Have you ever commissioned a video project only to be disappointed with the end result? You’re not alone. Many clients believe that a videographer can come in with a couple of days of pre-production, bish, bash, bosh - a sprinkling of editing and boom! A film. And while yes, you do end up with something, objectively speaking, is it really any good? Has it added any returns on investment? Has your customer base grown? Often, I find the answers to these questions to be no or not much. In this blog, we’ll take a closer look at a number of the key elements brands often overlook or underestimate when considering video production.
The quality of a good film is the sum of its parts. It needs solid creative direction, well-planned pre-production, a meticulous production crew and skilful editors with an eye for detail. But before this can start, we need to know your objectives. What are you trying to achieve? Are you looking to promote your product? Or tell your brand story? Are you looking to reach a new audience? Or speak with your existing followers? Is there a specific demographic you want to target? Or is it explaining what your product does? The list can go on, but figuring this out is a significant step in setting the right foundations.
Creative & Strategy
Creative direction and concept development take these responses and conceptualises an idea that can illustrate your brand values, achieve your goals and penetrate the minds of your audience. You should aim to create something that can humanise your brand, getting audiences to think and feel. There is a scientific reason for this, being that humans have a natural affinity for human connection, so you’re better investing the audience by telling a story. We work with you on this, delivering a choice of concepts and strategies for you to pick and move forward. These strategies consider reference material, trends, competitors, budget and business objectives, and we provide several mock-ups, narrative development, mood boards and style guides to get a better picture of the outcome.
The problem I see daily is that clients tend to under-appreciate the substantial impact good ideation can have on driving results. Many push forward on a concept that is under-baked and not properly planned. A lot of the time, it is about taking a step back and getting a second perspective. To illustrate this better, I am using two examples with similar purposes. One is for the Isle of Arran celebrating food and drink, and the other is a Mcdonald’s advert promoting the source of their produce.
The predominant issue I see from the Isle of Arran video is that its goals are not made clear to audiences. What are they trying to get us to do or understand? And herein comes a hard truth for many small businesses and brands: a collection of nice-looking shots set against some music doesn’t connotate any messaging. In contrast, the Mcdonald’s advert has a clear through-line going from farm to restaurant, tied with their brand values and closing strapline. It keeps you watching through prominent sound design and motivated camera movements, and these small subtleties keep viewers engaged to the end.
You might think it unfair to pit these two videos against one another, gleaming that they are from two totally different ballparks, but this is actually my point. Both videos would have had a similar amount of time spent on them. The Mcdonald’s advert’s quality, content and storytelling are perfectly achievable for you. The mistakes made in the Isle of Arran video could have been mitigated with a firmer creative outline.
As there isn’t a one-size-fits-all method for filmmaking, I’ve broken down a couple of sectors and visual methods you could consider. Don’t feel the need to be literal. A lot of the best films use metaphoric meaning.
Take into consideration the subject matter and find a way to reflect it in the interview. We recently worked on a film shoot with volunteers discussing isolation, so we shot the interviews in a series of extremely wide shots against a white backdrop creating a sense of isolation in the scene. Be mindful that good interviews take a while to set up with lighting.
Ground the destination with a lead character or group and use their narrative to go places. Be mindful not to overcram the list of locations and make them work for the story. Otherwise, it can feel like you’re ticking boxes. A good example of this is Jura’s whisky advert.
Food & Beverage
Source of quality and produce is big in the market at the moment. People love seeing the intricacies owners go through to make their products. Or maybe it’s the feeling you want customers to experience or remember. A good example is this Mr Kipling advert.
Training videos can get bogged down with all the information they need to relay. This is particularly challenging as it is, and worse still, boring videos can disengage audiences. Really it depends on how often the same audience is reciting the videos. You could make two, one more comprehensive for first-time watchers and something more condensed for returning viewers.
Figure out how your services make people’s lives easier and use that to tell a story. Maybe you can highlight and resolve a problem that people are unaware of.
Colour Correction and Grade
The next issue worth addressing is the colour grade. A colour grade is a process of adjusting each video clip’s colours and tonal values to create a specific look and feel. The purpose of the colour grade is to enhance the visual impact and create a consistent mood or atmosphere that unifies the footage. Many videographers will include this in their quotes but only do a superficial job, relying on presets and basic adjustments. As they can change only the tonal values of the whole picture, they tend to do a poor job of balancing skin tones against the environment, often meaning one gets favoured over the other.
Looking back at the Isle of Arran video, its magenta palette is very notable. Perhaps they are trying to invoke a sense of nostalgia, but does it work? As food is the film’s main focus, does the change of palette make the food appetising? A talented colour artist will break down these clips and separate the colours into their own layers, adjusting each individually to land on a distinct style.
It is one of the core reasons why professional video cameras are what they are today. They can collect an insane amount of raw data, which gives the colour artist greater manoeuvrability and really push for a distinctive look. A base rate for a colour artist is £300 per day, be mindful of this when receiving a quote. If you are being charged less than this, it would be worth enquiring what it is they are exactly charging for. It is also a requirement to put the video through any broadcasting advertisers.
If taking the financial leap to create a film, it makes sense to consider how else to maximise the content and create a strategy that can target audiences in numerous ways. From our point of view, this is about delivering multiple versions of the film in different formats of varying durations; bumpers, banners, gifs, graphics, website backgrounds and photos…the list can go on. It is a cost-effective way of extending the life of your campaign and maximising quality content. This is especially useful if you’re a small business with limited marketing material. Going through the scope early means we can consider what else might need to be filmed and considered during production.
Before signing off, I think it is important to touch upon an element many brands and businesses neglect to remember. The quality of your video reflects your company’s perceived worth in your customers’ minds. When a brand invests in producing high-quality videos, it communicates to the customers that the brand takes its product or services seriously enough to put some weight behind it. And it shows that it is committed to delivering a positive customer experience. I say this because I think it is an important financial consideration when deciding what route to take when allocating funds. If you want something substantially cheap, what are they cutting to meet your budget? And is it worth it?
Using video to support your business requirements can be a very effective tool; we know this. But to make it as potent and effective as possible requires compelling creative direction and strategy. Filmmaking is not just about pointing a camera at something and hoping for the best. It requires a clear understanding of objectives and undergoing pre-production to align all the necessary elements. Sometimes, it’s about spending your budget in other areas of the video production process and not just on the shooting phase of things. Good pre-production will contain storyboards and outline how your film will go from A to B and deliver on your goals. Remember that the quality of a good film is the sum of its parts. Spend time and effort polishing. A colour artist can take a bad shot and make it look good, average shots look great, and great shots look incredible.
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to filmmaking, and it's important to tailor your creative approach to the specific needs of your project and brand. Think out of the box and tell a story.
Ultimately, taking the time to develop a strong creative outline and investing in high-quality production and editing will pay off in the end, so don't rush the process, and remember that good filmmaking is a collaborative effort that requires clear communication, attention to detail, and a passion for storytelling.
Hey there, I’m Chris Dixon, the creative lead at Firth Studio. A video production company based in Inverness, looking to do things differently.
Who are we?
Firth is a video production company that creates high-quality video and visual content for brands and businesses. We launched in the last quarter of 2021. Our goal is to help brands and businesses rethink their approach to video content, providing creative solutions that better connect you with your audiences. It could be anything from start-ups looking to launch, a tourism board promoting the area, a brand with products to advertise, or even just corporate interviews. We work with you to figure out your goals and create a strategy containing numerous ideas and types of content for you to choose from. These ideas outline how they achieve your aims and contain anything from mood boards, treatments, concepts and so on.
We like to best describe our services through the metaphor of a silver bullet; made to target, highly accurate, handcrafted and distinct. We’re really big on humanising your brand or service and using it as a driving force to connect with audiences.
A good example I like to use is the hospitality industry. Imagine you are a hotel owner, and you’ve paid for some ad spend to promote a video of the hotel. What is likely to be more effective? A montage of nice shots of the property set against some music or a short story that actively engages the user through sound design and camera movement, promoting the feeling the property incites? We try to engage our clients and get them to think outside of the box. Metaphoric meaning can have a greater ability to convert audiences than taking literal approaches.
I spend a lot of my time telling clients they can achieve the same quality of adverts as they see on television. Much of this is to do with redistributing their budget so that it isn’t all being spent just on production, the shooting phase of a project, leaving enough to carry out pre-production, creative development and colour grading. I think this is where clients tend to go wrong, thinking a videographer can just rock up and start rolling. Video really requires forethought to be effective.
What do we do?
Creative storytelling and ideation:
We believe that effective branding is built on a powerful story that resonates with audiences. We work closely with our clients to develop brand stories that are authentic, engaging, and memorable.
Video production services for broadcast and digital platforms:
Our video production services cover all stages of the process, from ideation and scripting to filming and post-production. We specialise in creating content optimised for specific platforms, ensuring that it looks and feels great wherever viewed.
Virtual reality experiences
We create immersive and interactive virtual reality experiences that allow audiences to engage with a brand fully. These experiences can be used for various applications, from product demonstrations to brand activations.
Social media content creation and optimisation:
Social media is a key part of any marketing strategy, and we specialise in creating content that is optimised for specific platforms and designed to drive engagement and boost brand awareness.
Cross-channel conversion optimisation:
We develop cross-channel marketing strategies designed to convert leads and drive sales across multiple channels. We work closely with our clients to identify the most effective channels for their audience and develop campaigns tailored to their needs.
Collaborations with industry partners for cost-efficiency and scalability:
We work with a network of industry partners to provide cost-effective and scalable solutions for our clients. This allows us to deliver high-quality content without breaking the bank.
Client partnership and idea cultivation:
We value our partnerships with clients and work closely with them to cultivate fresh ideas and build upon existing frameworks. This collaborative approach ensures we always meet our client’s goals and objectives.
ROI-focused strategy development:
We develop strategies focused on delivering a strong return on investment for our clients. This means identifying the most effective channels and tactics for their audience and developing campaigns optimised for conversion.
Innovative and cutting-edge technological solutions to engage audiences:
We are always looking for new technologies and innovative approaches to help our clients connect with their audience in meaningful and impactful ways. This allows us to stay ahead of the curve and deliver cutting-edge solutions that resonate with audiences.
This year we’re focusing on several intriguing projects that are self-funded. Making use of the tools and resources, we have in-house. Starting with a web series that investigates the challenges businesses and industries face in the Highlands. The series comprises discussions with experts who will examine how the creative sector can play a more significant role in collaborating to solve these challenges.
One of my firm beliefs, when I set up Firth, is that collaboration is essential, and we’re keen to work with other creatives and develop a bit of a mutual platform we can all benefit from.