The COVID-19 pandemic has presented some unique challenges for businesses and marketers. Here’s how we handled creating video for a client with a very tight deadline.

Creating video during the COVID-19 lockdown

Ed Nicholson, our Brand Experience Director, recently wrote about the importance of video in the 2020 marketing mix. To some people, Glorious Leader may have made a misstep, I mean, after all we are in the middle of a global pandemic, with marketing budgets being frozen or put on hold. And with social distancing measures and lockdowns in place, shooting video hardly seems a goer. 

But for some brands there is a need to carry on with as close to business as usual as possible, even during the unusual circumstances thrown up by COVID-19. Given that, brands should still be looking to video content. As Ed’s article points out, video gets high levels of reach and engagement, and accounts for the majority of Internet traffic. The question some are probably asking is: how the hell do I make video content if I can’t get a team together in a location? 

Come on now. We’re marketers. We know all about smoke and mirrors don’t we? 

Here’s how we’ve recently approached creating video for clients in a world where travel, group gatherings, and interaction are all difficult or impossible.

Reuse and recycle

The first step we take is to assess what video content is already on-hand. There have been several times where we’ve worked with brands that have a fair bit of video content that is languishing online with minimal views and engagement. Rather than shoot entirely new stuff, one of our first tactics is to rehash what they’ve already got. 

With some creative editing it’s not hard to take a lacklustre video and cut and splice it to within an inch of its life and create a more compelling piece of content. Sitting down and going through existing content and taking timestamps isn’t as glamorous as being on a real shoot, but you’d be surprised how much mileage you can get from old content.

You’ll need to retrofit a story to it of course. Our experience with video has been that when it has failed for clients it’s because there hasn’t been much thought about the narrative and messaging. So a quick and dirty outline and storyboards can help you nail down the structure and storytelling. 

It’s important not to skimp on this stage because, especially when you’re working with a limited pool of existing footage, you need to ensure that the end product makes sense and doesn’t feel like a GCSE Media Studies project.

Get graphic

With a bunch of clips in mind you have the foundation for your ‘new’ video, but you need to knit them together to tell a story. 

This is where some creative use of lower thirds, intertitles, and motion graphics comes to the fore. All of these can be put together by a skilled videographer with remote instruction via email, Slack, Skype, or your preferred form of digital communication. 

Using text on lower thirds and intertitles is an effective and cheap way of getting information across alongside the existing footage you’re repurposing. Adding some movement with motion graphics adds a bit more flash, and can really lift the video. 

This is no different to how you’d approach the post-production on any other video, but when working with existing footage you need to make these parts work extra hard.

Plugging gaps

Once the raw cut of the video has been assembled there may be some gaps. There are two options here in the current lockdown:

  1. Kill your little darlings – If you couldn’t find any existing footage that tells the story you want then ditch those parts, and either try landing them using graphics, text, or voiceover. If none of those will do the trick then you just have to forget about those parts and work with what you’ve got, editing it for sense. 
  2. Fake Shemp it – Back in 1955 one of the Three Stooges, Shemp Howard, died unexpectedly from a massive heart attack in a taxi after a night out with friends. Because the Three Stooges were contracted to complete a number of movies, the ‘Fake Shemp’ was born. Other actors disguised in various ways stood in for Shemp on a number of movies, and the practice continued for many years in Hollywood, including when an actor was fired during shooting. Creative shots of a stand-in can help you cobble together scenes. While you shouldn’t try and imitate an actor’s likeness, you could shoot someone else’s hands using a computer or something similar which can be achieved with relative ease without the need of a location and extras.

Phoning it in

Many videos, especially for B2B brands, rely on a voiceover to convey important information, and also to keep the watcher engaged. While a traditional approach requires the producer, engineer, voiceover artist, agency staff and others to assemble in a studio, it’s perfectly possible to do everything remotely. 

We’ve used the talented team at Voiceovers-UK to do work on several videos, and their ability to let us patch into live sessions via GoToMeeting meant that we could provide information to the producer and voiceover artist, listen back to takes, and collaborate on the whole process. 

So that’s a brief overview of how we’ve created video content during the COVID-19 lockdown. Let go of perfection, accept your video won’t be exactly what you wanted it to be, and be surprised when you see just how well it works. In less than ideal circumstances you’ve got to be prepared to adapt your approach and play the hand you’ve been dealt. Brands that do that will be the ones that come through the otherside of this crisis stronger.