how to: video shoot “speed bumps”

Here at MK3, we offer in-house creative and full production capabilities. You could say we’re a “hybrid” and it’s what helps to set us apart from other agencies. We work hard to deliver high quality creative and production for our clients, and in the process…things don’t always go as planned. Take video shoots for example.  We take all the necessary steps to ensure an easy breezy video shoot, but we’ve also learned to think on our feet and adapt when things go a little sideways. Here are a few things we’ve learned when faced with production day “speed-bumps.”

when you’re a bundle of nerves…

We often shoot on-camera interviews with SMEs (subject matter experts), so we know how hard it is to deliver information on-camera.  We also know that sometimes the nerves kick in. Our goal is to make the “talent” feel as comfortable as possible, so our directors take a few minutes to build a relationship with the interviewee before we start recording. We try to loosen them up by asking them about their hobbies, last night’s game or tomorrow’s weather – anything but the topic at hand.  If we get a natural conversation going, the “natural” part often rolls right into the interview itself.  Another trick: ask the first 3 interview questions again at the end, because by this time your “talent” will have loosened up enough to give better answers than the first 3 tries.

when you’re just not finding your light…

When it comes to video, it’s all about the light. No one wants to look shiny or washed out…or feel like they’re sitting in the dark. For in-person shoots, we always conduct a site survey in advance to plan all our shots, but with remote virtual shoots that’s not possible. So before every remote interview, we conduct a “tech check” to ensure the lighting looks good, the interviewee’s face is lit and there are no distracting shadows. We also check that their background is appropriate and looks put-together, but not staged. We may ask our on-camera subject to move around the room to find the best lighting and background for the video. When there are limited lighting options, having your “talent” sit in the soft light of a sunny window is a simple solution!

when you’re all shook up…

With so many user-generated videos being shot on smartphones or tablets, footage can end up looking unsteady or “shaky.” When it comes to stabilizing the video, skip the “selfie” approach and try placing your camera on any available flat surface.  People are learning to be more resourceful, and are making “tripods” out of almost anything!  Try resting your phone/camera against your laptop screen or a stack of books.  No matter where you lean or prop up the camera (and especially if you have to hold it), you should always line up the camera lens to your eye height.  This way, you’re not looking up or down at the camera and you’ll always be in frame no matter how you move.

when you’re at a loss for words…

When producing videos, we spend a lot of time on how it’s going to “look.”  But for interview-driven videos, what it “says” can be even more important. What do you do if you set up the shoot, sit down for the interview, ask all the right questions…and get all the wrong answers?  Conduct an interview before the interview.  Set up a pre-interview phone call prior to shoot and ask all your questions in advance.  This gives your subject a chance to practice their answers and you a chance to guide them if answers are straying from the main message. This way, your on-camera interview doesn’t turn into a fishing expedition and you know the answers in advance, so if nerves or memory issues kick in, you can guide the answers in the direction you need.

when one size does NOT fit all…

Each client and video shoot is different – with unique goals, needs and schedules. The more user generated and remote virtual “interview” shoots we produce, the more our clients find themselves not only on-camera, but as a crucial member of the crew.  Make sure you know the tech needs and limitations of each client, as well as the person you’re interviewing. Are they using a Mac or PC?  Can you send them higher quality recording equipment?  When it comes to remote shoots, it’s important to know just how user-generated or professional the end product needs to look. But as always, the goal is to get the best sound and video possible for our clients’ needs.

Of course preparation is vital when planning any type of shoot, but here at MK3 we’re not afraid to think on our feet. You can’t prepare for every problem that occurs, but you can prepare to be prepared…and that’s always part of the plan.

make working from home work for you

Working from home isn’t always as easy, or as relaxing, as it sounds. Video conferencing platforms and document sharing tools help us to connect and collaborate with our clients and co-workers, but how do we stay focused and motivated? Here are a few tips from our hard-at-work team!

rise and shine 

As simple as it sounds, how you start the day can help create the day you’re looking for. We’re all creatures of habit, but whether you’re a morning glory or a night owl, try waking up 30 minutes earlier than you usually do and set the tone for the day.

Every morning, Mary starts her day at 5:45 am by working out and walking her dog Séamus. And then, she gets ‘dressed’ for work.  Dressing professionally, even if she’s working from home, gives her an added sense of “normalcy”.

“When I make the time to do pilates and walk my dog Séamus at sunrise – my day always turns out better.” 

Mary Poluikis
Group Program Director 

create your own distractions

Make sure your home workspace is comfortable, but not too comfortable.  Many people’s “home offices” are actually quieter than their “work offices,” so having no distractions can actually…be a distraction.  Play music, open a window, or find a spot with a view that engages you without sidetracking you.

Jonathan describes his at-home workspace as peaceful, though he misses the constant hum of the office, and the accidental hallway meetings and watercooler collaborations.

 “I have an actual office I work in that’s quiet and free of distractions, on the top floor of our home.  My desk faces windows, so I play ‘70s soft rock music throughout the house and enjoy a sunny, leafy bird’s-eye view of the neighborhood.” 

Jonathan Markella
Executive Creative Director 

separate but equal

Working from home does have its perks, but drawing a line between personal and professional space is key.  Set up a unique workspace away from your kitchen and out of your bedroom, avoiding the clutter and personal baggage that come with each.

Mark has made sure his workspace is for working, and his living space is for living. With a laptop, your office can be anywhere, so making a workspace that works is up to you.

“It’s helpful for me to separate my “home office” from my “home” and keep to “normal” work hours. Taking breaks is an important part of being comfortable and allows me to refuel, recharge and stay productive throughout the day.” 

Mark DiTondo
Creative Director

one screen at a time

Keeping up with clients and projects is a constant, but consider limiting your screen time beyond that. Social media is one of the best ways to stay connected and informed, but one of the easiest ways to get distracted. Take advantage of your own discipline or your smart phone’s screen limit feature to restrict time on your phone.

Like all of us, Jenn relies on email for the majority of her internal communications, so there’s not a lot of reason for her to be on her phone during the day. Jenn also unplugs by closing out of work tabs on her computer when she’s done for the day.

“There’s a lot of moving parts to being a project manager, so scheduling out when I’m going to be working on a specific thing is important. When I’m online, I tend to give myself a time limit for a certain task.”

Jenn Brown
Senior Producer

time out

Having creative pursuits outside of work can help keep your mind fresh. Working from home has allowed John to spend some of his newfound time (what commute?) focusing on his hobbies. By being closer to his home studio, he can spend more time painting after work.

“I’ve always had creative pursuits and hobbies outside of work. For years it was live music, and now it’s oil painting. When I have a few paintings I’m working on in my off hours, it gives my brain a fresh perspective for the design and storytelling I create during the day.” 

 John Lawrence
Creative Director

give me a break

Routines are great for establishing balance, but we recommend taking breaks to make your day a bit more enjoyable and productive. From writer’s block to energy lags, we all have obstacles to overcome throughout the day, so do things that let your mind escape from work, even for a few moments.

The pandemic has allowed Joel to establish a new work/life balance – he now takes a more traditional lunch break and regularly checks in with his wife, while still maintaining his productive day.

“I think it’s critical to get away from the computer every 2-3 hours. I find myself getting fatigued with the computer screen and a lot of virtual events. Some days I try to finish my day at home for a change of scenery.” 

 Joel Kaplan
Principal/Founder

Change is hard, and adapting takes focus and motivation.  We’ve all had to adapt to a new environment – many of us by moving our workplace into our homes, where we lead an entirely different life.  Not letting these worlds collide has been one of the many challenges of 2020.  Here at MK3, each one of us has found our own form of balance, so that we are capable of doing what we’ve always done – getting things done.  We hope our tips help you find a balance of your own.