T-Shirt Promo Video - Manchester Students Union
In February, I produced a video for Manchester Student's Union - the biggest in the country! The goal was to promote a new line of t-shirts - profits from the sale of which would go towards Manchester's "Reclaim the Night" event, protesting against street violence. I was honoured to be able to contribute.
It was the first time I'd worked on something like this, so I wanted to break down how I did as much for my own reference as for anyone else's! This got long, so I've broken it down into sections to hopefully make it a bit more legible.
Here's the final video:
BACKGROUND and inspiration
The video was shot and edited on the same day, and was a lot of fun to put together - the girls weren't as serious as they might appear! It was directed by myself and Sara Heddi (Manchester Student Union's Woman's Officer), and all the models were volunteers. The brief was to produce a 30-40 second video inspired by a BooHoo ad (something like the video below).
I identified that to create their distinctive 'look', Boohoo's creative directors take advantage of very smooth camera movements, speed-ramping, precise editing (particularly when matching cuts to the beat of the music), frequent eye-contact between models and the camera, good lighting, a wide range of different camera movements, and a large number of different shots. These were all elements I was determined to include in our video.
SMOOTH AS BUTTER
To ensure everything was as smooth as possible, I used the Zhiyun Crane V2 gimbal (http://amzn.to/2tHMc06) in virtually every shot. It's my favourite piece of kit as it makes an incredible difference to the smoothness of the video - particularly noticeable in the walking shots. Being so easy and intuitive to use, I find I can fully focus on directing the shots themselves, without having to fiddle too much with equipment on location. The only slight delays when using the Crane are caused by the required re-balancing of the gimbal when changing lenses - I kept this to a minimum by shooting the entire thing with just two lenses: Nikon's 35mm f/1.8 mid-range prime, and Tokina's 11-16 f/2.8 wide angle. Although capable of autofocusing, Nikon's autofocus is famously loud (and slow), so focussing was done manually (and usually only before the shot, and not during).
time warp (SPEED RAMPING)
I wanted to take advantage of speed-ramping throughout the video. Speed-ramping is progressively changing the speed that video is played back at, either speeding it up or slowing it down. For example, starting with a shot in slow motion, speeding it up for a half second, then returning it to slow motion for the rest of the clip. Examples of this appear throughout the final video: most notably at 00:30, the lift sequence, and at 00:37, the monochrome shot of the models in the hallway.
To make sure I could take advantage of speed ramping in any given shot when it came to edit the video later on, I pre-emptively shot the entire video in 60fps slow-motion. Not videographically-correct, perhaps, but there was enough light to get away with a 1/125 shutter speed at all times, and employing this method from the start gave me much more flexibility in the edit (and I didn't need to constantly change my frame rate and shutter speed whilst shooting). For shots I wanted to appear "normal-speed" later on, I simply doubled the speed they would play back. The final video was rendered at 30fps.
I should be careful perhaps to clarify that the video wasn't completely made in the editing suite - preproduction is important. The only reason I was able to edit the video in a few hours was because of the amount of planning and practice which went into the choreography of the shots before picking up the camera, and I had a good idea of what the final video would look like before downloading the footage to begin editing.
I edited using Final Cut Pro X on my 13inch Late 2016 MacBook Pro. I'm comfortable using Adobe Premiere Pro (and it's what I started on) but I find Final Cut to handle 4k footage much better (also, it doesn't crash every 10 minutes). The project timeline is below.
There are a lot of cuts in the BooHoo ads and this is something I made a conscious effort to emulate - I think the video averages out to about one cut per second. To make the video look more 'cinematic' I added black bars to the top and bottom of the frame using an adjustment layer (shown in purple above). I experimented with using adjustment layers for a lot of the colour grading and that seemed to work well - it's especially useful if you want to grade an entire scene without a lot of copy/pasting and I'll definitely be using this technique in the future.
For the editing to be as precise as possible and for the shots to match the beat of the music, it was important to know which track we would be using before filming began. At the request of Sara, the director (and client) we used a remix of Beyonce's "Formation" by MikeQ - the audio lifted from this video. To ensure we wouldn't be hit by a copyright strike, I searched the track name in YouTube's "Music Policies" search engine before commencing editing (https://www.youtube.com/music_policies). Since nothing appeared and the track barely appeared in a google search, it seemed fairly safe to continue... The track would be credited in the video's YouTube description later on, just to be safe and because I believe it's courtesy.
By knowing the track we would be using, the models, director, and I could all "hear" it in our heads (there should be a word which means the audio equivalent of "visualise") whilst we were shooting. For the more complex shots, such as the one which opens the video, we played the track out loud whilst filming and choreographing.
Location and lighting
It was always the intention that this video would be shot outside on a rooftop, in order to stick as closely as possible to the source-material (the BooHoo ad) as well as to get the lighting to be as soft as possible Predictably however, the Manchester weather was less than co-operative, so we shot the video inside instead. I was glad to have brought some lights with me (the same ones I used to shoot the wedding) - they made a huge difference and I couldn't have shot the video inside without them. As well as being very useful to light faces/scenes, they can easily be used as backlighting (there's one behind the glass in the sequence that plays in the video from 0.33 seconds onwards) or for stylistic effect (the girl holding the light at 0.20). I use these ones and I've found them to be great so far - http://amzn.to/2Gp7C8S. I'm considering buying some more, actually. I find that when I need to use them, I never have enough of them.
As part of the package I had agreed with the Student's Union, I also provided several photographs of the models wearing the shirts to be used as extra promotional material. These were fairly spontaneous in most cases; for this shoot the priority was very much the videography, and the photographs fell easily into place along the way. The majority of shots were lit extremely simply: either with on-camera flash (I know, I know) or two video lights on either side (Yup).
The pictures ended up being printed in A0 size to use as advertising around the Students Union. It's very surreal to walk in and see that without warning - they looked great!
If you'd like a promotional video or photographs for your business or campaign, please don't hesitate to contact me using the form here. I'd be happy to help out!