video production company

A Worrying Time For a Video Production Company

As an owner of a video production company and animation studio, like any other business owner the thought of losing everything you’ve battled so hard for over the years is a sobering thought to say the least. Losing a business or livelihood is not life or death but it would be a bitter blow. This is currently a reality for many business owners, employees and freelancers around the world due to Covid-19. Like every type of business out there, a video production company or animation studio takes many years to build. Over time a reputation is forged.

Video Production Teammates

Unearthing the right people that you want to share your working life with is incredibly difficult and often takes years. Fortunately, I got the hang of recruitment over the years and only collaborate with decent human beings. People that I would happily spend time with socially. Folk who not only care about the next video production or animation gig, but more importantly are decent people who care about others and stand by their morals. Respectful and considerate people. The kind of team you’d look forward to sharing a brew with after a long day on set or in the animation studio. You know you can be upfront and straight down the line with them. My kind of people. Our video production company is more than a business. It’s a small family. We often share the stresses and strains that come our way in life and always know we have support. During these challenging times it reminds me of how lucky I am for this.

Binary Opposites

When running a full-service video production company and animation studio, just like in life there will always be ups and downs. This is inevitable and unavoidable. You can’t fully revel in the most fantastic times if there aren’t a few rough rides along the way. Comparisons are essential. That overwhelming sense of achievement and contentedness can only be reached and truly appreciated by the occasional bleak reminder of darker times. It’s this binary opposite that can have the power to make life magnificent and full of joy. If you’ve been tainted by challenging circumstances in your life, then happy times have an additional lift. A sense of feel good and well-being is often magnified after a grim encounter. Maybe, after this pandemic has been ground to a halt positivity will be hard to contain. Once we’ve all got our lives back on track that sense of relief will turn into an unbridled sense of positivity, I hope.

Out of Control

You can plan for the future and ensure things are in place to deal with problems or the tougher times you come to expect in business life. That could mean detailed cashflow forecasts, purchasing the best insurance for your latest advertising shoot or mitigating potential workflow issues before an animation or VFX gig develops past the storyboard phase. However, there really isn’t much successful planning you can do regarding a pandemic that surreptitiously creeps up on you. It’s not something our video production company was expecting or planning for. Yes, we did make significant changes starting in February once the warning signs had begun. Searching for a niche survival offering and making changes on the hoof. As we witnessed projects pushed back, put on pause or cancelled for at least a few months. This instigated a feeling of helplessness. It is rare that something is out of your control in such an absolute way. It truly puts everything into perspective and reminds you that everyone’s health is all that matters.

Guessing Game

The problem is we didn’t know and still don’t know how long this will go on for and salaries, bills and overheads still need to be paid. That’s a dark place for any business owner be it video production company, animation studio or any other. Looking at a cashflow that looked positive at the start of the year to suddenly the prospect of no new business and repeat jobs being cancelled or indefinitely on pause is alarming. If we knew it was going to be a specific amount of time, then it would still be difficult but at least a structured plan could be in place with a definitive ending. Unfortunately, this is a story that has a beginning, the middle looks like it is fast approaching and there is no tangible end in sight.

The World Order

My intention for this blog isn’t to be negative. I can’t hide the fact that the world has been turned upside down by a virus that hitherto nobody had even heard of. I’m shocked by how much of a grip this virus has on the world order. Often in the west we are reminded of the baddies around the world and the potential for World War Three. However, I don’t think anyone thought this would be the battle the world faces. When you consider how advanced the human race is with science and technology. You’d never have thought (unless you’re in the know of course) that a virus would be able to cripple us, our way of life and our facilities this quickly.

Keeping Positive During a Crisis

There are positives to take from this. There always are positives. As daft as that may sound right now, I think it’s important to search for anything uplifting that can give even the briefest moment of peace and happiness.

Selflessness

One thing I’ve noticed is an overwhelming amount of people who are prepared to help others. This might be the front-line workers in the NHS, emergency services and supermarkets who are putting their own health and lives on the line for the good of everyone else. Or to a lesser extent everyone who is selflessly offering to get food, medication and essential items for others. And I don’t mean for friends and family. I’m talking about neighbours who have never really met but are happy to help their local community in any way they can. There is something intrinsically British and also human in this regard. To help others. To appreciate that we’re all in this together. We are undoubtably stronger together.

In it Together

There are vulnerable people we share this world with. Young and old people who need our support. These are our people. We share our lives with them without having met. We are all one and the same and possess that indefatigable human spirit that will eventually persevere and shine through. I have no doubt. Yes, I’ve heard the negative stories of selfishness, but they bounce off me and are repressed. The stories that stick are the ones of friendship, camaraderie and kindness. The stories that touch your soul with a message of positivity transcending everything else.

We are going to be in for a rough ride, but we are in it together. You may be isolated, but you are not alone. Please remember that.

 

 

video production agency

Video Production Agency

As a full-scale video production agency, we work on every type of live action, VFX (visual effects, CGI) and animation production that you can imagine. We are a video production agency that develop and produce films from our Manchester and London hubs. From a challenging documentary filmed overseas to styling the narrative beats of a high-end advertisement commercial shot in studio in Manchester. The development stage of the production is where a video production agency sets itself apart from a video production company. Our clients range from small businesses who know that they need video, but don’t know what it should be or how it should function, to huge brands with vast internal creative teams that need help crafting an animation that will be the flagship of a wider campaign. Either way, as a video production agency we develop the creative that the video will showcase. Developing creative is where any video production agency becomes unique among its peers. After all, strong ideas and concepts trump everything else in creative and marketing industries.

Video Production – Infinite Possibilities

There are an almost innumerable number of routes that can be taken when producing a live action video or animation. One idea can be executed so many ways that it can be difficult to know which route is most appropriate or which will be most effective. Moreover, the possibilities increase when considering animation and VFX videos because imagination is the only limit. There are so many forks in the road of commercial video production that the final film will be one of a huge variety of different potential films. Each decision that is made throughout the production stops the film being one thing and causes it to be another. It is like a huge game of Guess Who? where each creative decision sees a swathe of potential final cuts drop and the remaining stand tall. Eventually one film emerges as the final piece, the sum total of each creative turn along the path of its creation. A great video production company can ingest the concept of a piece and advise the client on what would be the wisest production route. However, we are a video production agency meaning that we are a video production company and a creative agency. So, a good production company can advise a client on production decisions along the way to ensure that the concept of the video or animation is delivered effectively. However, we are the production company making those decisions while we are also the creative team that developed the concepts with you from the earliest inception. So, we not only help to make the decisions that ensure that your commercial is the perfect Guess Who? card that stands proud at the end of the production, we are the ones who put all of the cards up in the first place. Who better to run your production?

Developing a Brand with Video

At Groundbreak we are a video production agency awash with people who have a history of developing marketing and advertising creative as well as producing film and animation. This means that, as a video production agency, when we receive a brief, we are not thinking solely about how to produce a video. We are working on how to develop a brand. We know that video is strongest when it is one integral part of a wider campaign. So we work with clients, advertising agencies and as a creative agency ourselves to develop creative that pushes the brand, not just the video. This holistic approach means that our clients not only get a brilliant video production, but they also get an instant and organic extension to their creative and marketing teams.

Some clients have a very clear vision for their live action or animation project and need us to facilitate and produce their vision. Others visit us in our Manchester HQ knowing only that they want a video. In either eventuality we get to create something great. With the projects that we develop the creative for we get the fun of working on a whole campaign, developing a cross-platform brand while knowing that we then get to be the video production agency that produces the centrepiece film that launches the whole thing. With so many different avenues a production can go down based on the many production or creative decisions along the route it can be invaluable to have developed the creative concept and marketing strategy that the video sits within as we produce a film.

Decisions That Affect a Video Production

Any one creative decision by a video production agency can change the whole commercial. The entire production could be executed in exactly the same way save just one creative decision and the film may be unrecognisable. There are obvious examples. If you cast a different lead actor in your commercial, then the whole thing is different immediately. Casting is an exercise in fine tuning a marketing message. Choosing a person to embody your brand, resonate with your audience and deliver your message. Naturally choosing one actor over another has huge implications to the final piece. Take your favourite commercial and change the music. You may hate it. In fact, you wouldn’t recognise it, it wouldn’t exist. If you change the music you change the pace, change the cut, change the beats of the narrative, you have a whole new commercial. Just one change. The same can be said for animation. You might only adjust the colour palette and it looks and feels like a different video production agency created it.

There are less obvious examples. Choosing one Production Designer over another, for example. You may have an incredibly in-depth brief for the Production Designer that outlines the exact look and feel of the mis-en-scene, and why every decision therein reflects the essence of the piece. But if one Production Designer prefers linear, geometric shapes and designs and another prefers abstract curves and soft lines then they can each deliver work that delivers perfectly on brief but is also diametrically opposed to the other. A video production agency can give the exact same raw footage to ten different editors with the exact same post production brief and be given back ten distinctly different films. Send those ten cuts to ten different colourists and the possibilities multiply further.

Understanding the Bigger Picture

When you work with a video production company that does not develop creative, doesn’t write scripts, doesn’t devise marketing strategy and only produces video based on your creative then you put every one of those integral production decisions in their hands with the hope that they have understood your brief well enough to knock down the right Guess Who? cards and carve out the commercial that can stand proudly front and centre of your advertising campaign. When you work with a video production agency like us, that writes concepts, writes scripts, designs artwork and has a holistic understanding of advertising then you are safe in the knowledge that every production decision is being made with the whole brand, the whole message and the whole strategy in mind. Either because we have developed those concepts with you or, when we are simply producing your creative vision, because we deeply understand the position and function of a commercial film within a broader campaign.

There are almost innumerable ways to produce a video. But there are literally innumerable concepts, stories, marketing messages or campaign strategies for a video to take form around. Choosing a video production agency like Groundbreak with a strong history of developing powerful advertising creative means that your video production is certain to be the absolute epitome of your campaign message as a full-scale video production agency will have developed that message and campaign with you. Having a video production agency that is instrumental in developing your brand with you as well as producing your commercial ensures that it will be that perfect signature marketing piece that embeds your brand and boldly announces your entire campaign.

If you’d like more information about how we develop commercial video concepts from scratch, see the pre-production section of our video production blog. If you’d like to talk to us about how we can help you develop your brand and produce your commercial film, or if you’d like a game of Guess Who? contact me or pop into Groundbreak’s Manchester HQ.

 

animated car

Animation Manchester

Our Manchester based animation studio is a fusion of endless creative opportunities and concepts. It’s the epicentre of our imagination. The fulcrum of our creative gusto. The magical space where the room lights are always dim, and the gaze of our post-peeps (a post-peep is a post-production person) are eternally transfixed to the viewing monitors that have enticed them into a world of originality and inspiration. Animation and Manchester are made for each other. Animation doesn’t care about the weather, if it did it probably wouldn’t like Manchester. 

Working Environment

The atmosphere of an animation studio is of paramount importance. Whether it’s a sole animator or a team of animation wizards. The mood and tone must be right. There must be a positive and efficient vibe, but a creative edge in the atmosphere is needed. An uplifting mood cloaked with a veil of serious serenity. A bit like on a video production set. Mind fulfilling and thought-provoking animations can be created anywhere in the world. Often with weather cloaking blackout blinds in dark rooms (like most post in video production). This ensures not one pixel is missed by the animator as they view their creation coming to life. Being shrouded in darkness helps with perfect screen viewing of your latest animation and also highlights that it’s irrelevant what the weather in Manchester is doing outside. Everything outside the animation suite stops. The world is on pause. 

The Final Sequence

Imagine this. A dark room captivated by an unbridled energy. Gently lit by a rich and colourful vivid set of monitors. One screen is lighting a producers face as she gazes on in absorbed glee. Her face tells a story. A story of near completion. A story that has been all consuming for the last six months as she’s battled with ideas, creatives and budget. She’s witnessing the final sequence coming to life and can’t hide her emotion.

The Animator

The other identical monitors rays of light accentuate the dust particles dancing in the dark and vignette the face of an accomplished animator. Comfortable in his own skin. Comfortable in his own skill. He’s well accustomed to working in the dark and lighting up colleagues faces with awe. He’s been here before. Been through the tricky post-production patches. Always reminding himself and his team of animators that each hurdle is there for a reason and in turn lifting the production values to the next stratosphere. Each challenge, storyboard and script change will be overcome and managed. He can sense the relief and delight by his colleague’s aura. His now content work mate.

Love Child

Sat there in the dimly lit room both animator and producer alike know a spellbinding animation will be broadcast to the world very soon. The world will never know the late nights though. The system crashes. Workflow meltdowns. The blood sweat and tears that went into it. But they will. They know only too well. They know they created this stunning collaboration of engaging animation in this dark room in Manchester. 

They’ll be onto the next animation or video production gig soon, but for now they’ll enjoy this moment and they’ll enjoy it even more when they show it to the world. On this day they’re a happy and content triumvirate. Producer, animator and animation. Three have briefly become one. They’ll be glad to move onto the next all-consuming gig. This has been intense. The best animations often are. They will miss it though. It’s become a part of them. Like two roommates raising a child. They love it but are happy to let it free once it can take care of itself. They could never keep it from the world. It was created solely for mass consumption. It’ll shine bright and touch many people. It’ll be remembered. They’ll remember it most.

Collaboration

When collaborating on an animation as a producer, director or both you often spend a lot of time alone with the lead animator. When I say a lot of time, I mean you practically live together for a few weeks or even months. To the point that you should probably declare your new living arrangement with the local council as it will undoubtably affect your council tax obligations. This isn’t unusual in video production and even more common in post-production. There are a few reasons why you spend so much time together. 

Two Heads Are Better Than One

Firstly, and most importantly like anything that is aiming for excellence and to be the best it can be, collaboration is key. Two skilled operators are always going to create something that little bit more special than with one talented individual. The cliché that two heads are better than one is absolutely true in this instance. You might have all the ideas and technical skills to implement an idea and create an animation. However, because you are so absorbed in the project you might miss a few subtleties. 

Animation – In the Detail

These tiny details could be the difference between a very good animation and an absolute masterpiece. Maybe it is the way in which one of your 3D characters moves in a certain sequence. Or the way in which a sound design tweak emboldens a few seconds of a 2D animation that makes the end user feel a certain way. Maybe it’s a simple suggestion that instigates a slight change in thought process which in turn improves the overall flow of the animation. It could be many things, but a collaboration is definitely better than an individual effort. After all, the aim is always to create the best animation possible. You want your client to be blown away. Team efforts always help you achieve this.

Different Types of Animation

There are many different types of animation and VFX all created and used for different purposes. There is traditional animation which is 2D animation that was often hand drawn. The other type of 2D animation is vector-based animation which is using digital assets. Next there is 3D animation which is CGI animation. Then there is my personal favourite, stop motion (Claymation, cut-outs), think Wallace and Gromit and the like. Finally motion graphics are also part of the world of animation which involves animating typography.

The one thing all of these types of animation have in common is that they can literally be whatever you want them to be. The sky’s the limit. It is always possible to create something original when it comes to animation. This is often more difficult in other forms of video production as there are less possibilities. With animation every creation can be unique. The imagination of the creators and the budget are the only limits. If an idea can be conceptualised and developed into a tangible storyboard, then the only thing that could possibly get in the way at this point is the financial resources available to produce the animation. For a more detailed explanation of the different types of animation check out the animation section of this blog.

If you’re considering an animation, visual effects or any type of video production and looking for a passionate bunch of creatives who love bringing ideas to life then please get in touch.

video shoot studio

Commercial Video Production

I can seldom walk through Manchester without being physically accosted and asked, “What is the world of commercial video production really like?” If I step on the Metrolink at rush hour, within one minute I have been mobbed – “Sean! Over here, tell us about commercial video production! The late nights, the green tea, the beta-blockers we want to hear it all!” Strolling late nights through Manchester is out of the question for me ever since I was approached by a hooded figure with a vacant stare. He fixed my gaze as he shuffled intimately close to me, zombified. I steeled myself and adopted a Capoeira stance. Perched on his slow and pained exhalation I thought I heard my name. He feebly lifted an arm and slid up a sleeve. I glanced at his arm in the last second before I’d prepared to deliver a confounding open palmed strike. I was taken aback. There on his forearm, in blue ink, his tattoo – “why do you love commercial video production in Manchester?”

This has to stop. So once and for all here it is.

Idea Shaping Sessions

A great commercial video production starts with a brilliant brief. There’s nothing better than when we receive a brief that gives us all of the facts but with a big scope for our own creativity. The stipulations of the brief become the rules we must follow while we play a game of imagination in our idea shaping sessions. The brief is like the card you pick up in Pictionary and we must devise the perfect way to draw our picture to convey the message on the card. In commercial video production you only have 30 seconds to convey that message and you have to convey it to a much wider audience than your Pictionary partner who you’ve known since uni. It’s not a perfect analogy but you get the idea. I wouldn’t want to shrug off the hordes of Manchester people who claw at me for an answer as to what commercial video production is like with “like Pictionary”. That would be inaccurate.

Turning a Video Brief into a Concept

Nevertheless, a good brief gives us the facts that only the client can give. Target market, budget and deadline are decisions we’d love to make but in reality, a good brief includes these facts and leaves us room to deliver upon these stipulations in the most effective and impressive way conceivable. Commercial video production is an art form with a world of possibilities but the end goal basically always remains the same. A great brief gives us the parameters that we must work around to ensure that the film does its job, but a brilliant brief also gives us room to flex our creative muscles in devising exactly how we achieve that end. 

Storm in a Teacup?

Brainstorming is a word that I find troublesome. It’s a word that is pretty synonymous with advertising, marketing and communications so it’s tricky to avoid when working in commercial video production. I think bad experiences in the past have meant that in my mind the word has evolved to mean “let’s see who can talk the loudest when we’re all getting a little tired and bored and we’ll just go with that.” One of my favourite writers Jon Ronson produced an episode of his Radio 4 documentary series on Brainstorming and its pitfalls which is definitely worth a listen if devising new ideas with a team is part of your life. Luckily at Groundbreak things work a little differently.

Evolution of Ideas

Whoever is working on the brief will have time individually to digest it and come up with some ideas before we discuss it as a group. We will also often go away again after hearing each other’s ideas to hone our own or take someone else’s forward. A commercial video production is like a baby, you just want the best for it and for it to reach its ultimate potential. You probably wouldn’t make the best parental decisions on the spot while trying to find a long enough break in the crossfire conversation of your colleagues. So, having a little creative incubation time individually before finding a clear consensus on an idea is a precious luxury in commercial video production but in my opinion, it should be a necessity. It helps us each take the brief in potentially different directions which opens up our individual perceptions of what is possible rather than us creating one idea between us in what can easily become a microcosmic echo chamber.

The Groundbreak Way

Our way of working ensures that we take in a good range of creative directions on a brief. We organically find the route that we’re most excited about, we get to a conclusion quicker and we often have a few concepts to pitch to our client so they are sure to be as excited about the production as we are.

Pre-Production

Once we’ve shaped our idea, pitched it to the client who have heralded us as geniuses and whipped out their chequebook quick snap, we then get into the production. Excellent commercial video production is as much about communication and preparation as it is about creativity and the art of storytelling. Pre-production is all about ensuring that we are completely prepared to execute our concept to the highest possible standard, including factoring in contingencies. It is also about giving us and our client the clearest and most detailed possible preview of exactly what the finished film will be. Commercial video production is often a sizeable investment from a client’s marketing budget so we like to do everything we can in pre-production; storyboarding, scouting, scripting to guarantee that the client knows exactly what we’re working towards and has any stress taken away from them allowing them to focus on enjoying the process.

Scriptural Psychosis

The best commercial video productions centre around a strong script. Captivating composition and sumptuous sounds are incredible to experience but when a magnificent script ties up the commercial message neatly and provokes an emotional reaction then the whole package becomes something special to be proud of. Scripting a first draft for a commercial video production is one of my favourite ways to spend a workday. I’ll take the tram into the Manchester office and, after fighting past the baying mob of teenagers greedily enquiring how Coronavirus has affected my life in commercial video production. Then I’ll start to think of opening lines for the script. Usually I’ll have the voice of the actor or narrator in mind before anything else. Then I’ll psychotically sound all of my thoughts in their voice and with the emotional tone of the commercial for a while to get a feel for what sounds good.

Being “In” The Script

Once you get the flow of the delivery and one or two lines you’re flying. I am very easily distracted so white noise in noise cancelling earphones is a godsend for me when writing a script. Being “in” the script in this way is something that not only sounds fabulously pretentious but is also a very fragile state of mind. Writing a first draft of a commercial video script is like sketching out drawing lines which you know will be painted over. The eventual script will in all likelihood be quite different to what was originally written but the form, message and structure will remain based in that first draft. Once a solid draft of the script and a storyboard have been signed off, we then have an excellent idea of exactly what is needed for the shoot.

Shooting Commercial Video

I adore commercial video production shoots. Working as part of a commercial film crew is a thrill and joy to behold. Watching all of the pieces and people come together on set is incredibly satisfying as you see the culmination of weeks or months of work come to fruition. Being on set is a heady juxtaposition of moods. There is a palpable sense of fun and electricity that runs tangentially to a sense of focus and heightened awareness.

There may be some slight apprehension from the cast which is perfectly contrasted and allayed by the Director’s calm and contentment. There is a sense of great importance attached to every task but also an assurance that everything is happening exactly as it should. There is a speedy pace combined with hushed and tranquil voices. Commercial video production shoots have an atmosphere that suggests everything absolutely must go perfectly but that nobody will panic too much if it doesn’t. A collection and collaboration of some of the most creative and resourceful people you will ever meet means that everything will go according to plan, even if it doesn’t.

The Edit

After the wonder of the shoot day we enter post-production. Commercial video production is a process where every phase of the production has to be thought of as where the magic happens. A great concept goes nowhere without a script that does it justice. The script is nothing but ink on paper without a storyboard to visualise it and a shoot to capture it. I don’t know if you have ever seen raw rushes from a commercial video shoot but if you have then you know just how important post-production is. A clip may be 40 seconds long but just one second of that clip is trimmed, colour-graded and made into 3 seconds of the final 30 second commercial.

First Cut

The skill of a great editor is invaluable as they take the vast amount of footage that can be gathered on a commercial shoot and, using the storyboard and script, see the story among the rushes, shiny gems of takes glistening against the gaze waiting to be mined. I would say a commercial video production reaches peak excitement when you are sent the first cut. You know it’s a first cut, you know the client may have amends, you know that you may have notes to give but more than anything else you know that you got it. You know that the commercial you all willed into existence has come to be. It’s a few tweaks and weeks away from being the shiny new toy on your showreel.

On Air

The excitement of a first cut could only possibly be bested by seeing your commercial on air when you’re not expecting it. Then it is truly a complete work. By the time that happens we’ll be deep into other productions, equally excited by them and it’s a heartening reminder of the calibre and purpose of working in commercial video production as you see your work doing its job and making your clients product look and feel incredible.

If, like the masses of Manchester who are banging on our office window cutting through my white noise as I type this, your appetite for what the world of commercial video production is like is still not satiated then you should contact me or Groundbreak HQ directly or visit my more in-depth delve into what we do here.

 

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay