February 8, 2017 Griffin Tewksbury

Video Shoots: Roll Cameras, Roll

Consensus on set for the product video shoot.

“Let’s do one more”.

A collective laugh breaks out on set, drowning out a few distinct groans. It’s been a long day. No matter how many video shoots you’re lucky enough to be a part of, they are just long days. The time, effort and scope of these projects are what make them some of the most challenging things we do. It’s also what makes the process (and experience) so rewarding in the end.

But let’s take a step back: 24 hours earlier.

Behind the Scenes

The shoot day is long and spread out. Starting with set up all the way through to clean up, the day is almost completely filled with work that most of your audience will never see. There’s hours of labor for prop dressing, lighting, wardrobe and makeup, script review, script rehearsal and so much more.

Granted, everyone on set shares a common goal: a successful video. And that’s made possible by those behind the scenes. We’d be remiss not to acknowledge their work, and so to them we say THANK YOU.

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Possibly the most time consuming, yet critical aspect of a product shoot is lighting. The mood, desired feel and accurate time of day has to be right even as the light gets repositioned for every shot and every angle you need to capture. The script called for some early morning scenes and we needed to make it look that way. The script called for a bright setting, and we needed to make it look that way.  The script called for a mid-afternoon shot, and we needed to make it look that way (even if it was really 7pm). This is all done through lighting.

Once in position, we had to make sure the lighting passed three more tests: setting, actors, and product. If it didn’t, we needed fixes. Fast. The lighting first had to fit the setting and convey the desired look.  When a blinding glare threatened the light on our set, we hung a translucent shower curtain in the background. The lighting had to play off the actors and render colors that would pop and resonate with the audience on camera. When the lighting caused a character’s shirt to clash with their counterpart, we used a new top that complemented the actor instead. Most importantly, the lighting had to create the best experience and showcase the product in every shot we took. When the product…well, we’ll get to that later.

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Scene One, Take One

So, we were finally there. The film crew made final adjustments to lighting and sound, the makeup artist retouched the talent while the director reviewed the scripts, focusing in on key beats. Only then, could the cameras roll.

And when they did, each scene turned into a process of its own, almost like an athletic event. The first few takes were stiff and slow. The actors had to familiarize themselves with the lines, the setting, and working with one another. Similarly, the director had to get comfortable with the talent, their methods, and how to tease out their best performances. After a handful of takes, we’d get into a groove. Takes would be strong, consistent and would continue to build on one another. Timing was perfect, delivery was sharp. You could tell when we had just nailed one. But as all games do, this one came to an end. We started getting tired and making mistakes. “Let’s do one more”, echoed throughout the set, and the talent would instinctively return to their marks, battling for one last perfect take.

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“That’s A Wrap”

These three words triggered a feeling that was, simply put, unique. Hours of pre-production, planning and time on set all came to a screeching halt within seconds. The wave of joy, pride and frankly, relief was strong, but familiar.

It hits quick, but you’re only halfway there. Good news was, we had made it to one of our favorite parts of the video shoot process: post-production. To be continued…