Hi all, just a quick video to make sure everyone knows we're still open for business during Lockdown 2.0 and beyond!
The Pandemic - changing with the times
A quick video to update you with how we've adapted to cope with the changing nature of business during the pandemic. Feel free to get involved at...
Newbury College YouTube Advert
We created a 30 second YouTube advert for Newbury College, and we'd love to share it with you, but you'll have to wait until it's officially released!
Until then, here's a snap of the stars, who were treated along with their classmates to a special preview of the video, popcorn, red carpet and all!
Stay tuned for the videos release, especially if you're wondering what to do when you leave school...
Corn Exchange - Crossing Lines
So we do lots of filming for the Corn Exchange, in Newbury. They are always putting on cool events that showcase the real breadth and diversity of the arts in their live outdoor events. We recently got to film this intoxicating piece, performed by a mixture of local artists and the team from Pan.Optikum, along with Newbury’s own Corn Exchange and 101 Outdoor Arts Creation Space, who bring multi-cultural and multi-lingual aspects to the performance, forcing the audience to focus on the narrative as it meandered through to its conclusion via the mediums of dance, movement, graffiti, and even a massive rain machine! How cool is that?! Well, it was cool until the front row of audience members realised what was happening and got completely soaked! :-)
The stage was huge, as the video showcases, and was also double-sided to allow the narrative of the performance piece to split up and take you on a different journey, depending on what side you were watching.
Check it out…
Walk The Plank - River Stories, in Reading
We were recently asked to film an event in Reading, on the River Thames. Little did we know it would be a magnificent night-time adventure, with huge “makes”, as they were called, floating around the river. Following a spoken narrative over music that took the water’s natural inhabitants and turned them in to heroes and villains, and even included a monster!
The Walk The Plank team are based in Salford, and travel around the country creating fantastic outdoor arts events that weave in the history of the area they are performing in to the shows.
We had three camera operators, specifically chosen for their ability to capture high quality video footage in low-light conditions. And we’ve used a mixture of live audio from the event, alongside audience and event organiser vox-pops, to tell a quick highlights narrative about the piece and what it brings to the area, in this video. Doesn’t it look awesome!?!
Have a look for yourself…
MWS video update / follow on August 2017
Lots of fascinating work with the Corn Exchange in Newbury over the summer, some cool 3D graphics stuff with Nidec, and more entertainment value once again from working with FSP...
MWS video update / follow on January 2017
This is how we like to update ya'll on what we've been up to. And this video talks briefly about the work we've done recently with Business Channel TV, Codelocks and the Newbury Corn Exchange.
Business Tip 5
Our final tip for the month, hopefully by now your business is booming thanks to our invaluable advice. This last tip for the month should be enough to see profits soar, and we'll be back later this year with more amazing tips and business advice for you, see you soon!
Business Tip 4
Here at our studio in Newbury, Berkshire, we’re fortunate to be in the “tech corridor” alongside the M4. This means we are able to stay abreast of the constantly changing technology landscape, not just in terms of video production, but general advances in business communications. So strap yourself in and prepare to have your mind blown by the 4th of our 5 business tips in August. #thingssurehavechangedrecently
Business Tip 3
MWS Media's third insightful business tip this month! Have you been integrating our tips in to your business? If so, let us know the results by commenting below.
Business Tip 2
Doubtless those of you who watched our first Business Tips video are already seeing the benefits in your business. Here, as promised, is number 2 of the 5 Top Business Tip Videos we’re releasing in August. Happy Businessing!
Our 5 Top Business Tip Videos
Unique amongst the 12 months of 2016, August has 5 Mondays! That is either 5 chances to have that "Monday Feeling" or 5 chances to grow your business and wow your customers by taking on board some of the best free business advice you will ever stumble across on the interweb. That's right, 5 Monday's, 5 top business tip videos from Ben and Phil at MWS Media, shot right here at our lovely video production facility at Greenham Airfield Studio near Newbury in Berkshire. Learn from our mistakes, take advantage of our insight and like us you'll be sailing higher than British Astronaut Tim Peake. Not now he's back. From about December to June. When he was actually high up on the ISS. Which is really high as we understand it. Anyway... Enjoy!
Work Experience Video Diary
We know how tough it can be to get started in the film and video production industry, so we try and accommodate interns and work placements as often as we can. Marc spent a week with us at our studio in Newbury, Berkshire during his half term holidays. As part of his placement we asked him to put his camera work, audio recording and editing skills to the test by creating a documentary about his time with us, learning about professional video production. This is what he made - and we think it shows that there's yet another talented young filmmaker coming through the ranks.
MWS Media Ghostbusters Advert Parody
We love to think our video production can be topical and fun. With the new Ghostbusters film coming soon to a multiplex near you, we decided to create an in-house video marketing homage to the TV advert from the original Ghostbusters film. Shot on location at our studio in Berkshire, the attention to detail is truly nerd-worthy, from the 4:3 aspect ratio to the grainy 1980's SD quality image and every prop and movement. Please feel free to watch, share and laugh at our goofiness. If you want to see just how precise we have been, check out the original advert from the film. It's possible we love Ghostbusters too much.
Also, as you might know we love to show the reality of what we do, especially if its funny. Check out the short "Outtakes" reel below. Video production is not quite as easy as it looks...
And here, because we are so helpful and kind, is the original, if you feel like checking out the comparison and seeing just how nerdy we have been...
MWS video update / follow on March 2016
Another quick and quirky round-up of some of the cool projects we've been working on recently. A mix of video productions and animations for Mestec, Smartbox and Charaderie.
FollowOn - FSP & TVP
We worked on two fantastic noteworthy projects in November, Team144's Foundation SP video, and Thames Valley Police's Drink Drive campaign video for this Christmas.
Video production that REALLY matters...
We have been really privileged recently in that our latest video production gave us the chance to work with Thames Valley Police on their Christmas Anti-Drink Drive campaign. The final film is a short, powerful, important message pointing out the dangers of drinking and driving, not just to you but to other people.
The process began with the scriptwriting, which was based on the concepts that Thames Valley Police wanted to pursue. We wrote the script to be deliberately ambiguous. There is some misdirection in the voiceover – is this The Girl's voice we're hearing? Did The Girl herself drink and drive or was she an innocent victim? Then there's the shock element of “the crash” - the moment when we see her terror and realise that she was dead all along that takes us to the mortuary and the tagline, and ultimate message of the film - “Where will you end up tonight?”
Once the script has been written, you need to find the right location, and we ended up shooting in a bedroom in our own neck of the woods, Newbury in Berkshire, not far from our own film studio at Greenham Business Park. The bedroom was long and wide, enabling us to get all of our equipment – camera, sound kit, lighting – into the space. Production design is always key to establishing character and place, and we had to carefully, or rather, messily dress the room to look like the bedroom of a 20-21 year old young woman.
We also had to find a mortuary. There are mortuary film sets available but the ones we looked at were not quite right. We wanted something stark, white, real. We ended up shooting in a small private mortuary in Wales which was perfect for our needs. The people there were great in advising us so that we could show due respect to the reality of what happens in a working mortuary. We were able to capture the tragedy of a young life wasted by lighting the space with cold blue light on the white walls, white sheet and steel body trolley.
Of course casting for something like this is hugely important. We auditioned a number of very talented actors in the audition and workshop space at our studio in Greenham, Thatcham, West Berkshire for the role of The Girl, the most important thing being that they could be subtle in their facial portrayal of emotions and seem young and vulnerable and sympathetic. Finally they had to look innocent and tragic “in death”. After much deliberation we cast a very talented, experienced young actor named Amber-Rose May, who did a fantastic job and was a pleasure to work with, thoroughly professional and good fun even when lying on a mortuary slab.
Our crew consisted of lighting cameraman Alex Dewhirst, Director Ben Myers (wait, that's me...), our Head of Production Phil White on sound, Producer Nick Blair and the fabulous Melissa Chartan as our make up artist – who did a brilliant and disturbing job of making up The Girl post-mortem. There was even some set photography and a bit of expert advice on forensics from Amy who stopped by on the second day of filming! As you can tell, video production is very much a team effort.
Working with Thames Valley Police is always a pleasure as they are such a dedicated, professional and passionate organisation. They are the largest non-Metropolitan Police force in the country covering Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire and this campaign feels especially important as it is aimed at keeping young people out of harm's way. Editing of the video using special effects to create the time/space glitches and of course the sound production and mixing of the complex audio in our sound studio was exciting and the team at Thames Valley Police and the Roads Policing Joint Operations Unit (with Hampshire Roads Policing) gave great notes and feedback.
As a video production company you always want the chance to work with great people on important video content. We couldn't be happier with the opportunity to work on this awesome film production project and we're thrilled with the result. Please do check out the video on Youtube or on the Thames Valley Police Facebook page if you haven't had the chance to see it yet.
Can I Produce My Own Video In-House?
I am a member of several LinkedIn groups and recently someone posted a question. They had made their own in-house video – and to put it bluntly, it clearly wasn't their area of expertise. It was well, it was woeful (nice word, shame I have to use it). And they wanted to know if people liked the video, because the guys in the office thought this was fine, and why would you pay for professional expertise when cameras are so cheap now. So I wrote a response – and didn't post it, as it was too long and I didn't want to offend anyone (I was new to the group!). Well I naturally have strong views on the subject, and I will pose and answer the question this raised for me here, and hopefully you'll enjoy them and find them useful.
So here's the question (agony Aunt style): “Dear Ben, I have a camera and some editing software, and I know how to use them; Can I produce my own web video/advertisements in-house? Signed A B Zissman”
Dear A B, in answering this, I will give you my honest opinion. Be warned though – I am passionate on the subject!
First and foremost, I would answer the question as simply as possible; yes, of course you can produce your own video in house. The question that we should really be asking I think, is should you do so. And the answer to that is it depends how you want your brand to be viewed by your customers, your peers, and on what you want to achieve.
So here we go –
Part 1: Sound
The two basic elements anyone can name in successfully producing a video are the visuals and the audio, and the first thing that the inexperienced or the inexpert filmmaker does, pretty well every time, is forget that the audio is as important as the visuals. Seriously, it is. But without wanting to pick on anyone and specifically critique a particular video, I think I'll make a broader point. There are so many thousands of videos out there, and so many more being created and uploaded all the time. This is because from a business perspective savvy marketeers have long been in the know about the effectiveness of well made video. However, the fact that there is a lot of noise out there means the first thing you need to do in producing your video is to cut through this noise, and for that you have to understand how to target your video, and then how to produce something that will appeal to your intended audience.
The fact of the matter is, people switch off, or disengage from, or fail to take away and remember messaging from a video with poorly produced audio. If you want them to listen, for goodness sakes get the sound right. And a tip here – good post-production sound engineers will use what you do hear and what you don't hear to create the perfect effect.
A simple rule that so many people even now don't understand - sound recording should not be done through the intrinsic camera mic. “But what if” I hear you ask, “for aesthetic reasons I'm specifically going for the 'I made this at home' sound/feel?” Even then, you should record the best quality sound and use post-production to create this effect, giving you maximum control, because unless you're a sound expert, you won't get the effect right on the camera mic – you'll just get people switching off! Nor should your audio mixing be done by someone who frankly fails to recognise the importance of sound in the first place, and lacks the expertise to deliver. If you expect someone to take the time to watch and listen to your video, make it as compelling as possible, give them a reason to watch it – but at the very least, don't give them reasons to switch it off!
Part 2: The Visuals
And with visuals, please at least shoot at a quality that says “I care about this video”. If you don't, we the viewers will not care either. Yes, you can spend a couple of grand and get a decent full HD camera that shoots at 50 mb/s, but for the most part its the equivalent of buying a Ferrari Italia and putting it in the chimpanzee enclosure in the zoo. You're asking for trouble, and the odds are they won't use it right.
Mise-en-scene – a good phrase meaning, well a lot – essentially everything in your frame, the composition of all that you see on screen, from the lighting, the blocking – where people are stood – to the set, props – like I said, the whole shebang. Mise-en-scene literally means “put in the scene”, and it is absolutely key to telling any compelling narrative. It’s how you tell a story – and please believe me, everything you put on video needs a story. So understanding why something goes where, why your actors are placed here, why there is white space there, back light here, fill light there, soft edges here – its all part of what the viewer takes in, and it is a real skill to understand and direct things to achieve this. If you shoot in full HD (not usually needed for web delivery, but worth doing in terms of usage options) but your composition, lighting, blocking – whatever – is wrong, then you're selling your company short, because it won't work.
Lighting is important – key – to producing anything of real quality and you need to know how and why to use it, but if you are going to shoot low quality, lighting won't help much. The equipment you use is important. That said, its still probably only 10%, at the very most, of the battle in terms of making a video engaging. The rest is down to the filmmaker(s).
I told you I was passionate about this, so you'll have to forgive me.
Part 3: The Presenter and the Voiceover
An interjection here might well be; “But surely Ben, a simple talking head video can be produced in-house?” (I crowbarred this in here as the video which prompted this post was a talking head video).
If you're going for a very basic model of video, such as the talking head, the presenter needs to communicate through the screen directly to the viewer. Using people from within your business can be a good idea. BUT if you can't help them out with some nice visuals, a strong sound mix, a tight, engaging and succinct script, you need someone with immense charisma and a good director to help them through it, or a trained professional. It simply isn't fair to ask someone to pull it off if it isn't their forte, and certainly not if the production values are so low that much of your audience isn't listening anyway.
Common problems for non-professional presenters;
1) “Acting” - they will try and act, look like they are acting, and become clownish.
2) Remembering – if they have a script they need to learn, they will often look like they are remembering lines from it.
3) Delivery – it takes training, and more importantly years of practice, to become proficient as a presenter or voice over artist. If someone tells you they are the exception to this rule – trust me, they aren't.
4) Autocue – reading from an Autocue is not as easy as it sounds. Amateurs will tend to struggle with the combination of concentrating, delivering with the correct emphasis and appearing natural and at ease.
Part 4: The Conclusion
In a time of austerity, I completely understand why you might want to produce your own video rather than pay out for expertise, but I would say this; if it’s for your business, do it properly, and the minimum here is to use these sort of forums to get the right advice from experts. And I feel I must ask – why would you spend 5 or 6 days doing video when it isn't your core skillset? That's time you could be working with your customers, refining your own processes – or if you're like me, sitting back with a cold beer after 6 o'clock! Don't waste your time getting to a place where you're producing “not-as-bad-as-it-could-be” video, when you could be spending it more valuably. If you like playing with a flip cam or handycam, play about with it at home – it isn't good business, on the whole. For example, I'm not an expert cameraman, so I don't do camera work on our videos. I could, because I'm pretty good at it. But I don't and shouldn't.
All of that said, if you're going to do it yourself, ask for some advice, I and my fellow producers here at MWS are always happy to provide helpful advice. As a 5 point technical plan to getting it closer to right, here is what I would advise for anyone thinking of shooting in-house video – as a bare minimum.
1) Buy a camera that at least gives you a quality that shows you care about the end product.
2) Record the sound using an external condenser mic – the sound of the whirring camera screams “we didn't put much effort into this!” When you use something amateur to represent your business, it's dangerous territory.
3) No cut points and reading awkwardly from a script is being unnecessarily cruel to the presenter. One seemingly random cut point often says “I'm covering a mistake”. Even iMovie lets you cut and edit effectively.
4) Any effect, such as desaturation or going fully black and white for no apparent reason doesn't make your video any more classy. Any amateur with a home video camera has done this for a laugh – don't make your business a laughing stock.
5) Don't start the camera rolling until you have carefully targeted the video and know exactly; what you're going to shoot, why, and how you're going to measure the results (asking colleagues, friends and family if it's good doesn't count!). Otherwise, you're probably going to waste your time.
In summary: A B, yes you can shoot video yourself. And no, you probably shouldn't.
Picking Your Dream Team
So this blog is going to be another one from me that’s focused on our specialism here at MWS of video production. However, I think that the process of building a strong team is something than can be applied to most other professional sectors.
I’m going to use the analogy of a sports team to represent how we focus our services at MWS. The obvious choice would be football seeing as its the most popular sport in this country however, I personally don’t believe in a sport that involves diving without any water so I’m going to use rugby. Joking aside I think that the roles in rugby are more specialised which does lend itself better to the point I’m going to present.
Don’t worry no revision or research is required as I’ll explain the roles on pitch and their transferable companions in the video world. Observe:
The Forwards 1-8
The Tight 5 - Production Crew
In rugby the forwards are the big players (see above) and they use their considerable frames and weight to win and control the ball. The tight 5 are 5 very specialised individuals who have key roles each of which contributes to winning the ball at set pieces; jumping in a line out, striking the ball at a scrum. This relates directly to our production team on the ground. We chose them because of how good they are at specific skills; camera operator, sound recordist, lighting technician, grip. They are the crew on the ground in the thick of it, getting their hands dirty and working as a unit (see above). Much like the tight 5 they are closely knit, often dependent on each others skills to be at their most effective. And they always argue amongst each other about things you don’t really understand. “You’re binding in the wrong position and I can’t get a clean strike!!” Said the director of photography.
Back Row 6-7-8— Specialised Crew/Actors
The 3 remaining forwards are called the back row. These players are still up front winning the ball but they are able to operate slightly more independently and may have further specified roles and skills depending on the game/production. So on set we’re talking about actors, makeup artists, prop supervisors, carpenters, set designers. People who contribute to production, often in their own individual way, but also working with the other forwards when they need too. They also tend to be better looking than the tight 5 on account of less broken noses and cauliflower ears caused by clumsy boom operators.
Half Backs 9-10 - Director/Producer
So in rugby the scrum half and the fly half, as epitomised by household names Austin Healy and Johnny Wilkinson (see above), are the guys who run the show. They may not be seen getting their hands dirty very often but their job is to orchestrate the rest of the team to get the best results. The scrum half is by association in charge of the forwards so the closest comparison is the director. Their job is to get the most out the forwards and then deliver the ball to the fly half when they think its ready. The fly half is the producer, often the ideas person, key strategist, overseer and often puts a lot trust in the director to get it right for them. As a result these two are closely knit, always communicating and often driving the whole process. They usually have a key working knowledge and a hand in choosing the rest of the crew for each project. They will also be heavily involved in the planning stages of projects, figuring out the best strategies and plans of attack. Due to them not being in the thick of the action these people will almost always have immaculate hair and will often have active endorsements from hair product companies.
Midfield/Centers 12-13 - Production Assistants/Assistant Directors
These guys are there to do some of the legwork alongside the two half backs. They will receive specific direction about what they need to do from the director and producer. Their roles may vary from game to game/project to project but they are the main support team on set. Often competent directors/producers themselves, they usually know where they need to be and what they need to do before they’re told. These people are your assistant directors, production assistants, runners, script supervisors and other such roles.
Wingers/Fullback 11-14-15 - Post production Team
Often simply called the back 3 the wingers or fullbacks primary function is to finish the job, score the try and bring it home. You can probably guess were I’m going with this one in terms of the production team. Our editors/animators/audio mixers are the people that take all of the hard work done before them, add some graft of their own and carry the whole thing over the line. Often we specialises further in the field of post production using different skills in areas of design, animation, sound, colour correction or narrative editing. So you always pick the best played for the job. The full back also has another key job in rugby. Their job is to tidy up when things don’t quite go to plan. It’s often not a mistake were talking about, it could be something that’s out of the hands of the production team like weather, traffic or something similar; much like a great piece of skill by an opposition player can cause problems for a defence in rugby. The fullback or editor however has the skills to allow them to fix such problems, hide things away and otherwise help the rest of the team out. It’s worth noting that there might be occasions were the back 3 can’t cover the issues. In this case we go back and start again and it’s normally up to the producer and the director to rally the troops and get the project back on its feet.
So just a bit of fun with two things I share passion for but if you take any key messages from this it’s that we choose people with specialised skills in specialised areas in video production just like they do in Rugby. As a result we have a functioning team of lots of people pulling their weight in different areas to deliver the best possible result.
We’re a multi-skilled unit at MWS and we have worked with plenty of people with skills extra to this. As a result when you come to us with a project we select our strongest team knowing what challenges are presented and how best to overcome them.
Ears Are Idiots
This may be a little bit of a technical blog but fingers crossed it will highlight some things you already knew, but didn’t know you knew about how things work in the audio industry.
Sound is a wonderful thing and our ears allow us to hear such aural delights as birdsong, a child's laughter, Iggy Azaleas new single or the noises our MD Ben makes in the 2 days preceding a half hour gym session (maybe not the last two).
But what you might not be so aware of is that in relative contrast to your eyes your ears can be deceived relatively easily. Currently here at MWS we are mixing and designing the sound for our upcoming feature film collaboration with Primley Road Productions 'The Catch' (Plug, plug). Now although 'The Catch' is a relatively straight forwards film in terms of sound design (we have no huge car chases to foley or new alien dialects to create), it comes with it’s fair share of challenges. But let me first draw your attention to some more obvious examples that you can relate to.
What would an actual star war sound like? Would they sound anything like master sound designer Ben Burts epic soundscapes of explosions, laser cannons and screaming ion engines? No they wouldn’t because space is a vacuum and no sound travels in a vacuum. Therefore what we would hear would in fact be silence, Burt and co cheated our ears into thinking that there was (awesome) sounds when in fact there would be none.
Ok maybe that's a bit harsh on our ears as few of us have first hand experience of space audio. How about…
Ever scene a car pull away in a movie and heard the tyres screeching on tarmac? Loads I bet. Ever heard the same thing in real life. Perhaps, but lets face it when a young buck pulls away from traffic lights on the A4 having whipped the clutch out like their movie heroes, the wheels make a stuttering gripping noise as they struggle to find tarmac. Rarely the uniform constant rotation on a smooth surface which would cause such a screech. Do we care? No because it sounds great and adds gravitas and power to the moment. Let’s stick with vehicles...
During the famous canal chase scene in James Cameron's masterpiece Terminator 2: Judgement Day, Arnold’s bike changes up a gear 14 times (sources vary). Fast and Furious movies see our drivers shift through around 200 gears with a simple stick shifter. It certainly helps to build tension though.
Ever punched/been punched/seen someone being punched? (Don’t answer out loud) I myself being a rugby player have no idea what one of those is but I have it on good authority that is sounds absolutely nothing like it does in the action films. If it did such films would be very short as one of those impacts would be paramount to a blow with a sledge hammer.
Again, no idea what these are except from seeing them in films, but have you ever wondered how people can talk to each other at such a graceful level whereas inside the real thing you’ll be lucky not to blow your voice out ordering a drink (orange juice)?
I could go on and I’m sure you have plenty of examples yourself and will annoy your family next time you sit down to watch TV (mine don’t let me anymore). So why do we so readily deceive our poor ears? Two main reasons. For dramatic effect and to help the narrative. We touched on examples of dramatic effect above with screeching tyres, epic battles and crunching blows. Try to imagine those horrible scenes in horror movies. Bone crunches, flesh ripping, blood and guts, all of those distressing noises are amplified in volume considerably higher than is realistic in order to pull you in to the happenings and further immerse you into the terror.
As for the narrative part take the 'Nightclub'. If we can’t hear what our characters are saying to each other then we are going to struggle to follow the story. Think of all the times you’ve watched a scene with someone far from the camera with perhaps a busy road in between them and you. Hows the dialogue? Clear as a bell? Of course it is as audio designers and engineers we sometimes have to compromise realism for clarity and story telling and thankfully most of the time our ears let us do that.
So maybe it's harsh to say that our ears are idiots. In fact the ease at which they can be deceived leads to a much wider breadth of creativity and greater margin of error for some technical aspects. Most of your summer blockbusters will be overdubbed using ADR a technique whereby the original dialogue is replaced with studio recorded sound and synced to the footage. Look closely and you can sometimes pick out minor mis syncs on even the grandest of productions (again, I recommend doing this on your own away from friends and family). But it leads to lovely clear crisp dialogue and often the ability for a director to recapture elements of a performance after the shoot.
Ears, you may be a little stupid. But we love you.