10 ways to make great video content

It’s not all about having all the latest fantastic gear (though we’ve got all of that) and it’s not all about composition, focus, light and exposure (though we know our way round all of that too) – the thing that really makes great films and keeps our clients coming back for more is the fact that we care.

Technical stuff aside, here are ten of the things a production company should do to make sure you’ll get video content you’ll love.

1. Listen

When a client gets in touch, take the time to find out what they want, how much they want to spend and then find the best way for them to get what they need at a price they can afford. Respond quickly to all communication. Be professional, be friendly and be fun.

2. Plan

It’s vital that everyone knows what is happening. Dot every ‘I’ and cross every ‘t’. Agree who has responsibility for what. Do everything you can to make it easy and enjoyable for everyone. Make sure that when you turn up on a shoot everyone knows what you’ll be doing and how long you’ll be there. Put all of that in an email and make sure you get a response. Be flexible, expect changes but try to avoid any surprises.

3. Know what you need

At Nova we don’t hire gear – we own everything we need to make the films we make. The job will be so tightly planned that every piece of gear will be on hand.  We’ve already planned the shots, we’ve thought about the environment we’ll be working in, how that might affect the conditions for sound and light and how we can control those conditions.

4. Be safe hands

The client – and all of the other people who will be involved in the film – need to know that you are capable. Communicate clearly. Don’t dither on a job, get on with it – plan for every eventuality.  Be in charge but be flexible and accommodate change.

5. Be respectful fools

On the whole, people are afraid of being interviewed. Most people are nervous about being the centre of attention. Few people enjoy sitting in front of cameras with lights and a microphone pointing at them. So how do we put them at ease? The crew should be friendly, intelligent, slightly daft people who like and respect each other and who know what they’re doing. So while the interviewee is nervously waiting for their slot, the ideal situation is that they are part of the set-up. We generally refer to the set-up as ‘the business’ and this business is like a dance. As much as being about the lights, sound and camera positions, it’s about putting the interviewee at ease, so what they’ll see is a bunch of decent people enjoying what they do, being patient and kind to each other. That way, when the interviewee sits down they’re relaxed and they know that they’re in the company of people who will take time, allow mistakes and who will be genuinely interested as they tell their story. 

6. Listen again

More listening. We’re not here to just get the facts, we’re here to get the feelings too. And the only way you can do that is by caring. If we’re not interested in what someone has to say, then how can we expect the viewers to take time and be interested. So we listen and we try to understand. And once we’ve understood, then we know we have everything we need to edit the story.

7. Shoot too much

It’s called B-roll and it’s basically everything that isn’t the interview. It’s the stuff that goes on, the stuff that shows the story rather than telling it. And if there isn’t enough of it and it doesn’t look great then the final product won’t look great either. So we like to shoot lots of it. Think of shooting a film as shopping for the ingredients for a meal – the better the quality of the produce, the better the chance you have of cooking a great meal.

8. Listen again, and look properly

This is where the cooking begins…

Go back and listen to all of the interviews before you start to edit. Check back with the initial brief and then cut the interview listening for the points that tell the story and make both the client and the interviewee look great. 

Take time to check the B-roll thoroughly and pick the best shots. Don’t rush the edit

You can’t cook a great meal unless you’ve chopped and prepared the ingredients with care.

9. Take the time to be precise

Keep it tight. No-one wants to be bored. Get the point across fast. Editing is a storytelling craft that requires an understanding of rhythm, pace, grammar and inflection. Some people are good at that, some aren’t.  For some film-makers, editing is the boring part that you have to do after you’ve got out all your fancy gear and pranced around in puffa jackets trying to make what you do look more technical and mysterious than it really is. 

At Nova we love shooting, but we love editing too.

We like the shopping, but we really love cooking the meal.

10. And listen and look again

Check the seasoning.

Assemble your film then look at it again with critical eyes. What could you do better? Does the music work? Does the footage need time to breathe? Do you need to linger on that wide shot for an extra tenth of a second? If there’s room for improvement, make those improvements before you send the film to your client. And then listen to their feedback – you might not always agree with it, but it’s their film, they’re paying the bill and the most important thing is that they’re happy with it. So make the changes they want quickly and with good grace.

We would love to help you. Get in touch here.

Photo by Roger Erdvig on Unsplash

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