Achieving High Production Value Internet Video - The principles Hollywood films use to achieve a high production value can be applied to even the most modest web video. For over 100 years, the film industry has refined a methodology for producing engaging stories that have reflected and influenced society. Film industry techniques are within the grasp of brands that wish to produce high-quality cinematic content for the web.
"Anyone can shoot a video, but you need a true understanding of the medium to craft emotion and meaning." - Tonya Mantooth, Executive & Artistic Director, San Diego International Film Festival
1. Story First
A compelling story is the most critical component of any genre of video or film. It won’t matter how beautiful a video looks if it lacks an engaging narrative. Your story will also serve as the production’s central reference point, informing every technical and artistic decision that will need to be made during production.
TIP: Use a traditional story framework like the three-act structure and the hero’s journey as starting points. Using a well-established structure will to give your script a solid foundation on which to craft your unique tale.
“It all starts with the script: it's not worth being away from my family if I'm not really passionate about it.” - Steven Spielberg
2. Location, Location, Location
Selecting an appropriate location will a have major impact on the quality of your video. A carefully chosen set can support your story’s message by providing critical context for action and dialogue. Conversely, a poor choice can result in a production being compromised by the location’s physical attributes.
TIP: Pick a location that is large enough to create depth, free of excessive environmental noise and with light sources that can be modified.
“Choosing location is integral to the film: in essence, another character.” - Ridley Scott
3. Talent Matters
Casting experienced actors is an investment that will set your production apart from amateur videos. Acting is a nuanced discipline that takes years of experience and training to master. Skilled talent will heighten production value by contributing their understanding of how the medium is to be leveraged for maximum emotional effect.
TIP: Cast your project like you would hire for any position. Auditions are interviews that require respect for the Actors, process, and the craft. If budget permits, use a talent agency or a reputable casting director to aid in your search.
"90% of directing is casting" - John Huston
4. Sound Is Half Of It
Audio is often a neglected consideration in amateur videos. Good sound can increase the perceived quality of the entire video. Audiences might forgive unexposed footage but will refuse to watch a video with bad sound.
TIP: Great sound starts with the location and is only as good as the weakest link in the audio chain. You can greatly improve your audio quality by, mitigating environmental sound, placing microphones close to actors, and getting a consistent recording level.
“Films are 50 percent visual and 50 percent sound. Sometimes sound even overplays the visual” – David Lynch
5. Light Tells The Story
Creating a cinematic look begins with lighting a scene in order to direct the audience’s attention to the desired part of the image while creating the illusion of depth within the composition. Applying this strategy without calling attention to the technique is key to elegantly supporting the narrative.
TIP: Use a Three Point Lighting scheme to achieve cinematic results when filming a your talent. This technique is a film industry standard that utilizes a key light, fill light and hair light as starting point for creating crafting a image with cinematic depth.
“The best way to know when there's good lighting is when you don't notice it.” - Vilmos Zsigmond
6. Lenses Control The Image
A high quality lens can contribute to the capture of cinematic imagery by providing character, control, and precision. A camera can only record the images a lens projects, so good glass is invaluable in achieving the desired look.
TIP: Use a “fast” lens with a wide maximum aperture to achieve a shallow depth of field. This will draw attention to the elements in focus by blurring elements in the composition. Films have long employed this technique to direct attention to specific parts of the frame.
“Cameras don't matter to me, I think that it's the lenses” - Matthew Libatique
7. The Right Camera Is Key
A camera is an essential piece of gear that must be capable of capturing as much information as is required to construct the intended story. Cameras come in a dizzying array of categories and capabilities that are often designed for specific shooting scenarios.
TIP: Identify the production’s practical parameters and visual aesthetic before picking a camera. Consult rental houses to select the appropriate camera system for your project’s scope.
"You can make [Digital Cameras] look so beautiful that sometimes they can even blow film out of the water." - Reed Morano
8. Invest for Success
Hollywood's billion dollar box office revenues are evidence of a demand for high production value content. While the average marketer lacks the budget to produce a feature film, a modest investment in a professional crew can greatly improve the production value of even the most humble web video.
Tip: Select a Director with a reel that demonstrates the ability to achieve your desired tone and look. A good Director will translate your marketing strategy into a video that supports your business goals and inspires your audience to take action.
"Marketing is simply an exercise in controlling the price point. Therefore, we need to think hard about production value - even if it's a web video." - Ryan Berman founder/cco, i.d.e.a