Here at Creative Concepts, we’re often asked to help our clients create interesting videos on location — maybe at work, in a restaurant, during a photo shoot or on the street. And while these on-location videos can be tightly controlled or spontaneously energetic, the locations themselves always present the same batch of speed bumps, roadblocks and complications.
If you want to film a branded video on location, here are 7 tips we’ve learned — some of them the hard way — to help filming and post-production go as smoothly as possible.
1. Befriend and respect the location’s manager or owner.
If you’re filming in a business or office, track down the manager, owner or supervisor. Be friendly. Explain what you’re doing, and what your goals for the video are. Ask them if they know of any obvious stumbling blocks to avoid, any shortcuts, or any particularly photogenic angles. (After all, it’s their building.)
2. When you’re outside, roll with the punches.
If you’re outdoors, be mindful of the public, the nearby property owners and the police. What you’re filming probably looks interesting, and you may attract a crowd. If you’re not controlling the crowd with barriers and security, they may linger. This is good, because it increases the exposure for your shoot — but it also increases your opportunities for unwanted noise and distractions.
When we were filming this video with Joe Torre, Phil Simms and Terry Francona for Bigelow Tea, we had the restaurant to ourselves — but that didn’t stop curious passersby from taking cell phone pictures through the window.
3. Listen for what’s not supposed to be there.
Does the location play music on a PA system? Is the heat or air conditioning on? Are the walls thin enough to let nearby conversations come through? Does the floor vibrate when cars or equipment move past?
If you can hear it in the room, you can hear it on the video. Make sure the audio that’s in your video is supposed to be there. And if you can’t turn the noise off, be prepared to work around it (and hope you can reduce it in post).
4. Shoot more than you think you’ll need.
Maybe your script only calls for 10 shots, and you’ve wrapped ahead of schedule. Be proactive. Get an extra introduction or conclusion. Ask the interview subject a few unscripted questions. Pitch some alternate ways that a product could be shown, or that a topic could be discussed.
It’s these unexpected additions to the script that may well turn a stiff, boring video into a human story with actual character.
5. Stay loose.
No matter how comfortable someone seems in person, putting them in front of a camera is like sending them into battle. People freeze when that red light comes on. They panic. They become acutely aware that the next words out of their mouths will be seen by numerous strangers, possibly for years to come, and that’s a lot of pressure.
Be personable. Help the subject loosen up. Make them laugh. Get them comfortable. Change the subject. Ask them a question. Change the lighting. Move them to a new room. Make a mistake, then fix it, so they see that mistakes can be corrected and recovered from.
Above all, do whatever it takes to ensure that the personality seen by the viewers is the same personality you saw on your subject’s face before the red light went on. (And if all else fails, film them when they think they’re not being filmed. It’s funny what some black tape over that red light can accomplish.)
6. B-roll will save your life.
Get ample footage of the location, inside and out. Get shots of every participant, even when they’re not looking. Shoot labels, packaging and displays. Shoot products, in all stages of assembly and execution.
If you’re filming a conversation between two people, get reaction shots from both of them. Get shots of the table. Get shots of the audience. Get shots of their hands.
There will always be at least one place in the final edit where you’ll wish you had just one relevant clip to cut away to, over an emergency edit you had to make. If you don’t have something to use, you can’t make that cut. Never, ever shoot yourself into a corner.
7. Always carry release forms.
You’re shooting on the street outside a business and you’ve only planned to get once scene with the company’s owner. Suddenly, her favorite customer, or a longtime vendor, or her family members arrive unannounced. What a wonderful opportunity to film a meaningful exchange with your client and the people who matter most to the success of her business!
Now, if only you had a release form that person could sign, so you could legally use their image…