"We could do a parade!"
It was one of those video concepts that seemed way easier to pull off in our heads than it actually was. Nevertheless, we forged ahead and ended up with a final product we're excited about.
So let's break down what the concepting, pre-production, and production looked like for what became one of the most ambitious shoots we've done at Wistia.
Pre-production and planning
I won't bore you with the details that went into planning an actual parade (think fringe garland, city of Cambridge permits, how many balloons to fill, etc.). Rather, let's focus on how we prepared for the shoot.
We did a couple of tests to get a better understanding of what time of day would lend itself best to the shoot. Trevor set up the camera in the rough position and recorded short clips in half-hour intervals.
After watching this footage, we were able to make a plan for a start time of 10 am with the goal of getting a good take at around 11 am. This ended up being a somewhat moot issue as our shoot day was overcast and cloudy.
We also did some tests around capturing clean audio of Ben while having a marching band playing right behind him. We decided to use a shotgun microphone as a handheld in an attempt to block out all outside sound. Then we would reinforce the final edit audio with other natural sound.
In the test above, Trevor stood in for Ben, and Dan pretended to be the band, yelling right behind where Ben would be standing. It turns out that it's hard to read lines when someone is screaming in your ear. Good job Trevor!
I knew that on the day of the parade I'd be focused on the camera, sound, and timing of the parade. So we decided to put in extra work in pre-production to land on the direction of Ben's announcer read ahead of the shoot.
We recorded a couple of different options, chose one direction, and then worked with Ben in the days leading up to the parade so he'd be good to go for the day of.
Trevor and I cooked up an overhead diagram of what the parade would look like to get an idea of where we could place folks on the team.
While this was really helpful to visualize what the parade would look like, it ended up being a wildly helpful tool to communicate where everyone needed to be at the start of the video.
Day of parade
The production day started with a focus on the float. To help decorate, I asked my Auntie Justine to come up from Rhode Island. Justine led the charge of turning my dad's 16' x 7' heavy equipment trailer into a parade float worthy to launch the Wistia Enterprise plan.
While the float was being built, Trevor and I prepped the gear and the shot. We drew chalk lines in the street as markers to indicate the edges of the frame. This proved to be useful for letting the team know when to really "ham it up" for the camera.
We hired Read McKendree, a freelance photographer, to spend the day with us, capturing candids and team photos. These shots ended up helping our marketing efforts, and they will be awesome to have down the road for keynote presentations and nostalgia.
We strategically placed GoPro cameras all over the place to capture behind-the-scenes and timelapse footage.
This footage was edited into teaser and trailer content to help promote the video and the post.
Getting a safety take
Because we couldn't get a noise ordinance permit, we were concerned about the band disrupting our neighbors. I focused on getting one take of the parade in the can without the band, just in case the police came and shut us down for subsequent band takes.
We shot the video on a Monday and launched Thursday. This didn't give us much time to edit. Fortunately, this was a one-take/one-shot video. That means that once the video is shot, editing usually goes really quickly.
We couldn't find Smart cars that matched Marketo, Hubspot, and Pardot branding. So we booked some time with our friend and After Effects extraordinaire Billy Woodward to change the color of the cars!
We planned for this ahead of time and instructed Wistians to avoid walking on the sides of the cars (which would have made the rotoscoping process much harder on Billy).
While the overcast sky made for consistent and flat lighting on the parade itself, the shot looked pretty drab and gray. Because the camera didn't move, Trevor was able to cut out some blue sky from our lighting tests the previous week and paste it into the parade scene.
Tricked ya! :)
Rolling with the punches
As I started to review the footage, I was really unhappy with Ben's audio. The shotgun microphone we used was overloading because of how jubilant Ben's voice was, so all of the audio ended up sounding distorted.
We ended up running Ben's vocal track through a guitar amplifier emulator in GarageBand, which made it sound like he was announcing the parade over a loudspeaker.
- Behind-the-scenes GoPros will give you footage to repurpose into additional content.
- It's worth it to hire a photographer if you won't have time to capture candids for bigger projects.
- A one-shot/one-take video can (in theory) reduce post-production time.
- Put time into your pre-production. It'll pay off in the end!
- Be courteous to your neighbors. And plan for the police to show up!
- Dance like nobody's watching.