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.

 

Greater Anglia - Spring Campaign

 

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.

 

Glenmorangie - Evolution of Craft (1)

 

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:

Casual Films - How to Make a Film

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:

WSP What if we can. Understanding Animation

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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