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Remote Video Production Q&A

Remote Video Production Q&A 2560 1707 Alicia East

We reached out to one of our crews, Yuki Uemura of Urban Samurai Creative, to answer some questions about remote video production. His company is leading the charge on the effort and we talked with him about the challenges, benefits, and user experience.

Alicia Sample East (ASE): What was the most surprising challenge you’ve faced as you’ve rolled this out?

Yuki Uemura (YU): The biggest challenge we faced was how to fit the best tech within the smallest package. As we developed the Remote Crew, we spent a lot of time swapping different pieces to find the best arrangement and weight. Creating quality video requires many different components, such as a proper camera, lights and audio, but one of our objectives was to keep the product realistic in size and convenience. We wound up going through multiple prototype versions before finding our final design. Compared to our early adaptations, our current model has shaved off a few pounds, now includes an audio mixer, and is condensed for shipment.

The tech itself was important to consider. As tech-savvy creators, we have a strong idea of the varieties of equipment to choose from, but again, we wanted to make sure to have a comprehensible interface for talent/corporate clients who don’t have the same knowledge as us. Ultimately, there will have to be some preparation on the client’s part because of the entire idea of a “remote crew,” so we aimed to make the setup of the product as simple as possible. With the Remote Crew, all the talent needs to do is plug in power, ethernet, attach their microphone, and adjust the camera to be ready for a shoot. 

ASE: How did you overcome that and other challenges?

YU: Prototyping and testing. With the help of my employees, it took about 2 months to produce our current model. We sought feedback from our industry friends as well, and worked up to a sound and convenient design with a lot of experimentation. We also left plenty of room for further configuration as technology and projects adapt.

ASE: How do you establish a rapport with the clients and people in front of the camera when you can’t be in the same room?

YU: It is definitely a different experience going remote, but I think we’ve all gotten somewhat accustomed to the idea. One great feature that we’ve added is a monitor placed adjacent to the camera lens. With it, we communicate through Zoom the entire process from initial setup to recording to make our clients comfortable. Overall the experience is not too far off from a regular shoot, which I think they appreciate. We try to take as much of the work off the clients’ plate so all they need to focus on is delivering their best product on camera. We understand a lot has changed due to the pandemic, so we hope to reassure them with a sense of normalcy.

ASE: What place do you see remote production playing in a post-COVID-19 world?

YU: That’s difficult to say, because the Remote Crew was specifically built to solve the problems our customers are encountering now. At the beginning of the pandemic, we got many requests from clients to edit their webcam/camera phone videos, but the quality was all over the place. The clients want professional footage, but due to the social distancing restrictions, many video production options were simply not available.

As we’ve seen, however, in-office solutions are already being widely adopted, so we feel it’s important to keep up with our customer’s demands. We don’t know exactly when the pandemic will end, but clearly some form of the remote work trend will continue. We also see an increase in corporate panel discussions and live streaming, and feel this product definitely has future application in instances when sending an entire crew is unfeasible even in normal conditions. There’s sure to be plenty of applications for the Remote Crew in the future as we see that remote work trend settle in.

ASE: What are the benefits to remote production?

One and the biggest benefits is of course producing quality video content while maintaining maximum safety and convenience for our clients. A lot of clients are hesitant to continue forward with their projects because of current health risks, so it’s great to offer a service that is definitely needed. I think remote production will ultimately benefit both clients and producers who have seen our video industry brought to a standstill. The remote crew also has the added benefit of letting us work from home! We’ve seen several inquiries from reality and documentary TV shows producers who want to utilize our kit for quick interviews as main production has been stalled.

ASE: Where do you see opportunity for this technology to evolve and how are you preparing for that?

YU: It can always be more convenient! Right now we are working on a Remote Crew Mini—an even lighter package for clients who are looking for just simple interviews. We also feel that Remote Crew kits can be more adaptable to a client’s specific situation, so we keep up to date with any new recording equipment coming out so we can customize a more tailored service. We don’t know how long remote work will last, so I see it as a service to our clients to constantly be improving our product as long as it does.

 Click here to connect with Yuki’s crew or book your next shoot.

2020 Gift Guide With Something For Everyone

2020 Gift Guide With Something For Everyone 150 150 Alicia East

As 2020 is about to get a swift kick in the butt by a weary world, we can now look to all the tech, entertainment, and experiences we’d like to gift or have for ourselves while we wait for our respective phases of the vaccine rollout. Here’s our curated list for just about everyone in your life–from the tech junkies to the minimalists!

For when your loved one is ready to give a farewell toast to 2020

Get a wine / beer club membership or a home-brewing kit if they’re extra adventurous.

For your family/quarancrew

If you’re gonna spend the better part of another 6 months with the same people, you may as well have some fun together.

For the crunchy folks

This Wellness Mama list is for the granola-bar making mamas looking for an environmentally friendly/healthy option for everyone from their kids to the grandparents.

For the tech enthusiast

45 of the best ear buds, home theater accessories, and WIFI boosters for the gamers, gear junkies, and media fans in your life.

For the minimalist

Minimalists don’t want things…at least not things they didn’t thoughtfully consider before allowing into their lives. So for people who want nothing, you’re better off either getting something very personal or sticking with experiences. Yep, it’s harder to think of ideas for that than just to grab a mug with the person’s initial on it at Target, but this list of ideas will help. 2020 may have made even average people who don’t consider themselves minimalists reconsider the amount of stuff in their homes.

For the travel lover

This might be the perfect time to buy something for travelers itching to get back out to see the planet. This list sticks to gift cards because, while those living on the edge might be ready to book a nonrefundable option, most people will probably still feel a little safer with flexible options.

Bottom Line

2020 is about to get the hindsight treatment. It’s been fun and all, but I miss hugging Grandma. If you can figure out how to wrap up a sanitized hug for shipment, please let us all know.

Not Even 2020 Can Cancel Gratitude

Not Even 2020 Can Cancel Gratitude 150 150 Alicia East

However you’re spending this holiday, it’s likely different than you expected before the regular old year of 2020 became, well, #2020. Whatever your situation, Thanksgiving is the day we’ve set aside to take a pause to remember what we’re grateful for. P.S. Science says the act of giving thanks gives us more to be thankful for. So whether you’re celebrating alone, gathering in small groups/outdoors, or waiting until next year, there’s plenty to be grateful for.

Here’s some of what makes my 2020 list of gratitude. What makes yours?

Essential workers

Shout out to our healthcare workers, delivery people, and garbage collectors–the unsung heroes who make the world go ’round. Even (especially) during a pandemic.

Friendship, in all its forms

We’ve seen and hugged them less, but they’re still there. We’ve nearly weathered 2020 and 2021 brings the promise of a vaccine and a return to some sense of normalcy. I think we can all agree to (air) high five for that.

Moderna, Pfizer, & Dolly Parton

While 2020 has felt like a decade, the pharmaceutical companies (and Ms. Parton herself) have come through with a vaccine in record time.

Carbs

Does Thanksgiving have anyone else thinking about potatoes?

Schitt’s Creek

We had a third baby the day the pandemic was declared and the kids’ school shut down the next day. So while everyone else was binge-watching The Great British Bake Off, we were trying to get three meals on the table each day while remembering everybody’s names. It was literally last week that we had our first episode (pun intended) of pandemic-induced TV watching.

More time at home

I know that might be an unpopular one, and I can assure you, it’s been hard for me, too (see that whole 3rd baby/no kid care thing). This has hardly felt like the “slow down” all our friends were learning to love. But not running around all over the place and being together has had its benefits and we will be quicker to take a step back next time we’re tempted to fill our schedules to the brim again.

What makes your 2020 gratitude list?

Clients Are Looking For Crews With These Skills

Clients Are Looking For Crews With These Skills 800 544 Alicia East

Just when you’ve mastered your craft, 2020 comes along, everything just up and goes virtual on us, and you have to stretch your creative muscles again. Speaking of crafts, maybe you’re doing more of them with your kids while missing the craft services on set? If it’s any solace, let’s just remember that the crudités and bite-sized cheesecake squares on set are only okay. And also that there’s still work for crews with the rise of virtual events and virtual productions.

While in-person conferences often need in-person videographers, online events need virtual crews! You might film or produce from afar or provide pre-produced videos to help the brand convey the exact message they want. There’s still work. Clients just need to know you can handle it. And while even celebrities have taken to recording Zoom calls and doing some fancy post-production for remarkably watchable content, Zoom is not our savior. Nope. It works well enough for some situations, but as we talked about here,  you can have professional, pre-pandemic quality footage without showing up in person.

Can you do any of these?

Remote Event Production – As a virtual event’s point person, this role is responsible for setting up the event within your platform, managing the live event, and dealing with any glitches.

Remote Producing / remote shooter – We went into some of the ways to do a shoot from afar here. Maybe you have others. 

Either way, update your profile  at Crew Connection with all your remote/virtual capabilities so clients know you can pull off a kickin’ shoot without wearing any kicks!

Raise a Glass!

Yes, you’re meeting the moment by going virtual, but these skills will benefit you from now into the ever after. You don’t have sit this thing out until Pfizer, Moderna, and Dolly Parton save the day. And just because you don’t get to grab a catering cookie on your way to the next shot doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy some of your own. Grab some freezer quiche bites and a slice of  your favorite Cheesecake Factory item to go and raise a glass to the future of production!

Your Next Virtual Event/Shoot Just Got Easier

Your Next Virtual Event/Shoot Just Got Easier 800 549 Alicia East

Recording Zoom calls is acceptable during a pandemic, but what if you want to be able to use the footage well beyond 2020? And what about virtual events? When you’re talking about making sure there’s a flow between remote speakers, audience participation, online elements, and no fewer than eleventy billion cameras–you know you need the right team in place.

We’ve added some roles to crew profiles to meet the times. For video production, we’ve added remote producing to our long-standing remote shooter. And for events, the crews that offer remote event production are now clearly marked on their profiles.

Rest assured, we can connect you with pros in some of the most crucial roles for your virtual shoots and events.

Virtual Roles

  • Remote Event Production– As the event’s point person, this role is responsible for setting up the event within your platform, managing the live event, and dealing with any glitches.
  • Remote Producing/Shooting– Curious how someone could produce and shoot a production from afar? Well you know they’ve figured it out. This post goes into the details of how it can be done.

Looking to hire for remote roles? We have ’em!

Raise a Glass

You can now produce a high-quality video or event from afar. I think that deserves a toast, don’t you?

Need to Film Footage Yourself? You Have Options!

Need to Film Footage Yourself? You Have Options! 2560 1707 Alicia East

Sure, there are as many iPhones as there are stars in the (Samsung) Galaxy. Sure, people are more forgiving about production value right now. And yes, you can send a mountain of footage to an able editor over the wonderful, wacky web. But should you? Are you going to feel good about using what they produce once COVID is in our rearview mirror?

We’ve all found some workarounds for our normal processes, right? In our experience:

  • People are less interested in getting on a plane during a pandemic
  • We are shifting to virtual events and need more content than ever
  • Fully-staffed shoots are not feasible in many cases

There’s so much more to this thing than pointing a high-quality camera (which you carry in your pocket at all times) at your subject. But there are ways to get the production value you need (and will be proud of post-COVID) with support from the pros. Need to find those pros? We have the crews you need. Promise. Check their bios or ask your crew coordinator for someone who offers camera kits for self-recording.

HOW THE PROS ARE PROCURING USABLE SELF-RECORDED FOOTAGE

Producing from a distance has become more common. Even shows like Frontline are using this method to get what they need. Ask for a crew that has a process in place for sending you a self-recording kit. Don’t try to wing this one. Without proper planning, it will be frustrating for everyone and you won’t get the results you want.

Who doesn’t love a good kit, amiright?

A crew with the chops to do it right will create and send you a kit and follow a procedure something like the following. You’ve got meal kits, craft kids, Christmas decoration kits. Why not a camera kit? Your crew will send you a package, likely including an HDSLR camera (equipped with a microphone), a lav mic, and detailed instructions on setup. They’ll also include a prepaid UPS or FedEx envelope for the return.

How will I know what to do with it?

Well, cameras can be kind of technical, but the crew will configure the camera in advance to make your job as easy as possible. Once you’ve received it, they’ll do a video chat to work out the bugs and set up the shot. From there, you’ll film a short test shot for the crew to review. They may set up another call to refine the shot as needed.

Then you’ll mail the supplies back to the crew in the packing materials they provide. That’s it! Then you just wait for the post-production magic!

WHAT ABOUT COST?

You might be thinking you’ll save mountains of cash by filming yourself, but kit prep/shipping, collaboration between producers/DPs/and interviewees, plus the time it takes to pull this off will still be a big job for the crew.  Even so, it’s almost always less than the cost of travel to produce something comparable. Be assured that they’ll make it as easy as possible for you and you’ll be happy with the result–something you’ll be proud to use post-COVID!

A Step By Step Guide to Producing Professional Client-Recorded Video

A Step By Step Guide to Producing Professional Client-Recorded Video 2560 1707 Alicia East

Sure, there are as many iPhones as there are stars in the (Samsung) Galaxy. Sure, people are more forgiving about production value right now. And yes, your clients can send you a mountain of footage over the wonderful, wacky web. But should they? Are you going to feel good about what you produce once COVID is in our rearview mirror?

At this point, we’ve all found some workarounds for our normal processes, right? In our experience:

  • People are less interested in getting on a plane during a pandemic
  • Clients are tightening budgets and asking what we can do with self-recorded videos
  • Clients are shifting to virtual events and need more content than ever
  • Fully-staffed shoots are not feasible for many clients

I know we’ve all spent years trying to tell clients why there’s so much more to this thing than pointing a high-quality camera (which they carry in their pockets) at your subject. And it’s true, there is. We aren’t hedging on that one. But it STILL behooves you and your business to figure this thing out and embrace the self-recording. Do it well and you’ll be able to offer your clients more flexibility while still producing something you want to put your name on.

A Step By Step For Procuring USABLE Client-Recorded Video

Producing from a distance has become more common. But if you do it without proper planning, it will be frustrating for everyone and you won’t get the results you want. So here’s what you need to do it right.

1. Create a self-recording kit

You’ve got meal kits, craft kids, Christmas decoration kits. Why not a camera kit?

Create a package including an HDSLR camera (equipped with a microphone), a lav mic for the interviewee, and detailed instructions on setup. You’ll be sending this to each interviewee so assume you’re talking to a 5-year-old. Nope, scratch that, most 5-year-olds are more at ease with tech than their parents. Write each step as if you’re talking to a 90-year-old. Include everything from how to pick a good background to camera/chair height, lighting, etc. Nest products provide a good example of taking something complicated and breaking it into bite-size instructions. Include a prepaid UPS or FedEx envelope for the return.

Who doesn’t love a good kit, amiright?

2. Configure the camera in advance

Do as much as you can from your own studio to make it as easy as possible for your interviewee. Once they’ve received it, do a video chat with the interviewee to work out the bugs and set up the shot.

3. Film/review a short test shot

Have the interviewee send you a short video and set up another call to refine the shot as needed.

4. Include instructions and supplies to mail the kit back to you

What about cost?

Decide how you’ll charge for the process. You could consider using a flat rate or using your day rate, but consider the following. Kit prep and shipping, collaboration with interviewee. This could be the hardest part to overcome with clients, who might be thinking they’ll save mountains of cash by filming themselves. But the truth is that in addition to the camera kit and shipping costs, you’ll be investing a good bit of time to pull this off. Still, it’s almost always less than the cost of travel to produce something comparable. Reassure them that you’ll make it as easy as possible for the interviewee and that they’ll be happy with the result–something they can use forever!

Bottom Line

Are you convinced you should give it a try? Well let me tell you this if not: Even shows like Frontline are using this technique in place of previous practices.

What solutions have you come up with?

Need a crew that can help you accomplish your goals in the COVID world? We’ve got ’em. Promise.

Less Obvious Etiquette for Video Calls

Less Obvious Etiquette for Video Calls 2560 1709 Alicia East

If you don’t know why we’re revisiting this, well, bless you. But sometimes the things you think go without saying need to be said. I guess? But really. We’ve gathered some resources to help you be your best self on your work calls and there are probably a few things you haven’t thought of.

Do

Treat video calls like in-person meetings

You wouldn’t eat or do your laundry or stare at yourself in the mirror during an in-person meeting. So give your full attention to your call and look at the camera, not the screen (i.e. yourself). We all understand that there can be additional challenges and distractions when you’re working from home and I say this as someone whose kids have walked through my calls. But if you can be ready to offer a thoughtful response when your name is called and you can make arrangements to keep the time kid-free, you’ll stand apart. It’s a way to show your commitment. And even if no one else knows you’re folding laundry, I guarantee your inattention will show up at some point and in some way.

Spend a little time setting up the shot

This isn’t about vanity. It’s more about looking alive and not being a distraction. An external camera allows you to look straight ahead, which is more natural, and more flattering, too. Sit close enough to the camera that participants see more of you than your room. It’s been an interesting phenomenon to see colleagues’ and celebrities’ and politicians’ homes, no doubt. But it’s a better experience for your co-participants if you’re the main attraction.

Consider lighting. You can go so far as to set up a nice selfie ring if you want. At a minimum, make sure you’re not right in front of a window and position yourself to avoid a halo from your can lights. I’ll be reworking my own lighting situation for the sake of my meeting mates.

Bottom Line

Don’t pull a Toobin. We shouldn’t have to list every single thing you shouldn’t do on camera or when you might possibly be on camera. You can invest in a camera cover or you can simply use a piece of tape. Use a post-it note if you must. Even if you think you’re muted. Even if you think you’re hidden or your camera is covered. If you wouldn’t do it in the office, don’t do it on a call. If you don’t want your mom or your kid reading about it on social media, don’t do it on a video call.  Think of it this way: When you’re on a work call, you’re at work. 

You Can’t Afford NOT to Hire a Professional Video Crew

You Can’t Afford NOT to Hire a Professional Video Crew 2560 1875 Alicia East

A marketing director we will call Judy with a nonprofit we shall call Suffer No Fools came to Crew Connection upon recommendation. She was skittish. After we talked through her options and how we’d go about telling the nonprofit’s story, she softened. Finally, she revealed why she was skeptical.

As a nonprofit with a limited budget, they’d first hired a college student–a friend of a friend–who would do the job for way less than anyone else she’d heard from. It was a simple job, she thought, and he could capture good quality footage without a ton of equipment.

Unfortunately, Judy had fallen victim to the idea that a good camera (for which most people can look no further than their own phones) was enough to get the results she wanted. While they’d planned to have a simple, but high-quality video at their fundraising gala that year, what they got was unusable. He filmed without a tripod (nausea all around!). He didn’t light his subjects (it would’ve taken a highly-skilled and expensive colorist to brighten the shot). And the composition of the shots were comparable to your Aunt Doris’s Facebook posts.

So they paid less than they would have if they’d hired a professional crew but they couldn’t use anything they got. That “cheap” hire turned out to be quite expensive after all.

The next year, Judy came to us with a budget to hire professionals. They’d missed a whole year of opportunity without a video that told the story and this time, they wanted to do it right.

It was an expensive lesson: We can’t afford not to hire a professional video crew.

Bottom Line

A reputable crew will have examples for you to look at. Check out their website or ask for samples that are most relevant to the project you want to do or the story you want to tell. Make sure both parties know the plan for the exact deliverables, timeline, and budget. Put it all in a contract (it protects both parties!).

Never hire based on price alone or take a chance without seeing the crew’s work. It’s just too risky to gamble on.

One of the most valuable things you get when you hire a professional video crew on Crew Connection is confidence. Our team of professionals personally vets every crew before they make it on our database. That kind of peace of mind is priceless.

COVID proof your video business with this one skill

COVID proof your video business with this one skill 400 267 Alicia East

Has this pandemic handed your business a giant, caterpillar-infested lemon? Tell me if you relate:

  1. Jobs have been on the decline since the pandemic and while things are finally picking up,  you’re nowhere near your previous workload. 
  2. You provided a creative solution for your client(s) when the pandemic forced you to cancel a project midstream. 
  3. You stress ate your quarantine rations week two and all you have left is a can of beets and a Domino’s gift card with $4.67 on it. 

Okay. Us, too. So now what? If you’ve recommended some creative ways to repurpose existing footage, you’re in good company. This Nike spot uses archival footage, voiceover, and top-notch copy to tell the story. Are you ready to go a little further? Time to flex your creative muscles with some animation skills, Creatives! 

This one skill you can add to your profile during this slow time and you’ll never want for work. And it’s easier to get started than you think. Quite likely harder to become an expert than you think, too. 🤷🏻‍♀️ I talked to Shawna Schultz of Mass FX Media–the motion design and animation lab based in Denver–about how production houses can help clients meet their goals in light of the COVID-19 limitations.    

Adjusting to new realities with current clients

Schultz has had plenty of clients approach her production house with their COVID-19 challenges. Many had live action concepts they simply won’t be able to accomplish under current conditions. Specializing in animation has made the pivot much easier to stomach and Schultz has been able to offer solutions that don’t require an indefinite delay.

For example, Schultz and team created a graphics package for The Unreasonable Impact COVID-19 Response Global Summit created with Barclays. The event would’ve been live without COVID, but the graphics package upped the production value of the virtual summit by allowing a polished opening, transitions between speakers and even a fall back to cut to in case of technical glitches

Entry-level animation skills to get you rolling 

Motion capture and creating new characters may be the glamorous side of animation, but simple is good, too. Iconography, typography, and adding motion to stills are entry-level ways to bring words and images to life. I never would’ve thought seeing a Conan O’Brien monologue with typography animation alone would be more engaging than watching the man himself. 

Schultz said getting comfortable with your pen tool and clone tool in Photoshop can help you create the parallax effect in your editing software–another way to add visual interest to photos. 

You can likely get started with software you already have. Adobe Premiere, After Effects and Animate have helped drop the barriers to entry so you can delve into the basics without an overly-burdensome learning curve. 

Tools and trainings for when you’re ready to add a whole new piece to your business pie

Schultz and team have put together this comprehensive list of resources to get you started with minimal investment. Many are free!  

You can become proficient enough to add new depth to your projects or, if you like it enough, you can keep learning and become an expert. 

There’s plenty to explore before getting into motion capture and creating complete characters. No matter how far you take it, you will find uses for everything you learn.  

Bottom line

Sometimes when you’re boxed into a corner, your pivot causes you to create something even better than you thought possible. When life hands you lemons, animate them. 

Crew Connection helps video professionals connect with clients. Put all your skills to use with us by applying to be listed on our online database of highly-vetted crews. 

Shawna Schultz is president and executive producer of Mass FX Media, a motion design lab serving brands and documentary filmmakers animation and visual effects to enhance their stories.