This can save an enormous amount of time when working on a video project with a tight deadline. Imagine that you have to shoot interviews with administrators of a manufacturing facility, plus shoot b-roll of the factory floor. Now imagine that you have to shoot all of this in only half a day. You can assign the b-roll to one cinematographer, while the other captures all of the interviews.
You don’t have to sacrifice the quality of your video, just because it needs to be done quickly. By attacking the problem realistically, shooting to your resources, and being smart about how you approach the job, you can come out on the other side with a video you can be proud to show. However, we can’t guarantee that you will get much sleep during the process, but the assigned project will be completed.
We came across an article today from ReelSEO talking about the business of video virality. Once a video is produced, then what? How do you start to build an audience? The ReelSEO article links to a couple of videos from ABC News. It seems that ABC had the same question about what makes an online video take off into the mainstream. So, they hired an agency to help. One video is the full report on the process of conceptualizing, producing, and marketing the video. The other is the finished video, now at over 1 million views. It was an interesting experiment. So, what are some lessons that can be learned from this process?
Plan – The ad agency spent time with the client, brainstorming all kinds of ideas. They got to know the client on a personal, professional, and philanthropic level. It was only after they learned about the client, were they able to come up with an idea that reflected his interests and values.
Find Influencers – The agency did their research and found specific sites with large audiences who write about and discuss topics similar to what’s seen in the Hovercat video. Getting those influencers to share that content with their audiences boosted views. It pays to do the research.
The ReelSEO article also points out that the ABC News piece didn’t even cover the views that can be gained through social media and email. ReelSEO also acknowledges some of the shortcomings of the video itself, and speculates (rightly so, we believe) that the video could have gained much more traction if the content itself had a bit more substance to it. Regardless, it’s a good experiment, and it demonstrates how a brand can gain significant views on their video content with the right amount of planning and research.
I’ve always enjoyed commercials produced by ESPN over the years. The “This Is SportsCenter” series are full of classic, memorable spots. Viewers can appreciate the commercials, even if they aren’t sports fans; even if they aren’t familiar with the particular athlete or team being represented. In recent years, promos for ESPN’s College Game Day have become just as memorable. But what is it about these commercials that are so effective?
Personality. The people on screen are charismatic. They’re captivating. Forget for a moment that the news anchors, athletes, and coaches are celebrities. Think about how they present themselves on camera. They’re relaxed. They’re having fun. They’re natural. They seem friendly. Whatever video project you’re working on, make sure that the people on camera have personality. Your talent needs to connect personally with your audience.
Juxtaposition. The “This is SportsCenter” campaign is a lesson in contrast, and that’s part of the appeal. They take athletes, coaches, and mascots, pull them out of context, and place them within the confines of an ordinary, corporate office environment. Visually, it doesn’t match up, which lends itself to some great comedic moments. At the same time, it perfectly captures what ESPN is all about – they live sports. How can you communicate the core identity of your business or service by meshing two seemingly contradictory ideas or visuals?
Performance. The ESPN commercials are not centered on complex animation, bold graphics, intense music, or a stylized look. They are based on a solid idea, with strong copy, and excellent performances from the on-camera talent. A good video isn’t built on a lot of sizzle and special effects. Those things can certainly enhance a video, but without a creative idea at its core, your message won’t be communicated effectively. Start with the idea. Lean on a video production company to help you develop it into something unique. And rely on the performance(s) of talented individuals to give the video life and personality.
Here is one of the latest ESPN College GameDay commercials:
When you work on branding a company, you often have to think about the essence of who you are. You have to spend time focused on philosophical aspects of your business, i.e. “What are our core values?” “What are we all about?” “Who are we here to serve?”
We too at Red Fox Media have to constantly think about and evaluate our brand and how we want to position ourselves. When marketing departments are pulling video production in-house, it becomes increasingly important to define what it is we bring to the table.
We have often defined our approach as”cinematic,” but sometimes that’s hard for people to visualize. What does it mean to be “cinematic?” That’s why we always show our demo reel to potential clients. It’s much easier to understand a term like “cinematic” when you can see it on the screen. We recently explained it this way:
Our projects have a “cinematic” feel. It can be difficult to describe, but you know it when you see it. We achieve that tonality by paying attention to disciplines like composition, lighting, camera movement, and story. Like any craftsman or artisan who invests a lot of effort into sculpting, constructing, or restoring, we are meticulous and diligent about giving our clients a video with high production values and a clear branding message.
Knowing your own core values will help your company stay on track amidst the ebb and flow of your particular industry. That doesn’t mean you don’t adjust to changes in the marketplace. That doesn’t mean you stop innovating. But it does mean that, despite these changes, despite those innovations, your core values stay the same. That’s your foundation. That’s who you are. It’s the DNA that gives your company its identity.
And it’s our job to help you communicate that identity to your audience.
We are in pre-production on our next short film project and we are looking for actors. The story is a comedic short about a Hollywood production that loses one of its star actors just before shooting commences on the climactic scene. If you are interested in participating in this project, please email a headshot and resume to clint(at)redfoxmediainc.com. Here’s a list of characters:
CHUCK (30s-50s) – Military type. Precise. In control. Regimented