A definitive analysis of remote filming, including the pros, cons, costs and steps
By Tim Cumming and Helen Pain, 5 Feb 2021
Many of us are still working from home, and there's a feeling we have when it comes to being on camera that we don't look good without the office. We think: we can't be filmed like this. The absence of the workplace environment and its busy, active look, feels like a problem.
But there's another, competing, more pressing issue, that some of us don't see at all - the loss of drive to get the next marketing campaign started. It's true to say that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a slowing effect on the economy. However, our response to leave the workplace and disconnect ourselves, physically, from the visual sides of our work, doesn't help either. It impedes our business process, and marketing.
So, what is the right approach? Is it simply to wait until COVID is over? Defer all promotion, at a considerable cost to your company? Shelve or ice growth plans and essential marketing?
Of course not.
Your challenge is to sustain the growth and marketing activities of the firm. To rebuild and recover sales, and revenues. To use the oppressive recession and pandemic as a means to gain competitive advantage, if you're sincere about recognising competitive opportunity.
To embrace video in your new working environment.
What is remote filming?
You may have read about remote filming and production - people filming you from a different part of the country, using remote technologies. It's that. But there is much more to it than the obvious.
It is a way of speeding up your thinking, and increasing the visibility, flexibility and dexterity of your marketing. It involves your video production company using a range of filming technologies, such as mobile phones or remote operation kits, either sent to you in the post or acquired by yourself. Remote filming will offset the loss of your obvious, visible, and active workplace.
How does it work?
A director, producer and camera person will film you at your various locations - no need to come together with colleagues in order for the filming to take place on the same day. This is immensely convenient, for you and your team, and many experts in the film industry believe it will continue long after the pandemic. It is simply more practical.
Remote filming involves:
- Topic preparation - knowing what you're talking about, and why
- Having cameras and lights sent to you, or using natural light and phone cams (surprisingly good quality can be achieved with pros directing from the remote end)
- Getting the right background - either a neutral non-descript look, an intentional home-study look, or often best, a plain white wall, onto which can be faked background office movement.
The process is relatively simple. First, you'll need to be prepared. This means agreeing a topic list with your production company. It's a great idea to discuss on a Zoom, or a call with your colleagues, the kinds of messages that you want to communicate on each of these topics.
Secondly, it's a good idea to avoid rehearsing answers, fine-tuning the questions and spending a great deal of time on them, as you'll sound pretty wooden. Let's face it, most of us struggle to remember exact lines as an actor might. The key points, structure, and feel of what you say, can wind up sounding like a checklist if you've over rehearsed the answer. It's often better to truly understand the topic that you want to talk about, and then approach it fresh.
Thirdly, get a good interviewer. Make sure the person asking the questions really understands the topics, and is prepared to push you until they're satisfied they've got a great answer. An authentic answer is the holy grail of a video interview, and a rehearsed one is the wooden spoon.
Fourthly, don't worry about technicals. Whether that's light, background or camera, your production team should advise you and help you to get the very best of the filming. But if you really want to be well prepared, here are a few suggestions:
- If you're at home and want to appear to be at home, a bookcase is the default and safe background. Try to avoid having books which are unrelated to business clearly visible in the background
- The ideal room for home filming is a sitting room or study where, if the background is to be an important part of your video, the viewer will assume that you are relaxed, comfortable, and thoughtful in the material that you're covering. Rooms to avoid are the kitchen and bedrooms.
- Planning: prepare your topic list and team communications ahead of filming
- Observe: follow the interviewer's lead for advice on posture, poise and delivery
- Location: consider where to be interviewed and furnish accordingly.
Quality of remote filming
You may be wondering about the quality of such filming - can it be possible to achieve the same look and technical quality using remote technology? Short answer: no, but only by a small margin. If your production team knows what they're doing, and they have experience with remote filming, you'll be pleasantly surprised by the technical quality of footage shot in your house or empty office.
By far, the biggest issue is the background. Backgrounds can convey a surprising amount of useful mood, tone or actual information, which is lost unless you're very careful to recover it in creative and practical ways.
The best trick of all with backgrounds is to film yourself against a white wall: it allows your video production company to drop in a slightly different background, (even if it's just a hint of a background) on top of the plain white wall, which can place you in an office or industrial-type setting. A white wall also doubles as a nice space to drop graphics on top of (if you're talking in a way which needs illustration). Helpful rather than dull, but they do require post production capability, and that means budget.
- Background: if you have a white wall, consider what image you'd like projected onto it, i.e. a reflection of your office or an industrial setting.
Alternative visual mediums
Is this a good time to switch to animation or b-roll only films, removing yourself and your team from the videos you produce? You certainly can do that, but you may be missing a trick when all those around are falling back on lower quality, less candid, less revealing films. Your opportunity is, bluntly put, to appear normal. Remember normal?
- Office chairs
- Busy backgrounds
- Frequent use of the word 'we'
- Cutaways to industrial or relevant illustration footage
Remote filming woes are hugely reduced by only a small amount of thinking:
- Selection: embrace an agency that specialises in remote filming
- Preparation: plan your core messaging and topic list with your production company
- Technique: choose an agency that can advise on successful interview styles
- Environment: choose an agency that can make it look like you're back in your office or an industrial setting using top-notch technicals
- Reveal: avoid being normal when you define your project - show the good you do.
By using remote filming to enhance your marketing and sales, you will sustain growth and use the current climate to your advantage, which will give you a competitive edge. And, it will, with any luck, make you more comfortable in your new, working environment.
So, now you've considered remote filming, you've moved towards your goal. Time for a chat about process?