August 18, 2016 - As someone who has built a 35-year career on the foundation of producing, directing, and shooting corporate video, I’ve learned a few things along the way that can save time, streamline the workflow, and ultimately result in better quality videos. As strange as it may sound to others who may harbor dreams of directing festival-winning indie films, producing music videos for rock stars, or getting a top job in Hollywood, I am passionate about corporate video production. Here’s a secret: Opportunities in corporate video are growing by leaps and bounds every year! It offers the best chance for financial security, a stable career, independence, and creative freedom.
To get a head start in the corporate video world, here are some quick tips for producing better corporate video:
1. Put Your Client’s Interests Ahead of Your Own
The key to success with corporate video production is repeat business, so you must become a team player and ensure that every production you work on is successful for the client. Wrapping up production of a video and getting paid by the client or collecting a paycheck at the end of the week is not the goal. The goal should always be to produce a video that actually accomplishes whatever the client needs it to do for them. That purpose might be selling a product or service; training in-house employees on safety procedures or orientation; instructing customers on how to assemble or operate a product they have purchased, etc. If the videos you produce are successful at doing what they are intended to do, you will also be successful. It is just that simple. Those two things go hand in hand. So having a handful of satisfied clients that can count on you to produce one or two videos per year can easily lay the foundation on which a very successful career can be built.
2. Invest in a Teleprompter
When I talk to students at my workshops or speak to other professionals, it never fails to surprise me how few people realize the benefits of having their own teleprompter. There is no single piece of equipment you can buy that will pay off more than a prompter. Whether you’re shooting a company CEO, a government bureaucrat, or top-notch professional talent that you’ve hired for your shoot, a teleprompter will speed up the production, shorten the shooting day, and vastly improve the performance of anyone you put in front of the camera. These days you might be able to get by with a low-cost solution that runs on an iPad, but I highly recommend getting a real prompter with high-quality glass, a hood, and powerful Mac or PC software that permits a wide range of formatting control. I have chosen and definitely recommend a 15” Autocue prompter and its built-in software program Q-start. I can honestly say that the investment paid for itself in the first three shoots and years later it is still going strong. It would be impossible to calculate just how much time and money that teleprompter has saved me over the years.
3. Learn to Write and/or Edit Corporate Video Scripts
Writing for video requires a totally different style and technique than writing for printed materials. If you can’t write well or don’t want to write scripts from scratch you might be able to get away with it, but you must at least learn how to dissect a script, edit it, and get it ready for shooting – that is crucial. Consideration must be paid to how the script flows from topic to topic, making it conversational. You must have detailed planning of the visuals and it must be written and printed in a format that is easy for the crew, talent, and clients to understand. Don’t make the mistake of underestimating the importance of having an excellent script and a detailed shot list before the camera ever begins rolling. As the producer/director of the production, you must do that work and nobody else.
4. Most Importantly, Make the Switch to LED Lighting
LED lighting is the biggest thing to hit video production since the camcorder was invented. Technological improvements such as HD, 4K, LOG, digital formats, tapeless recording, and big sensors are all great things to have, but in my opinion, they all pale in comparison to the introduction of LED lighting. What’s so great about LED? Well, there are several things:
1) Rather than pulling blinds and closing curtains at a location as we had to do with tungsten lights, daylight balanced LED lights allow us to embrace natural light and use it to our advantage.
2) I only use Litepanels’ wide range of LED lights and every instrument in my kit can be dimmed from 100% to zero simply by turning a knob, thus saving a lot of time getting contrast ratios just the way I want them and allowing me to choose the precise f-stop I want to use on my camera. For example, if I want to shoot at f/2.8 to achieve shallow depth of field on an interview, I just dim the lights until I get the right amount of light I need to allow that f-stop.
3) My Litepanels LED lights are highly energy efficient and every one of them can run on batteries – from the Anton/Bauer bricks that power my robust Astra 1x1 to my tiny little Croma 2 lights with AA batteries. It is hard to describe the freedom you’ll feel and the time you will save when you’re no longer running power cords around the set, looking for outlets, tripping breakers, or worrying about heat. My setups and strikes are much faster with LEDs, which ultimately saves me time and money.
4) I have a wide variety of LED lights in my kit rather than just a collection of flat panels. Having Litepanels Fresnel lights as part of my kit is essential for long throws, cutting the beam with barn doors, precisely focusing a narrow spot of light, and being able to create shadows wherever and whenever I want them.
Doug Jensen is a cinematographer, producer, director, editor, and founder of Vortex Media, who frequently teaches production workshops all around the United States. For the past six years he’s been at Maine Media Workshops focusing on proven techniques for interview lighting and for producing and directing high-end corporate video.