Does this sound familiar? It was a typical video shoot: a 30 second television commercial plus a 5 minute web piece for a local transportation company. So, day one, wrangle a city bus and driver plus talent, crew and gear to multiple locations for both moving and stationary shots. Ride the bus for moving POV scenery shots. Set up alongside the road for bus-passing-by shots. Shoot multiple setups of talent boarding the bus, exiting the bus and walking the aisle while pointing out the wonderful benefits of traveling by bus. Be sure to get plenty of B-roll to highlight points of interest and to smooth out the rough spots.
Day two and beyond, you’re off to the sound booth for several hours of ADR with the talent to acquire quality audio to dub over road noise, speeding motorcycles and so forth, followed by many more hours in the edit bay cutting everything together and correcting for audio issues, inconsistent lighting, color, etc.
After client review, revisions and delivery of the final product — the check comes. Then, after paying your crew, the talent, equipment rentals and other expenses you get to enjoy whatever is left.
If you shoot traditional video such as commercials, music videos, weddings and documentaries, then the process described above probably sounds quite familiar to you. But is there a better, more efficient way to produce greater quantities of videos? Picture this scenario instead.
You enter your pro or DIY home studio with pre-set grid or stand lighting and multiple pull-down backdrop options, with tripod, camera and audio already in place. Your talent — possibly you? — hits their mark, picks up an item — small products perhaps? — and gives their review, testimonial, how-to or any of a number of other possibilities.
Rather than the typical multi-day, multiple location shoot, you’re shooting a short website or YouTube video from a single, consistent set up under immensely controllable conditions, in a single location.
Rather than the typical multi-day, multiple location shoot, you’re shooting a short website or YouTube video from a single, consistent set up under immensely controllable conditions, in a single location. After a quick check to make sure you got everything you need, you quickly reset and move on to the next product, topic or whatever.
Got a client with a ton of products who wants 25, 50 or 100 videos? With this cookie-cutter type of setup you can produce large quantities of quality videos in a short period of time, without the headaches of multiple locations, varying conditions and the usual crew, equipment and talent wrangling. Eliminating, or at least, minimizing these elements equates to greater efficiency, a big time savings and the ability to produce more videos in the same space of time.
Shooting under consistent, controlled conditions pays off big time in the edit bay as well, reducing the amount of time spent correcting white balance, lighting, color and audio issues. Working with clients having high volume requirements increases the efficiency factor many times over. Once your intro, outro, lower thirds, bugs and other brand elements have been created and your music bed selected, you simply use these same items over and over again for each of that client’s videos. Check out any of Videomaker’s videos for examples of this technique.
This high volume template approach is especially well suited for producers with limited budgets and resources, little desire to work on complicated or lengthy projects or who require a more consistent cash flow — you might even negotiate a monthly retainer for large repeat clients.
The Right Clients
For the greatest efficiency, locate clients with video needs that can be met within the confines of your studio. Product manufacturers and distributors often have hundreds of products they would like showcased on their website or YouTube. YouTube, of course, is a fantastic short-cut to enhancing their SEO and driving traffic to their website. If they don’t already know this — tell them! Then show them how you can produce all the quality videos they need — at a discount — because you are both experienced and able to work quickly and efficiently in your well equipped studio, dedicated to their precise video needs.
Other high volume possibilities include testimonials, interviews and educational or how-to videos. As with most things, you are only limited by your imagination. Does anyone know a chef or have connections with a culinary academy? Build your studio around a kitchen and you could shoot a cooking series. Build it in a garage and shoot a series on automobile care.
The idea is to locate clients with large volume requirements, or perhaps, lots of clients with similar video needs but who require only a few videos each. Create a singular shooting environment that meets those needs and has consistent, controllable lighting and audio for maximum efficiency, and you’ll find yourself producing large volumes of videos in no time at all.
SIDEBAR: Keeping the Quality Up!
Often, when quantity increases, quality declines and we must be very careful to ensure that our quality remains at a very high level. In reviewing some low quality YouTube videos, we observed that they were consistently poorly lit, had boring backgrounds, harsh shadows, hot spots on painted and other shiny surfaces, excessive headroom, not enough headroom and hollow or inaudible audio.
In order to maintain high quality remember the basics such as lighting, white balance and exposure. Just because the lights haven’t moved doesn’t meant you can forget the basics. A new item, for example, with a different color or texture may have different light absorption/reflective qualities than the previously featured item, which may alter the exposure requirements. Always check the basics before shooting.
In no particular order, here are some other things to check:
- Background – Are the right things in the frame? Are there things in the frame that shouldn’t be? Is the background dirty, dingy or scuffed up? Is it flat and boring?
- Lighting – Is everything lit sufficiently? Are the shadows placed properly or are they blocking important areas?
- Exposure – Check the zebras or histogram for hotspots and low light areas.
- White balance – Check with each setup or lighting change for consistency.
- Focus – Use expanded focus or peaking for spot-on focusing.
- Auto off – Switch into manual mode for greater control
- Audio – Use quality mics, recording devices and headphones for monitoring; avoid using the camera’s built-in microphone.
- AGC off – Automatic Gain Control can cause unexpected spikes and drops in your audio. Turn it off.
Contributing Editor Mark Holder is a video producer and trainer.