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The Video Creative Process Among COVID-19 Restrictions

Posted by Kim Moseman on July 6, 2020

Safety is paramount in the COVID-19 era. With pandemic conditions persisting around the world and recovery rates differing widely by region, it’s important for all promotional work, including video shoots, to proceed under new circumstances that will keep talent and crew members as safe as possible.

But what does this look like in practice? Unless you’ve been on a set since the beginning of the pandemic, it can be hard to picture the measures currently in place. How is it possible to direct talent and keep the quality of a production high while minimizing risk to everyone involved? What types of measures are coming into play at the planning stages, and how are practices evolving?

To that end, we’ve spoken with some of the creative leads we work with to determine just what has changed and how the production environment will look in the months to come. Since clients’ appetite for video content has not dried up, our crews and creatives are still committed to providing high-quality visuals.

The Early Days

The very beginning of the COVID-19 lockdowns, when lockdown measures were at their most drastic, were naturally a time of massive disruption for video productions, as with all types of work requiring face-to-face interaction.

“COVID-19 has had a dramatic effect on our business,” says Moon Bounce Media, Inc.’s Charlie Kendall. “Initially it dropped our business by more than 90%.”

This early difficult period was felt across the industry. With people unable to travel freely or gather crews, priorities changed overnight. Cancellations were common, with whole new projects coming to replace planned concepts.

“A few of my projects have been pushed back multiple times now, but most of them completely vanished into thin air,” adds Shaun Cloud of Scene2.

cta 2 video conferencing

New Meeting and Communication Processes

When it came time to resume productions again, the same kind of changes occurred that have happened across all industries and regions: Video conferencing has become the primary method of communication both in the run-up to shoots and on corporate shoots themselves.

“What we would typically be doing has been replaced temporarily by video conferencing,” says Cloud. “Businesses still need to communicate and that has been the way to do it. This has been an acceptable form of communication during this time and I do think it will stick around to some extent to replace some meetings, but I do not see it replacing the traditional way we do production.”

Cloud uses these pre-production video meetings in the same ways as physical meetings. Producers still build a rapport with talent and develop the storylines for the videos. These communications have always taken place in advance of the shoot to avoid loading too many things into that day’s schedule, and they still do.

Media teams have been able to navigate travel bans and social distancing guidelines by utilizing remote technology. But now that restrictions are lifting, on-location video shoots can resume, albeit looking and feeling rather different.

Creating Safe Sets

We know another purpose of pre-production is to communicate the conditions under which the shoot will take place. Restrictions and norms will differ based on the country and state which house the filming location, as well as the comfort level of the talent and the necessities of the shoot from a creative perspective.

“While professional lighting, audio, and production values are all still a requirement, we now have some new requirements,” says Kendall. “Keep the crew and talent safe and keep the crew and talent comfortable. This is new territory we are in. Part of the pre-production process now involves assuring everyone who will be on set that we will have a safe environment to work in.”

Sometimes, those measures involve having fewer people present on set. Using video conferencing software, directors and producers can speak with talent remotely and camera operators can adjust their shots automatically.

“We have been doing more production that is tied in with Zoom and using robotic cameras” says Kendall.

“What I’ve done to help those who are unwilling or unable to travel, was build a system that utilizes the video conferencing format so that producers and directors (and other members of a client’s creative team) can join an interview from their own location hundreds or thousands of miles away,” Cloud notes.

“They’re able to interact directly with me to set up the shot, and can then speak directly to the talent when conducting the interview, Cloud adds. “My system guarantees a beautiful interview with talent looking off-camera. It allows the client to see and hear my camera’s shot. The client can then also join us to direct and watch b-roll if they’d like.”

This connected system works so well that Cloud expects it to stay relevant long after COVID-19 travel and distancing restrictions have been lifted. It is a way to cut travel costs while still allowing many creative stakeholders to have their voices heard. With a second camera on set, producers and talent can speak via video link while setup occurs. Early feedback on the system has been positive.

As for actual major changes to the way video is shot, the differences vary heavily by shoot. Cloud’s teams now use lapel mics less than before to ensure they don’t have as much physical contact with talent.

Embracing New Creative Priorities

Ensuring finished videos look their best is easier when the creative needs of a project match the requirements associated with filming. The current era has brought what Kendall calls “a different look and feel” to productions.

This could mean a change of location or a shift to animation to reduce the need for an executive to make an appearance. Sometimes, the challenge is to create a visual look and feel that would be considered normal pre-COVID, but is now elusive. For instance, marrying old b-roll with a new executive interview filmed at home or in an empty office.

In the end, changes are in the service of creating the same high-quality product customers have become accustomed to.

“So much of my work is telling stories about people and businesses,” Cloud concludes. “You can’t really do that without footage of the subject, so, stories are just waiting to be told”.

Ready to work on your next video project? Call one of our Crews Control Production Managers at 1-800-545-2739 or click here.

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