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.
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:
I usually fill out an NCAA basketball tournament bracket, even though I don’t watch the regular season very closely. I think there are others who can say the same. So what is it about March Madness that draws so much interest, even from those who don’t consider themselves basketball fanatics?
I believe that the allure lies in the idea of community.The tournament has a knack for bringing people together. We want to compare our bracket with others. We want to compete. We want to cheer for something. We want to brag when our bracket holds up better than the next guy. And we want to share our frustrations with someone else, whose bracket crumbled as quickly as ours. March Madness promotes a singular mindset and singular focus. And AT&T has tapped beautifully into this spirit of camaraderie with their “Brackets By Six Year Olds” campaign. I love this series of videos. In each episode a journalist interviews children to get their insight into each college team. See below:
There are some marketing lessons that can be gleaned from this campaign, and from March Madness in general:
Be Community-Oriented. As stated above, March Madness builds community. Your marketing efforts should do the same. Cultivate an environment that makes it easy for clients and customers to talk to each other and to you. People like to be around others with a similar interest. Everyone knows that March Madness will happen every single year. Perhaps you can create some kind of event, promotion, etc. that happens on a regular basis. Maybe it’s a training class or giveaway. You can also create an online community, in the form of a Google+ hangout, forum, group, or webinar. Whatever it is, create something with a singular focus that clients and customers can look forward to.
Be Timely. AT&T decided to “piggy-back” on an already popular event to create a great marketing campaign. Knowing that people are heavily interested in the NCAA tournament, AT&T capitalized and produced videos centered on that event. You might look at ways that you can take advantage of pre-existing events to boost the conversation around your brand.
Be Imaginative. Nothing will help your brand stand out like a unique perspective. And children have the greatest imaginations. Consider Sony’s recent ad, directed by Wes Anderson (but written by an 8 year old). AT&T tapped into the minds of children to create some wonderfully imaginative perspective on college athletics. And that kind of imagination draws people in, because who doesn’t find the mind of a child cute, funny, and remarkable? Now, this doesn’t mean that you need to utilize a bunch of children into your next marketing campaign, but it is important to communicate an interesting point-of-view to your audience.
Perhaps you have ventured into the online video arena by uploading a little bit of content to your website, YouTube channel, or Facebook page, and now, you’re interested in learning how to make the most of these efforts. I came across some advice from Kelly Wallace (Chief Correspondent and Head of Video for iVillage) while watching an episode of The New Media Minute, hosted by Daisy Whitney. iVillage is one of the most popular sites on the Internet, ranging anywhere from 26-30 million unique visitors per month. Over the past few months they have been increasing the amount of video content they produce for the site. Currently, videos on iVillage generate 4 million views per month. Here’s what Wallace had to say for those interested in adding more video to their site:
Start out small. Video is more expensive to produce than written content so don’t try to bite off more than your advertising budget can chew. If you start out small and invest just enough to get you up and running you can easily see what works and what doesn’t work. Then, as you familiarize yourself with the process and you work out the kinks in your format, you can begin to invest more and more into the production and post-production of your videos.
If you have a variety of video content than spans different themes, think about organizing this content into playlists or channels, to help viewers find what they’re looking for.
Think about creating regularly scheduled programming so your viewers know when to expect newly released content. Much like a TV schedule, you can set up to release videos on theme #1 on Mondays, while Theme #2 is released on Friday. The more familiar your audience becomes with the schedule and with the on-camera talent, the more they will begin to relate to you, your people, your brand, and your topics.
Video is an extension of your brand. It’s another way you can reach your potential customer. But remember that the quality, the format, and the value of the content will ultimately reflect back on your brand and will effect how the public perceives you. Think out your video strategy carefully and be diligent to produce the best possible content you can.
In our experience as video production professionals, we’ve learned that one of the biggest factors in budgeting for a particular job is time.
How much time will be required to conceptualize and script a video project?
How much time will we need in-studio or on location?
How many shooting days will be required?
How much time will we need to put the whole video together and deliver a final product?
Of course there are other factors to consider as well, including the cost of on-camera talent, additional crew, equipment, travel, etc. However, a video’s budget will grow exponentially when a client needs additional days for shooting, post-production, etc. The budget for a five-day shoot will look very different from a budget for a half-day shoot.
Most projects we work on require multiple camera set-ups, which require the movement of camera, lights, people, additional gear, etc. All of those set-ups mean that we can only capture a certain amount of footage per day. However, one way to increase the amount that can be shot in one day is to use a 2nd unit camera.
From a budgeting stand point, it may seem like an unnecessary expense to use two camera packages and two camera operators for one job. However, employing the use of a 2nd camera unit may actually reduce the cost of the video, because you are accomplishing more in less time.
This strategy is the most effective when there is a long, complicated shot list with several different locations and a small window of time. Rather than have one camera unit spend four days shooting everything, why not invest in a second camera unit and get all of your shots completed in two days? The first camera unit can spend time at your main location, conducting interviews with your staff and shooting b-roll of your operation, while the 2nd camera unit shoots b-roll of satellite offices, off site installs, and conducts interviews with clients. And if your video calls for an on-camera panel discussion with two or more individuals, you can use both cameras to cross-shoot the scene and omit the need to reset one camera for multiple angles. It can be a very efficient way to tackle your project.