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

winter sun

Here Comes The Sun

I much prefer video production during the sunny months. In fact, it’s not just video production. I just prefer the warmer months. Luckily, it’s that time of year when the cold weather should be blustering away and heading back to the arctic or wherever it came from. It won’t be missed. I probably shouldn’t jinx it though because I’m pretty sure it snowed last March in Manchester and we had to reschedule one of our shoots. At least Spring brings hope of Summer and warmth. Even the thought of a little heat brightens the mood. That glorious feeling on a commercial production set on a sunny summer’s day (Yes, we sometimes get these in Manchester) when the sun is beating down on your face and warming your soul. That joyous, rarely experienced occasion for us nesh folk, when you actually get to wear shorts. Luckily for the Groundbreak team we managed to briefly escape the Manchester chill this winter and catch some winter sun on one of our latest commercial video productions.

Winter 2019

We had a busy end to last year. The build-up to Christmas was a maelstrom of shoots, big pitches and idea development sessions for the Groundbreak team. With the odd night out at award ceremonies up against the best video production companies in Manchester thrown in for good measure. There’s nothing quite like a hangover to put you in a good mood and get the creative juices flowing on a stormy winter’s morning as the weather beats down on you like an avalanche as you arrive at the office with wet socks and hair stuck to your face. A good night out with the Groundbreak team is always welcome, but again, I’d prefer it in the warmer months.

Passion, Creativity & Detail

We were up all hours of the night perfecting our skeleton scripts and treatments in Winter 2019, ready for the New Year. This is crucial to ensure our concepts are clear for our potential clients. There’s nothing worse than having a great idea and not properly conveying it. This might have been an emotive director’s treatment for a commercial video production, an inspiring script for a corporate video or a storyboard for an absorbing 3D animation or VFX gig that truly pushes the boundaries with originality. Whatever the video production, the process remains the same. Passion, creativity and detail, just like the rest of the production process.  We all love writing the scripts and treatments because we truly believe in what we do. We collectively love bringing stories to life.

Our Ethos

“We believe in pushing boundaries, stirring emotions and inspiring audiences to take positive action by bringing stories to life through video.”

We are genuinely passionate about our ideas and the impact they can have. Telling stories and leaving a positive emotional impact is what Groundbreak is all about. To create powerful corporate video content the original concepts and ideas must be well rounded in order to give the rest of the production process a great start.

The Green Light

Fortunately, many of the corporate and commercial videos we pitched for late last year, be it live action or animation, got the green light. This has kept us going at breakneck speed ever since the new year’s resolutions began and helped us forget about the aforementioned Manchester weather (It is famous for it after all). Creating corporate video is a great distraction. It’s an absorbing process. Hours, days and weeks simply fly by. Especially when a handful of demanding productions are in full flow at the same time. The hours in days seemingly speed up when your attention is all consumed with creative processes.

VFX & Animation

We’ve been creating a large VFX project this winter full of liquid simulations and mind-bending ideas which will be going live in the summer. The great thing about VFX and animation video productions during the winter months is that you get to work indoors away from the elements and most importantly next to a radiator (whoever it was that created central heating is a marvellous person in my eyes).

Idea Shaping

After an exhilarating idea-shaping session with the team a significant amount of time is then spent in a darkened edit suite watching stunning particles collide and animals morph into racing cars. You can’t beat that harmonious marriage of stunning VFX, animation visuals and radiator warmth when it’s blowing a gale outside and the wind chill factor is minus 10. Creativity and heat combined. A delightful winter combination.

Capturing Stunning Natural Events

It may well sound like I don’t like shooting commercial video productions outside during the winter in Manchester. That’s just not true. Yes, I’m a fan of the warmth. However, there are stunning natural events that occur with the light in the winter that make standing in a snowy forest in January worthwhile. I’m all about capturing the perfect shot. It means the world to me. I take it very seriously. The buzz of knowing you’ve just captured something breath-taking is a natural high for me. That feeling when you’re driving home after a long but productive commercial shoot in the cold when you know you’ve captured that dream shot. It is indescribable really. Other directors, DP’s, producers and film crew generally will know exactly what I mean.

The Perfect Shot

Picture this. The sun is setting. You’re cloaked in a frozen tranquillity. Shimmering dusk rays of magical golden hues are cascading through the frozen leaves in the trees. The tree trunks are seemingly exhaling as steam drifts from the bark heavenward. Nature is relaxed but there’s an intense energy that’s felt but not seen. Your talent has delivered an overwhelmingly stunning performance in one take. This is essential as the light and the natural colours are a one-off and perfect in this moment. A few seconds later the light will change and this incredible scene awash with awe inspiring colours and serenity will be no more. You captured the shot and you can’t hide your smile. Everyone knows it. The crew know it. The client knows it. The talent can see from your face that it’s a wrap without you uttering a word. It’s a magical thing in the world of commercial video production.

I’m not a fan of the colder months in the year. That is certain. However, one thing is for sure: When a great brief for our next video production lands on my desk I instantly couldn’t care less if it’s minus 20 and I have to walk to work in an arctic blizzard. Nothing gets me more excited.

If you’d like to chat about your next video production, please get in touch.

Groundbreak team using di Vinci resolve

Colour Grading in Video Production

Video Production Done Right

In a previous blog, Geoff described how added production values mean that you end up with a much better film. Everyone can point a camera and press record, but there’s a lot of additional effort and skill required to produce professional, high-quality video.

We pride ourselves on using the best equipment, crew, and processes for every film project. In this blog we’ll be looking in a bit more detail at one of the important steps of video production – colour grading.

colour grading edit studio

What is Colour Grading in Video Production?

Simply put, colour grading is the process of improving the appearance of an image. Wikipedia adds, “Various attributes of an image such as contrast, colour, saturation, detail, black level, and white point may be enhanced whether for motion pictures, videos, or still images.”

Colour grading can also include artistic effects like creative blending. After a film has been graded, it will appear more vibrant and almost ‘pop’ out from the screen. Colour grading is creating a mood or tone through colour or stylising an edit. When you grade an edit you are telling a story and instigating a mood. For instance, a warm orange tone generally promotes happiness or nostalgia. Blues create a darker mood and Greens you’d often find in horror or thrillers. Next time you watch a film try to take note of the colour schemes and the ‘feel’ of the scene.

My Film Doesn’t Look Like a Movie

It doesn’t matter how good your camera equipment is, the final footage won’t look as polished as a Hollywood movie without adding some colour grading. If you have a spare two minutes, take a look at this footage, with and without colour grading.

Professional Video Production

Have a look at our video showreel and portfolios of commercials, visual effects (VFX), animations, and corporate videos to see what the finished product should look like. If you have any questions regarding video production, tweet to us at @GroundbreakUK and we’ll get back to you!

3d animation of a plug moving by itself

The (cable) Lengths We Go To For The Perfect Shot

As you may have seen from our homepage, video production is our vocation. We create a range of corporate videos, TV commercials, and animated videos because it’s what we love to do. We are storytellers- and this blog will give you a bit of an insight into the creative process while making a recent recruitment video for Eon energy.

Video Production – 24/7

Our job isn’t a 9-5. Whether on a shoot that lasts for days or staying up until all hours creating a perfect story for a film, we live and breathe video production. Our Founder and Director, Geoff Brooks recalls causing havoc at his parent’s house for the sake of a perfect shot.

Behind the Scenes

“I had an idea of exactly how I envisaged the plug pulling shot to play out, but because the objects needed to have a life of their own (see the finished commercial here) I was wondering about how we could create the shot without any human involvement.

My Dad said he had a suitable extension cable to do some tests on and before we knew it we were hammering nails into the living room floor! As I’m sure you can imagine my Mum wasn’t impressed!

Fortunately, as my Dad pointed out, they were ripping up all the carpets later in the month and getting wooden floors fitted. And there was me thinking my Dad was just like me (or vice-versa) and would literally do absolutely anything for the perfect shot.”

TV Commercial – Before and After

So here is proof of our commitment to video production. See the video below of the destruction caused to the floor (actually, it was quite a neat job!) compared to how the final advert looked.

 

See our full showreel here and get in touch if you’d like to discuss your corporate video needs. We’ll destroy our own homes to make sure the final shoot runs as smoothly as possible!