Princess Street Manchester offices

New Manchester Office, New Me

Our New Manchester Office

Groundbreak Productions recently moved into 101 Princess Street, Manchester, an innovation hub filled with brilliant creative agencies. Now every time something new happens in my life I decide that it isn’t simply a new life event, but that I’m going to become a whole brand new person. I’m going to re-structure my thinking, my schedule and even my morals to become a better, more fantastical version of myself in every way. So when we moved to our new office recently I naturally believed that this would be it – the birth of a whole new person. Who would this person be?

Healthy Ideas

The new office has kitchen areas, complete with a dishwasher- The new me could be a cook. Maybe I’d make a different lunch every single day? Perhaps I’d source all of my produce locally on my way to the office. I’d get to know all of the local grocers by name and they’d give me an extra avocado in exchange for a friendly smile from a loyal customer. What if I became vegan? Or finally started drinking green tea? Is it possible that I’d become a health food auteur? It could be the inspiration for a business- I’d prepare contemporary, nutritious and ethical snacks for the busy professional. My new fraternity among Manchester’s grocers would support my endeavour and market my products. They may sell out. They wouldn’t be able to re-stock my Raw Coconut and Chia Seed Energy Balls fast enough! I may need a bigger retailer. Perhaps I’d approach Morrisons – easy enough as they’re a Groundbreak client. This is it. I have FINALLY got a food product in a major high street retailer. This has been my dream. My number one dream ever since I found out our new office has a dishwasher.

Exercise Regimes

The new office also has showers- Could I become a cyclist? How urban. Perhaps I’d develop superhuman stamina and quadriceps like Serrano hams. Maybe I’d take a side job as a bike courier. I’d become the darling maverick of the courier scene darting and weaving through traffic with death-defying speed and agility. What if I took a hiatus from video production (being the North West’s foremost cycling poster boy) and cycled across Europe? On my route I’d learn about poignant cultural issues on the continent and document them on this very blog. What if Groundbreak decided to make a documentary based on the stories I found on my European Ride-a-round? This is it. Groundbreak will have another feature-length documentary in production. This time about MY European tour and MY Serrano ham thighs and all because we now have an office with showers.

The Manchester Scene

The new office is in Manchester city centre- Maybe I’d become a commuter. I could nimbly hop on to a tram each morning rather than sit on the M60 choking down exhaust fumes. The new vegan, cook, cyclist version of me is definitely more of a public transport kind of person. And rather than changing gear or deciphering which lane I should be in I could be writing a production schedule, editing a video or hiring some camera equipment. I could do an hour’s worth of video production that would have otherwise been spent following the blue line on Google Maps and anxiously resisting the temptation to check the emails that I can see coming through. Those hours would add up. I’d have free time. 5 hours a week that are a gift to me. I could learn a new language, join an adult gymnastics club or train as a bog snorkeler*. There is a universe of boundless potential and possibility. A whole new lifestyle, a better me, a different story. All because our new office is in the city centre with a dishwasher and showers.

This sprawling endless sensation of possibility borne of something incredibly simple is exactly what creating commercial film and video relies on. We don’t make films to promote a product – a shower, a dishwasher, a location. We make films that tell you a story. The story of the life you will lead after you have this product. We explore potential and possibilities and display them large on the screen. We do this so that you see, hear and feel the real intrinsic value of the products and brands that we make films for. For around 30 seconds you will feel a new lifestyle. And what you feel, you do not forget.

 

*It’s a real thing. Google it. Our Head of Production (and serial hobbyist) Matt narrowly missed out on becoming World Champion.

 

blog header using jack black

Don’t Read This

When was the last time you got home and kicked back with a nice glass of wine, put your feet up and got all excited about watching a really good advert? Or clicked that youtube link eagerly awaiting a 20 second interruption before watching the next installment of “cats wearing trousers”?

My point being that no one really wants to watch adverts and it’s usually not their choice to do so. It’s yours. You want to sell your stuff, and you want your audience to buy your stuff by making them wait while you shove an advert (which probably has nothing to do with cats or trousers) right in their mush. Despite being force-fed virtually every advert we’ve ever seen, these ads mostly continue to entertain, engage, form brand allegiances and make us buy said stuff.

What wizardry is this? What’s going on in our minds that makes us hold the hand that force-feeds us? How do advertisers make us respond favorably to these unwelcome distractions when all we want to do is see how cute Mr Tiggles looks in a pair of stonewashed jeans?

It’s no surprise to anyone that psychology is often used to achieve advertising’s main functions, which are to inform, persuade and influence.

I’ll just focus on persuasion for today, and bear with me here… One of the most widely accepted models of persuasion is the Elaboration Likelihood Model, that says there are two ways a communication can be persuasive; these two ways are called the central route and the peripheral route. The central route appeals to logic and is linked with high involvement, meaning the degree of intensity of interest that a buyer shows for a certain product, in other words how much time, energy and other resources they are willing to put into the process. Let’s say you really, really, really want a new car; because you really, really, really want a new car you’re highly involved and are therefore more willing to pay attention to the advert. By way of the central route you will look at the facts and use logic to make the decision, leading to a more permanent attitude change.

In the peripheral route the viewer doesn’t think carefully about a communication but is influenced instead by superficial cues. These cues or gimmicks include emotional stories, bright colours, funky music or sexy presenters. Low involvement (when you’re selling something the viewer doesn’t know they want yet) is associated with the peripheral route because the message content becomes relatively unimportant and ignored. The results are more temporary as these cues play to the senses, emotions or feelings.

A Good Advert Plays on your Feelings

Your feelings have a huge impact on how you’re persuaded and how you spend your money, which is the ultimate goal of advertising. Believe it or not, colours are the most important and effective aspect of advertising and account for 60-70% of consumer reaction.

  • Red increases blood pressure, heart rate, appetite, grabs attention and stimulates quick decision-making.
  • Pink is associated with sweetness and is most often used in the sale of sweets or baked goodies.
  • Orange makes people feel energetic but prolonged exposure can apparently make people feel very aggressive.
  • Yellow is the first colour processed by the human eye so is often used to draw attention.
  • Green is a relaxing colour and often represents things that are environmentally friendly and natural.
  • Blue is the most popular and favoured colour among adults and is the colour of loyalty.
  • Purple is often associated with the Royal, rich and luxurious.
  • Brown is favoured by men over women and is often used to represent that which is natural and of the earth. It represents solidity and strength.
  • Black represents power, sophistication and formality. It’s used to make other colours pop and is a preferred colour for text for increased readability.
  • White represents cleanliness and purity. It also implies simplicity, newness and high technology.

Feelings occur rapidly and involuntarily and they strongly shape your behaviour and risk perception. If an advert arouses negative feelings then the buyer will perceive the risks as higher and the benefits as lower. On the flip-side, if the advert arouses positive feelings in the buyer they will judge the related risks as low and the benefits higher, increasing the chance of them parting ways with their hard earned cash and buying your product. This is why adverts often contain positively charged emotional cues as well as basic factual information, as the combination of these elements work through both the central and peripheral routes.

So… Now you know that, here’s a picture of a cat wearing trousers.

 

behind the scenes on a TV commercial with makeup artist

We Couldn’t Do It Without You

I’m fortunate to have met many different types of personalities and people in my job over the years, but I’m not talking about the visionaries, celebs, presenters, politicians and sports personalities. This blog is about the important people. The one’s on the other side of the lens. The folk behind the camera that create the finished film, TV advert or online video. These are the chaps and chapettes who bring together the engaging, stunning videos our audiences and clients now expect of us…

groundbreak tvc london corporate video blog

One thing the creatives, techie’s and those somewhere in-between all have in common is an absolute love and passion for creating content. Whether they work day to day with the team at Groundbreak Productions or they’re our go-to specialist location crew, animation and post production wizards who are part of our extended family, they all have this same burning passion, to want to create the absolute best production possible whether its film or animation.

We’re lucky in our industry that we get to creatively express ourselves and often with few limitations. Obviously some productions are more exciting than others but that’s just part of life. The exciting thing is knowing that we have the power to change people’s perspectives and open eyes which is a very potent gift to possess. I have no doubt many of our peers and fellow video production houses feel the same way.

At Groundbreak we all genuinely enjoy what we do and we’re proud of what we create. This often includes anti-social hours and last minute pressure, not that we’re complaining as this isn’t real work in our opinion, it’s a vocation. We’re fortunate that all of the freelance crew we work alongside feel the same way and they help us to strive for perfection. Allowing us to think bigger and bolder and pushing concepts in the knowledge that we can deliver even the most challenging productions. These talented individuals know who they are and are a great addition to our team.

video production manchester groundbreak blog

Whether it’s our Director of Photography staying calm and still cracking jokes sixteen hours into a shoot that should have wrapped six hours earlier. Our producers multi, multi, multi tasking due to countless last minute script changes. Camera operators keeping their cool and laughing as our client swipes their slice of pizza or our runners keeping up crew morale on a night shoot in January in a windy field armed only with their enthusiastic, gregarious personalities and a huge vat of hot, strong coffee. Truly glamorous industry, eh?

They all care about how they work and what they deliver and understand the importance of enjoying themselves in the process by making everything as fun as possible. Especially given the many different types of challenging circumstances they face. So I’d like to sign off this blog by thanking everyone who has helped us do what we do and create what we create. It’s been a blast (and stressful).

On to the next exciting project – can’t wait!

behind the scenes with child actor

Production Values? Who Cares?

The Importance of Production Values

When speaking to video production companies, one of the phrases you may hear a lot is ‘production values’ and how important they are. So what are production values and why should we care about them? Are they just an excuse for agencies to bump up the budget or for filmmakers to play with all the whistles and buttons in their gadget box?

When anyone can shoot and upload video content on a decent mobile phone, what does a specialist agency add besides cost? We can all take high-res photographs, shoot video and edit with the apps that are available now. Does that mean you’ll be taking your product shots with your smartphone and designing a poster campaign yourself on your desktop? I doubt it.

A cheap-looking communication, whether it be an online video or a tv advert, puts across a poor brand image. So how do you achieve high production values? It all starts with the kit and crew…

When it comes to filming there are plenty of decent one-man bands that can turn up and be the cameraman, act as the sound engineer, manage the lighting and play director. But people specialise for a reason. Even for a simple interview video, different camera angles, lighting and direction will mean the difference between a cheap looking clip with a single camera angle, bad eyeline, murky lighting and muffled sound; to an engaging professional corporate video that fits comfortably within your brand communications strategy.

You’ll inevitably pay more for an experienced crew, but this will pay dividends down the line, time and time again. As well as getting the right people in place, you need the right kit; you don’t need to know what the most appropriate equipment is for your job, but what you do need to know is that the people filming for you certainly do, and will make recommendations based on ensuring the video turns out as fantastic as possible.

Post Production – Where the Magic Happens.

Once the shoot has happened we enter the mysterious world of post-production. It’s where the transformation of your footage truly takes place.

1. Creative Editing makes the film ‘watchable’ – putting the shots together so they flow seamlessly to tell a story, whether that story is a product ‘how-to’ or a TV commercial. Stylish, contemporary editing can make all the difference to how a video looks, feels and engages its audience. Any CGI or special effects come into the mix at this stage too.

2. Colour grading will make the film more vibrant and almost ‘pop’ out from the screen. (New blog on this coming soon!)

3. Sound Design. Good sound design usually goes unnoticed but bad sound design can have a big impact. Interestingly, your brain will automatically pick up on poor sound quality and mixing a lot faster than your eyes would pick up on any visual errors. Sound Design also encompasses sound effects; rather than using the sounds generated at the shoot (e.g. a ball bouncing or waves crashing), effects will be added afterwards to make them stand out and make you feel like you’re there – all helping to engage the viewer and keeping them watching to the end.

You get what you pay for with video – whether that video is for a TV commercial, an online ad or a corporate video – invest in the production values and spot the difference.

orchestra

My Musical Obsession

Music and Video Production

Music, in my opinion, is absolutely everything in TV commercials and corporate video production. You can have the most breath-taking and visually stunning advert but if the music isn’t right, it just isn’t the same. You’ll watch crap but you won’t listen to it.

I’ve been obsessed with music for as long as I can remember. I’m convinced my Mum used to sleep next to a huge speaker when I was in her womb so that I could rock to the beat before I was even born.

Music has always been a part of my life, both in the good times and the bad. I remember my Dad training me up throughout my formative years as I sat in the back of his car cruising along. He’d be playing anything from the Beatles to Bob Marley with a little bit of Black Sabbath and Beethoven in-between. (We listened to artists that didn’t begin with B, too!)

Next came the hedonistic teen years with all-night raves and crazy indie gigs. From drum and bass to metal, through various musical friendships, I had become unknowingly obsessed with classical music and film. I watched at least a film a day and at the time didn’t appreciate that most of the film scores were performed by full symphony orchestras.

Sourcing Music for Television

In my early twenties, I somehow found myself in national broadcast music libraries sourcing music for television. It was hour after hour of bliss, discovering new music and artists. I couldn’t believe my luck whenever my exec producer at the time sent me to the music library to find a track for a TV programme.

Both myself and the rest of the team at Groundbreak put our life and soul into creating the perfect commercial. The number of times I’ll be sat in the office looking for the perfect track or getting the first draft off one of our composers and I’ll play the piece to the rest of the team; half of them will be absolutely sold on it while the rest put fingers in their ears and pray for it to end.

The best thing about choosing the right music is that sometimes a track that’s a bit left field can go perfectly with a film you would never imagine. The audience might be expecting a gentle folk song with gushing lullabies and you hit them with a swampy, big band blues track and it blows them away. They don’t know how or why but it captivates them by the way in which it works with the pictures bringing everything to life. This often comes about when researching the target audience the brand is trying to relate to, highlighting the importance of planning at the storyboard stage.

I’ve written and directed countless films and commercials and one thing’s for sure, I’ll never direct a silent movie.

girl walking through the woods

Torn Between Two… Branches?

We all know how much I love a shoot day and this was up there with the best of them. It just shows that with a bit of creativity and a good cast – things can come together pretty bloody nicely!

The video we produced for Miriam and her team is to promote her autobiography ‘Torn Between Two Cultures’, released summer 2017. Miriam first approached us about launching a book trailer in the summer of 2016. We were amazed and shocked by her story and most of all her bravery, and were eager to help her to get this story out there in the best way we knew how! Cue recce, casting, scripting, storyboarding… you know the score!

Casting for the film

We worked closely with the client when casting for this film. As it was based on Miriam’s true story each cast member was representing the same character. It was great to also have the client on set throughout filming to ensure everything was as she remembered. Miriam was very honest and said it brought back a lot of memories – some good, some bad but she was happy to be on set and see it all being pieced together. We used local talent from Stellar Management and Ora Casting to cast the final actors. I was particularly blown away with the professionalism and eagerness the girls had on set (even little Isla who’s 2 1/2 years old). They were a delight to work with.

Video Shoot Location

The location recces for this shoot were great fun. Our criteria was slightly different to some of our more corporate shoots. The best part was seeing Producer Matt wading feebly through branches to access a derelict railway line that ‘he could have sworn was round here somewhere…’. A few scratches and nettle stings later we found the perfect spot. Because we were focusing on a real-life story, we needed them to be true to the narrative that Miriam describes in her book.

Pre-shoot, we recorded the voiceover for the whole film and we thought a nice touch would be to have the oldest child actor record the narrative, as if it were Miriam. Having a child voice the script really helps to get across how young Miriam was when she experienced all these terrible things throughout her childhood.

The shoot day was a lot of fun. We tried out a new technique called ‘lens bashing’ (I know, sounds a bit random). This is where the lens is removed from the body of the camera and held closely at different angles, shifting the focus and creating different light effects. It really helps capture some amazing light flares and also distorts the view slightly, creating a hazy/dreamlike state. We wanted to get across the uncertainty and confusion that Miriam had been feeling throughout her childhood, so we found this to be a perfect way to convey that (along with some stunning shots of course). Shooting in 50fps also helped add to this ethereal effect we wanted to achieve.

We had to make sure we started early to get all the shots before dark. Then, once it was dark we could trek off to the airport to capture the last shot of the day.

Post Production

The grade was a vital part of the post-production process after a creative edit. Obviously, we wanted to make it look as visually pleasing as possible but some of the scenes needed to resemble the hot climate of Pakistan – and when you’re filming in the miserable North West of England, this poses quite a challenge.

Take a look at the finished book trailer and see if you can spot some good old lens bashing.