How much does a film cost?

Posted by Nick Francis
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Creating content costs less than it has ever done before. New technology has put the power of production studios in our mobile phones. We are all savvier than ever about how a film goes together. You have everything you need to create and share content right now. Even for professionally produced content these advances have fed a drastic reduction in the time and cost of creating a like-for-like piece of work over the last decade or so.

That having been said, in order to ‘cut through’ to our audience online we should be sharing more content than we ever have before – so it’s just as well it’s cheaper. Because of this there has been a significant move towards getting as much mileage as possible out of all the content that we create. ‘Content atomisation’ – taking the central piece of content and then reediting and repurposing it to maximise the mileage. The cost of each output has fallen, even if the cost of the overall project is often the same.

How much does a film cost?

This is one of the most common questions people ask. There are a few different ways of answering it but to save beating around the bush, the simplest answer is that an average Casual Films project for the financial year to 2019 was $18k in the US and £15k in the UK/EU.

The key word there though is project, as often these can entail a number of different outputs and reedits. More usually we will create a series of films that cost more in the $/£60k -100k region. Some projects extend into the hundreds of thousands, but these tend to be many outputs in one.

What’s the reason for the average film value?

Because at around $18k/£15k we begin to be able to add significant value to the project with our proprietary production process. Our pricing is defined by the amount of time that it takes to create each project. Different roles in the process cost differing amounts depending on their experience, expertise and impact on the project. At this budgetary level there is enough budget for two or three days of creative - to get a great idea - some producer time to make it all happen, a day or two to shoot it and then editing, sound design and some animation if necessary. They will be able to create something fairly sparkly, as long as they don't need to work around too many fixed costs - travel, talent, specialist equipment.

What’s the cheapest film we can make?

The lowest that we tend to start a project is around $/£8k, although if we have an existing relationship then we can and do go a little lower. We tend to not compete for projects at the really low end because there are lots of smaller producers and freelancers out there who do a decent job at this level. We’re not able to add the same value we are when the projects have a little room for a bit more creative thought and sparkle.

As a rule, if this is your first question we’re probably not the right company for you. We compete on being able to create things happen for your business with video – optimising for return on investment rather than being as cheap as possible.

Can you work to my budget?

The process of filmmaking is creative, so the budget becomes an additional constraint that the creative thinking needs to work around – like the timeframe, branding or specific messaging. Because of this, it can be extremely flexible – it’s possible to fulfil the same objectives for significantly different investment levels. On the other hand, quality, in-depth thinking and delivery take time, and time costs money. If you need to shoot in a number of different locations or include significant amounts of complex animation these are hard costs which are challenging to work around.

Promoting your content

For years, there has been a disconnect between where marketing money gets spent and where the real potential lies. In studies, researchers have found that the quality of creative messaging is responsible for up to 75% of a campaign’s success. In spite of this, as much as 90% of the overall spend is often still focused on the media budget.

"75% of a campaign’s effectiveness is defined by the quality of the creative messaging"

- Google

Traditional television marketing became so successful largely because of how strong the metrics that were available to support it were. One of the major challenges that online content has faced over the years is the challenge of showing direct causation between money spent and the return on that investment.

But this isn’t necessarily about spending more money on marketing than you already are. Creating and executing a comprehensive and effective content strategy can be about redistributing the money you’re already investing. Why, for example, are you spending hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars on the production of TV commercials when the vast majority of your audience watch them for the first time as a small image on their Facebook feed, momentarily pausing before scrolling onwards, and paying very little attention to them?


We'd love to talk to you about this or anything in the production process. Drop us a line or send us an email: projects@casualfilms.com to book a call back with one of our producers.

Topics: Production process, Being a better commissioner, How-to, Project management

Using Data to Inform Your Content

Posted by Nick Francis
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“The biggest difference between Don Draper and now is data.”
– Keith Weed, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, Unilever


Not long ago, to get any kind of information on a target market, marketers needed to send out surveys or run focus groups. This made the process extremely heavy. For example, the census that the US government runs every 10 years takes several years to compile. This means that all the information it contains is out of date before anyone gets their hands on the latest copy. This has all changed now that the number of smart devices in circulation has exploded. We track how many steps we take, the places we visit and web searches effortlessly. There is also a huge amount of data accessible to video marketers. We can use this to create content that we know your target audience will want to engage with. This makes the understanding and use of data an extremely important tool for video marketers.

Netflix, House of Cards and Big Data

Netflix shows just how far companies can go when using data to inform the types of content it shares. Its flagship series, House of Cards, is a massive hit with its subscribers, with 86% saying that they were less likely to cancel their subscription because of the show, according to a survey by Cowan and Company. Back in 2011, the company took the massive step of commissioning two series of the show in one go, 26 episodes, for over US$100 million – US$3.8 million an episode, without seeing a single one!

  • Is that bravery or foolhardiness? It was actually a careful calculation based on big data. Before making the decision, it knew a number of key relevant facts about its users:
    A significant number of users had watched the whole of the David Fincher directed movie The Social Network.
  • The original British version of House of Cards had been well watched.
  • People who watched the British version of House of Cards also
    watched Kevin Spacey films and/or films directed by David Fincher.

This allowed it to make a judgement call that the new series was worth its investment. Having this information also allows it to target users with other content that they might like. It’s also able to see who is at risk of giving up their subscription by seeing how much they have been using it over the past month.

Why does this matter to you?

Obviously, Netflix is in a strong position as it’s able to directly track how its subscribers access its services on a person-by-person basis. There are ways that you can use data without having quite such an in-depth view, though. For example, A/B testing a number of different creative treatments/video names/thumbnail images before choosing the one that resonates most successfully with our audience is a form of data optimisation we should all be doing.

Beyond this, you can see in greater depth than you might at first glance. You have access to a surprising amount of data if you choose to. Many of the clients I’ve worked with in the past haven’t been able to make the most of the data they could be collecting. This is usually because of concerns around hosting and data security. There are some very powerful platforms that can host video securely, giving access to in-depth information, but it requires the clients making a choice to utilise them. This has been an argument that we’ve lost more often than not.

Given this fact and the natural limitations that you’ll have when you first start using data, it’s important that you don’t give up on the experience and intuition of your team/suppliers. Data can provide a grounding for decisions, but it’s important that you weigh the information up and make a rational choice based on what you have. Data can give you the insight that will help you to optimise your product and improve your value proposition. You just need to look at what you have access to and how this can help you.

Challenges to Data

The quality of the decisions you’re able to make as a result of a piece of data is only ever going to be as good or reliable as the underlying data itself. Because of this, you need make sure that you can trust all of the data that you include. As we’ll see, the seemingly unstoppable rise of data has, to an extent, been checked by a number of setbacks.

There are a few shortcomings of the data-led approach, which mean that those nice luvvies in the creative department shouldn’t be sweating too much just yet. Firstly, while all that data can undoubtedly be used to improve the background understanding that informs a creative idea, the information still needs human creative thought to establish the idea itself. Secondly, by becoming too data-centric, there is a danger that you end up travelling down a creative rabbit hole, only ever producing variations on the same work you’ve done in the past, because that’s where your best/safest dataset is. Finally, you need to be certain that the data is telling you what you think it is. For example, the most commonly tracked video data is views and engagements – shares, likes and comments. While it might be good for your self-esteem to know that your video has had over 1 million views since you shared it, it’s not going to help with your strategy if all of those people are either bots or from the wrong target group. The more trustworthy detail that you can get, the more useful data will be as a tool.

Oath Storytellers and Chevrolet - Case study

As the number of data points available to content commissioners increases, they are able to use the data points to make ever-more-insightful observations about the types of content you should be producing for a given audience. This is particularly true for businesses – such as publishers (The Wall Street Journal, Condé Nast, CNN, etc.) – that have built up a wealth of data from the past work that they have shared.

Take Oath – formerly Yahoo! – for example. It has over a billion monthly users. Each of those users’ actions is tracked, which builds up a picture of their online habits. Oath suggests that it receives and records 4 trillion data signals per month. This breadth of information allows it to judge what will and won’t be successful for certain demographics.

Going There Anna GasteyerOath for Chrysler - Going There with Anna Gasteyer

For example, Oath’s content studio was commissioned to produce a series to promote family cars for Chrysler. From its data, it was able to tell that, of its users who were in the market for a family car, 51% were female, 73% were married and 70% had children. It also knew that millennial parents/ expecting parents using Oath were 46% more likely to agree that they like the same products that celebrities use. It also knew that comedy was their favourite genre. Through all of this information, it was able to understand the type of content that would work best for the target audience, and create a series of comedy in-car interviews called Going There with Anna Gasteyer. Supporting this, it had a digital site with a variety of supporting content aimed at enticing mums, based on the search terms it knew they used. This led to increases in the click-through rate (+33%), purchase intent (+6%) and brand trust (+5%) among the target audience.


One really useful use of data is in understanding what the best lengths for video are online. We pulled together the best information into a white paper to help you maximise the impact of your work. You can download it right here.

 

Topics: Production process, Being a better commissioner, How-to, Content Strategy

Producer Felicia's Dos and Don'ts of filming in the extreme cold

Posted by Nick Francis
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Time, tide and shooting schedules wait for no man nor woman nor icy blasts. So said no-one. Ever.

With this in mind, this week Felicia and some of the team travelled to an absolutely freezing (-23ºF/-35ºC) Chicago. As every day is a school day at Casual Films - and because you never know when such things might be helpful - here we share some of the dos and don'ts of shooting in the Arctic winter.

Do work with a top notch crew. The more things you can depend on the better. Particularly when the hotel door lets you down too...

9076deee-10c4-45ea-b64b-15c0dfbc0c41-2

Don't trust that your flight will get you to Chicago during a Polar Vortex. Felicia had 2 tickets booked on 2 separate airlines, just in case.

Do have a safety briefing before the crew starts for the day. Crew safety above all else.

Don't panic when the - decidedly not top notch - snow removal guy quits at 5 am on the morning of the shoot.

Do hire a different snow remover guy who was better, friendlier and cheaper than the original guy was any way.

Don't tell your mom where you are or what you're doing because she will worry and ask you to text her every night when you're back at the hotel (true story).

Do make sure you keep hands, ears and batteries warm before use. Cold drastically reduces their operating time, particularly the batteries.

WhatsApp Image 2019-01-31 at 15.40.08Do hire as many powerful lights as possible in an attempt to make it look and feel sunny inside.

Don't touch bare metal without gloves on - you've seen Dumb and Dumber right?

Do check the minimal operational temperature of the equipment you're using, realise you're well below what it's supposed to be able to handle and embrace the fact there is only so much you can do when it comes to outsmarting Mother Nature.

She will always always win. But you might just get what you need from your shoot before she does.


If you're unsure about how to light and film a house in the freezing cold of the Northern Arctic winter, or a street near you, you can book a call with an excellent producer, like our very own Felicia, by clicking right here.

Topics: Production process, Being a better commissioner, How-to

Why is video such a powerful communications tool?

Posted by Nick Francis
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 "Of all the arts, the most important for us is the cinema"

- Vladimir Lenin

The leaders of the Russian Revolution were fascinated with the power of film as a propaganda and educational tool for a largely illiterate population. The reason for this was the medium’s ability to inspire emotion among groups of people.

Eisenstein
Sergei Eisenstein, 1925 – genius filmmaker of the Russian Revolution
One hundred years on, film/video remains the most potent tool available for generating emotion in a dispersed audience. It’s the ability to move us that makes good cinema completely spellbinding, and why, historically, TV advertising has been so lucrative. We are moved because we empathise directly with what happens to the characters on screen.
 
Storytelling is an essential tool in any corporate communicator’s arsenal. It’s when it’s combined with the natural properties of film that it becomes the most powerful communication tool available to humanity. This is because video is most effective when used to portray human emotion.
 

Empathy

ˈɛmpəθi/

noun

“The ability to understand and share the feelings of another.”

Empathy is a key evolutionary skill. It’s fundamental to our ability to form cohesive social groups. It allowed our forebears to benefit from not having to fight sabre-toothed tigers literally alone. It allows us the same benefit, metaphorically speaking. When we see or hear about people experiencing specific emotions, we’ve evolved to feel those same emotions. For example, if we see someone who’s suffering from the cold, we feel a little of that suffering. This makes us more likely to offer a jacket, blanket or space by the fire. These emotions assist the survival of the species, and are part of our intrinsic need to seek out experiences, understanding and companionship. These are fundamental elements in what makes us human.

The mechanics behind empathy have long baffled neuroscientists. To begin with, it was assumed that the emotion was as a result of a logical, mental interpretation in order to predict other people’s actions. Then, in the early 1990s, Italian researchers studying the brains of macaque monkeys made a breakthrough. They discovered that the same area of the brain lights up in monkeys that are just watching their fellow monkeys reaching for food as in those who are doing the reaching.

Casual FIlms BrainThis led to the discovery in the brain of what are called ‘mirror cells’. This profoundly changed our understanding of neurochemistry. These cells allow us to understand other people’s actions, not by thinking through what they are doing but by directly feeling the emotion that they are feeling. When you see someone frown, for example, your frowning mirror neurones fire up too, creating the sensation in your own mind that you associate with frowning. You don’t have to experience what the other person is experiencing to make them frown; you feel the emotion directly and effortlessly.

Professor Talma Hendler, a neuroscientist at Tel Aviv University in Israel, studied brain scans in order to understand the chemical basis for empathy. She found there are two types of empathy at work, which are illustrated by where they occur in the brain. The first and more advanced type is what she calls ‘mental empathy’. This requires the viewers to think outside themselves – to mentally put themselves in the other person’s shoes – and think about what they may be experiencing. The second is called ‘embodied empathy’. This is a more intuitive and primal empathy, which you might experience when watching someone get hurt.

natalie-portman cropNatalie Portman in Black Swan

As part of her studies, Prof. Hendler showed Aron Aronofsky’s film Black Swan to a number of subjects, while monitoring their brain activity. I watched this intense psychological thriller on a very bumpy flight in what was the most potently dramatic cinema experience of my entire life - but that's another story. As Natalie Portman’s character experiences hallucinations at the depths of her psychosis, the audience develops – temporarily – the same brain chemistry as a genuine schizophrenia sufferer. Watching a film of someone with a psychological illness effectively gives the audience the symptoms of a psychological illness.

This makes film an invaluable tool for marketers. What better way of illustrating the refreshing nature of your beer than by transporting your audience to a hot desert and then showing some bottles sticking out of an ice bucket, complete with condensation? The advertisers are generating the perception of genuine thirst and potential refreshment for the audience. This fact explains the continued value of video as a tool to persuade and influence.

“They may forget what you said – but they will never forget how you made them feel.”

– Carl W. Buehner
 

Breast Cancer Now - Chantelle  

This power is illustrated in full gut-punching style in this film for Breast Cancer Now. Watching this it is impossible not to feel some of the pain and anguish of Chantelle and her family. It is impossible because we are biologically designed to feel these emotions. Through the skilful use of film we can construct an experience for the viewer which pulls their emotions in different ways. Think of the terror of the beach scene in Saving Private Ryan, the romance of Lady and the Tramp, the fear of Jaws. All effective video communications rely on this attribute, even information heavy corporate comms should have a dash of emotion. If there isn't room for a bit of human emotion in your comms, you shouldn't be using video as the medium. That said, communications without emotion are not worth communicating as no one will remember them, because emotion is essential to forming memories.
 

Roche: LeanSixSigma - no matter the subject, animation is a great way of communicating information as it allows the addition of character and emotion effortlessly.

Anthropomorphic empathy

A strange quirk of this empathy is that we have a tendency to project emotions, motives and thoughts onto the characters that we’re watching. It doesn’t even need to be a real person in order to elicit this effect. To empathise with a character, we just need to be able to attribute what we perceive as human emotions and objectives to them. Once this has taken place, we immediately and unconsciously decide whether we a) like them, and b) can trust them. It’s this quirk that allows animation to work.

Whether we’re looking at a duck, a ball or a collection of pencil lines on the screen that make up a drawn character, the effect is the same. We do find it easier if the item has a semblance of a face. The more like us the characters are, the easier we find it to empathise with them. The concept and ridiculousness of this is brilliantly illustrated in Spike Jonze’s lamp ad.

Spike Jonze, The Lamp for Ikea

There are other things that a filmmaker can do to increase the amount we empathise with a subject. For example, we’re also programmed to empathise more with children or those with childlike characteristics. Characters that are small, have big eyes or have a cuddliness to them (i.e. that are cute) are more easily relatable. We feel more is at stake in their survival and so care more about their concerns. This is our base programming at work – human genes working to secure their own survival. Music also has the effect of increasing the level of empathy with characters that viewers feel, because it adds to the illusion of their own vitality and personality.


Whatever you are trying to achieve with your video project, it really helps to start off on the right foot. You can make sure you do this by taking a quick look at our handy guide to writing effective briefs. You can download it here:

DOWNLOAD BETTER BRIEFS

 

Topics: Production process, Being a better commissioner

What are the roles in video production?

Posted by Nick Francis
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There are a number of different people/roles involved in the production process. We’ve included this brief list so that you can keep up with whom is responsible for what. Each company may work in a slightly different way, but the responsibilities are more or less the same. Nearlyall of these functions are needed on every production – even if they are all performed by the same person. Larger budgets allow for more time, and more time allows for more people.

Just producingA producer, just y'know producin'

Preproduction

Creative/scriptwriter

The creative comes up with the main idea (or ideas) and then creates the initial proposal document, which will help you understand exactly what you’re getting. This may include the mood board (a collection of images that give an idea of what the project will look like), the storyboard (a shot by shot – usually drawn – illustration of the structure of the video) and any additional references that might be necessary.

He/she also writes and refines the script.

Producer

The producer is the organiser. He/she is responsible for bringing together all of the elements required for the production. He/she is the lynchpin 

in that they are responsible for making sure that the film is delivered on brief, on budget and on time. As part of this, he/she will pull together the project costing and schedule, which will be added into the initial proposal document at the outset of the project. He/she will also be responsible for all the bookings for the project, from crew, equipment and onscreen talent to travel. He/she is usually the main point of contact for the client throughout the process.

Production

Director

The director is responsible for the artistic vision of the project. He/she works with the script and the producer to plan the execution of the shoot. On set, he/she will have a clear idea of what he/she wants the finished film to look like, and will coral the rest of the team to achieve this. The days of the ‘auteur’ film director – one who will happily trample over anyone to achieve, with a distinctive, unshakeable vision – are happily behind us. Most good directors now – in particular, those in the fast-moving world of brand films – are able to think on their feet, lead a team and use an in-depth understanding of their craft to adapt to the world around them.

A director directingA director, watching a live-feed from the camera to make sure all is in order. Well, that or Netflix.

Director of photography (DoP) / cinematographer

The DoP is responsible for the camera / camera team and the way each shot looks. This means that he/she will often operate the camera (shoot the film) and do the lighting on set. Usually, having a separate DoP is reserved for larger productions.

Self-shooting director

Casual Films self-shooting director

As technology has become easier to use and budgets have shrunk, it has become more common for a director to play the role of the DoP at the same time. This leads to them being referred to as a self-shooting director. Self shooting directors now tend to shoot the majority of online videos.

Camera assistant / focus puller

The camera assistant is responsible for looking after the camera and lenses. He/she is also responsible for marking distances and keeping the shot in focus. (Only used with more high-end or DSLR cameras.)

Focus puller, DoP, Dolly GripA panoply of roles! In L-R order - camera assistant/focus puller, DoP and dolly grip who is responsible for operating the dolly, which is what the trolley the car sits on is called.

Sound recordist

Erm, they record the sound. They can make all the difference to a production that has been shot in a noisy location. He/she is most likely to say, “Can someone turn that air conditioning off?”, and is least likely to say, “Don’t worry, we can get rid of that police siren in post.”

First assistant director (AD)

The first AD is responsible for helping the director to achieve his/her vision. He/she is the one who keeps the production running to time and makes sure that everything is in the right place at the right time. When used, he/ she is the director’s mouthpiece on set. (Only used on larger productions.)

Gaffer

He/she is responsible for the crew who set and move all of the lighting. If there isn't additional crew present, they will roll their sleeves up and move the lighting themselves. (Only used on larger productions.)

Grip

He/she is responsible for mounting, positioning and moving the camera the camera (if equipment is being used). (Only used on larger productions.)

Grip workSome classic grip work

Spark

The electrician. Lots of production lighting requires huge amounts of power. To keep things working/safe, it’s necessary to have a professional spark.

Postproduction

Editor

The editor is responsible for ‘finding the film’. They watch all of the shots, and then select the ones that he/she feels best tell the story that was outlined and agreed on in the preproduction stage. He/she will also have a significant hand in the impact of the finished film. It’s amazing how important the editor is to the quality of the final film. Often, a poorly edited film can terrify on first viewing, only to be completely turned around once someone who knows what they are doing has taken the reins. 

36520007Dan, an editor in his natural environment

Animator / motion graphic artist

Animators bring 2D illustrations, 3D models and inanimate objects to life. He/she is skilled at imbuing inanimate objects with the movement required to generate emotional connections with the audience. He/she may also be responsible for creating the design and storyboards for the animations.

 

Paper animatingRaych doing a little table top animation

Dubbing mixer / sound engineer

The dubbing mixer / soundie sorts out all of the audio levels in the final video, and adds any sound effects and audio flourishes. These play the important role of tying the audio and video together. The sound engineer will also make sure that the music that has been chosen fits to the edit/ animation perfectly.

Colourist / colour grader

The colourist is responsible for the look of the finished film. Sometimes different shots might look different because of different lighting/colouring during the production – he/she can iron this out. He/she may also stylise the film, which is changing the way the video looks by increasing the contrast between colours or changing the colour saturation (a bit like adding filters on Instagram). While colourists used to work only on larger productions, consumer-accessible grading programs are making this step integral to nearly every production.


We hope that helps. Whatever you are working with all these fine people, it's worth starting out right. You can make sure that you do this, by downloading our guide to writing a briefing document right here:

DOWNLOAD BETTER BRIEFS

Topics: Production process, Being a better commissioner, How-to

How can corporates use video?

Posted by Nick Francis
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One of the major challenges we had when we started Casual was that video can be used for such a wide range of things. Before we realised the importance of focus, we would answer the question “So, what can you make films about?” with the pretty useless “Almost anything”. Over time, we learned to be a bit more specific, and, in the last 12 years, we have made films that bring the whole of the employee lifestyle to life, from initial awareness, through recruitment, and on to ongoing engagement, and learning and development. We’ve even made films that retain and build a network of alumni for those who’ve moved on. We’ve made product promotions, adverts, discount films, branded content and conference openers. Some of these with actors and others with online influencers, with helicopters, drones and bodycams.

Casual Films Different ways of using video

Casual has made over 8,000 different films for almost everything a company could want a film for. It’s really important to understand that film or moving images can enhance any message you might have to share. Video is a great way of weaving emotion into selected facts. This increases their impact, memorability and the chance that people will act on them. Let’s look at some of the ways that video has been used by corporate communicators.

We use the following classifications at Casual to separate all the different things that our clients have used our work for in the past. This is not exhaustive, but it does give a picture of the breadth of uses. Some of these are quite similar – or even overlap – and rely on similar attributes of video for their effectiveness.

Boost sales 

“Shoppers who view video are 1.81X more likely to purchase than non-viewers.”

– Adobe

The most common films made by companies, which we see in our day-to-day lives, are those designed to sell things. From the dawn of TV, advertisers have been promoting their wares, using every trick in the filmmaker’s book to introduce, promote and explain their products. Films that are able to do this remain the kings of corporate films. From the time in the 1940s and 1950s in which advertisers were able to show that there is a direct line of correlation between the amount spent and sales increases; the budgets for these short films have grown, in some cases to become eye-watering. The annual colosseum of televisual advertising – the US Super Bowl – boasts vast audiences, and hence has a cost of around US$2 million for a 30-second advertising spot. Each year, companies compete to outdo one another and be recognised as having the best commercials of the night.

 

 

Promoting sales with animation: Greater Anglia Railways

At the other end of the spectrum, the prevalence of regional TV and now the spread of the Internet have made this type of marketing accessible to any business that wants to use it. There are a wide range of approaches available, from the relatively indirect to the focused sales activation described previously.

Encourage donations/funding

The emotive power of video makes it an excellent tool for pulling on the audience’s heartstrings, and getting them to part with their money or time. I’m sure you are aware of the way that charities have used videos since the 1980s. These can also extend to Kickstarter and crowdfunding campaigns. Video’s ability to simplify a message into a really compelling minute or so makes it excellent for this.

Introduce a business

As with encouraging funding, the ability to compress time and turn a ‘who we are’ PowerPoint presentation into a punchy 60-second promotion with music and branded graphics/colours makes video a useful tool to clarify exactly what your business does. The majority of websites that we have audited – over 1,000 thus far – are not using video on their homepage.11 They rely on the visitor being able to grasp what the business does in the few brief seconds before they click elsewhere. It is a truism that people/businesses tend to market to themselves. As such, there is always far too much assumed knowledge, which makes websites impenetrable.

A video is a great way of capturing attention and explaining, in an accessible format, what the visitor should be looking for. This is why having a video on your homepage can improve click-through rates by up to 80%. This video can also be used in presentations, pitches, reception areas and for new joiners/potential recruits – anywhere you might want people to quickly understand, through compelling media, who you are and what you do.

Promote a product or service through explanation 

“4x as many customers would rather watch a video about a product than read about it.”

– Animoto

Explaining succinctly what a product or service is or does is another effective use of video. Once again, most businesses communicating anything assume too much background knowledge. In this instance, video can break down exactly what the product is and does, and build trust and understanding in an accessible package. This may be through an animation, which is effective when used to illustrate complex messaging, because of the ability to ‘show and tell’ at the same time as using accessible metaphors.

Another effective way to promote a service is through interview-led videos with experts, clients or users. These increase the audience’s trust in the product by borrowing from the featured subject’s standing: their expertise or experience. Interview-led films or ‘talking heads’ are useful because they are pretty much the cheapest videos to produce, and we find human faces innately intriguing.

Get people excited

The moving nature of video makes it a great tool for exciting an audience about something. Admittedly, this could be an extension of promoting a product or service. However, it is distinct in that the method is less based on relaying information and explaining, and more focused on generating a positive emotion in the audience. One way of looking at it might be to say that explainer films engage the logical left side of the brain, while a film to get people excited targets the feeling, creative right side. These usually employ a stirring script and a voiceover with powerful music to do this. Both of these types of film, explainer and exciter, aim for the same outcome, though – getting the audience more engaged.

Increase brand awareness / tell a story

In reality, all the video content that companies share has the effect of building (or, unfortunately, sometimes damaging) their brand. Some videos are made specifically for this purpose, though. They may aim to align the business with a cause that matters to their target audience, or reflect on someone or something that they’re interested in. It may extend to them wanting to share a story related to the company – the history or something that has inspired them.

 

 

Increasing brand awareness: Glenmorangie - the Evolution of Craft

Attract the best candidates

Video is an excellent way to illustrate relatively intangible things, such as a company’s culture. Most people looking for a role at a new company will research what the job is about, beyond what is included in the job description. Video is a great way of sharing some of the things that make your company special.

Casual Films SGOSS Recruit and Engage

Illustrating your culture: SGOSS - Become a Governor

In the hypercompetitive job market one of the best areas for businesses to compete in is through an engaging, motivating and, crucially, well-communicated culture. Video can be invaluable in helping to build that culture, through communicating what the concept of the brand means. This is where video can be invaluable – it allows you to communicate with your potential (and current) staff on an emotional level. One point to note is that, in the age of resources such as Glassdoor (which allows employees to rate employers for all to see), it is important that the offer and reality align. Recruitment videos are split into two categories: employer/employee value-proposition brand films and profile/day-in-the-life films.  

Videos to promote and clarify a company’s diversity and inclusion policies should be included here too.

Train my colleagues

Another type of internal communication that uses video is learning and development. The zero cost of distribution, and the ability to make changes and amendments to videos on an ongoing basis makes them useful for sharing information and training across a large organisation. Animation works well for information, and interactive video is good for training, because it allows viewers to choose responses and outcomes. The functionality of interactive video also allows for scorekeeping and sharing, which is a useful way of injecting a little competition into the learning process. Beyond that, simply being able to show videos and then have people discuss them helps to increase the effectiveness of the learning.

Change behaviour

The external equivalent of internal training, making films to inform and change behaviour, is nearly as old as film itself; for example, the public information films that were used to keep the population up to speed in the first half of the 20th century. The modern equivalents are usually produced by governments or charities.

Start a discussion/conversation 

Video removes any unnecessary information and pauses. This condenses the amount of time it takes to share different viewpoints in an argument, which makes it useful for setting up a discussion. Such videos are usually played at the beginning of an online/offline discussion, or to change to another subject.

Recording an event

The quality of an event film is, understandably, usually tied to the quality of the event itself. It is a useful way of encapsulating what happened, what was discussed or featured, and who was there. With some appropriate music and a dynamic edit, the video becomes a useful tool for promoting forthcoming events too.

But not everything – emotion vs information

All this having been said, there are some things that video is not great at. Emotion and information exist in a balance in all films. Too much focus on emotion – with practically no information – and the film can feel superficial and lacking in substance (think of most fashion ads). Too much information and not enough emotion, and the film will be dry, difficult to follow and impenetrable (some corporate reports embody this pitfall).

They should be like yin and yang. In every informative film you should have a bit of emotion, and in every emotive film you should have a bit of information (even if that is a basic narrative structure). Because of this, if you have lots and lots of information to get across, video might not be the best way to do it. You will probably find it more effective to create a PDF document, use video to outline a few salient points and promote reading the PDF through a shorter, more engaging film.


Whatever you're making a film to do, it really helps to be clear on what you are trying to achieve from the outset. We pulled together some top tips on how to get your thoughts aligned before you pick up the phone. Following the ideas in this document is the most significant step that you can take to maximise the effectiveness of your project spend. Check it out here:

DOWNLOAD BETTER BRIEFS

 

Topics: Attract and retain the best candidates, Train and develop staff, Explain or promote products and services, Increase brand awareness and appeal, Boost sales and encourage donations, Production process, Being a better commissioner

The Video-Production Process / How to Make a Film

Posted by Nick Francis
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Most people have got an idea of the different steps that go into the production of a video. Here, we thought we'd take a moment to outline each of the different steps so that you can see how it all fits together. Of course, the way different companies, producers teams make films might be slightly different. The general principles explained below should ring true though.


We made a film about this many many moons ago. Lots of the Casuallers featured in this video have moved on to new pastures. Those of us who have remained are slightly greyer, slightly wrinklier and less annoyingly youthful (ish), but it still gives a good grounding in the process:


So how does it work?

Simply put, we need to think about what we’re going to produce, organise it, produce/create it and then share it. This means that productions break down into the following four stages:

1. Preproduction

2. Production

3. Postproduction

4. Delivery


Preproduction

This is where we do all the work to understand what the right thing to create is. This pre-creative/brief-writing stage is arguably the most important in the whole process. This is often not given enough time in the desire to get on with the hands-on project. Needless to say, clear insight gained here is far cheaper to put into action than that gained when the film is finished and delivered. It is remarkable how many times I have made films with global brands, only to reach the end of the process and have someone who wasn’t consulted early enough ask, “Why are we making this, anyway?”

Want a little help creating effective briefs? You can download it right here.

Once we have this, we can start to think about how you are going to achieve all those objectives. This is known as creative or scripting. Creative tends to go through a number of iterations, until everyone is happy with it.

Once we have an agreed creative idea, we can start to organise all the things that are required to accomplish it. This will include an outline of the different actors/interviewees, props and locations. Making a film is very similar to organising an event. The event of physically making the film is called production.

Production

The hands-on production of the film is usually relatively short compared to the rest of the project. It is also often the most expensive stage in the project. This is because we can have lots of people in the same place at the same time. As we covered earlier in the book, the cost of the production phase has come down drastically since the days of scores of crew being required to get a decent-looking result. Today, a single self-shooting director/filmmaker can achieve a surprisingly high-quality output. That said, there are still elements that can add to the cost of the project. These include a large number of actors/extras, shooting in locations that require travel/accommodation for the team, and specialist production elements such as drones, underwater cameras and cranes.

Postproduction

Once it’s all been shot – ‘in the can’, if you like – the film then goes into the edit. An editor goes through all the material that was gathered during the production phase and selects the best moments from what could amount to hours of material. Many purists argue that this is true filmmaking, as it’s where the film is actually made.

The first step is to get to an initial assembly cut. This is made up of all the best shots, which are pulled into a basic running order. This is also called a rough cut. The film now goes through a series of back-and-forths between the editor/producer and the various project stakeholders. If the editor is ‘chunking’ (splitting) the video for a number of different edits to be shared on social channels, he/she will tend to work on one main output, to get that right before moving on to the other cuts. This allows the editor to familiarise himself/herself with the footage, and to establish a style that the stakeholders are happy with.

Felicia Producing Casual Films


Three films?

It is said that, in the process of making a film, the creators actually produce three: there is the film that was initially conceived in the creative phase, the film that they believed they shot during production and then the film that is actually there once the editor has finished his/her work. Needless to say, it is the third film that remains to be shared and known by the world beyond the production team. This trope underlines an important aspect of filmmaking: be clear on what you are trying to achieve, but be prepared to incorporate positive additions as they occur. It is almost impossible to plan for every single eventuality that might befall the production. The best work comes from taking the events that occur – a beautiful sunset, a perfectly timed bird flying through the shot or an accidental nudge of an edit that just works – and being ready to integrate them.


Finishing

Once the project sponsor is happy with the edit, it is sent for a few final tweaks. At this stage, the titles, graphics and any final visual flourishes are added to the film. The picture is then considered to be ‘locked’. This means that no one can make any more changes to the project’s visuals.

Then, the edit is colour graded. This step tweaks and stylises the colours to make sure that they are all uniform and stylistically fit the story. For example, adding a blue hue to scenes filmed at night.

Sound design

The film is then sent to have the audio finished off. This includes having any sound effects and composed music added. Then, the sound designer tweaks all the levels of the audio to make sure that the volume is consistent, the dialogue is audible and it all sounds right. With modern content becoming as disposable as it has, this may not happen on every production. In that case, it comes down to the editor to give the film a once-over to make sure it is all good instead.

Delivery

We now have the finished output/outputs, but the whole process has been for nothing if the target audience don’t get to see it/them. This is where the delivery method comes in. There are many, many different ways of getting your content seen, from Facebook banners to bus-mounted video screens. What is really worth doing, though, is including the distribution method in the briefing phase. This allows the production to be tailored to make the most of the displays that the outputs will be shown on or the different ways that people view each platform.

Topics: Production process, Being a better commissioner, How-to

The simple secret to being more successful in almost everything you do...

Posted by Nick Francis
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There is one lesson in productivity that is so incredibly valuable, it's amazing it isn't taught to anyone working in any business on day one. For day one lessons it's up there with the location of the loos or whether the cookies in the cupboard are Scary Pete's personal stash or not. It's benefit has the potential to be far more lasting... 

justyn-warner-551353-unsplash-1

So what is it?

It comes from Steven Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. It is that you should:

“Begin with the end in mind.”

It’s in extremely valuable idea and it works with almost everything. From meetings to wedding planning to project management. Taking a moment to think about what you are trying to achieve before you begin a process is an extremely useful and valuable thing to do. It means you know exactly where you’re heading before you start towards it.

Why are we mentioning it here? Because it’s surprising how useful an exercise it is for video commissioners. Why are you creating or commissioning a project? What are the goals and how will you accomplish them? What specific, measurable, achievable realistic and time framed action or response are you looking to generate with your project. We know that’s ‘SMART’ goal setting, which we will cover here soon. The point here though is that you need to consider exactly what you want to achieve – what success looks like - before you even start. I know this may seem a bit obvious, but you would be amazed at how many people get blinded by the idea of ‘wanting a video’ without thinking about exactly what they want the video to do. We’ve worked on a few projects where we get very close to the end of the process, and a senior client representative says, “Hang on a second, why are we doing this?”

You need to be completely clear on your reasoning. Clarity of focus and purpose is what defines effective corporate content. It is too easy to start before taking the time to agree among the stakeholders what the video / video project will be used for.

Resist the temptation here to seek consensus among stakeholders by including too many disparate goals. Many people will use the fact that you are creating a video to include other messaging. Bear in mind that everything included in the final output that doesn’t specifically work to achieve the goal you set out will detract from its effectiveness. This may sound overly severe – of course films can be about more than one thing. You need to stop your film’s effectiveness from being watered down by including too many messages.

This is why the briefing stage is so important. It takes time, skill and discipline to agree on and write a really good, clear brief. This can be an extremely valuable experience, as it requires an alignment among the different stakeholders in the process. Having agreed on the content, you should write a brief that is clear and concise, but that is readable and engaging. You should try to bring what you are after to life, as the more effectively you can do this, the more likely you are to capture the imagination of someone who might know a potential subject. So many of the briefs that we receive as a company are dull, verbose and complicated. This makes sense, as they are very specific business documents, but they tend to elicit better responses if they are clear and have a little life to them.

THE BRIEFING DOCUMENT

Once you have all of the goals for the project ironed out, you can fill in a briefing document. The briefing 

document is the bible for the project. It should include all the objectives for the production: the audience, desired action (what success looks like), budget, timeframe, delivery channels and key stakeholders. You should take the

time to do one of these for every project you do, even if you’re a 

little lighter on the information on the basic ones. 

The time taken to make sure that you have thought a bit about it will save you far more time, money and annoyance in the long run. Almost every project that doesn’t end up as desired can be traced back to an incomplete or poorly thought out brief. It doesn’t need to be super complicated, but it will help you make more-effective films.

Writing a Winning Brief

If you’d like to know more, you can follow this link to download our Writing a Winning Brief Worksheet. This will help you to fill in a brief more accurately and thoroughly, giving you the perfect jumping off point for whatever your next project is.

Topics: Production process, Being a better commissioner, How-to, Project management, Preproduction

WSP: How Animation Works: Explaining Children's Hospitals of the Future

Posted by Nick Francis
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Welcome to our brand new blog. Please get in touch with your thoughts and share with others who might be interested.

Casual's London animation team recently delivered a couple of touching films for healthcare engineering whizzes WSP. The animation features WSP SVP of the US, Nolan Rome, talking about some of the ingenious steps they are taking to design future children's hospitals.

 This is the 20 second teaser version:

You can see the full video here.

Neat right?

Because everyday's a school day at Casual, we thought we’d take a minute to look how the specific facets of animation enhance the message of this video.

1. It allows you to show and tell

2. It adds production value

3. It makes the message more memorable

Let's have a look at them in a little more depth:

Showing and Telling:

 

How to animate iPad

 

For example: as Mr Rome explains how the children are provided with iPads (above), we see this on screen. This adds a visual hook to the dialogue, engaging two senses rather than just one and making what is being said significantly more memorable to the viewer.

 

2. Production Value

From a production point of view, shooting a talking head (as featured in this film) is about as simple as movie making gets. The addition of animation makes it appear significantly more professional and upscale. Chris (the animator) has done an excellent job of bringing it all to life, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s not the most complex of productions.

Animation still carries a degree of magic to it, which is why so many clients use it to communicate. It can be used to quite literally bring a brand to life - for example moving logos etc. This video is more reflective of the nature of WSP's brand, rather than its specific look.

3. Emotional Resonance

Finally, and possibly most importantly, animation adds to the emotional engagement of the audience. Small flourishes in the animation – like the sad look on the girl's face at the beginning - increase the viewer's engagement with the subject. This is because we are programmed to either like or dislike people or things that we believe are alive. In this case, the animation of the girl, while in reality just a collection of moving lines on the screen - build what is known as anthropomorphic empathy. The emotion this generates then codes the associated information into our brains. This makes it far more memorable and impactful.

There we go. A touching animation and a slice of learning. Who said we didn't look after you guys?

Topics: Explain or promote products and services, Production process, Being a better commissioner, Animation, Talking head, How-to

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