Chapter Three

Video production

When most of us think about producing a video, we think about cameras and actors. But in reality, that’s the shortest stage in the process. (If you’ve planned well, that is.)

The same way a Hollywood movie can take 90 days to shoot and a full year to edit, your marketing video could take four hours to film and yet weeks to complete.

Your guiding principle on production day should be this: Capture more than you need. While you can always cut out footage in the editing room, you can’t add things that weren’t filmed. Capture multiple angles of people talking, capture several takes of important scenes, and try scenes with and without a key prop.

In The Vidyard Family Halloween video, Vidyard’s Video Production Manager Mat King captured the ‘electrocution’ scene twice: Once with the strobe lights flashing and one without, to give the editor a few options.

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Video setup

The day before, make sure everything with a battery is charged. If you really want to save some time, take some footage of the areas where you plan to film to make sure they look good on camera.

Day-of, mark off areas in your office where you’ll be filming using traffic cones or masking tape. Post signs with the hours you’ll be filming so people know not to walk through the shot or practice their bongo drums. (It’s happened before.)

Set up your camera equipment for the first shot and take some tester footage to make sure the video and audio are working.

Lighting

There’s lots that goes into lighting, but we’ll be as succinct as possible: Try to have your actors face natural light. Your camera will try to compensate for the white balance and you may need to make some small adjustments, which is easier with a DSLR than a smartphone.

But if you want to geek out, you can adjust:

  • Color Temperature
  • Exposure
  • White balance

If you have access to a managed lighting environment (a windowless room, for example) and want more control over the look of the shot, you can also try a basic lighting setup.

While there about a thousand different ways to set up lights to meet the needs of different environments or to achieve different effects, a three-point lighting kit is a good place to start. The three-point lighting setup—which works well for a shot with one or two subjects in it, such as a talking head video—includes a key light, a fill light, and a backlight (also known as a hair light).

For this setup, place the key light in front of the subject and off to one side to light the subject’s “good side.” Then, use a a fill light to illuminate the other side of the subject to lessen hard contrast, reduce harsh shadows, and essentially “fill in” the subject with a softer light. Finally, put a backlight behind the subject and point it at the subject. This will serve to separate the subject from their background by adding a rim of light around the edges of their body. Note that its considered best practice to place the backlight on the same side of the subject as the key light (this creates the most natural-looking lighting effect).

Shot composition

When composing your shots, use what’s known as the rule of thirds. If the subject of your shot is on one of the four intersections (see diagram below), you’re much more likely to have a beautifully composed shot. And, if you’re using a smartphone for filming, most have the option to turn on grid lines in your camera, which makes this easy-peasy.

If you’re filming a person, leave enough head room (space above their head) and enough lead room (make sure they’re angled toward the middle of the shot, not looking out and away).

Should I take vertical video?

Only if you’re shooting with a smartphone and don’t think you’ll need to use the footage elsewhere. Vertical video is great for social media because it gives you more real estate in viewers’ social feeds—especially if you’re planning to share in Instagram Stories or on Snapchat. But if you take vertical video, it’s stuck in vertical. If you take horizontal video, you can always cut it down to vertical, but you’ll have both versions.

Audio

High quality audio is crucial. Test the audio in your shooting sites ahead of time.

Sometimes you’ll find that the inoffensive hum of an air conditioner sounds like the roar of a jumbo jet on film. Or you’ll find the office chatter makes it hard to understand what’s being said. Ambient noise is difficult to edit out, so if there’s too much of it, consider finding a new location.

Day-of, test that all your audio equipment is working, and brief actors on speaking into the mic and not touching their lapel microphone, as it can cause irritating audio pops.

Directing

If everyone has rehearsed ahead of time, directing should be easy. Directors, brief your actors and participants on any last minute updates to the storyboard or script, and remind everyone not to be offended if they have to repeat something or do a few takes.

Like we said earlier, filming is a collaboration. You may want to invite your actors to voice any ideas for how to improve things as you go.

Learn from the pros

When filming The Vidyard Family, for example, a team member noticed that the scene where Lurch carries Wednesday and Pugsley didn’t look realistic, and that it’d look better if they rode the skateboards hanging on our office wall. They did, and it made the scene much better.

You may also let your actors veer a little off-script. If they cling too tightly to the writing, and it doesn’t feel authentic, the awkwardness may show on camera.

Actors feeling nervous? Loosen them up with an exercise

Jill Soloway, director of the Emmy-award winning TV series Transparent does this with something called the box game. After setting up all the filming equipment, everyone involved gathers around an old soap box and chants “box, box, box!” until someone stands on the box and shares something they’re nervous about. After they share, everyone claps and it continues until nobody else wants to go. This cathartic sharing clears the air and “sets the tone for the tenderness and brilliance that gets delivered,” says Trace Lysette, an actor on the show.

In the next chapter, we’ll explain how to edit your video.