Best Practices for Filming at Home: A Slow Clap Brainstorm

As we continue to navigate our “new normal” during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Slow Clap team met up for another brainstorming session to discuss how to film content at home. Whether video conferencing on Zoom, Teams, WebEx, Google Meet, or any other platform, we discuss some of the best practices for filming at home, and how to make your user-generated content look great. We cover lighting, framing, recording tools, audio and microphones, as well as editing it all together. Check out the session below.



If you have any questions about what we discussed contact us here.

#blacklivesmatter

At Slow Clap Productions, we believe in authentic storytelling. We believe all voices should be heard, and that everyone has a story. We stand behind the Black Lives Matter movement and with our friends, family, colleagues, and neighbors of color who are sharing their authentic stories through protest, murals, social media posts, and conversation.

The injustices that members of the black community have suffered cannot be ignored. The only way we can grow as a community, city, and country is to acknowledge and address the systemic racism that black people face every day.

Prejudice, bigotry, racism, and hatred of any kind should be condemned. That’s why at Slow Clap, we dedicate a portion of our working calendar to pro bono and below market rate work, partnering with organizations committed to racial equity. We’re thankful for our partnerships with amazing organizations like The San Francisco Foundation, Asian Law Caucus, San Francisco Immigrant Legal and Education Network (SFILEN), Gritty City, Boys & Girls Clubs of San Francisco, PACT, and others.

This year, we continue this commitment and will seek out partnerships with clients advancing racial equity. If you or someone you know has an important story to tell, please reach out.

Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery. Say their names. Tell their stories. Let these stories resound as we stand in solidarity, and encourage change today for a brighter future.

In solidarity,

The Slow Clap Team

Video Content In Quarantine: A Slow Clap Brainstorm

The days are blending together, but we’re still pushing our brains to the limits. As we continue to navigate the public health crisis, our team decided to get together (virtually, of course) to discuss the various forms of marketing videos our partners can produce remotely. Check out our brainstorm session:


Want to make a remote video? Reach out.

How to Make Videos While Sheltering in Place

We know many of you are working remotely and thinking of new ways to communicate with your communities during the COVID-19 public health crisis. And that’s great because 80% of consumers say their content consumption has increased since the outbreak started. Now more than ever, people are turning to brands for helpful information and inspiring stories as we all navigate a strange, new normal.

At Slow Clap, we’re inspired by the challenge of making videos to help our clients connect to their customers and communities. We want to share a few of the “distant storytelling” tools that we’re using that don’t require on-site filming. And, we’re open for business if you need help with execution.




Animated Explainers:


An animated explainer video is an engaging way for you to quickly and easily break down complex information through beautiful visuals. Using motion graphics, bright colors, and a simple voice-over, you can create a beautiful animated video that will continue to attract current and potential clients. We recently created this video for States Title.







User-Generated Content:


Native content is one of the most authentic formats for storytelling because everyone has a camera in their pocket. When you can’t send out a professional crew, it’s a great way to capture original, unfiltered content that people crave in a world where so many try to be picture-perfect.







Educational, Instructional Content:


Nobody ever liked to read instruction manuals. That’s even more true today. Enter the instructional video. For software companies, a simple screen-sharing video with great voice-over can provide a step-by-step guide to help customers learn to use products and services. We love how Slack uses this approach in their product videos.







Brand Anthem Videos:


Whether you combine stock footage with a voiceover, like we did for Workato below, or marry narration with text and powerful music like Sutter Health, anthem videos are a feel-good way to share who you are and what you stand for as a company. That can be an important message for your community to hear, especially at a challenging time like this one.







Repurposing Content:


Recycling existing video content saves time and money and makes the most of resources. Dig into your content library, pull footage from different video projects, and cut them together to create a montage video or social content. Need inspo? Check out the Instagram video we recently did for one of our favorite wineries, La Crema.

 

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There are so many possibilities when you get creative about making video marketing content; whether you’re trying to jump on the latest TikTok trend (we’ve been practicing the “Don’t Rush Challenge”, or simply trying to tell a good story.

Need some ideas? Reach out and we can chat.

Blue Shield of California: Oakland Headquarters

As a company, Slow Clap is always striving to improve the quality of the work we produce for our clients. In November, we worked with our long-time client, Blue Shield of California, to highlight their move from downtown San Francisco to a new, state of the art facility in downtown Oakland. The video was designed to serve as both a general announcement of the move and also a recruitment tool to encourage talent to join the BSC family. It’s now the lead video in their employer brand campaign and was produced with the slickness and high production values worthy of this new office space.

“Any time you undergo a big change in an organization, you run the risk of people leaving. We hired Slow Clap Productions to create a video that would make sure that didn’t happen.” – Mark Hornung, Employer Brand Manager, Blue Shield of California

Approach

BSC wanted to feature their new facilities as a reminder of their cutting-edge workplace, but they also sought to capture the culture of the company, with an emphasis on making a positive impact in the communities that the company serves, as well as making an impact in their new home, Oakland.

Slow Clap kicked off the work on this video by conducting in-depth pre-interviews, a location scout, storyboarding, and a visual shot list to ensure our creative brief was a perfect reflection of the final product.

“The most important aspect of making a great documentary-style corporate video is casting people whose authentic stories and lives align with the key marketing messages of the video. So, pre-interviews to identify the right voices are essential. We took calls with at least twenty employees before settling on the three we featured in the video.” – Daniel Lichtenberg, Creative Director & Founder of Slow Clap

BSC wanted a more polished look for this video than much of the doc-style content we produce for them, so we crewed up with a Director/Producer (Daniel Lichtenberg), Director of Photography (Alan Sanchez), Gaffer (Elani Ferri), Grip & Assistant Camera (Jake Richard &Sarah Wells), Associate Producer (Nicole B Wilson), 2nd Assistant Camera (Naomi Pasmanick), Make-up Artist (Laura Yamasaki), and Production Assistant (Kai Nealis).




Execution

Our team filmed over the course of three days. Like all productions, we had several challenges to work around, but we didn’t let it slow us down. The weather, of course, is always an unpredictable factor. We were unable to fly our drone for the first day of filming due to fog and high winds, but we did manage to capture some powerful interviews from executives and employees, such as CEO & President of BSC, Paul Markovich.


Post-production spanned several weeks. Our editor, Mike Kuba, worked with Daniel and the BSC team to craft a story that brought everything home. The dedication to serving the community, the shared sense of purpose amongst employees, and the great place to work all came front and center.

To put the final touches on this project, Slow Clap collaborated with Bay Area colorist and founder of Color Gatherer, Will Smith (no, not that one). Will and Daniel took a dramatic approach to the look and feel of this film, using the C-Log 3 footage’s high dynamic range to give a larger-than-life feel to the highlights and darks, but crunching the mid-tone contrast to give our characters a sense of authority and purpose.

“Dan and I used DaVinci Resolve Studio’s toolset to create a light and clean environment while tilting the subjects toward a more dramatic feel with more contrast but brighter mid-tones, helping them to stand out from their backgrounds, achieving the larger than life feel, and demanding the viewer’s attention” – Will Smith, Colorist & Founder of Color Gatherer


Results

Blue Shield of California posted the video to YouTube on January 14, 2020. The three social media shorts were shared shortly after that, smartly leveraging a serialized content release strategy that leads to a higher rate of engagement.

“Slow Clap Productions is a creative organization, but they also know they’re a business. Their team is cognizant of achieving a purpose, working closely with us to guarantee results.” – Mark Hornung, Employer Brand Manager, Blue Shield of California


Blue Shield of California: Oakland

 

Social Shorts

Maria’s Story: Aligning values working with Blue Shield of California

 

Isabella’s Story: Creating a community to serve our communities,

 

Alvin’s Story: Making an impact while helping your friends and family



At the time of writing, the video campaign has several thousand combined views. Considering the limited audience of these recruiting efforts, our client Mark calls this a “slam dunk.”

La Crema Winery’s 40th Anniversary

Over the past few years, Slow Clap has grown a partnership with Jackson Family Wines that began with small, one-off projects for the company’s different wineries, such as Kendall-Jackson, Nielsen, Vérité, and others. In the Summer of 2019, that relationship got serious. JFW asked us to create a marketing video that celebrated the 40th anniversary of La Crema Winery, digging into the history books and origin stories of Pinot Noir in California.

Approach

The JFW marketing team wanted to approach this video from both the historic and educational perspectives but also wanted to ensure the video was entertaining for wine enthusiasts. Dan Sutton, Brand Manager of JFW, knew the exact voices that needed to be featured in this video, such as Rod Burglund, the founder of La Crema, and Jenny Jackson Hartford, Co-Proprietor of JFW. To round out the story, we recommended adding a third-party perspective. We often suggest adding the voice of an industry expert, to create a sense of weight and objectiveness in the story. Dan Berger, a top wine critic, was more than excited to talk about La Crema’s place in history.

 


Execution

Pre-Production

Forty years is a lot to cover in a three-minute video. In addition to a surplus of research, our team conducted pre-interviews with the video’s subjects to pinpoint key moments in La Crema’s history that would speak to the two different target audiences of this video. Using this background research as a guide, we developed a mood board, a shot list, and a creative brief.

Crew + Equipment

Directing and producing was Slow Clap’s Dan Lichtenberg, and logistics were managed by associate producer Nicole B Wilson. Leading the camera department was Alan Sanchez, and working as our assistant camera and grip was Jake Richard and Tomaso Semenzato.

We wanted to create a larger than life feel for this forty-year story, so we decided to use a motion control camera system to add some drama to our interviews. To achieve this, we used the Rhino Arc, which tracked our subject on loop, keeping her or him center frame with a fluid, buttery camera move.

 

During this marathon three day shoot, we filmed in several locations, including La Crema’s production facility and barrel room, the Estate at Saralee’s Vineyard, and La Crema’s Healdsburg tasting room. Each location provided a richness to the history of the winery, as well as a variety of elegant backgrounds for interviews and b-roll.

 

Like all productions, there were challenges, and one of the major challenges we encountered on this production was time. We filmed on-site for three days, spread out over the course of several weeks. But unfortunately, the grapes were not hanging from the vine… so, we had to use several shots from our archive of footage shot with JFW to create some movie magic. Another major snag was the drone footage we needed to capture. The vineyards are in the flight path of the regional airport, so we actually had to get FAA approval to fly in a “no-flight zone.” Thankfully, the results of these efforts were worth it.

We worked with our editor, Natalia Lopatina, to begin editing the video in between filming in order to create the story, select broll, and start figuring out music and tone. Once our crew completed their second day of filming our editor work meticulously alongside our Creative Director, and the La Crema team to complete the video.

“The feedback from the organization was very positive… this video has given us a ‘north star’ on the story for the brand.” – Dan Sutton, Brand Manager, JFW


Results

The video premiered at a general sales meeting event in late July 2019. In early August, Safeway, one of JFW’s biggest retail partners, decided to feature the video in the wine aisles in their California stores.

“The video was really well received at our GSM event. It hit all the marketing and selling points, and recieved lots of applause.” – Dan Sutton, Brand Manager, JFW

Collaboration, flexibility, and trust are the keys to any successful partnership. Over the past few years, we gained the trust of the JFW team and got to know the people behind the brands. We fostered that relationship and were able to really show them the value of working with Slow Clap. As a result, we were able to craft a beautiful story to celebrate 40 years and beyond.

Building a Brand Voice with Video: Insightly

Every few years, b2b companies go through the exciting and expensive process of refreshing their brand. As part of the overall marketing campaign around a re-brand, video has only become more front and center to give life to the brand’s voice. But many companies don’t want to spend a hundred thousand dollars to add one corporate video to their YouTube Channel that may or may not get a lot of views, nor do they want to release a piece of content that looks cheap or uncreative.

 

Our client, San Francisco-based tech company Insightly CRM, was grappling with this challenge when they reached out to us about a major branding initiative they were conducting. Slow Clap worked closely with the Insightly creative & marketing teams to produce several branded content videos that perfectly captured their brand voice, looked great, and was produced affordably.

 


Approach

Slow Clap was approached by Insightly’s Product Marketing Manager, John Weeke, who was tasked with doing a full rebranding of Insightly’s website. He wanted to create videos that educated potential customers on key features but were more than just your average 90-second tech explainer video. He wanted these videos to be a reflection of the brand’s voice; fun, smart, and simple.  

 

We worked with Insightly for about 8 weeks developing the script, cast an amazing actress, and put together a top-notch video production crew. Our Creative Director, Dan Lichtenberg, directed the seven videos shot over the course of four days, working with Billy Golden as producer, and Drew Eckman as cinematographer and camera operator.

 


Execution

In the world of video production, working with the constraint of a client’s budget is essential. So, Slow Clap makes sure that we can be nimble, scrappy, and wear a lot of different hats when we need to achieve a big production value with a small budget. Core to Insightly’s new brand was this sense of constant movement and speed. To visualize this, we made sure the camera was constantly moving to capture our wheeling-and-dealing on-camera narrator. This is a challenge to do without a huge video crew and a big budget. So, our problem-solving cinematographer, Drew Eckman, and his grip & electric team came up with an innovative technical solution, placing the camera operator on a dolly, and rigging our key light to the dolly. This meant we didn’t have to light the entire scene to get great-looking results. 

“What was great about these videos, was we were really resourceful and were able to use the client’s office to save time and money. It was an efficient and tight operation.” – Billy Golden, Producer 

Another way we visualized Insightly’s brand voice in video, which has a big energy since it’s a product that serves sales teams, was to have tons of activity in the background. These videos take place on a sales floor; to make it feel like this sales floor is sealing deals left and right, we used Insightly’s own employees, many of them salespeople, working away in the background. We used clever blocking to time much of this “business” to be coordinated and cross frame at strategic moments as our main actor walked through the sales pit.

 


Results

“It was wonderful to work with Slow Clap. The moment I realized Dan was really going the extra mile was when I asked him about a shot in the edit where it seemed like there was a lot more paper flying across the screen, an outcome we weren’t able to make happen on-set. I asked him about it, and he said he actually set-up a little green screen scene, filmed a bunch of papers, and composited them into the shot… it was well beyond my expectations.” – John Weeke, Product Marketing Manager, Insightly

In the end, we were able to provide Insightly with seven high-quality branded videos that covered the seven features of the product they wanted to highlight, but also capture the authentic brand voice.

 

Insightly leveraged the videos in three key ways. The first was through paid lead generation to get in front of their target market, buying YouTube pre-roll time and other paid advertising, to encourage leads to click through and start a free trial. The second was on their website, where these videos lived at the top of the page of each feature landing page. The final way the videos were used was through their outbound sales process; sales reps sent the videos to potential customers to get them excited. The videos have in total more than one million views, and paid for themselves in a matter of months, said the Insightly marketing team.

 


Insightly CRM

Watch all seven videos below:


Building the Future: GitHub

The new year is already over a month in, and here at Slow Clap, we’re taking the time to reflect on the growth we experienced in 2018. We had some amazing production opportunities that challenged us creatively and operationally. A highlight was working with GitHub on a brand video that launched their marketing campaign leading up to GitHub Universe 2018, their biggest annual conference and event.


Approach

We worked with GitHub’s creative team to develop a story that would highlight the open source community on their platform, and how collaboration can have a domino effect of positive change. To visually demonstrate the use of collaboration, our teams decided to create a story inspired by GitHub open source projects from all over the world, in all different industries, and with all different applications. Projects like Open Bionics, a VR medical training simulation, the da Vinci Surgical System, NASA’s Mars mission, and so many more got our creative brains buzzing. But at the center of it all, we knew this video had to be human, and feature the real human impact that GitHub’s community has in the world.

 


Execution

Style, Look, & Locations

This project took us around the world, to a neighboring planet, and back again even though we never really left the Bay area. We filmed in approximately 11 different locations in 5 days with a cast of over 30 people.  Our art department did a fantastic job creating and recreating scenes to help our audiences feel that they’ve been taken to foreign countries, inside NASA, and to another world. Mars, by far, was one of the most fun achievements of this project. In a studio setting, our art department used different elements to recreate the reddish/orange tint of Mars’s surface using things such as Paprika and a wind machine to simulate Mars’s surface.

To achieve a cinematic look we filmed on the Arri Alexa and used rehoused Cooke Lenses from the late ’60s to achieve a classic and stylized look (click here). Lastly, we utilized the Corba Dolly (click here) which was small portable dolly we used for smooth and sturdy camera movement.


The Robotic & Puppeteering

“He was not only great to work with but brilliant! He doesn’t just build things to look like robots he engineers them to actually work.” Cassandra Jabola – Producer

 

We hired the incredible Brandon Minton, who specializes in robotics and puppeteering. Brandon worked for 6-8 weeks, prior to production, to develop, 3D print, and engineer the hands and arms that are used in the video. Brandon not only built and engineered the robotics used, but he was also on set puppeteering them throughout the shoot.


The Music

“When you hear the score it sounds like the beginning of the song, but it’s really the ending. It was reverse engineered.” – Diana Salier

Prior to filming, we worked with TV & Film composer Diana Salier, to create a unique piece of music that is both diegetic and non-diegetic in its use throughout the video. The phrasing that Diana, and pianist Jessica Yap, created was integrated into how the story was told. In fact, the music had to be written prior to production so it could be utilized during the filming process for both young Michael and adult Michael to play. As a key storytelling element, the music had to show progression over time, which mirrored what was going on in the narrative.

 

 

 

 


Results 

As a creative agency, this was one of our most challenging and most rewarding projects to dates. We successfully completed the video on time, and in September GitHub launched their video campaign starting with the branding video. The video gained over 250,000(+) views between its launch in September 2018 to the opening of the Universe conference on October 16, 2018. During that same time, GitHub gained nearly 40,000 new followers and had over 45,000 social engagements across all platforms.

Awards & Recognition

In February 2019, Slow Clap was awarded the Platinum Honors from the AVA Digital Awards. The award recognizes outstanding work by creative professionals involved in the concept, direction, design, and production of media that is part of the evolution of digital communication.

View the finalized video below

Future Builders

Slow Clap believes that authentic storytelling lies at the heart of all great videos, campaigns, and outreach programs, so when GitHub wanted us to share stories of a few future builders who’ve used GitHub’s platform to transform their community we were excited to produce those projects. These stories took our team around the US and across the pond. It was an amazing learning experience for our team, that pushed us to find a more impactful way to share stories.

Approach

During pre-production, GitHub’s marketing team shared that they wanted to produce a series of 4 mini-documentaries that would follow the launch of the branding video and lead up the Universe conference. They wanted each video to highlight individuals who have used GitHub’s open source platform to create and launch new products or opportunities within different industries and celebrate what developers were doing around the world when they come together. GitHub provided a list of people who they were interested in interviewing and we began the vetting process. We conducted multiple pre-interview phone calls to confirm who was truly interested in being apart of videos, who had a deeply impactful story, who would be available, who would be comfortable speaking on camera, and who would have some very dynamic visuals available for us to capture at the time of production.

After a few weeks of follow up and scheduling,  we narrowed down the list to the final 4 subjects. We confirmed availability and scheduling at each location, what we wanted to capture, and confirmed who would be available as secondary subjects for each video.


Execution

Production Begins on Mini-Documentaries

Once production of the branding video wrapped, our team packed up our gear and headed across the US to Detroit, MI to capture the story of Tifanni Bell, who built her website, The Human Utility, using GitHub. The team spent a total of 3 days with Ms. Bell capturing her, Ms. Helen Griffin, a benefactor of The Human Utility, and the amazing city of Detroit. We utilized a local production assistant to help with loading gear, set up lighting, and maneuvering around the city. Our team conducted the interviews and capture the amazing aerial and street-level broll.

The Human Utility

“Start really small with whatever you can. You just need a couple of people. If you make an impact the whole thing will just, kind of, blow up from there.” Tiffani Ashley Bell, Founder of The Human Utility


Following Detroit, our team flew to Boston to capture Conrad Hollomon, a former US military Office, (Afghanistan veteran) who utilizes GitHub’s platform to help to transition members of the military service community learn software development and code the future. We hired a local production assistant to help us on this 3-day shoot which allowed us to conduct and capture the interviews and capture some of the city’s history in images such as the cobblestone streets and classic architecture.

Operation Code

“I served overseas in Afghanistan from 2010 to 2011. The things I think about when I’m going through tough times, ‘By going through this have I helped make someone else successful. Have I helped contribute to something larger than myself?” – Conrad Hollomon, Founder of Operation Code

 


 

Once we wrapped in Boston our team flew across the pond to the UK to interview Julius Sweetland, the creator of OptiKey, a free on-screen keyboard that allows the user to communicate and control their computer with their eyes. Julius initially placed his idea on GitHub 3 years ago, and with the help of the open-source community, it has been translated into 19 different languages. Similar to the first 2 videos, we had a 3-day shoot, where we captured interviews and broll of the subject in his natural environment. We hired a production assistant from the UK to help us with getting around and to act as a fixer prior to our arrival.

OptiKey

“I’ve been into computers since I could walk. These magic boxes that I’ve always been in “AW” of, they can do good. I’ve always wanted to have a project that I could go, ‘Hey, this cool thing, I wrote it and look at these people over here that it’s helping.” – Julius Sweetland, Creator of OptiKey

 

 


Our final video took our team back home to the Bay Area. We traveled to Oakland to capture Jamica El, who is part engineer, part storyteller, part curator, and a creator of stories through music and the use of technology. We spent 3-days filming in Oakland with Jamica, capturing her in her home, downtown, a speaking engagement, and all around the city. 

Jamica”Afrodjiak” El

“I’m a maker, and I want to inspire others to make. Being a DJ lead to me being comfortable with creating with my hands. Whether it’s curating, putting together mixes, or scratching records, and soldering wires together. My DJ life made my hardware life less intimidating.”  – Jamica El, Community Storyteller

 


Results

“These mini-documentaries are the logical points of our effects over the last 5 years, as a company.” – Dan Lichtenberg, CEO & Creative Director,  Slow Clap

 

The four documentaries were shared on GitHub’s social media platforms and organically garnered over 250,000 (+) views during the initial marketing launch between September 2018 to October 16, 2018 (the start of Universe 2018).  During that same time, GitHub gained nearly 40,000 new followers and had over 45,000 social engagements across all platforms. In addition to their social media, there was a write up in Forbes about their branding campaign highlighting Black Female Founders, and got a personal shout out from Reddit Founder, Alexis Ohanian, on Twitter regarding the successful marketing campaign for Universe.

Platinum at the Muse Creative Awards 2019

Out of more than 3,180 submissions from 46 countries, Slow Clap has won Platinum recognition in the 2019 Muse Creative Awards competition. Our video, Building the Future, produced for GitHub, has taken home the platinum award for the corporate identity category in video production. Slow Clap is one of a handful of Bay Area video production companies to win on the platinum level, an award level that less than 5% of entrants received.

Our collaboration with GitHub in 2018 was one of the most challenging, and rewarding, in our company history. We’re really proud of the amazing creative team behind the concept, scripting, production, cinematography, robotics, editing, 3D animations, VFX, and so much more that went into this video.

The Muse Creative and Muse Design Awards are international competitions for creative and design professionals from all disciplines, who help push the evolution of their industry in a positive direction. “We recognize the breakthrough achievements of these true innovators, who live by the words, ‘make the world a better place for all’” said Kenjo Ong, CEO of both competitions. “They have earned this recognition.”

Both the Muse Creative and Muse Design Awards are administered and judged by International Awards Associates (IAA), and stellar panels of internationally-recognized professionals from both fields. IAA oversees awards and recognition programs, assembles judging panels, and sets rigorous standards for both competitions.

Grand Jury Panel:

This year’s Jury Panel includes 42 renowned, experienced, and brand-new Judges from 22 countries worldwide. Judges hail from leading companies in the creative and digital industry from all corners of the globe and include professionals from such power brands as Grayling, DMG, McCann Worldgroup, Stewards of Wildlife, United Nations Children’s Fund, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, etc.

Entries in all categories were ranked according to industry-best standards. During blind judging, panelists evaluated the effectiveness of creative and design concepts, selecting winners from a deep pool of international submissions.

The 2019 competition included entries from United States, Canada, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Republic of China, Chile, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Honduras, Hungary, India, Italy, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Latvia, Lebanon, Malaysia, Macau, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States and Yemen.