We’ve been making school prospectus videos for several years now. This year we’re shooting a new film for Varndean School in Brighton, so we’ve decided to document the process.
School Prospectus Video: Preproduction
Blog Entry: 29 June 2015
A film shoot of any size needs planning. Today is the last day of the preproduction phase for the new school prospectus video for Varndean in Brighton. Here’s a brief summary of what’s happened so far:
• I (Shadric, the director) met with the Headteacher Mr Deighan, to discuss ideas for the new school film. We agreed, that in this year’s film, we would make the students the stars, allowing them to do all the talking and to express their own views about the school.
• I walked round the school for a recce, scouting for potential spaces to film in.
• I put a proposal together, including costs, which was approved.
• Mel (Varndean’s Marketing Officer) and I met up to discuss the filming schedule, the shooting locations, and who the student speakers would be.
• I met with the Head of music to discuss which of their summer show acts would be best suited to providing the soundtrack for the opening of the film. We agree on two girls who will be performing an acoustic cover of ‘Shake it out’ by Florence and the Machine.
• I discussed the potential shots and set-ups with Bip (the director of photography).
We’re all ready for tomorrow’s shoot.
School Prospectus Video: Production
Blog Entry: 30 June 2015
The shoot went well today. We filmed two year 10 students Ella and Eliza recording ‘Shake it out’ in the school recording studio. Despite the added pressure of being on camera, they did a really good job, nailing it in a couple of takes. This footage was recorded with a single camera (a canon 5d mark II), with the sound taken from the studio desk. Here’s an (edited) clip that didn’t make the final film:
Blog Entry: 3 July 2015
Over the last two days we shot various set-ups for ‘B-roll’, or in other words, footage required for cutaways in the film. This is the stuff you see happening in the school that ‘illustrates’ what the person being interviewed is saying. This footage is crucial for the film to come together in the edit. Without B-roll, you’d have a pretty boring film!
We have filmed in schools for several years, and it sometimes works to just show up at a real class and start filming. But more often than not, the room, the students, and the activities won’t be appropriate or visually interesting enough to add anything of substance to the film. This is why we have to do ‘set-ups’. A ‘set-up’ is basically created just for the cameras.
Sometimes it happens spontaneously within a real lesson – when we might ask a small group of students to do something again we just saw them do. Other times, we have to plan it more carefully, for example, ask a teacher to set up a science experiment just for the cameras. It may seem contrived, but there would be no realistic way to capture certain visuals without setting it up, given the tight shooting schedules we are on to make the film feasible.
Blog Entry: 9 July 2015
Today was interview day.
Bip and I were joined by sound engineer Emilio and second camera operator Matt. We set up in the school grounds and interviewed all the students who had put themselves forward to speak on camera about the school.
We were impressed with how articulate they all were. Some were a little nervous, but that’s not surprising – it’s not easy speaking on camera with a boom pointed at you and about four or five people standing around watching.
The trick is to encourage people to talk as if in conversation, and try to forget about the camera- that way you get a more natural delivery. Then you cut out the interviewer’s questions in the edit. The only snag is that you have to be sure the answers include certain content from the question, otherwise it won’t make sense.
For example, if you ask ‘tell me why you like science’, if the answer is ‘because I love finding out how things work’, you can’t use it. You have to remind them to start with ‘I like science because…’ (or something similar). This is the tricky bit, because now you’re slightly scripting it, and if you’re not careful it can sound staged.
The following video shows an unedited section of an interview followed by the final edit in the film.
School Prospectus Video: Postproduction
Blog Entry: 2 September 2015
The final edit has been completed today.
Unless you’re working to a tight script and storyboard, the story-telling is done in the edit.
In the case of this year’s school prospectus video for Varndean, we had a plan for roughly what content was to be covered by the speakers, and roughly who was going to speak about each subject. We also had a plan to shoot certain activities in and around the school to create the ‘B-roll’ to support the speakers. Finally I had the idea from the outset on how I was going to begin and end the film, but beyond that, the flow of the film and the order of the content was something that had to be created by slowly piecing the film together, like a jigsaw puzzle, and seeing if it worked.
Once the flow of the content in the film started making sense, I added the soundtrack. The soundtrack affects how the shots need to be cut together, especially if there are chord changes or tempo changes in the music. The choice and positioning of the background music is extremely important – it sets the emotional tone for the film – get it wrong, and the film doesn’t work.
Once the final edit is cut to music and all the titles and graphics are in place, the last stage is colour correcting and grading. Colour correcting involves fixing any problems with exposure as well as colour balance. Interior footage is often too yellow for example.
Grading means applying a ‘look’ to the entire film. This is often done more noticeably in feature films (common ‘looks’ include ‘bleach bypass’ or ‘teal and orange’). In our Varndean school film, a more natural yet slightly ‘filmic’ look was achieved by slightly crushing the blacks, pushing the highlights, warming up the skin tones and cooling down the greens and blues.
Here is the final film.
The Client’s Response
‘Varndean School has successfully worked with Toop Studio for many years as they have the ability to capture the ethos of our school and distil that message for parents and the wider community. The key to this successful partnership is on how astutely Shadric intently listens to the essence of our school community. ’
Headteacher, Varndean School