Welcome to the first, in what I hope will be a series of blog posts, reflecting on recent projects that we have worked on here at Tower View Media called Behind The Lens.
This first post is going to delve into a project we worked on back in February of this year for UK food company Ginsters. I have chosen to write about this project in particular because it was slightly different from our usual workflow in that it was a one-day turnaround (filmed, edited and delivered within one-day).
What were we doing?
The project brief was to create a 30-second promo video specifically tailored for release on social media. The client was hosting an event at Selfridges & Co on Oxford Street, London where they wanted to release an exclusive product to market - a high-end Pasty. They aimed to generate interest through social media for the product and thus wanted to use an eye-catching and clear video to deliver that.
Planning the day
The day started at our Richmond offices where we set off on the trusty district line into central London. If you have read a previous blog post of mine you know the importance we place on organisation and planning when filming events and so I wanted to highlight two actions we carried out before the day of the shoot that ultimately came to our benefit.
The first point is that we thought about the gear we wanted to bring with us. We knew that we would be travelling by tube during rush hour into central London and we knew that we would be filming inside a location where the general public would be shopping around us as we worked.
Knowing that these variables were definite, we made a decision before the day to cut our kit down to meet two criteria: is it mobile and is it essential. We chose our smaller, lightweight tripod, the Manfrotto BeFree Live Fluid Head, as it folds into a 30cm bag yet can still provide fluid shots. We opted for the Sony a6300 as our only camera as it weighs under 15 oz and yet provides 4k footage at 100 Mbps - more than enough for a social media video.
We even managed to fit a light, a monitor, a clip mic and radio pack set, 3 lenses, a gimbal, a laptop, batteries for all, cables, headphones and a cage setup for the camera into one rucksack.
This meant that we had everything we needed in a rucksack and a 30 cm, 400gram tripod bag for the day; allowing us to deliver a professional end product in 4k, edited on location whilst jumping on and off tubes and navigating a busy shop floor without our gear getting in the way.
The second decision we made before the day was to create a shot list. This one seems straightforward and obvious, but thinking about how we wanted the video to plan out over the 30-seconds in order to deliver on the brief enabled us to create a shot list and have a general timings sheet for the day.
An element of this planning that I had not used before to such great effect was Google street view. Knowing that I wanted to get exterior shots, I used the street view images of outside the Selfridges & Co building before the shoot to do a virtual location scout. In half an hour, I had a sequential storyboard in mind and a shot list typed out.
This meant that when we arrived on location we knew what we wanted to shoot and could efficiently work through our shot list, knowing we hadn't missed anything. In addition, we were able to utilise the user-submitted 360 interior photos to plan for logistical issues from within the shop such as space, kit storage and power outlets.
We arrived at Bond street station an hour before the call time agreed with the client. Yes, we are super keen, but we weren't just ensuring we arrived early! We had decided to capture the exterior shots before we met the client as we knew we wouldn't get the opportunity to capture them without lots of people in the way later on; the forecast showed rain for the afternoon and we wanted to capture the location in the best conditions (even if it was overcast!).
After this we met up with the client and Ginsters Managing Director and after brief discussions with the team we decided to capture the A-Roll for the video before the MD would be needed elsewhere; we knew a team from ITV News and a journalist from the Times would be interviewing him later. This section of the day was more impromptu. We were working around the commitments of others to capture what we needed so we took the opportunity to do pieces to camera when we could.
This was a moment we realised our kit choices had really paid off.
We were able to capture 6 scenes with the Managing Director in 30 minutes, switching between gear setup variants including the gimbal, clip mics and the tripod with the cage, light and monitor attached.
By the time the Managing Director was needed elsewhere, we had captured the skeleton of our video and it was now time to move into the shop to capture b-roll of the product reveal event.
From high-end boutiques to foods from the world, Selfridges & Co in London is a very impressive and grand location.
We opted for a range of wide and close angles as we knew this portion of the video needed to capture the essence of the location. We moved from sweeping slow-motion gimbal work, to whip pan product shots. When we had ticked off this section of the shotlist, we moved on to the focus of the video, the new Pasty.
When we arrived at the deli counter in the food hall, it quickly became apparent that the tripod setup was going to be too cumbersome to capture the shots we wanted effectively. We switched setup to go to our gimbal, the Zhiyun Crane v2, which works very well with the small form factor of the Sony a6300.
We set about capturing the Ginsters staff and deli workers interacting with customers and the product, as well as some close-ups of the Pasty. By this time, we felt that we had our bases covered. We had exteriors, location setups, A-Roll to-camera pieces and key shots of the product itself.
When we packed up and got back to our offices, we started the editing process. Sometimes a 30-second project can seem like a long time to fill, other times it can feel very limiting. On the whole, despite wrapping the shoot an hour early, I think we had ended up overshooting and so we needed to make some decisions about what to cut.
With the brief in mind, we focused on the key message and cut together a promo video that was to the point. By 5pm we had cut together an initial version and by 7pm (after a music change) we had delivered the final product to share in time for social media's busiest traffic period.
And just like that, the project is complete! What had started as a plan at the start of the day was now a full product that was being viewed online that evening, a workflow that we haven't had since we worked in television. Nonetheless, the key takeaways for success in this one were good planning and great teamwork.
You can view the final product here.
Or watch our Behind the Scenes video below:
I look forward to writing a behind-the-lens post next month!