A Guide to the Best Bonfire Night Video Production

I’d just like to start by declaring that if you follow this ‘how-to’ blog closely you’ll get some real gems of filming advice, albeit rather abstract at times. I like to keep you on your toes.

What better way is there to ensure that you remember remember the 5th of November than with an incredibly well-crafted video? The dance of the licking flames cutting the pitch black cloak of night, painting enamoured figures aglow begs to be captured for posterity.

How To Film A Bonfire Night Video

Do you need the best camera equipment to artfully capture the whizzes, the bangs, the blinks and the jolts? Do you need a full-scale commercial video crew to frame the flames, the fizzes, the fire-flecked faces filled with festivity? Should you engage with a production agency and produce a proud portfolio piece? All to chart the chummy chatter and childlike charm on cherubically chubby cheeks, chapped against the chill? And should you ever use this much alliteration? Well, should you? Yes. Yes. A thousand times yes, you should.

Video Production Masterpiece

Do you want your video to be a cinematic masterpiece that moves people? That shifts their perceptions of what is possible with film production as an art form? That holds up a mirror to their preconceptions of what Bonfire night even is, forcing them to question everything they’ve ever believed to be true about Guy Fawkes and indeed themselves? Then yes, you should stop reading this and contact Groundbreak Productions immediately. If, however, what you want from your video is simply to stoke the flames of envy with your Instagram story showing how enchanting your Bonfire night has been and how tech-savvy you are with your smartphone then you’re in the right place already.

Filming Bonfire Night – Top Tips

To set your social media feed alight with fireworks I have compiled a list of top tips to ensure that you can create the best video possible this Bonfire night. A “Bonfire Night Video Production Guy-d” is what a tragically lesser man than I may call it. I would never employ such base and facile punnery, particularly in reference to such a dastardly treasonous scheme as the Gunpowder Plot. And if you would find that sort of thing funny, then in my humble and earnest opinion you are not a very bright spark. Enough of that, here are my “Top Tips”for this bonfire night video and if you’d care to delve deeper into the world of video production then please click here for a full guide of the process answering all your potential questions.

A Guide to Filming a Bonfire Night

It may be tempting to point your camera immediately at the bonfire to capture that hallmark shot. After all, nothing says bonfire like a bonfire, but do you know what it also says? Basic. “Oh, look Susan is at a Bonfire” says your auntie as she immediately swipes to the next story. No that won’t do. This year’s bonfire video shall capture hearts. As soon as you arrive, you’re going to do something that may seem unfathomable to you and to fire safety officers. You’re going to turn your back on the fire.

The Fire

The fire will be there for hours, and it’ll get bigger and better. What won’t be there for hours is the expression of the faces that are taking the fire in at first glance. What matters is that this moment is finite. And using the bonfire as a key light to expose their wonder in the warmest of lights is exactly the type of shot that will elevate your Instagram story above Susan’s. So, turn your back on the fire, turn so you’re at a 45-degree angle to the fire and get the flame filled faces. There’s your first shot in the can.

Use The Bonfire As a Back Light

Obviously, a video showcasing your Bonfire night will need shots of the Bonfire, but pointing your camera at the fire and pressing the red button doesn’t do much to place the audience in your scene. What is unique is the moment that you are experiencing. That is what we are trying to communicate with your video. This is fine art. This is Instagram content! We must invite the viewer to be at our side in our world, or rather take our place in occupying it briefly but viscerally. Therefore, the bonfire can appear to be the subject of our shot, but it must actually be an awe-inspiring backdrop to the real subject – the people that are experiencing the bonfire.

Bonfire Backlight

Use the bonfire as a backlight to create perfect silhouettes of the people watching it burn. Move out from behind someone’s silhouetted back to glance over their shoulder so that their deep black outline is pushed across frame by the radiance of the blaze. A few shots in that style and all of a sudden, your viewers aren’t just looking at a bonfire, but they are feeling the heat of it, they are hearing the crackle, they are feeling the coat of their loved one brushing against theirs.

Filming Firework Displays – Firework Fill Light

Picking out a few shots in the style of each of the above tips would already give you enough coverage to have a 15-second social media video for your story but the bonfire is only half of the reason you came to this recreational field with a string of strangers on a dark night. You also came for the fireworks! So how do we seamlessly transition from examples of the above shots where the focus is the people enjoying the fire, to shots that give the frame to the fireworks. We already know from the first tip how to use the bonfire as a key light to illuminate the faces of the entranced attendees. We will use a very similar set-up here.

Fireworks Explode

Standing at a 45-degree angle to the subject, the bonfire will light one side of their face beautifully while falling off to a shadow at the side of their face that is furthest from the fire. This is already a moodily cinematic look but the true magic happens when the subject looks up to the sky to see fireworks explode. The bright bang of each explosion will be a temporary fill light that picks out the detail of the dark side of their face. Each explosion acts as the stimulus for a beautiful reaction and also the perfectly timed lighting transition to capture it in full. Magical. This shot works best with children who have big and honest emotional reactions.

Safety When Filming a Bonfire Night Firework Display

To get the shots described above you will require some strategic placing of the children and some planning as to where the fireworks will be lit but frankly if you are not strategically placing your children and planning for appropriate clearance when lighting fireworks then you have greater concerns than your social media video. We want your video to be lit, not your Canada Goose. Ironically, nothing goes up like down. Be safe, be cinematic.

Sparkling Static Video Shots

The best video’s use time sparingly, not information. In a masterpiece commercial video there will be a tonne of information conveyed in one second. There has to be. It’s a key skill in mastering video production. This skill can also help to elevate your social media videos. Is there anything more disheartening than swiping on to somebody’s story and seeing 25 small time bars at the top of your screen? And you have to tap through 25 clips where they’ve held the red button for a sprawling and rambling 4 minutes or so while Drake talks to the audience. I wouldn’t know. And nor would you, because you swipe after 3 or 4 of those clips when you resign yourself to the fact that your cousin does not know how to produce engaging video content!

One Take Wonder

We will not be holding the red button and walking around the fire then pointing the camera up to the sky then down at our Baileys coffee. These mammoth one take shots are not only unrefined, they are also incredibly difficult to capture correctly. Even on set with a full commercial production crew let alone on location with such contrasting and ever-changing lighting states and focal depths. We will stick to relatively still shots. Camera movement in each shot is definitely encouraged but keep it simple and keep it small. No tilting up from fire to sky. We will see your smartphone adjusting its exposure and focal depth during the shot. And that’s something we just do not want to see.

Filming Dazzling Detail

Another tell-tale trope of the ill-thought-out social media video is shot after shot of extreme wides as the smartphone operator tries to capture absolutely everything in every shot. It’s greedy, it’s lazy, it shows a fundamental lack of understanding of well-crafted video and as such we will not entertain it on our feed. Instead we will draw the eye with details. The face of the Guy half consumed in flames, the mist of condensation on an outward breath, the small bemittened hand of a child clenched on a sparkler. These tight detail shots make all the difference in a video.

Draw The Audience In

They help immeasurably to draw the audience into the scene and the experience. And they show intention and choice as a director rather than the artless indifference conveyed by a point and hope wide and expansive shot. They also help to hide the untidier elements of the mise-en-scène. The discarded crisp packets and solitary bricks that litter the recreational fields of Britain, the stolen garden fence panel of a neighbour that is a staple of all good bonfire kindling, the inevitable derriere cleavage of a man in ill-fitting denims crouching to light a fuse… hiding these real world eye-sores helps to keep the viewer in the magic of the moment. And after all, where better than social media to paint the less glossy touches of reality right out of your perception?

Professional Smartphone Video Settings

We should make one simple but obvious change to your smartphone camera settings that will make your story look more like an award-winning video. Put your camera app in Pro mode or go into the advanced settings and change your fps to whichever is the highest setting available to you between 60 and 120. If you do this before shooting, it means that using only your smartphones video editor, you can slow your footage down to half speed or quarter speed.

Newer smartphones will go higher than 120 fps and also have a dedicated slow-mo camera mode but we must remember what is truly important. You are at this dark recreational field, just like the other strangers, primarily to enjoy yourself and actually live the moment, not to be worrying about shutter speed or switching your camera between different modes. Change your fps, shoot away with the tips above in mind and you’ll have the option to change each clip to glossy and mesmerising slow mo before posting it if you want to.

That’s A Wrap

So, there you have it. Those are my key tips for producing a swipe-proof social media video that looks more like it’s been produced by the best commercial video production company in town rather than your cousin Susan’s does this bonfire night. Each of these tips are also appropriate, if not even better suited, to shooting a bonfire night video of a private bonfire and firework display in a garden if your local recreational field is not hosting a bonfire this year. It will make placing the talent and making artistic choices of which details to pick out all the easier and guarantee that you will produce a video that not only serves as a magical memento but also ensures that you will always remember remember this 5th of November.

Remember Remember, Seriously!

A most wondrous memento yes but also a hallmark piece of evidence should you be summoned to court accused of not remembering. As ludicrous a thought as that may be, I must inform you that “remember remember the 5th of November” is not merely a pithy mnemonic but rather a legal requirement. Ever since the passing of the Observance of 5th November Act 1605. An act drafted and introduced that required churches to hold a service on 5th of November to give thanks for the failure of the Gunpowder Plot and the sparing of King James’ life.

Although you would be forgiven on reading the closing line of the Act for thinking it was designed to celebrate the 5th of November as it is indeed my birthday – “And to the End this unfeigned Thankfulness may never be forgotten, but be had in a perpetual Remembrance, that all Ages to come may yield Praises to his Divine Majesty for the same, and have in Memory this joyful Day of Deliverance.”

If you need more advice on how to swipe-proof your social media video content, if you have a commercial video production brief that you’d like us to set alight or you just want to wish me a happy birthday, as you are legally required to do, you can contact me directly or the Groundbreak team and we’ll fire a reply back to you instantly.

Photo by Issy Bailey on Unsplash

Author: Sean Creative Producer
After graduating with a first class honours degree in Comedy (true story) and Media Production Sean travelled the world quickly learning how to say that he only speaks

English in over ten languages. Upon returning, Sean worked for creative agencies and production companies across the country before joining Groundbreak. He spends his days developing concepts, producing shoots and drinking green tea. Known to family and friends as ‘The White Pharrell’ Sean insists that his spirit animal is Michelle Obama. A music-lover, Sean is known as one of Europe’s foremost sit-down dancers. He’s a hip-hop aficionado with a rap lyric quote suitable for any occasion, come and meet us and put it to the test.