Production Tips for Making Your Video Less of A Production

Lauren Hill


This is guest post #2 in a series of 3 from Volusion. Be on the lookout for the next post in the near future.

In my last post, I discussed the importance of the pre-production and planning phase of creating a company culture video, all while showing you some of the key actions I took while putting together Volusion’s.

Today I’ll walk you through some of the most important components of the actual production process so you’re armed with the right information when starting your own culture video.

To recap, by this stage, you should’ve already finished your shot planning, coordinated with your co-workers’ schedules, and have a clear understanding of your organization’s goals. Now it’s time to get started with the fun stuff — production!

Here’s a look at four major considerations I made while working through Volusion’s culture video production:

Varying light environments

If you work in a big office like I do, you know that lighting has a tendency to change with every corner. You’ll want to set up some time before you actually start shooting to test out the lighting in your office. Fluorescent, incandescent and outdoor lighting all look wildly different on camera. Occasionally, you’ll have multiple light sources in one room that can make things a bit tricky, and if you happen to work with developers like I do, you might even find yourself in a dark cave-like area (love you guys!) that requires you to bring in several outside lighting sources:

I like to give myself as many options as possible when it comes to lighting, so I’ll typically carry a couple of soft box lights around that have varying levels of light so I can adjust as needed. You can find these at just about any camera store online (though I’m a big fan of B&H), and I’d suggest investing in a few as they’ll come in handy for any photo opp or video shoot in the future.

Setting up your camera

If you have a camera that you both feel comfortable with and will allow you to capture a high quality image, definitely use it. I wouldn’t suggest renting or purchasing something that you’ve never worked with before, since little unforeseeable issues have a tendency to arise at the most inopportune moments on set.

In my case, I knew that I wanted to have a really shallow depth of field and the ability to capture a nice wide angle with my subjects:

Since I’d used it before, I rented a 24–70mm f/2.8 lens for my Canon 5D. The beauty of shooting with a DSLR is that you don’t need the greatest camera body if you have a high quality lens. Your lens rental will depend heavily on what you’re trying to capture, but your local camera store should have decent and relatively inexpensive options to choose from.

A quick aside: Have extra camera batteries with you at all times. DSLRs tend to lose power quickly and nothing will kill your shoot faster than not having a working camera.

Points of view and other awesome effects

You’ve tested lighting and feel good about your camera, but you want to make sure the subjects in your video look their best and still keep your shots interesting and dynamic. Try capturing employees from different perspectives. If you shoot from the ground looking up, subjects might be perceived as strong and powerful. On the other hand, shooting from the top looking down might make them look tiny. Because you’re trying to give viewers a glimpse inside your company’s walls, I fancy the idea of shooting video of people from another room looking in.

I did a lot of panning shots outside of conference rooms while employees were working. Creating these types of visuals help to give the video a genuine feeling and a better sense of what working at your office is actually like. It’s important to stay on schedule and utilize your shot list to help work through this production, but if you see an opportunity for an especially interesting shot, seize it. In my experience, the unplanned shots often end up looking the best.

Showing a healthy mix of work and play

“These were the moments that I enjoyed the most throughout this process; just watching people be people and occasionally, I’d find a special shot worthy of the final cut.”

Once you’ve got your lighting just right and your camera all set up, it’s time to begin rolling. Don’t forget that shooting a culture video is a bit of a balancing act. I had to remind myself of that a number of times throughout this particular production. Volusion is, undoubtedly, an incredible place to work (just look at these perks!) but we’re also a highly capable group of tech professionals who live and breathe all things ecommerce, so it was important that I show both aspects of our work-life.

To do so, I mixed in shots of employees celebrating company wins, but also showcased brainstorming sessions of Volusioneers hard at work. Sometimes I would walk around the office and the movie magic would just start to happen – I’d see people laughing, working, playing and gathering for a greater purpose. These were the moments that I enjoyed the most throughout this process; just watching people be people and occasionally, I’d find a special shot worthy of the final cut. I’d highly recommend allocating time for miscellaneous/unplanned shooting so that you better your chances or catching these organic moments.

I mean, just look at how happy these two are:

I couldn’t have staged this even if I’d tried.

There are a number of other important items that need to be taken into consideration throughout your video shoot. This includes things like makeup, permits, audio, music and more, but you can’t do it all. You might need to consider hiring outside help or utilize third-party services like Vimeo Video School, TuneFruit or Wistia Labs for some of these things.

Don’t lose sight of your goals throughout this process and remember that it’s impossible to do it all, so make concessions where you need to and keep marching forward. At the very least, if you cover the checklist above you’ll come out just fine.

Here comes the cliché you were hoping for – that’s a wrap!

Lauren Hill


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