How to make a perfect commercial video (live action)
Well, you can think it’s simple. Just take your camera, and then run and gun! Then post it, and millions of viewers will come to you from the get-go.
Well.. that’s not how it really works.
As soon as you start doing it, a number of questions will pop up, and you can find yourself overwhelmed in a matter of an hour. This article will tell you how to put all of these questions in the right order to avoid the feeling of endless complexity with the fear of missing out while other brands are producing great content out there.
It always starts with a great idea. The idea comes to your mind and lights up all of your neurons, stunning you with it’s greatness.
That’s awesome, but how do you communicate it to others, and even further, how do you make this idea come to life? This is where an established process can help you out. A process that was organically formed, tested in the field and polished by others. That’s the key to success 🔑
At Paradise Bird, we tested our process with a number of videos we made for big and small brands. And we are willing to share it with the world, so you can learn from us and make even greater videos.
First of all, videos are about delivering a message. It is considered to be one of the best forms of communication invented by humanity, since one second of a video can pack more than 1,000,000 words. But it could be really overwhelming to blast such a great amount of words at the inception of the video, so we should start small and limit ourselves with a 100–1,000 of words to begin with. This short-form of a video description is called a Script in the video production business.
Cut down all the sprinkles and small details you see in your head, shrink it down to the most important things: setting, heroes, actions, dialogue lines (if there’s any). Here are some examples of Hollywood movie scripts that may serve as an example of AAA-scripts made by humans:
But it’s still too big and complex!
No worries, we got it. If the Script is too much of a challenge to start with, or the product that you are working on has a large amount of features, you can start with an even shorter form of a video description — a Synopsis.
Usually, a Synopsis consists of 1–3 sentences. It is really important to keep in mind that the synopsis should be based on the actual problems that your business solves and a number of unique values you bring to the world.
We know, it’s hard to narrow all the greatness of your product down to 3 sentences. We dealt with this before and we totally feel you. To make this process easier, we created a Scriptwriting Playbook. It consists of 5 questions, and each one of them serves as a ground layer for your future script.
And yes, you can get it for free here
People should be inspired, shocked, amazed, amused, by your Script, end essentially — your video. No emotional reaction = no action. Commercials are all about making people remember the brand, or take action, so there should be an emotional trigger for the viewer.
You can create an emotional response with different methods, pack lots of information in a short period of time and you will get people overwhelmed (works well for a problem statement), throw a verbal or a visual joke in a scene and make people laugh to relate to main characters better. “Parachute” in the story to make people interested from the first 5 seconds.
A set of these tricks is usually a “deck of aces” that each Director plays to win viewer’s attention, so don’t be afraid of copying some tricks from your favorite directors and then develop your own set of tricks that work best for you. Then it will become your own style that will set you apart from other directors.
When the Script or a Synopsis look good for all members of the project team, it’s time imagine how it really will look like. At this stage it is more about “how we see this when the production is over”, “look and feel”, or as someone might say “sauce”.
This is where you can get crafty, and describe each scene or a part of the video in more details. It could be a long description with visual and video references, and even some music score references they consider perfect for the video.
Different Directors treat this stage differently, some are good at drawing and can create a storyboard which also communicates the main frames and angles of the future video.
Some are not that good at drawing, but they can communicate their vision with the power of presentations, like Daniels did in the Treatment for DJ Snake — Turn Down for What:
Each project is different, but the main goal of this stage remains the same — the Director should be confident that he’ll make a great video. If this is a team project — he should make sure that every member of the team knows that the Director has a vision for the project. If this is a one-man project — if you think it’s a good idea — just start doing it. Just do it! You will always have room for improvement.
Okay, if we’re working with a team, we need to get everybody on the same page about our vision of execution. Usually, Producer collaborates with Director and breaks down the vision to pieces that have to be taken care of.
And oh, lord! How many versions of documentation for this stage we have seen and tried out. The number is countless. You can definitely say: every artist has their own tools, so this applies to Producers as well.
We saw articles like 99 best templates for pre-production or 163 free pre-production templates for Filmmakers but it all narrows down to 10 different areas of knowledge the Producer should take care of during Pre-Production Stage:
- Gear (Camera, Light, Grip, Sound)
- Production Crew
- Travel and Accommodation
- (Bonus) Catering
The level of detail for each area really depends on the scale of production. If you’re shooting a selfie-video with your phone on the street — you probably don’t need any of these documents. But when you start adding more variables to the equation, things start getting more complex and a number of risks grows exponentially. The more you entities you add to the script — the bigger a Script Breakdown (and a budget spreadsheet) becomes.
Here’s a good video that explains how the process of Script Breakdown works:
During this stage, the main goal is to make sure that everything that is mentioned in the script will be present at the shooting stage when it’s needed. If there’s a wig that a character wears in the scene, somebody has to deliver it to the stage and make sure it fits the actor. We just mentioned 4 entities that should be taken care of: Wig (Prop), Stage (Location), Fitting Wigs (Make-up Dept.), Actor (Talent).
So if you’re a solo video creator, we honestly suggest restricting yourself on the Scriptwriting stage and keep the amount of things as small as possible. Otherwise, you risk juggling between money, time, and the quality of the actual video (usually at the expense of quality).
If you go with a team approach, make sure that there’s is a person dedicated for keeping things in order. Logistics, bills, schedules, call sheets, agreements, and so on — it could be done by one person if the scale of production allows it. If there’s too many things to wrangle, it could be done by segmenting the fields of responsibility (Camera Department, Sound Department, etc.) and/or layering management (Executive Producer, Line Producer, Production Assistant, etc.).
Production Days or Principal Photography Stage
Lights, Camera, Action! It’s time to get that scene recorded.
Everybody is on the set, gear is ready to shoot, everybody is pumped up and boom! You got it from the first take!.
In the dream world, yes, that happens all the time. In the real world, everybody is either sleepy or late, props are still not delivered and somebody, please stop that baby from crying! Who brought a baby to the set?
Most of the time, at least something will go wrong. Stuff crumbles all the time, and sometimes, even a major part of production might not happen the way you expected it to happen. And you know what to do in this case?
Don’t panic. Everybody should keep calm on the set, because panic is contagious.
The worst thing you can do on set — is to start yelling at people and then call it quits. It’s called “unprofessional behavior” and it is not cool. You are on the same ship with others today, and instead of letting them down, provide the best solution and get everybody onboard with it.
The main thing that sets successful Directors apart from average ones is keeping focused, solving problems on the way, and delivering the best form of their vision through the final product.
The mic keeps detaching from the shirt? Tape it up DIY-style so no one will see it. The camera keeps overheating? Well, you just got a good schedule adjustment that’ll let you rehearse the script with actors better. The main actor doesn’t play the part like you saw it in your head? Try to find another stronger side of them and emphasize attention on it, and don’t forget about the idea!
If you happen to have a Director on the set, help them out. You’re the part of this stage and your actions or inactions might affect the final product today. If there’s no formal Director on the set, you should become one. Crew with no Director is like a ship with no Captain. Nobody knows where it’s going.
And if it’s an event coverage, it means that somebody has organized it they are the Directors. Become a stealthy ninja and capture the most candid impressions from participants of the event, because in journalist-style videography, that stuff is golden.
Before leaving the set earlier than you planned, dedicate some time to quickly browse through the footage and audio you’ve captured with the whole team, because if there’s a failure with something that can still be recaptured — you have time to do it. A very popular joke sounds like “we’ll fix it in post” that usually means tripling the time spent on post-production or not even being able to fix the problem at all.
These Quality Assurance breaks are also good to make after you got the first take of a scene, to avoid the chance of getting golden takes properly captured and then blaming yourself for “not moving this chair a bit further”.
Things to check on a break: continuity, composition, exposure, color palette, grain, noise, make-up, shadows.
Well, to be honest, post-production is so vast in it’s variations and types of services, that people run large studios like The Mill that are focused solely on post-production.
You can skip the whole stage if you are live-streaming or you are a magician.
Before posting another article dedicated on types of post-production, we’ll focus your attention on the main questions you should ask yourself while you are at the post-production stage:
Does the picture look good? Is the sound alright? If you haven’t followed the pro-tip from the previous part of this article, you have to do your best at fixing the problems in post. We’re not fans of doing it because post-production has its layer of “fakeness” added on top of the video. You can sometimes see it even in Hollywood productions.
Underexposed or overexposed footage is usually easy to fix, some colors might be replaced with masks, some faces can be replaced with a deep learning algorithm.
Is the video even slightly boring? Instead of loosing views in the middle of the video, sometimes it’s better to cut some parts of it a bit shorter. After the first cut the best judge for that is yourself. And after you spent more than several hours on editing, the best judge would be yourself on the next day (or after a good distraction, or a break for jogging and thinking about something else). After the third revision, it’s best to show the video to your friends who know something in video production.
If everybody in your close vicinity thinks that the video is ideal, show it to your best customers — sometimes they might give you some great feedback on something you haven’t noticed before.
With this information, we can say that the ball is on your side now. If you are brave enough — you can pull off anything you want. And if you think you might need some help from professionals, that’s totally alright.