Captive corporate audiences are a thing of the past. All is not lost though…

Posted by Nick Francis
Read More

Once upon a time, corporate communicators could produce materials which were either read out at departmental meetings, shared in company magazines, or played from VHS tapes to teams in smoke filled magnolia washed rooms. They sat there once a week or month to hear what the overlords from head office had deigned to share. They had no choice. They were effectively captive. This was not a golden age for communication quality.

Now your audience are rather more… dynamic. They can choose what to watch and when to watch it. For good or ill, you have the power to reach them almost 24 hours a day and yet engaging them can be as hard as ever.

Attention is the new currency

Applications designed to capture and sell our attention have turned our time into a commodity. This means that everyone is now fighting for it. Their Instagram or Facebook feed, their families and friends, billon dollar box sets and your piece of comms. It’s noisy out there. You need to cut through that noise to be noticed. Why is this so challenging?

This has made the quality of content skyrocket 

The technological revolution which has put the power of television studios and distribution networks in our hands, has pushed the bar up drastically on what constitutes quality. From Netflix to HBO, and Amazon Prime to network on demand, broadband Internet has substantially increased the amount of excellent content available. From live sports coverage to stunning wildlife documentaries, new technology is enabling a level of access and production values that were pretty much unimaginable just a few years ago. We’re living through the golden age of glossy TV.

What does this mean?

This means that whomever your audience are – external or internal – they are judging the content you share against the most sophisticated systems to capture human attention that have ever existed. I know that seems pretty tough – and it really is – but there are ways that you can still reach them… 

Most important: deliver genuine value

The number one thing that you need to do to cut through to your audience is to deliver them value. For more information on what I mean by this check out this blog here. As Seth Godin says, you should create content which your audience would miss and seek out if it wasn’t there. A simple way to think about this is through the mnemonic TRUE – Timely, Relevant, Useful, Entertaining. Lead with the value with the material you share – make it easy for them to consume. 

Be consistent

Whether you are sharing material internally or externally, it’s important that you are consistent with the material that you share. Once you’re sharing work which is of value to the audience, they will begin to look forward to each iteration. Meet them half way by sharing to a schedule.

Think creatively

Are there other ways that you can cut though? Of course –  you just need to get a little creative. There are a number of ways that you can do this. One is by using new technology.  There is now 360° video/virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and interactive video. They represent new and ever-improving ways of providing immersive stories to the audience. They are a goldmine for corporate communicators who are willing to push them and use them with a little creative flair. They provide an opportunity for a different type of immersion in your brand narrative from what was possible before – enhancing and enriching the stories that you choose to tell around your brand. 

Don’t forget about emotion

Video’s ability to communicate emotion is the most powerful asset in the communicators bag of tricks. This means that whatever you are trying to communicate, you should look for to include a human angle to help it to land with the audience. That might mean using animated characters, finding the stories of individuals that illustrate the experience of the many, or just getting a member of your team on the screen to explain the point. This will help the audience to make sense of it and remember it.

We hope these help. Whatever you’re trying to achieve, for whatever audience you’re trying to reach, our highly experienced producers are ready to help you get there. Fill in the form on this page and one of our producers will give you a call back to discuss your project.

Topics: Train and develop staff, Production process, Being a better commissioner, How-to, Content Strategy, Brands as broadcasters

Five ways to land complex concepts with video

Posted by Nick Francis
Read More

Lots of the content that we share in this blog focuses on what the Red Bulls of this world are doing to communicate with their audiences. We share these because the more extreme examples help us to illustrate the underlying principles more clearly. The fact is though that most of the videos that we produce don’t have people jumping out of space balloons, or helicopters or stunts of most kinds. Most of our work is a little... slower paced. That in no way means that it needs to be boring though. There are some really great ways to make even the driest subject matter engaging and interesting. It does help to follow a few key principles though...

1. Keep it Simple

OK - this is a strange way to start a blog about making videos about complex content but do bear with us. The point is you need to condense your information down to the key point you are trying to make - as much as feasible. Do not overload the video with too much content. Think about what you want the audience to think, feel or do as a result of watching and then focus on achieving that one thing. Clarity is essential. It is almost impossible to make a film which is too simple in what it is trying to achieve.

RBI - The Jobtopus (2)

Focus on the elements of the brief you most need to relay to create videos which land the message.

Take this film for RBI Recruitment. They wanted to illustrate the fact that they have eight recruitment titles in their stable. What else is famous for having eight 'bits'? Quite. This animation cuts away everything else they could have included and focuses on the one this that RBI were trying to get across. As a result, it lands the message effectively.  

2. Think about actual people in the target audience group

When making videos about complicated ideas particularly there is a tendency to make them even more complicated by trying talking to the audience as a block rather than a collection of individuals. This can lead to weird phrasing and a quite impersonal feel. The best videos are the ones that speak directly to each audience member. A great way to do this is to think about two or three members of different parts of the target audience when creating your script and film. Do test it by thinking about other members. If you don't know any, it's usually worth doing a little bit of leg work to find them. 

3. Use experts who know and love the material

'Talking head' or interview led films are an excellent, cost effective way to get your message across, particularly if the interviewee has an in-depth understanding and can relate it clearly and with energy, as the fund manager does in the above film for Glint.

Glint - Testimonials 04

A knowledgeable expert can explain ideas clearly and interestingly

4. Use animation and visual metaphor

Animation is a brilliant way of communicating more complicated ideas. This is because it allows you to show and tell the concepts you are explaining at the same time. Normally, you should never explain what you can show - but - using metaphor to underline the principles of the voice over helps to demonstrate the ideas without feeling overly obvious. This makes the information far more tangible and memorable. You can see this at work in this animation for the EIB.

 

EIB - Camena (1)

Visual metaphor is a great way of underlining the key ideas in your animation

5. Don't forget emotion

Content that focuses on creating an emotional response in the audience beats the purely rational in effectiveness tests every time. No matter the subject, it is important that you include a bit of character as this engages a different part of the brain and helps the information to stick. This means the audience are more likely to remember and act on your message. As a quirk of the way our brains work we automatically attribute agency to the objects we see moving. This can be used to great effect to build engagement with the audience. Look at how the character of the ball bearing in this film helps to draw you into the message. 

PwC - IFRS Rube Goldberg

Rube Goldberg machines are satisfying to watch. Here it demonstrates the interconnectedness of the subject matter in a nifty visual metaphor.

But...

Sometimes video works best promoting other media

This might sound slightly contrary to the whole point of this blog, but there may well be some occasions when video is not the right route to take. 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’ll 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 sharing videos about online it helps to make sure that they're the right length to maximise engagement and action. To help you do that - no matter the platform - we created a whitepaper. You can download it right here.

 

Topics: Explain or promote products and services, Production process, Being a better commissioner, Content Strategy

5 ways to get the most from existing assets / video content

Posted by Nick Francis
Read More
Existing Assets

 

How do you make the most of video content assets that you already have? Most businesses will now have a large amount of past material that they want to reuse or repurpose. This could be footage from past brand or corporate videos, TV commercials, internal films, promotional stills or even music. It takes time, money and thought to create content that is worth sharing in the first place so it makes sense to want to get the most from it. If the content is for social, having more helps you to get noticed and to stay front of mind for your audience. A bit of extra mileage can make a big difference. So what are some of the ways to find it?

1. Tell the Producer

The earlier in the process the production team know that you want to create as much content as possible, the better. This allows them to look for ways to maximise the final outputs throughout. Share the all the content that you have so that they can see how to best incorporate them. Don't worry about whether you think it's right or not - they will know what they are looking for and will be able to help you.

2. Speak to the Editor

No-one knows the footage as well the the person who has just spent hours pawing over it. Sometimes the production team might have shot hours of footage to create a single 60 second output. This is a very rich hunting ground for additional content. If you want to know what's there, speak the editor. They will be able to let you know what you did or didn't get. Quite often what you think you got and actually got can be quite different things, so it's always a useful conversation to have. Don't worry if you don't get a chance though - this is the kind of thing that your producer does on your behalf.

3. Transcribe your Interviews

It can be a little blinding to look at four hours of interview recordings. One way of making this a lot easier is to get it transcribed. This allows you to do a search for words or phrases - significantly reducing the time needed to scoot through. It can also make it easier for you to understand the content that's there. There are some really excellent websites which do this automatically. The output is not perfect but it's certainly good enough to be getting on with. We use and recommend Trint.

4. Think Cross-Platform

Sometimes a piece of content may have run it's course on specific platform might by ripe for another. For example short reedits which wouldn't work for your company website can be really effective when used with some overlaid graphics on Instagram or Facebook. You may be able to grab still images from videos and share them as Instagram Stories with some supporting copy.

5. No Piece of Content is Ever 'Spent'

Finally, try not to think of content as being 'spent'.  There are always ways to get a little more mileage out of the material that you have. Try to look with fresh eyes. It can be as simple as going back over an old project with a different frame of reference and seeing clips or soundbites in there that make sense in a whole different way. 

Reused assets can lead to really powerful results, particularly when included from an early stage...

BMW - Careers (1)

BMW Careers

This film for BMW Careers is a perfect example of using pre-existing content from the business’ library. Naturally they had a large amount of really lovely footage from the promotional material produced for the main brand. This was combined with graphics, some library, some UGC – also from BMW – sound design and a specifically composed music track. The addition of the track really pulls the production together – making it more than just a collection of disparate material. This is a clear example of how making the producer aware of the stipulations at the outset of the project allowed the creatives and the production team to incorporate the different assets seamlessly.


Whatever you are trying to achieve with your video content, it helps to have people who know what they're talking about on your side. Our team of producers, strategists, creatives, editors, animators and filmmakers have made literally thousands of films for people just like you. They would be happy to discuss your ideas, requirements and the potential that video holds for you. Book a no strings call back from one of our filmmaking team, right here.

Topics: Production process, Repurposed content, How-to, Content Strategy

What's it like filming in a rainforest in London?

Posted by Nick Francis
Read More

We’ve recently delivered a series of films for London Zoo on Behalf of Evening Standard Independent Group. It’s been a real labour of love for the crew, particularly Olly Atkinson, who has always had a bit of a soft spot for our furry friends. In his rich and varied careers before Casual he produced none other than the Secret Life of Hedgehogs. David Attenborough watch your back.

To find out a bit more about the process of shooting in the zoo we caught up with Olly to ask him about some of the challenges of shooting in a synthesised rainforest. Misty camera lenses and plastic cased GoPros watch out – the climbing anteater is about…

London Zoo Olly Interview

Casual's London MD, Olly Atkinson, who produced the films explains some of surprising challenges of shooting in a zoo! Keep watching to see the film at the end


Whatever you want to make a video about or expert global team are on hand to help. Fill in your details and thoughts on the form on this page and one of them will get back in touch very shortly. We've produced work from the Canadian Arctic to the Iraqi Desert (and a fair few conference rooms in between), so our staff understand your challenges and how to translate them into effective video content efficiently, whether your films subjects are going to try to break open and eat the camera, or not.

You can find the book a call back form here.

 

Topics: Increase brand awareness and appeal, Production process, How-to, About Casual

How to make your content last longer

Posted by Nick Francis
Read More

 

How to make content last-2

 

It's a really common question - it takes time, headspace and money to create content that is worth sharing. So we thought we would share a couple of thoughts on how you can maximise your content's mileage...

1. Shoot Plenty

Whatever you are producing the more material you can shoot the more options you are giving yourself for the future. You may choose to use that extra material to create social cuts now or to hold them back to refresh the content with a reedit in the future.

2. Tell the Production Team

It helps if the people making the videos know that you want them to last as long as possible. This will allow them to work this into the creative/production.

3. Use Animation

It's great - reflecting brand and looking professional and is infinitely changeable - we have an animation from 2009 that we are still making reedits to for a client. Oh yeah - and the characters don't usually resign.

4. Does it Really Matter?

Usually, you get bored of your content before your audience do. They may be coming to it fresh.

5. Deliver Lasting Value

Just like Steve McQueen, really great ideas, information and entertainment don't go out of fashion.


What's the best length to guarantee engagement online? Well, one way to find out is by downloading our What's the Right Length for Video Online? Whitepaper.

Which is good because it's right here:

Download Casual's Right Length for Video Online Whitepaper

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

How much does a film cost?

Posted by Nick Francis
Read More

Creating content costs less than ever. 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.

DOWNLOAD COMMANDMENTS

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
Read More

“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
Read More

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
Read More

 "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

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

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.

IKEA - Lamp (2002, USA)

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
Read More

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

POPULAR POSTS

BMW Careers

Casual Films of 2018

Oxfam Awesome Brand Videos

Five Awesome Brand Films to Get You...

Recent Posts

Bloomberg Citrix Blast Off

The Better Video Power Hour with...

Gathering of Nations Branded Content

Five branded content examples to make...