29 Apr 2019

Video Dissected

Video production is a rapidly growing sector. Those of us working in it have a duty to explain the complexity that goes into making a good marketing video. Our clients have a right to know where their hard earned cash is going.

And it’s not enough just to outline the stages that make up the video process. We have to give proper, jargon-free insight.

So what is it that goes into video production? What makes it a little bit more complex compared to other marketing collateral? And what makes it the most powerful marketing resource we have at our disposal?

Type

First we need to identify what kind of video we’re talking about here.

User generated content created on mobile and uploaded to a social media platform is a valid and ubiquitous way of producing video snippets.

This is a particular unmediated form of content and it works well for thousands of businesses.

But, as successful vloggers know, even a simple piece-to-camera is time consuming. From working up the subject matter, to the performance to the recording (and re-recording). To the top-and-tailing to the upload and dissemination.

It might seem like a freebie, but time spent on self-made video is a cost. And before you know it, the vlogging has turned into a team effort with mates helping out. Home produced video might morph into a professional influencer gig. Or it falls by the wayside – it’s a difficult creative medium to sustain alone.

The other type of video content I’ll examine here is professionally made video that comes in a few different categories. Many of these have developed in response to social-media delivery platforms. Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. As well as website videos for brand promotion or product demonstration.

These video formats are an amalgam of multiple creative disciplines that include filming, graphics and audio. All of which need organising and harnessing in realistic time-frames.

Strategy

Strategy underpins pretty much all meaningful marketing content. A business’ marketing strategy usually comprises of schedules, outputs, targets, measurements and budgets.

Video might well be one of the assets included in the outputs. And if it is, it needs some special considerations compared to other content. Like realistic budgets and longer lead-in times for completion.

Why?

Because tailored video content is a combination of many rather than a few resources. These include creativity, technical expertise and equipment, place, people, pictures and sound.

Ideas and Concepts

Concepts matter in strong, stand-out video content. Whether it is 20’ or 20 minutes in length, marketing video content means specifically edited packages with a narrative. Hopefully the video will be aesthetically pleasing as well as telling the story of brand, service or product.

Many marketing agencies have built their business on selling ideas to clients. This is their stock-in-trade; to design integrated creative campaigns and determine where to show the content.

In the last decade, digital has been the great disrupter in the usual agency fare of creating events, display, PR and TV advertising. And whilst – by default – agencies have transformed into digital marketers, they are not video specialists. This means the push and pull of who controls the creative in this area is contentious. Often at the expense of the client.

A video production company should be able to translate client briefs into creative video concepts. This initial process is about understanding the real aim of the brief. And ensuring the message the client wants to convey is packaged into an engaging story.

But when a campaign is truly integrated the effect can be momentous. The Red Bull Stratos event in 2012 was an advertising world first. But it would have been nothing without the accompanying live video footage. And the subsequent long-tail repackaging of the stunt for social media.

Preparation

After the concepts are complete, the video production process starts to veer away from the production trajectory of other marketing content. Assets such as illustration, photography and copy. These creative outputs are interdependent. And are very much the core instruments in a marketing agency’s orchestration of a brand campaign.

Like a piano soloist, the video sits to one side of the main performance following its own score.

And creating a video is a process.

It might be a creative enterprise. But nevertheless video production is a strictly delineated sequence of events that must proceed in order. This is because an edited video clip is made up of many different inputs. Visual, graphic and audio elements that interact along a timeline.

But it is this complexity that makes video more engaging for a content consumer than almost any other form of marketing (gaming aside).

There will always be a period of preparation at the beginning of the video process. This is in order to cope with the resourcing involved. It might range from simply sorting out the film equipment. To some serious days or months (for drama) of refining the brief, scripting, storyboarding, and amending the creative.

In most cases a director produces a creative template, which could be a script, storyboard or animatic, to translate the brief into video.

The storyboard is the most important document of the video process. It is the communication of ideas between the maker and the client (the budget holder), and is the director’s interpretation of the brief. It provides a vision of what the client will see when the video is delivered and manages expectations.

And since it determines how the rest of the production process unfolds, it also ensures efficiency in production.

Scheduling

It’s a curious thing, but scheduling seems to be the part of creative production that is least understood or simply ignored. It’s as if folk think the elements needed to undertake a shoot at a given time and locations happen by osmosis.

Actually, scheduling is hard graft.

It is the secret ingredient that synthesises all the skills required for making a video with the subject matter.

Lead-in times for video production are usually longer than other content production. This is because of the requirement to assemble the crew and film in a particular location.

The scheduler has to juggle so many different elements. This includes crew, interviewee, product and location availability. They are always reliant on co-ordination from within the client’s own team to make things happen.

Why is it important? Good scheduling saves time and money and helps to realise the storyboard. It means that a well-briefed crew will arrive at the right location with the right equipment to meet well-briefed participants.

Filming

Everyone loves a film day. It’s the most visible part of video production, when all the toys come out and the creative juices flow.

Some think the film day is the alpha and omega of video production. And that video clips arrive fully formed out the camera the moment the director calls a ‘wrap’. This is not true. Filming is the first part of the creative endeavour and the most expensive part of making a video. This is why good preparation helps reduce costs by minimising the amount of time a camera crew is needed.

Crews can vary in size from a one-man camera operator to a very large outfit of camera specialists. This can include DoPs, focus pullers, 360 operators, camera assistants. Not to mention aerial filming, lighting, sound, track and jib, costume, make-up, home economists, food stylists, actors, models, presenters and assistants of all sorts.

The expense lies in getting all the experts to location with their specialist equipment. And ensuring they understand their job. Then you can let them loose to sprinkle their creative fairy dust on the images and audio which will make up the final video.

A day on set with a film crew is the tip of a creative iceberg that has been long in formation. And although it’s a great show, it’s only part of making a video.

Post-Production

Post-production is a catch-all term for what happens to the filmed footage after the crew has gone home. This part of the process makes up the bulk of video or film production.

Unlike touching-up in photography, editing is integral to the video creative. It is where footage, however well filmed, becomes a story.

As with other content, whether photography, illustration or writing, the narrative is everything. But with video the narrative can only emerge through a complex process. Combining many or few shots. Playing with audio. Adding graphics. Inserting animation. Changing colour temperatures. Distorting the footage with timelapse or slo-mo. All of these can combine to serve the narrative.

This is the magic of our age: with video we play with time itself in an edit suite.

Very few clients sit in on an edit. They have no need, especially if the editor is working to an agreed storyboard. And editing is a mixture of technical and creative skills. Who wants to watch an artist at a work? What we want to see is the final piece of art, and if we’re paying for it, maybe to tweak it here and there.

Be under no illusion. The term ‘video’, which applies to the whole digital phenomenon of moving pictures, is not what comes out of an edit suite. The final edited amalgam is something other than a monolithic term for everything that is caught on camera.

A marketing video is a piece of crafted, scripted and refined content. Therein lies its value.

Delivery

The stuff we call video, whether it’s on TV, Instagram or YouTube, covers a vast range of styles. From shaky hand-held single shots filmed in portrait on mobile. To beautifully-crafted 4K documentaries.

One thing’s for certain. If it’s video marketing content you’re after, you need material that holds its own against other brand videos. And has the ability to cut through the noise of the 500 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute.

You can only achieve this by working smart with video producers who understand the anatomy of marketing video. Right down to its last digital digit.

By Nicky Robertson, Director