One rabbit hole that clients fall into is assuming that video is a snap to make because it’s so simple to watch. You sit down, press play, and an entire world unfolds before you. Savvy marketers, though, will make it a point to understand the amount of work that goes into making a fantastic video so that they can intelligently spend their marketing budgets, and get the most bang for their buck. Knowledge is power, and video marketing is no exception.
Of course, if you’re the world’s richest company, you know that great video marketing takes high-caliber creative and a killer crew. At Apple, their marketing team spends millions of dollars on video – hiring choreographers, Hollywood directors, top-shelf dance talent and a crew of set designers to launch their latest product. Of course, the results are simply amazing.
This behind-the-scenes film of the making of Apple’s Spike Jonze-directed campaign for the HomePod is a great primer on what goes into making truly original, creative piece of video marketing – in this case, a short film. And while you may not have their budgets, knowing the creative (and budgetary) constraints you’re up against is half the battle!
Take a few moments and enjoy this educational look inside a high-budget shoot for this week’s #WednesdayWisdom :)
by: David Capizzano
The process of adjusting the colour, contrast or overall look of footage is called colour grading, and it’s probably one of the most important steps in the production process. Despite this, if it’s been done well, you might not even notice it at all. Colour has a massive impact on how we respond to what we’re seeing on screen, and a good colour grade can bring out an entirely new set of ideas or thoughts which can be communicated to an audience, and with the advent of digital technology, the options for setting a look are almost endless.
But it wasn’t always this way.
In the days of film, directors and DoP’s would use a series of chemical baths and prisms to chemically alter the colour composition of the film after it was shot. They might have also used a series of filters on the lens while capturing the scene.
Before Roger Deakins used a digital colour process on the film O Brother Where Art Thou (2000) to achieve a dustbowl look, chemical timing was standard practice. Despite shooting in a very-green South Carolina & Mississippi, Deakins used a digital process to essentially remove the colour green from the film, resulting in a wonderfully bleak and magical depression era setting.
These days, the most common method of capturing footage is through using digital cameras. These cameras are incredibly powerful and capture images up to 6k resolution (5760 x 3700), however upon first glance, the footage you initially get doesn’t look fantastic, but there’s a very important reason for that. Like shooting digitally, these cameras capture video in a RAW format. A director or DoP might choose to shoot raw to ensure that they’re getting the most flexible footage possible. Later on in post production, RAW formats allow the DoP & Colourist to match shots effortlessly, adjust white balance with amazing specificity, and to recover areas of the footage which might seem too bright or dark.
So until the footage gets processed, it typically looks something like this:
By capturing the scene in as flat of a colour profile as possible, you’re ensuring the camera is collecting the maximum amount of data possible, offering you tons of latitude later on. Sometimes, a LUT (or Look-Up-Table) will be applied to the footage temporarily on set as the flat footage can be tricky to see through if you’re not used to it. This allows the client or viewers to get a “glimpse” of what the final colour process might look like.
On larger productions such as movies or t.v shows, a colourist will usually be brought on to work with the DoP to grade the footage using a control panel specifically designed for colouring software. This control panel is large, expensive, and requires incredible skill and knowledge to operate, so the process is usually reserved for bigger projects. Smaller projects can be graded without the use of such systems, meaning you can achieve great quality and professional results by using your edit suite, or a free version of the Davinci Resolve software.
Almost everything you’ve ever seen on t.v, at a theatre, or even online has been through some sort of colour treatment, but when it’s done well, it doesn’t draw attention to itself. Colour will continue to become an increasingly important step in the production process as more and more footage is shot using digital cameras, and the technology inside of those cameras progresses. Taking the time to go through this important step with your project could make the difference between something great, and something spectacular.
And hopefully, if it’s done well, your audience won’t have any idea it’s been done at all.
The students were enthusiastic, engaged and above-all-else excited to produce video pieces and test out their movie-making mettle.
I gave a presentation that went through the top tips I’ve gleaned over the past 14-or-so years of producing content, sifting down my time in print, radio, broadcast and digital to highlight some of the pitfalls and best practices to follow when determining your digital content strategy. In this case, focusing on video as a delivery medium.
From the Twitter discussions afterward it seems the class enjoyed my chat – so I decided to reprint those tips here for either students who missed marking them down, or for you – dear reader, should you be interested to find out more about how Double Barrel does what we do – and how you can implement some of those strategies in your own communications.
Real artists ship.
This maxim, attributed to the late Steve Jobs, revolves around the notion that creation of great creative work depends upon the ability to overcome obstacles and come up with the best possible result. Ideally (in the context of video production) – a piece that will in some way emotionally resonate with your audience, given a limited amount of time.
Content creators can empathize with this quip. ‘Shipping’ (or in our world, ‘producing’) requires said producer to weigh messaging and artistry against obstacles to produce a piece of communication that will resonate with a wide & varied audience. Usually needed by, like, yesterday.
Last week I sat on a small panel of industry judges for McMaster University’s second annual 24-Hour Film Competition – a fantastic local event, held inside the Joey & Toby Tenenbaum Pavilion at the Art Gallery of Hamilton.
These competitions are a crash course in the ‘real artists ship’ mentality, as students race against the clock to develop their original stories into fully fledged short films in just 24 hours.
Sitting in the centre of the crowd at the jury table, I felt an immediate kinship with these students. Double Barrel evolves into a kind of 24-hour film crew on each production we undertake, paratrooping into storytelling situations and determining obstacles – developing the best way to get a client’s message across in a limited amount of time. In our world that’s usually about two months from script to screen, nowhere near the suffocating 24 hours of the festival.
Similarly, marketers, brand managers & professional communicators are consistently hit with this same challenge when trying to get their messaging across to a wide demographic. Especially via video.
The winner of this year’s McMaster 24 – the giddy, oddball short ‘What are you STAIRING at?’ quickly emerged as the best film of the night. Its creators – McMaster alums ‘Mobhouse Crew’ won over the jury due to their ability to incorporate the unique messaging (one line – “do you want some more of that? I don’t think so”) with locations and props required by the film fest (a chair and a set of keys) while still taking us, the viewer, on a full circle ride complete with understandable arc and well thought out ending.
The audience gave four minutes and forty-four seconds to the filmmakers, and they rewarded us with a cleverly scripted film complete with original musical score and tight ending.
So – what can marketers/brand managers and content creators learn from this mother-of-all meat grinder of creative production? Three things.
1. Determine your constraints and work within them.
As any 24-hour film fest-er will tell you, it all starts with the script. Getting real with your limitations and having fences around your ideas actually allows you to be free creatively once you’ve determined what they are.
Are you tight on locations? Budget? Actors? Does the video need to be a certain length? What does it need to get across and to whom? On what distribution platform? These are all constraints that will ultimately make your production that much better once you’ve figured them out. Make sure you’re clear and honest up front with the things you have to achieve (and the limitations you have) in order to make the production process smooth and satisfying for all involved.
2. Be laser-focused in your vision.
In the world of 24-hour film, there’s no time for distraction. Once you’ve determined constraints, go after your story. Full throttle. It’s easy to fall prey to fun and flashy, so stay true to a ‘Top 3 List’ of focus points and messages. If your finished piece doesn’t clearly communicate a message and have some sort of story arc that your audience can follow, it’s not going to get you on the podium.
3. Stick the landing.
This is the absolute without-a-doubt most difficult part of a piece, and also the most rewarding when it’s done well. This year’s winner “What Are You Stairing At” absolutely sold us with a perfect ending. I’ve heard that people only remember the last thing you’ve said, so keep that in mind and go into your production with a firm sense of what you want the ending to be and make sure everything else lines up.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Roz Allen is a partner and director at Hamilton’s Double Barrel Studios.