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
A few years ago I came across this mock infomercial called “We Got That B-roll.” Anyone who works in video production, or who is familiar with the industry, will find the video humorous. It takes aim at the generic, overused, and sometimes unoriginal b-roll clips that fill up so many documentaries, commercials, and news stories. B-roll is an extremely important part of telling a story on film or video.
It provides the viewer with context.
It helps to explain concepts and ideas.
It offers up visual variety.
It holds an audience’s interest.
Despite its importance to the production, it’s amazing to me how so many people are willing to rush through the process of capturing b-roll. Shooting b-roll can’t become an afterthought. It needs to be an integral part of the shooting day. Here are a few things that need to happen to ensure that you capture great b-roll for your next project.
Work it into the schedule. Give yourself and your production crew enough time in the day to set up, light, and shoot b-roll. The last thing you want is to rush around during the last hour of the day, trying to cross all the items off of your shot list. And that leads me into my next point…
Create a shot list for your b-roll. Don’t wait until you get to the location to try and figure out exactly what you want to shoot for your b-roll. You will end up with a lot of footage that just won’t fit into your story. And that leads me into my final point…
Make your b-roll relevant. Don’t just shoot the building because you think the architecture looks cool.B-roll should compliment and enhance the subject of your story. It should relate to what’s being said, either by those on camera, or the narrator.
B-roll can become a very stale and unoriginal aspect to a video, if not thought out properly. Or, it can be a visually striking element to the production and round out the story like nothing else. Its success or failure depends on how much attention to detail you give to the process during pre-production and production.
You’re set. You’ve hired a video production company to come into your place of business to shoot footage that will eventually be used in an online marketing piece. Everything is good to go. You and the Director have hammered out all the details. You have the talent scheduled. You have the script prepared and memorized. The shot list is ready. All that’s left is to shoot the video.
But have you really thought of everything? Could there be something that you overlooked?
If you work in a location with constant activity (i.e. a retail store, restaurant, salon, etc.), there are two main items on your pre-production checklist that need to be handled before the video production company arrives to set up.
Audio – If you plan to record live audio while on set, background noise will be a major concern. You need to take proper steps to ensure that you can capture good, clean audio. Ideally, you will want to shoot the video on a day when your business is not open to the public. This will eliminate sounds like customer chatter, footsteps, doors opening/closing, etc. If you are forced to shoot during a normal business day, try to select non-peak hours in which to shoot. This way, customer traffic should be at a minimum. To help reduce the amount of background noise, try hanging sound blankets around your talent. You can also post a public notice to all customers that filming is in progress and that all chatter should be kept to a whisper. Also look for places within your location that may not have quite as much foot traffic.
Release Forms – It’s important to lock down the area directly behind your talent, so that no one wanders into the background of your shot. If that isn’t possible, bear in mind that any customer that wanders into frame will need to give you his/her consent to be in the video. You will need to have release forms ready, in case this happens. If your business has a lot of foot traffic, it may not be feasible to stop every single customer and have each one sign a release form. In that case, you will need to place a public notice at the entrances to your business and around the camera crew which indicates that you are in the process of shooting a video. It will also need to clearly state to your customers that by walking throughout the store, their likeness may be captured on video.
Details are so important when it comes to producing a video for your business. Things that you normally take for granted (i.e. door chimes, customer traffic, electric appliances, chatter) can become distractions when trying to shoot. Talk with your video producer/director about your location and any potential logistical/legal problems you may face. Budget in the time for a tech scout with your video production team. The best way to handle these issues is to take care of them before they become bigger problems.
A few months ago I was working on a video shoot for a client. As we moved our equipment inside and started setting up, my client said, “I had no idea this much was involved in producing a video.” This is a remark I often hear when producing videos. People will comment on the amount of gear we have to carry around with us and at the amount of time it takes to set up and shoot each scene. They talk about our attention to detail when it comes to lighting and blocking camera movements. They marvel at how much footage we shoot just for a thirty-second TV commercial or a three-minute corporate video. Producing high-quality videos is something we take great pride in, but it’s also something that demands a lot of our time and resources.
Even before we roll onto the location for the first day of shooting, our work has been going on, behind the scenes, for a few weeks. There is so much that has to be accomplished during pre-production to ensure that the actual shoot runs smoothly and efficiently. For articles on the importance of pre-production, you can browse through these articles, “Preparing for a Video Shoot,” “Scheduling Your Production,” and “If Only the Flux Capacitor Was Working.” Some of the tasks that demand our time and attention during pre-production include:
Creative meetings with the client to go over conceptual ideas
Writing a script
Revising the script
Scheduling the shoot
Casting (if necessary)
Hiring the crew
Prepping and loading the gear
Depending on the size and complexity of the project, our time spent in pre-production may last as little as five hours, all the way up to forty hours. Once the shooting date arrives and we arrive on location, we have to:
Unload the gear
Conduct one final walk-through
Move furniture to make room for the gear
Set up and light
Set up the camera
Block camera movements
Tweak background elements that are in each shot
Direct the talent
Prep the talent for audio
Slate, shoot, and log each take
And this process will repeat itself for every location. Again, our time in production will vary depending on the size and scope of each video project. We might spend as little as 1/2 day on location, but we might spend as much as five to seven days to capture all the footage necessary for the final video.
Once the shoot wraps, we take all the assets back to our office to begin editing. This is a process that largely goes unnoticed, but here are some action items that we must accomplish throughout post-production:
Transfer all footage from tapes or external hard drive to the editing system
Set up the project and import all assets
Go through all the raw footage, shot by shot, and make notes on what’s happening in each scene
Mark shots as usable or unusable
Begin rough assembly of the video to formulate the narrative structure
Record a scratch track of the voice-over to be used temporarily throughout this initial phase
Listen to any and all on-camera interviews for relevant and usable sound bites; mark these for use later
Insert the interview segments and compile them with the b-roll segments
Present the rough edit to the client for notes
Make revisions; tighten the edit
Make music selections
Insert the music
Direct the voice-over talent during the recording session
Insert the voice-over
Mix all audio
Create and insert all graphics and titles
Present to the client for notes
Make additional revisions if necessary
Color correct every shot to ensure optimum quality and color accuracy
Render and export the final video
Deliver to the client
Post-production can, by far, be the most time-consuming aspect of the production process. It’s not uncommon to spend as much as 40 hours on a 3-5 minute video for a client. To date, I believe, the most we have spent in post-production on a project has been 80 hours for a 7-minute promotional video.
I believe that video production is an artistic medium, and, as with all art, doing it well requires a certain amount of time and effort. So, the next time you want to work with a professional video production company, just know that the cameras, the lights, and the familiar call of “Action!” is only the tip of the iceberg.
A lot of corporate videos look alike, so it’s important for brands to find unique ways to communicate their message through video. Exhibit A: This video for Johnnie Walker Whiskey, starring Robert Carlyle. The ad agency and filmmakers did something completely different and the result is pretty captivating. After you watch the video, scroll down and reflect on the following points:
What is your story? Notice that the Johnnie Walker video doesn’t contain a rundown of facts about the process of making the whiskey. It doesn’t rely on talking heads from the company boasting about how unique they are. It doesn’t show any customers testifying to how great the product is. This video simply tells a story. And notice how the story is founded on the people behind the company. Your business is more than brick-and-mortar. It’s more than the product. It’s more than the process. It’s about the people – both those who work for the company, and those whom the company serves. Focus your story on people and you will have the start of something pretty amazing.
What is your core message? This entire video can be summed up with the following tag, “Keep Walking.” As you think about producing a video for your company, think about the one central message you want to communicate. Everything else should be built around that.
What is your plan? The ad agency and filmmakers behind this video didn’t just run out with a camera and shoot this thing as soon as they received approval from the client. They spent an incredible amount of time in pre-production, planning every step and every beat. They knew exactly what was to happen before they even arrived on location. You may not be attempting anything as ambitious as this Johnnie Walker advert, but that doesn’t mean you should neglect this important stage of the production.
What about going to the left, rather than to the right? This video could have easily taken the path of many corporate and promotional videos – footage from the distillery, footage from pubs, on-camera interviews, historical photos, etc. However, they went against the norm and created a visual experience completely different from what you might expect. They used an old road in the Scottish highlands with a few strategically-placed props and that’s it. As you think about producing a video for your brand, what approach can you take that’s completely different and unexpected?