How Corporate Video Production Companies Create a New York City Studio in an Office – Diversity and Inclusion Video Case Study
Sometimes, to make a great video, a LOT of pieces need to fall in the right place. One of the traits of corporate video production companies is being able to adapt to the needs of the client, like creating a New York City studio from their office for a diversity and inclusion video. And something that every professional video production services company needs to face at some point or another.
MultivisionDigital won a 2020 Silver Telly Award for the Societe Generale Americas Pride Month video. What made this video so good? Why was it so well received ? And more importantly, what were some of the challenges in coming up with and executing the concept?
It All Starts With Molding the Creative to the Business Objectives
Sometimes, the client comes with a theoretically “simple” request like: “We want to create a video to celebrate Pride Month”. Well, this brings some problems to the table like how are we going to make an interesting, entertaining video while remaining truthful to the concept, business objectives and budget parameters?
Early in the pre-production discussion with the client, we started to realize that the video would not require special visuals, didn’t have any action sequences or creative moving shots through the office, or wide B-roll shots with a lot of people. Thus, our challenge was to create an environment to go about shooting a concept that brought the human and emotional component front and center.
Keeping the client’s business objectives in mind, our process of ideating had us coming up with concepts like “Let’s forget about great backgrounds. Let’s forget about B-roll, let’s forget about everything that is not human emotion. Let’s just focus on People.” This might seem a very logical conclusion, but arriving to that, required hours of brainstorming, and most of all, discussing and disregarding many other ideas.
When we finally settled on the idea of JUST focusing on people’s story, humanity and emotions, we had to come up with a style of the video. In order to shoot people in a non distracting setting, immersing them in a borderless world, where they’re surrounded by literally nothing to focus on them…we needed a studio. Although shooting in a studio is not a new concept, it was just what we needed.
Unfortunately, this was not as easy to execute as it sounds, as many of the people required for the video were senior executives. And finding a day that all these senior executives could get out of the office for a couple hours to shoot some video became an impossible task.
Well, if they couldn’t get to a studio… we had to bring the studio to them. Easy, right! Not really! There are reasons why studios exist. Typically studios are large rooms that are set up with lots of lights that give for a borderless feel (this is called a cyc in the production world). Many commercials are shot in a cyc studio…some of the ones you may have seen are from the Verizon series
So finding a studio setting in a regular office would be a challenge. But, being able to adapt to the needs of the client is something corporate video production companies are set up to deal with everyday.
So the next part of our pre-production process was selecting a room from the few possible options at Societe Generale Americas’ New York City office. While it was nothing like a studio, we eventually chose the executive dining room because of the depth / length and the ability to control the lights and making the room as dark as possible for our own sets of lights.
Now we had to transform this:
Day in the Life of Corporate Video Production Companies
One of the most important parts that corporate video production companies do is the pre-production phase. This includes everything in ideating the concept, selecting the room, planning for the shoot, planning logistics for the day’s schedule and making sure that each person is prepared for their part of the video. While the effort of time varies between project to project, this is typical for corporate video production companies.
On the day of production our crew totaled 5 people made up of
- 1 x Director of Photography
- 1 x Assistant Director of Photography
- 1 x Director
- 1 x Gaffer
- 1 x Production Assistant
After 30 minutes of loading in, the first thing we had to do was move all the tables so we had an empty space that we could set up all the cameras, lights, backdrops and other equipment. After unpacking and setting up the equipment we started to see the set come to life by turning off all the lights and closing all the window shades. We wanted to make the room dark so the only lights we had on were our video production lights so we could control the light from the equipment that we brought.
We knew that some shots would have one person and other shots would have two people, so we needed to set up a very big white background. Because we wanted it to look like a studio, we did this not just on one side but on multiple sides.
After setting up the background and making it as tight as possible to avoid any wrinkles on the fabric backdrop (we even steam it to take out wrinkles because they would show up as shadows on camera), we had to make sure that it seemed seamless. To achieve this result, we had to overexpose it with 2 lights, at each side of the fabric backdrop, at identical angles and intensity. If this wasn’t done exactly right, one side (or the corners) of the background would have been very visibly at different exposures, resulting in a very evident background and not a “borderless world” around our talents like a studio would give.
To emulate a cyc studio environment, we had to make sure that the background was as far away as possible from the talent, without being able to see the corners. We needed to do this for two reasons:
1) the background needed to be out of focus, so that there were no details to it, that might grab the viewer’s attention
2) we had to avoid any spills of light from it to our talent
Every piece of fabric will have some reflective quality, if the fabric is white, the bounce of the light is very powerful, so we had to make sure that the light bouncing off the background wouldn’t damage the exposure of the talent. Technical details for sure, but this is just one of the things that a professional video production services company knows and looks out for.
Once the background and background lights were set up, we focused on lighting our talent. This was done with a light positioned on ¾ to the side of the talent. Light selection is another big part of every project. Every light is vastly different for many different reasons like power, quality of light, frequency, color temperature and softness. Lighting a person is probably the most critical aspect of film making in general, because we are so used to looking at people’s faces. If the light on the face/skin is not natural and pleasing, the human eye will pick that up immediately and another aspect that corporate video production companies know well.
Another thing that a professional video production services company brings is using multiple lights. Because a professional video production services company knows that using only one light on the talent is never the right look for this kind of video. We decided to use the LED panel “ASTRA 6x”. This is a great light for many types of shots because it’s very powerful, doesn’t take too much room on the set and has a selectable color temperature. Every time talent is being lit, the light needs to be soft, because harsh shadows on the faces are never appealing. The softer the light is, the better the result, Here’s a great example of that:
To do this, the light needed to be diffused as much as possible, that’s why we add a diffusion panel right in front of the light. The bigger and further away from the light the panel is, the softer the light is.
In emulating a New York City studio we needed multiple lights because one light on the side of the talent always leaves too much of a dark spot on the other side of their face.
So to eliminate a New York City studio feel, we used a bounce panel on the other side of the talent. The bounce panel grabbed all the light coming from the first light and bounced it off towards the talent again, to brighten the darker side of the face.
So, why did we use a big reflective panel and not just another light? The room was simply not big enough for us to position the light where it needed to be (as far from the subject as possible). So we used a big bounce panel. Although using another light is “simpler”, the bounce has some extra benefit as the light that bounces off of it is already very soft and that’s exactly what we were looking for.
This was the final result of our New York City studio at the client’s location:
Theoretically, we could have stopped here and had a really good diversity and inclusion video for Pride Month, but as a professional video production services company we always aim to make the best video we can with the resources we have. And from our pre-production idea, we had a plan!
Since we knew we would not have any office b roll shots, we decided to bring in the right cameras in order to take slow-motion video of the talent. So instead of broll shots we coached and directed the talent to give us broll that really showcased who they are as people and connected with the message of the diversity and inclusion video for the viewer.
This brings another important aspect of hiring a professional video production services company – having the right cameras. Not every camera has the ability to do slow-motion video in such a cinematic and high resolution manner. And the slow-motion video of the talent in different angles – laughing, looking into camera, moving shots, getting into focus shots – made the video what it was. Without these shots the diversity and inclusion video would just have been a bunch of talking heads…..which has been done before.
Not only does a professional video production services company bring the right cameras, but they have the professional services to direct business executives that are widely uncomfortable in front of the camera to look and sound their best and be natural.
Back the the Technical Part of Corporate Video Production Companies
To execute on the slow motion video part of the shoot, we needed to make some adjustments on set. We had to get the camera closer to them, change the frame rate from regular to SlowMotion and direct them. And we decided to add a side camera as well to add some variety to the broll aspect to make the diversity and inclusion video dramatic and different. This choice made everything twice as complicated.
Normally adding a second camera doesn’t change much, but in this case, we had to have our New York City studio “Borderless world” continue on the side as well. That meant adding another white background to the other side. Which meant another light set up to light it properly with the exact exposure of the first background. And, we needed to do all of this making sure that the light of the first background was not in the shot from the side.
Lighting many times makes or breaks a video, and this is where a professional video production services company shines…but with a lot of trial and error. No two sets are the same and with the right professionals and equipment (most of which are planned in the most important pre-production phase of the video) the job gets done.
In this case, it took us about 45 minutes to finally come up with a solution which meant hanging a very heavy light on a c-stand and having the light shine from the top of the panel itself. This was slightly more complicated than it seems. We simply didn’t have enough room to use 2 lights on each side again, so we had to achieve the same exposure of the first background with only 1 light.
How did we do this? By increasing the intensity of the light. The more power the light has the wider the spread of the light itself. But more intensity also meant more reflection off the white background, so we had to move the entire background further away. After trying that, we were almost there. But we were still getting more bounce off the side background than we wanted, so the other solution was to physically move the subjects away from the side background, which means taking every single piece of equipment we positioned so far and moving it all further away from the side background.
This is technical and complex, but that’s why a professional video production company makes all the difference, because it expects situations like these as part of the job. Corporate video production companies make small technical changes and modify everything for very minimal details that eventually makes a huge difference in the final video.
This was the final result of the diversity and inclusion video:
As you can see, the light wraps beautifully around the talent, not only exposing them properly, but also giving them the tri-dimensionality people deserve and the soft and appealing look we wanted.
Another very important thing to notice and that separates amateur video from professional video, is that amateurs usually tend to remove as much shadow because it’s a common belief that shadows are unnatural and not pleasing. This couldn’t be further away from the truth. Shadows are a very natural aspect of the world, we constantly live in a light vs shadow world so the worst thing you can do is try to eliminate all the shadows, which will only flatten the final image. A professional video company knows that the best result is when you embrace the natural shadows and simply control them rather than eliminate them.
The last thing needed, to make it perfect, was to add a “Backlight” or a “Hair light”. If you have never used a professional video production services company you have probably never used any backlights. And although they are every minimal, backlight / hair lights bring tri-dimensionality to the talent by providing separation from the background. You can really tell the difference when one is used and one is not in the overall quality of the video.
Here is the Final Studio Set:
There are no formulas to create a set, only ideas. Even the best video production company will eventually have to see what the set looks like before shooting. Nobody walks in a room knowing where everything goes right from the start.
So, how long did this whole process take? A little over two hours….just for the set up! Yes, it was a lot of work that could have been avoided by just renting a studio for a day and having the talent come to the location, but once again, the client’s needs are the priority and if it requires building an entire studio in a dining room, so be it!
Here’s the result compared to a Verizon commercial we used as reference:
We hope this little walk through helps you understand the world of video a little more, what goes into making a final image look good, what could justify the time and cost of a video and finally.
If all this sounds like a lot (and it should) well, don’t worry, you don’t have to do any of this! That’s why we are here.