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:
IBM @ CeBIT 2010, Hanover, Germany (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
There’s nothing quite like the atmosphere of a well-run, well-attended trade show. Each one gives a niche group the opportunity to see exciting new products and to learn about a specific industry through seminars and classes. Social events help build personal networks and establish on-going friendships. And marketers have the chance to showcase the very best of what their company has to offer. But the reality is, not everyone can attend a trade show. It can be expensive, time-consuming, and inconvenient. So, what can exhibitors do to broaden their message beyond the convention hall doors? Video.
If you are an exhibitor, video is a great way to communicate your marketing message to passers-by on the trade show floor. However, video can also be used to expand your reach to those who weren’t able to attend. Short, informative recap videos from the convention hall are an excellent way to give potential customers a glimpse of the trade show atmosphere. Although watching a video isn’t the same as actually being there, consumers will (in a way) be able to share in that trade show experience by watching your recap videos. They can see the convention hall. They can “meet” you and your team. They can learn about the new products your company introduced. Your time while at the trade show was spent trying to excite the public about your company, products, and services. Now it’s time to do the same for those potential customers who weren’t able to attend. Here are some things to keep in mind:
Hire a designated cameraman. If you have ever worked an exhibitor booth at a trade show, you know that things are hectic. Company reps have dozens of people they need to talk to. They don’t have time to stop, pick up a camera, and start shooting video. Invest in hiring a video professional who can spend his/her time solely on shooting footage and conducting interviews.
Use a knowledgeable spokesperson. Designate someone from your team who can speak confidently on-camera about your company and new products. Some people are great one-on-one, but don’t have that same confidence when speaking in front of a video camera. Also, select a veteran from your team, someone who knows the product(s) inside and out; someone that existing contacts and customers will recognize. Having your “President of Product Development” speak on-camera lends credibility to the video. It also says to the viewer, “These new products are so amazing that the President of Product Development came down personally to the trade show to talk about how awesome this stuff is.”
Audio, audio, audio. Trade show floors are crowded and noisy. You will definitely need to use a hand-held microphone or lavaliere microphone when conducting interviews. If the trade show floor is just too chaotic, schedule some time before the convention halls open, or right after they close, to conduct your interviews. It also isn’t a bad idea to have a second audio recorder on-hand as a back-up.
Keep a low profile. Did I mention that trade shows are crowded? Sometimes attendees and exhibitors are right on top of each other, so you don’t want to impede the flow of foot traffic down the aisles. When shooting your video, tell your cameraman to pack light. You won’t need an entire lighting setup, dolly, camera jib, c-stands, flags, and an entire crew. Your video team just needs enough to capture good audio and a professionally composed, exposed image.
Get permission. Each trade show has different rules about video and photography. Find out what the specific policies are. Be open and honest with the trade show administration about your plans for video. If you are forbidden to shoot any video during the actual event, perhaps you can grab interviews outside the convention hall. Perhaps you can shoot before or after the trade show. Perhaps your company is hosting an after-hours reception. You can capture any necessary interviews then. There is always a solution to the problem.
Trade shows are definitely a great opportunity to build sales leads and expand your network. But why should you stop once the trade show floor closes and all the exhibitors have packed up? Invest in video and you can take the trade show back with you and broaden your reach among potential customers.
Everyone wants to know what THE best video camera is on the market. Friends (who don’t work in video production) will ask me this question before making a purchase, “What video camera would you recommend?” I’m flattered that they respect my opinion, but the answer is a little more complex than it used to be. Today there are an incredible amount of cameras out there – each with their own capabilities. I’m hesitant to say that one camera is BETTER than another camera, because I’m not quite sure that’s the case. Every camera is DIFFERENT. Each brings to the table something that makes it unique. Think of these different cameras simply as tools in a toolbox. Each one performs a specific function and each one is suited for a particular job. I feel the same way about cameras. They are simply tools that help you to tell a visual story. You should select a camera based on the type of story you want to tell and the style/look you want to achieve. For example:
If a client wants the project to look a little raw and feel low-budget and home-made, I will select a camera and shooting format based on those parameters.
If it suits the project, I might shoot standard-definition video in a MiniDV format.
If I know that I will be going into a shooting situation with very low light levels, I will choose a camera that performs especially well in low light.
If I know that I need to achieve a rich, cinematic look with shallow depth-of-field, I might select a large-sensor camera with the flexibility to change lenses.
You get the idea.
Editing systems are now fully capable of importing video footage from different cameras (with differing frame rates, formats, and frame sizes) into the same project. So now, producers can mix and match their source footage into one video if need be.
The goal has always been to tell the best story. All you need is the right tool for the job.
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.