October 25, 2011 \ Geoff Birmingham
Your Video Production: Slow-Brewed or Instant?

Dolly shot for MIT admissions video

Filming inside Lobby 10

MIT's mascot Tim the Beaver

MIT's Tim the Beaver waiting for his shot

An important conversation to have with your producer is to discuss the best approach to your production. Put another way, should it be slow-brewed or instant?  Here are two examples to illustrate what I mean.

Example #1: The slow-brew. We are currently working with MIT on a couple of admissions videos. One of them is the inspiration of an imaginative fellow in their admissions office who had the idea of creating a music video that reveals the wild and wonderful world of MIT. To effectively communicate the wonderfulness, our guy created a number of scenes for the video that required considerable logistics to coordinate.

He and I, along with our camera guy, had a scouting session before production started to review locations, discuss shots, etc. During this scouting session, we suggested to him a couple of times that every scene was going to take longer to film than he wanted. Our basic point to him was: “If you want to really capture the wonderfulness of MIT, we need to invest the time to film these scenes correctly.”

We also suggested that it was best to set the right expectations with his student actors. In other words, tell them the day would be a long one and then strive to exceed their expectations with a shorter day. Going overtime with a schedule is the best way to frustrate anyone who is involved in your production. To his credit, he quickly adjusted his approach after we completed filming the very first scene and it became apparent that to achieve his vision, the production required a slow-brew.

Example #2: Instant. A marketing firm hired us to film reunion weekend at a college client of theirs. From the very beginning, they told us: “We have only one day to get as many alum interviews as possible, so we have to work fast.” No problem, we said.  It sounds like you’re ordering the instant production.

What did the instant production look like?  Mainly, it was the lean and mean approach: quick set-ups for shots with minimal lights and equipment. So many interviews with the alums were done outside with the existing light.  For interviews done inside, a single location was chosen to avoid lugging stuff around and to make things efficient.  We set up the lights and shifted them around a bit with each interview to give the frame a slightly different look.  As a result, we were able to record a bunch of interviews, along with many of the activities taking place during the course of the day.  The look was nice, but not highly crafted, and totally sufficient for what the college needs.

The takeaway: the slow-brew versus instant conversation with your producer is an important one to have so that neither of you is left surprised or unprepared once filming commences.

A quick side-note:  We’d like to give a shout out to Jeanne Keenan at The Costume Company, which is a couple doors down from our office.  She provided us with the costume for MIT’s mascot, Tim the Beaver, and she is great to work with.  For those of you still looking for a Halloween costume, we highly recommend that you check out her store.