1. The Task.
We’ve been commissioned by Vistra Group to shoot a corporate video for them. Vistra is a large global company, employing over 4000 people in different parts of the globe. They provide trust, fund and corporate services for international clients. Our role at DogFilm Studio was to come up with an effective approach that will best communicate not only the company’s area of expertise and the services they offer but also their values and the ‘human element’ that is so important to build trust in business.
2. The Shoot.
Let the people speak
At DogFilm we’ve never been fond of voice-over. It adds a level of separation between the audience and whatever is on the screen. It’s too studied, too distanced and too perfect. The obvious choice for us was to go for the interviews. It’s the people really who make up the backbone of Vistra’s business. In fact it’s true of most businesses out there. So, working with the client, we’ve shortlisted a group of about 10-12 Vistra’s employees to interview. Each of them is an expert in a different field within the company’s structure. And each of them is a different human being, talking and acting differently, each with their specific screen presence. This really drives the narrative in the video, especially compared with the monotony of voice-over.
Give up the prompter
The staple of corporate video production is the use of prompter. Sure, it makes things so much easier for the production studio. You just need to come up with some very clever sentences well ahead of the shoot and have them approved by the client. Later on the set, people in front of the camera are asked to read from the prompter. Very often they nervous focusing on reading the long-winded formal sentences from the prompter and perfect delivery. However, they sound fake. The audience won’t believe them. So instead, we went for natural interviews in front of the camera. We aimed to make them as conversational as possible. True, we ended up with about an hour of recording for each interviewee, while each person was later edited down just about 30 seconds in the final video. But we had a wealth of natural looking and sounding footage to pick from and we made sure only the best stuff made it to Vistra’s corporate video.
Minimal crew for maximum flexibility
We’re big fans of minimal crews. Shooting Vistra’s corporate video involved travel to Hong Kong, Shanghai, Singapore, London, Amsterdam, Luxembourg and Zurich. Flying a full crew to all these locations would quickly make things not only expensive but also very complex logistically. So we went for a minimal crew of just two of us – the Director doubling as DP and Producer, and the Assistant well-versed in lighting, rigging and sound. On top of that we would hire local make-up artists to help out. Admittedly, at times we were missing a hand but on the whole it was totally manageable and always a breeze. It really helped us work very quickly and effectively.
Make the locations ‘organic’
Vistra Group is a truly global company. It was obvious we’d need lots of B-Roll footage featuring international locations that Vistra services. Again, the easiest way is to go would be stock footage – easily available and cost-effective. However, the problem with stock footage is that it’s most often very formulaic and by its very nature ‘external’ to your project. Our idea was to make the B-Roll stand firm together with A-Roll. So we arranged with each interviewee a sequence where they could go meet a client in their favourite cafe, go to a meeting in a taxi, travel to work on a morning ferry or eat in a local diner. Very simple and natural B-Roll that makes the locations truly come to life.
Enjoy the shoot
Shooting video is an act of communication like any other. If you, as a crew, enjoy the process, the people you shoot will also most probably do. If you care, they will also. We’ve had Vistra’s top guys, otherwise very busy people, spending some extra time helping us fix the camera on their car windscreens or drinking their fourth cup of tea in a row so we could get the shot. We appreciate it.
3. The Edit.
Corporate video needs some narrative structure, like any piece of good communication. With hours of interviews we had, it was easy to get lost. So we decided to go organic. First we picked from the interviews all the pieces we liked best – those that both conveyed important information and were delivered in a natural convincing way. Later, juggling with these elements on the timeline we experimented with different ways of organizing the material. To make the video more engaging for the viewer we wanted for it to feel a bit like ‘travel video’ with locations changing one after another. So we had to fit the interviewees in that ‘travel video’ structure. In the end we decided to go for more informational content in the first part of the video, slowly moving towards more inspirational and ‘human element’ content towards the end. The most important thing was to make it continuous with each person taking it on from the previous one.
4. The Result.
Vistra really liked the video we came up with for them and we in turn really liked working on it.
Looking forward to new challenges!