How can marketers use talking head videos?

What are ‘talking head’ videos?

Often as marketers, we are faced with the challenge of engaging with a number of stakeholders, so that we may compel them to take a certain action or feel a certain way about our brand, product or organisation.

For this reason, talking head videos have increasingly become part of the marketers tool-kit. 

If you are unfamiliar with what I’m talking about let me explain. In a talking head video the main action involves someone talking to the camera, either right into it or slightly to the side. It will normally be in an interview style with some b-roll footage thrown for good measure, to highlight or embellish what is being said by the interviewee or interviewee’s.

Typically, an interviewer asks the interviewee’s a series of questions (these can be either open or closed questions) to elicit a particular range of responses that can be used to form part of the story when it is cut down for the end video.

These sound bites then become the building blocks of the video and are arranged in order to best fit the narrative that suits marketing objectives of the marketer. 

What are some good use cases for marketers?

Case Studies

One of the most popular and most effective uses of talking head videos is case studies or customer testimonials. 

In a scenario where a brand or organisation needs to build trust, social proof and brand recognition, a well executed and engaging case study video, with a talking head as its foundation, is a really powerful way to engage stakeholders and/or target audiences.

Typically, this will involve key figures talking about the projects and/or products they have worked on and could also include testimonials from clients. 

– Our Story Videos

Everyone loves a good story, or so they say, and some of the most popular stories are developed around the theme of origin. Usually a tale of humble beginnings, where the protagonist battles through a series of trials and tribulations to overcome their challenges and reach where they are today, will engage its audience.

The same format can be applied to ‘Our Story’ videos, when a brand or organisation wants to use the story of its foundation, and explain how its principles and goals came into existence and what challenges the founders faced along the way.

It can serve as a great way to engage stakeholders, to get them to buy into the vision of a brand or organisation.

– Our Culture Videos

Very similar to Our Story videos, ‘Our Culture’ videos typically involve the founders, management and staff of an organisation or brand talking about the overarching principles of their business and why it’s a great place to work.

The target audience for this style of video is usually people hoping to apply to work at the organisation. The video would give them an idea of what to expect and help to attract more top tier talent who share the same ethos as the brand.

It also serves as a way to enhance the reputation of the organisation or brand in the jobs market. Overall, if executed correctly, the video will serve to show off the range of benefits of working at the company.

– General content

As marketers we are constantly pumping out relevant and engaging content to engage our target audiences. This is particularly relevant with services based businesses, where part of the service employs specialist information or knowledge.

Often we will produce articles such as this one, to provide some free expertise to our target audiences. This can give a flavour of what potential clients can expect from working with us and in general can assist in enhancing our site wide SEO and traffic through latent semantic indexing on search engines.

Increasingly articles are being supplemented by short videos that sum up an article in a format that can be more memorable and engaging for audiences. Talking heads, where typically an authority figure at the organisation or brand is speaking about this topic can be particularly effective. 

(Did you know that after Google itself, Youtube is one of the largest search engines with Youtube being far easier to index on than Google. Furthermore with video transcripts, they can enhance your on page SEO when embedded to your website. Another reason why talking heads are so great, as they are filled with relevant terms.)

Often they will also be cut into 30 second clips, to act as a hook to get people to click your link when the article is distributed on social media or via email. Talking heads with some slick motion graphics can be a great way to do this.

  • Pitch Videos:

On occasion your sales team may be struggling to get in front of key decision makers, and our challenge as marketers is to help them with doing so.

More often, speculative pitch videos are being used to communicate the benefits of working with a particular brand or organisation to busy key decision makers.

To really be effective they need to be memorable; so a good talking head video, with a good concept and script, can be a great way to start a conversation.

What are some good examples? and why are they good?

So we’ve talked a lot about talking head videos and how they can be used, so it’s only right we look at some good examples.

Luckily, we get to work with a very wide variety of clients, so have a good range of examples showcasing how talking head videos have been used by marketers in different sectors.

Benjamin Shine – Minotti

Minotti are a furniture brand based in Italy but with an independent arm in the UK called Minotti London. They teamed up with pioneering artist Benjamin Shine to showcase how brands and artists can collaborate to explore the creative process and how this can be used in conjunction with a brands story and heritage.

We used a combination of a talking head interview and b-roll of Benjamin at work to highlight Benjamin’s artwork and creative process, which added some extra weight to Minotti’s brand messaging.

Dimensions Specsavers Ad

Dimensions are a Manchester based corporate clothing supplier. They were looking to reach senior decision makers at Specsavers in charge of staff uniforms. 

They thought it would be a good idea to replicate the Specsavers talking head advert with Ian Wright but this time with Dimensions as the brand coming into focus.

We heard the video had a good reception from Specsavers and opened up the conversion between Dimensions sales team and Specsaver’s buyers.

Re-leased Our Culture

Re-Leased are a New Zealand based software company, who have a large office in London. They are a Sass business in the proptech space and they make lease management software for commercial property managers.

As a rapidly growing company, they need to continually attract new talent to join the team. Re-leased are big on family values and community spirit and this is a big part of their company culture. So Re-Leased wanted to reflect this as part of their messaging.

We took sound bites from various members of the Re-leased staff, as well as from the company’s founder Tom, to explain the company mission, values and why it’s such a great place to work.

Autograph Hotels Collections – Indie film Project

Autograph Collection hotels are part of the Marriott Group. In 2019 they started their Indie Film project which is a series of events taking place at their hotels which aim to explore the art of film making and dig deep into the details that go into it.

We were asked to produce a film from an event from one of their hotels in London with the BBC’s chief film critic Mark Kermode and Sandy Powell, 4 time oscar winning costume designer, who had just finished producing Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman”.

We used talking head video here alongside some b-roll footage from the event, to give a brief insight into what the project is about which also introduces the Autograph brand in a subtle way as a facilitator of cultural discussions.

Want to know more about how we can help you? Get in touch using the form below.

Canon Eos R5 Front body view

The Canon Eos R5: Canon brings out the big guns

After what has started to feel like a long period of hibernation when it comes to video focused cameras, Canon has sprung back into life in a big way. Many people have felt that Canon have not really been at the cutting edge of imaging technology since the 5D MkIII, which was released over 8 years ago. Canon had been hinting at the capabilities of the Canon Eos R5 for a few months, but people had assumed that the video capabilities would be at least slightly limited to avoid competition with the cinema Eos bodies. They were wrong.

The Technology Leap

Compared to pretty much every other camera on the market today, from mirrorless to cine cameras, the Canon Eos R5 represents a leap forward in technology. The output specifications are comparable with cameras that cost 5 figures, which is incredibly impressive in a mirrorless sized body. The leap in specifications compared to its predecessor, the Canon Eos R, are even more impressive. The increase in capability is perhaps the largest seen between two models of camera since the digital revolution really got going.

What are the Canon Eos R5 Specifications?

  • Internal 8K/30p RAW video recording
  • Internal 8K/30p video recording in 4:2:2 10-bit C-Log and HDR PQ
  • Internal 4K/120p video recording in 4:2:2 10-bit C-Log and HDR PQ
  • External 4K/60p video recording over HDMI
  • No-crop 8K and 4K video recording using the full-width of the sensor
  • Dual Pixel CMOS AF available in all 8K and 4K recording modes
  • C-Log available in 8K and 4K internal recording modes
  • 5-axis In-Body Image Stabilization works in conjunction with Optical IS in both RF and EF lenses
  • Dual-card slots: 1 CFexpress and 1 SD UHS-II
Canon Eos R5 view showing R mount system.
Look at the size of that mount!

The most impressive thing about these specifications is that they appear to be achieved from a smaller body, without fans, than the Panasonic S1H. The Panasonic is the only camera on the market today that costs less than £10k that is at all comparable.

The ability to record 4:2:2 10 bit at 4k120p internally is huge. No other camera on the market can do that using the full width of a full frame sensor. The only cameras that get close are monsters like the Sony Venice and Red systems, but they all have to crop down to at least S35 to acheive this.

Conclusion, and the Panasonic S1h

Perhaps in an attempt to take the sting out of Canons announcement Panasonic announced a firmware update for the S1H today. The camera will be able to output 5.9k60p and 4k60p RAW video out to Atomos Ninja V external recorders. This will allow the files to be saved as ProRes RAW, which is a large improvement as Adobe Premiere Pro is starting to support the format. The firmware update will be free of charge, and will be available to download from the 25th May 2020.

The major advantage that the Panasonic S1H has over the Canon Eos R5 at this point is that it is a known quantity. For all of the hype around the R5, there is still a huge amount of unknowns. The announcement is a development announcement, not for a final product. Canon has also been very reluctant to talk about recording time limits, which given the huge amount of heat that is produced when recording in high quality high framerates is not a surprise.

As more information about the Canon Eos R5 specifications are released, it will become more clear about what the balance of capabilities and limitations of the system are. For now, Canon has at least thrown down the gauntlet to other companies (cough, Sony A7Siii, cough) to improve their systems, which can only be good for all filmmakers.

At the same announcement, the Canon C300 Mark III was also announced. The C300 Mark II was a Super 35 workhorse cinema body for a lot of productions, from TV to film. Canon refreshed the specifications, and used the same body as their C500 Mark II full frame cinema camera body. Canon also reduced the price of the new camera by nearly 1/3rd, allowing it to be directly comparable to the Sony FX9 price point. Unlike the Canon Eos R5, the Canon C300 Mark III has been released – it was not a development announcement!

Canon C300 Mark III body

The show must go on: How video can help businesses with Coronavirus

It really does feel like the world has gone mad right now. Companies all around the world have been hit incredibly hard by the Coronavirus outbreak, with events and entertainment being particularly hard hit by social distancing regulations.

As a company, we have seen some of our favourite events have to cancel because of the virus. Snowboxx, The Nottingham Varsity Series and many ski trips, all called off at short notice. This pattern has been repeated all across the UK, and across the world. With requirements for social distancing in place, people cannot physically attend events, which means that organisers cannot run them.

Self isolation – good for content consumption?

Ironically, there is probably a larger audience for content right now than at any point in human history. People are looking for an escape, to get away from the madness that is the world. Steam, the worlds largest gaming service, reached record online numbers earlier this week. Netflix and other large streaming services have seen an increase in traffic and subscribers.

For smaller businesses and events though, this wave may seem out of reach. Those virtual attendees are hard to pin down, and how do you use them to create revenue? Livestreaming and distributing paid video content online is complex, and has a high entry bar.

Getting your foot in the door

This is where we can help. Here at DGTL we have the skills and capabilities to offer your content online to the world. We can manage the process from end to end: we have the ability to plan your videos, produce them and host them on our own custom on demand video service. We also have the ability to produce high quality animations, which are an alternative to gathering people together to film.

We also have the ability to produce and broadcast internet based live streams, so that you have a multitude of ways to interact with your virtual attendees. We also understand that it is a tough time for everyone right now, so we want to work collaboratively to produce solutions that work for everyone.

Video has huge power as a non-contact form of communication, and with the restrictions on social contact is one of the best ways to reach out to your customers.

If this is something that would be of interest to you, get in touch at [email protected], or use the contact forms below.

Our new camera: the Red Gemini 5k

We have been looking for an upgrade to our main system for a little while. The FS5 is a fantastic, versatile camera, but has a lot of limitations. For example, to get non h.264 footage from the camera it requires an external recorder, which adds a significant amount of bulk and complexity.

We weighed up a variety of different options, from the new Sony FX9 through to the various Z-cam’s. While they all individually have impressive attributes, none really matched the full set of requirements that we had.

Cameras like the FX9, while very powerful and versatile, were too large; while the smaller Z-cams were too limited in their recording capabilities.

With our requirements, one name kept coming up. Red.

Red might be a slightly controversial company for a few reasons, but their cameras are fantastic. The Red Gemini is the perfect camera for us for a few reasons:

  • High modularity – we need a camera that can swap from gimbal, to run and gun, but also be good for studio usage.
  • Super high quality internal recording with Redcode – no more external recorder
  • Amazing low light capabilities, coupled with solid high frame rate options.
  • Able to take a very wide range of lenses

With help from CVP, we put together a custom package for the Red Gemini that met our needs. There are so many options and modules available that it helps having some expert advice to navigate the maze!

Our initial impressions of the camera are super positive. The quality is as high as expected. The usability of the camera, which is potentially a weaker point of Red’s, has been fantastic, with a much more logical set of menus than the Sony FS5 had.

We’ve used the camera in a number of different situations, from in the studio to on a cable cam, and it has impressed in all of them. We’re excited to see where the additional quality and flexibility of this system takes our filmmaking, so stay tuned for more! If you’d like to contact us about making your idea come to life on the screen, please get in touch using the links below.

We’re also renting out our Red Gemini kit – the list of what it includes is below. The cost for the full kit is £250 / day, please get in touch if this is of interest to you! It’s also available to rent through Fatlama here.

  • RED Gemini Brain
  • RED Untra-Brite 7″ Touch Screen
  • RED Base I/O Expander
  • RED Side Handle
  • RED Top Handle (R/S)
  • RED Mini Mag 480GB
  • Mini Mag Reader (USB-C and USB-A)
  • RED multi tool
  • RED Lemo cable
  • Smallrig magic arm
  • Smallrig Dovetail
  • Riser
  • 3x pairs of CF Rails
  • Left-hand grip
  • 4x Bebob 98 V Lock batteries
  • Bebob V lock charger
  • Peli Air Case (with room for lenses)
Inspire 2 drone taking off against a blue sky

How to travel with your drone

We recently covered general travel tips for filmmakers in a two part series. We got a lot of questions about flying with drones, as it gets complicated with battery rules and regulations!

Carry it with you

The treatment of checked baggage at airports is notoriously rough. Bags get thrown around all over the place by baggage handlers in a rush.

Protect your drone

Your drone is pretty expensive right? Moving around an airport, to say nothing of the travel needed on either side, can be a pretty rough experience. Getting a suitable bag for your drone can save you a lot of exasperation and headaches.

This is particularly important if you are flying with budget airlines where there is a risk your carry on bag could be put in the hold – you can try your best to convince staff that your bag should go in with you (see our main travel tips article for ideas about how to do this), but there is always a chance that you will not win. DJI’s official bags are pretty good, but there lower cost and better options out there if you look.

Flying with Lipo batteries

Flying with lithium batteries is the main area that people get confused about. There are a whole load of rules and regulations from aviation authorities, as well as individual airlines having their own rules. There is also a lot of misinformation out there from people that do not fully understand the rules and regulations!

Lipos always need to be in your hand luggage – that is a universal requirement. This is because of the energy density of the batteries – if it all comes out at once it can be a huge problem!

In addition, most airlines have in their rules that the batteries need to be discharged, and have their terminals covered to prevent short circuits and/or be in a fire resistant lipo bag. We have never faced any issues flying without lipo bags, but it is something to bear in mind.

The other key factor for travelling with lipos is how much capacity they have. Under IATA (International Air Transport Association) regulations, lipos are categorised by their energy capacity in Watt Hours (Wh):

  • <100 Wh – must be taken on carry on, with a limit of 20 spare batteries per person. This does not require prior approval from the airline.
  • >100 Wh to <160 Wh – must be taken on carry on, with a limit of 2 spare batteries. This requires prior approval from the airline.
  • >160 Wh – can only be carried as dangerous goods freight.

Just to add to the confusion, airlines then have their own rules that can often be tighter than the IATA ones. If you are in any doubt, check with your airline before flying!

Interested in getting pro drone filming done abroad? Here at DGTL we have experience in arranging commercial permissions for other countries – check out our drones page for our capabilities, or get in touch for more information.

The Canon C500 II, and the growing trend of full frame cinema cameras

Canon has released the C500 Mark II, a medium size cinema camera that uses the same full frame sensor as the top of the line C700 FF.

The C500 is a lot smaller than the C700

The C500 is a continuation of the recent trend in cinema cameras towards larger format sensors. For a while they have only existed at the very top of the camera food chain, with the primary examples being the Red Monstro 8k, Arri Alexa LF and the Sony Venice.

Recently there has been a small wave of announcements relating to video focused full frame cameras. Smaller Chinese manufacturers, such as Kinefinity and Zcam have announced, or brought to market, smaller body cameras with large sensors. Panasonic have also recently released the S1H, which is a different body style, based on a DSLR, but has video capabilities that are closer to full blown cine cams, rather than a traditional DSLR.

The C500 II is the first cine style camera from a major manufacturer released in a space that has recently been dominated by S35 cameras, such as the Sony FS7. The FF sensors have the advantage that they can operate in S35 and S16 modes, as well as using the full size of the sensor.

Canon has also, in a first for a cine camera, added in body stabilisation to the camera. Canon has based it on the technology in the EOS R, but customised it for cine camera usage. It is a full 5 axis system, and comes with cine lenses in mind: you can set multiple focal lengths into memory for the stabilisation system.

If you would like to see the full specs for the C500 Mark II, they are listed at the bottom of the page.

Sony, and the weight of expectation

Sony has long been a market leader in the spaces where this innovation is occuring. Their FS series cameras were market leaders, with the FS7 and FS5 sharing the same excellent S35 sensor. That sensor though is now 7 years old – it was first released with the F5/F55 back in 2012. Sony have also seen the position of the A7Sii – one of the first DSLR type cameras focused purely towards video – usurped by new contenders such as the S1H and others.

We all know that the A7Sii replacement is coming (the mythical A7Siii), but it would not surprise me to see FS5 and FS7 replacements soon as well. With Sony being a world leader in image sensor technology, I would be very surprised not to see a full frame sensor in one of these cameras.

And yet, I feel whatever Sony release will be a disappointment to many. The weight of expectation on the A7Siii release in particular is higher than any camera I can remember (perhaps with exception to the 5DIV, which was in itself a disappointment to many). No matter how good they make the camera (and I am sure it will be fantastic) it will not live up to what people have built it up to be in their minds.

With that all said, who knows what will happen. The only main takeaway is that there is a big change going on in the world of cine cameras.

C500 Mark II key stats

  • Full Frame 5.9K 60p
  • DIGIC DV 7 Image Processor
  • 15+ stops of DR
  • 5-axis sensor stabilisation
  • Cinema RAW Lite (Internal Recording)
  • XF-AVC (H.264)
  • 4K 60p 4:2:2 10-bit
  • 5.9K, 4K (60fps), 2K (sensor crop) 120fps
  • Modular design
  • User-changeable Lens Mounts (EF, Locking EF, PL)
  • EF, PL, anamorphic and Spherical Lens Support
  • 4.3″ LCD Monitor LM-V2 with Touch Focus
  • Dual Pixel CMOS AF with Touch AF and Face Detection AF
  • Rear audio/power module
  • Internal ND filters (clear, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10 stop – 8 & 10 with extension)
  • 4 channels of XLR with optional module
  • 12G-SDI, 3G-SDI
  • 2x CF Express slots
  • 1x SD card slot

Professional Filmmakers Travel Guide Part 2

Hi, I’m Sam Wordsworth, a 27-year-old filmmaker from Nottingham. I am lucky that my job takes me all around the world...

I was travelling back from a few long days in Norway in June and I realised, as I stood in the security queue, that I had actually become a rather ‘good’ traveller. I wasn’t exactly sure what I meant by this at first but as I continued to stand in the queue (behind a lady who had brought her entire bathroom with her) I had a lot of time to think about all the things I have learnt over the years. And then I thought, I should write about it; not only because people may find it interesting or useful (pushing it I know) but because it may benefit me by reducing the number of people who forget that their deodorant is an aerosol and their 500ml bottle of Chanel perfume is definitely a liquid over 100ml.

This is the second of two posts about travelling as a professional filmmaker, you can read the first here.

Planning Your Trip

First things first, always book your own travel wherever possible. Do it on a credit card which gets you points (Amex is great for this), and build in enough time for delays, bad weather and sleep. Booking on a credit card instantly gives you a certain level of protection from flight cancellations or carrier insolvency, as well as racking up mileage or points which can be spent on future upgrades or in your Amazon shopping basket. See my first post for details about Amex costs.

Packing

There are certain items which I would never travel without but it’s amazing to hear how many people forget them. First of all, a world travel adaptor; you need power for those batteries and laptops! However, you don’t need to carry a load of them for each plug. Take a minimum of two 4 or 6 way UK extension leads. That way you have some redundancy but you’re not carrying too much weight and you can make best use of the minimal and randomly placed power sockets in hotel rooms.

Charging all these batteries and laptop can be a nightmare without an extension cable.

If you travel a lot then it’s worth having a spare travel wash bag ready to go with the essentials. Next time you go through the airport security, grab a bunch of the clear plastic bags for liquids so next time you’re packing, you can put all your liquids straight into a bag ready. It saves a good 5 mins at security. Also, take basic medicines like paracetamol, ibuprofen, rennie, dioralyte and berocca – there’s nothing worse than a killer headache or hangover when you don’t know where you’re nearest pharmacy is.

When packing the camera kit, there are a few key things to consider. Obviously, you want to keep your most expensive and integral parts of kit in your hand luggage or your additional carry on bag. That way, if your hold luggage goes missing you can still do the work with the bare basics. I’d much rather have to buy new clothes than a new RED Gemini.

Have a variety of bags and boxes depending on what’s going in them.

There are other things to consider too, for instance don’t keep camera tools in your cabin bag. I’ve lost so many allen keys and screwdrivers at security because they’re an ‘offensive weapon’. I tried arguing that I could do more damage with my tripod than a 2mm allen key but it didn’t do much good.

Other things that need to go in hand luggage are lithium batteries. For instance, any camera batteries, V locks, drone batteries etc. One thing to note is that you can take as many batteries as you can carry if they’re below 100 watt hours but anything above that is restricted to two per passenger. Luckily, most V Locks and drone batteries, like the DJI Inspire 2 TB50 batteries, are just under the 100 watt hour mark meaning you can take as many as you can carry. It is also a good idea to make the batteries safe by covering the terminals so that they cannot short out.

Another good little device to pack is a backup hard drive which does not need to be connected to a computer. I have seen a number of different ones on the market but the best in my opinion is the DJI Lacie Copilot BOSS, and the GNAR Box 2.0. Both give you the option to copy SD cards and other cards through their access interface like the DJI CineSSD. It means you can back up on the go and clear cards immediately to get more room. One caution though, don’t be tempted to use these drives as editing drives. They have their own mini computer onboard to handle the file transfer, but that can mess with the file permissions if you start playing around with the files on Premiere Pro or Lightroom. Recently, we nearly lost a full day’s worth of photos from Snowboxx festival due to this mistake. Luckily, LaCie recovered the drive for free and sent us a brand new one but it was a faff and caused plenty of stress.

Our DJI Copilot and LaCie hard drives.

Air Travel

Use the transport to the airport which is most convenient to you and your situation. For instance, if you have a ton of kit then driving and parking, using the meet and greet service, saves a lot of hassle on departure and arrival. However, if it’s just you and your rucksack then consider train or even coach (yes coach!) travel. The beauty of this means you can get some work done en route or, more likely, binge watch Netflix. Coach travel is a bit of a dirty word and it can be a slower journey but if you’re on a budget, it is actually a very efficient way to travel. National Express and Megabus both run services from most major cities and towns to the UK’s airports. It’s a one stop solution meaning you can sleep till your destination. They all have charging ports and Wi-fi these days which makes working on the go a lot easier. Additionally, it’s often the only travel service which will get you to the airport for those early morning flights without having to book overnight hotels.

If you’re struggling to get your weight down to the limit, check if your airport has self scanners at check in. The budget airlines at both Luton and Manchester have them and I would guess that many others do too. These are great for sneaking a few extra kilos in as you can hold the bag on the scale to get the right weight. Once the label is on, there’s no more checks. Also, if you’re using oversized baggage such as bikes or skis, these are always checked in at a different desk. The guys on these desks are airport staff, not airline staff, so they generally don’t really care about the weight, so long as it passes their security scans. I often pack all my ski clothes into my ski bag, along with the tripod, easyrig and walking boots.

Ski bags are great for getting an extra few kilo’s on the plane.

If you’re going to use the lounges (see my previous blog about benefits) before your flight then try to give yourself enough time to really enjoy them. Most places will allow you entry up to 3 hours before your flight so that means arriving at the airport 3.5 hours before to get through security. The lounges can often be busy during peak times so it’s worth choosing one beforehand and reserving your space. This usually costs about £5 but it comes with the added advantage of priority pass to get through security much quicker. No more queuing behind Dorris, her three screaming kids and the guy who needs to empty his entire bag at the scanner.

Wear something comfy and stretchy but also not too thin. Air con on long distance flights can be pretty chilly. Take an empty plastic bottle with you through security, UK based airlines are obligated to give you free tap water. Even Ryanair will fill your bottle if you hand it to them; saves you a fiver on an overpriced miniature bottle of water.

If you’re travelling with two people and you have the option of booking your seats on the flight, try to book the window and the aisle seat on the same row towards the back of the plane. This little trick often has the effect of keeping the seat between you free as most airlines with morals (so not Ryanair) won’t split people up unless they absolutely have to. If the flight happens to be full and you get a person sat between you, then just kindly ask them to swap. No reasonable person would pass up the option of an aisle or window seat over a middle one.

Another little trick for inflight entertainment when on budget airlines: Most carriers like Jet2, EasyJet, TUI etc, have a magazine pouch just above the table tray on the seat in front. These are usually the perfect width to fit the flip case lid of an iPad or similar tablet down it and hold the screen in place at eye level. Hey presto, your own personal inflight TV! It’s such a simple trick but the number of people (mainly male technophiles) I’ve had giving looks of admiration at the simple solution is pretty funny.

Inflight entertainment DIY style.

Car/Ferry/Tunnel Travel

If you find yourself on a production with a substantial amount of kit and people, it’s always worth considering driving if it’s in Western or Central Europe. We often drive to the French Alps, Germany, Croatia, northern Italy etc. It can take longer to get there but you have the flexibility to take the route you want and don’t have to justify every kg of kit. Here’s a few tips for travelling by road.

Sailing the high seas – the most common crossing is the Dover the Calais ferry crossing and the channel tunnel. However, some lesser known ones are the overnight ferries such as Hull to Holland or Belgium, and the Portsmouth or Southampton to France or Spain. Both are economical and easy to use but each has its own advantages and disadvantages.

Van life is the best.

The P&O North Sea crossings from Hull give you great access to Northern Europe and an overnight stay meaning you can get straight on the road and drive all day. However, they’re significantly more expensive than Dover Calais. One thing is a must, book the all you can eat buffet dinner and breakfast. It’s seriously worth it.

The latter is the cheapest access to Europe and should set you back between £60 and £150 each way depending on number of passengers, size of car, time of day etc. It’s always worth booking the flexi ticket, one up from the budget. It gives you a four hour leeway either side of your selected crossing meaning you have eight hours to catch the ferry. There’s nothing worse than missing your crossing because the M25 is slow or they closed the Dartford crossing.

If Dover Calais is proving expensive check for Dover to Dunkerque. It’s a smaller port and comes out slightly further north in France but it really doesn’t make a difference, and the crossings can be cheaper.

One tip is to get the evening ferry, after 10pm they’re cheaper and quieter. Often they have large hammock shaped sofas which are amazing to crash out on if you get there first, so don’t hang around in the car deck once you’ve loaded on.

The channel tunnel is equivalent in ease to the channel ferry crossings but is quicker. The trade off is luxury and cost. It’s slightly more expensive to travel via the tunnel, and because you’re basically trapped in a steel railway carriage under the ocean, there’s not much to do except wait.

Lastly, the ferries to Normandy and Spain are a little slower and more expensive. They should be considered if driving time is limited and the client is picking up the bill. They leave you refreshed and ready to drive but the crossings are less frequent and spaces are limited for vehicles.

No need to be selective with kit, throw it all in, and the kitchen sink.

To help put this article together I spoke to some friends and colleagues in the industry, here are their top tips:

“Be careful with local food, it’s easy to overindulge in the local cuisine but if you get food poisoning then it’s more than just your trip you have ruined, it’s the client’s money. Maybe stick to trusted food vendors and fast food from well-known brands”
Ben Hale, Cinematographer

“Packing well and keeping things organised goes a long way. Pack exactly what you need and shed any unwanted weight. I shot a documentary while camping for two weeks in the mountains. All my kit for this trip lived in a 48L f-stop bag and stayed safe from the elements and organised.
Troy Edige, DoP

“Expect some kind of delay at security! Electronics and dense items are what show up most on their scans, and generally we travel with a whole load of them. When they are questioning expensive kit, explain what it is and ask if you can move it for them.”
Tom Clare, Photographer and Producer

Check out the first part in this series here. If you’d like to see more content like this, sign up with your email below. No spam, we promise!

Professional Filmmakers Travel Guide

Hi, I’m Sam Wordsworth, a 27-year-old filmmaker from Nottingham. I am lucky that my job takes me all around the world...

I was travelling back from a few long days in Norway in June and I realised, as I stood in the security queue, that I had actually become a rather ‘good’ traveller. I wasn’t exactly sure what I meant by this at first but as I continued to stand in the queue (behind a lady who had brought her entire bathroom with her) I had a lot of time to think about all the things I have learnt over the years. And then I thought, I should write about it; not only because people may find it interesting or useful (pushing it I know) but because it may benefit me by reducing the number of people who forget that their deodorant is an aerosol and their 500ml bottle of Chanel perfume is definitely a liquid over 100ml.

So here it is, the first of two blog posts taking you through my best tips for travelling filmmakers, photographers and the occasional holidaymaker.

Let’s start with what to think about before you set off…

Before You Travel

When travelling often it’s good to consider a few upfront items which make your life easier. These are not specific to each trip but it helps to have them in place for peace of mind. 

Mobile Phone Plan

First of all, working as a freelancer or in a production company requires communication – either email or phone – and social media access at most times. It pays to have a mobile data and call plan which you can rely on not to cost you the earth in most countries. Since the introduction of the EU standard to prevent carriers from charging more for access in the EU, most providers offer data and calls in the EU at no extra cost. The tricky issues come when you are outside of the EU. This is where Three mobile takes the lead. Their ‘Go Roam’ program offers the same EU benefits in 71 countries worldwide, including some of the most well-trodden places such as the US, Australia, New Zealand and China. Be careful though; they have a fair use policy which means you can only use 19GB of your monthly allowance abroad, even if you have ‘all you can eat’ data. 

Top Tip
Set up text alerts to tell you when you hit certain milestones on your data usage. Also, it’s worth noting that free calls and texts are only to other UK registered numbers.

Costs
Three’s mobile data plans start at about £10 per month for sim only deals; although my favourite is the £20 per month plan with unlimited texts, calls and 100GB of data which can be used for tethering too.

Three Mobile Go Roam

Travel Insurance

The next thing to consider is world wide annual travel insurance. Travel insurance policies can range hugely in price depending on the level of cover required. Activities such as extreme sports and dangerous activities cost more, due to the higher risk. It’s also worth checking the small print as some of the cheaper policies limit the number of days abroad at once. Often it’s a good idea to have a general travel insurance policy which covers you for flights, personal baggage (not equipment) and medical cover. Then, when you are doing a particular activity which is not covered, such as skiing, purchase the required cover on top either as an upgrade, or as a new policy. When it comes to equipment insurance, you should have your own, or company insurance in place which covers your kit when on your person in transit. However, this type of policy won’t cover your equipment when it has been checked in, so make sure you keep all your valuable kit (your RED camera brain, or those Cooke anamorphic lenses) on you in the cabin inside a good quality case. I’ll come on to recommended cases later. 

Top Tip
Try and put all your electrical equipment in one bag – if you are travelling as a group. This will help speed things up at baggage security as you will only have to empty one bag for the scanners. Always ask if you need to take certain things out of your bag; it will save unloading for no reason. Some airports are funny about batteries and others don’t bother.

Cost
Worldwide travel insurance typically costs in the region of £50 – £100 depending on your level of cover and sports insurance, with off piste coverage, can be about £10 – £20 per week.

Barclays Travel Pack Plus

Airport Lounge Access

This may seem like a luxury at first but once I had used them a couple of times it became a staple part of my travel itinerary. I prefer, wherever possible, to get to the airport three hours before my travel time. It means I’m not rushing through security and often the queues are shorter if you’re early in the morning. Having the ability to then go into the lounge, reserve an area just for you and either crash out or make full use of the complimentary breakfast or dinner with coffee or a beer, is really relaxing. You feel safe in your surroundings, there’s always power access, Wi-fi and free newspapers or magazines. Plus, it’s really great value for money if you get on a program such as Dragon Pass or Amex gold/platinum rewards.

  • Dragon Pass is a service you can sign up to through your bank or individually. It’s a subscription which gives you discounted access to many airport lounges worldwide. There’s multiple choices of lounges in every major UK terminal and often at least one in every major airport worldwide. Typically, access for general walk ins tends to cost £30-£50 per time but this comes down to about £15 per time with Dragon Pass. Plus, your subscription will normally give you a certain amount of complementary visits per year; I get 6 annual visits with Barclays Travel Plus Pack.  
  • American Express offers different rewards depending if you’re a normal or business customer and if you’re on Gold or Platinum. Normal Gold comes with a minimum of two free uses a year and Platinum has unlimited. Gold Business doesn’t offer any free passes but Business Platinum offers two primary card holders on the same account unlimited access per year with the ability to take a friend in too.

Top Tip
Pre 7 am, in my experience, there is no need to book. However, after 7.30 am the lounges get busier and to ensure you get a space it is worth booking in advance online. There is normally a small charge for this but it can come with some perks such as priority security passes.

Costs
Typical subscription costs to a service like dragon pass through a premium bank account like Barclays costs £18 per month. This also covers your worldwide travel insurance, car breakdown with RAC and discounts at airport parking.

Amex Gold costs £125 per year with the first year free. Amex Platinum costs £575 per year with the first year free. Both of these have other benefits which I’ll come on to later. Depending on your subscription and provider the maximum you can expect to pay is £15 per visit to the lounge. Once you have had a coffee, some food and a beer or cocktail, you’re already way past the cost of paying for the equivalent in the main terminal.

Aspire Lounge at Gatwick Airport

Practice Sleeping

This might sound like a weird one but most travel film makers and cinematographers will agree, sleep becomes the most valuable commodity whilst travelling for work. Often flights are at awful times and shoots don’t wrap until the late hours so catching any sort of sleep helps immeasurably. Until recently I couldn’t sleep unless I was horizontal, in a soft bed, in the dark and quiet. Basically unless I was in optimum sleeping conditions, my body wouldn’t shut off. Over the last two years I’ve been trying to train my body to shut down, wake up quickly and sleep in uncomfortable positions. When at home, I’ll try to take a 30 minute power nap in an armchair or in the back of the car if someone else is driving. I’ve felt it help a lot recently and I’ve been able to sleep in lounges, cars, buses and planes. 

Top Tip
A few things that can help are cheap face masks, like the ones you get on long haul flights, a basic pair of foam ear plugs and a soft coat or jumper to use as a pillow. My Etihad mask has seen a lot of miles (pun intended).

Joe O’Brien getting his beauty sleep back from Kala festival.

To help put this article together I spoke to some friends and colleagues in the industry, here are their top tips:

“Always pack a spare cable for everything important, especially items that would be hard to replace or source on location.”
Claudiu Voicu, Director

“Checkout the hotel or accommodation’s marketing material and offer to refresh it for room upgrade or free stay.”
Joe O’Brien, DoP

“If you need to keep recharging on the go, take an inverter to charge drones batteries and laptops in the rental car.”
Oli Hutton, DoP

Keep an eye out for the 2nd part in this mini series coming soon – sign up below to receive it in your email inbox!

Micro Content Vs Large Campaign Videos

What is micro content?

Video advertising is everywhere these days. Social media TV and more, it is all based around video. While advertising on social media is one of the most effective types, it is only right brands fine-tune and adjust their content so that it is suitably formatted for specific platforms.

Although longer video content is incredibly useful, regarding social media shorter video content is easier to share and consume. We call this ‘micro video content’ which we typically see often on social media channels such as Instagram and Facebook.

While using social media, our attention span is short since we often mindlessly scroll in search for something entertaining. The importance of keeping these ads bite-sized, to the point and creative should boost click-through rates. This encourages those who are not yet acquainted with your brand to understand your product and potentially make a purchase.

Video is visually interactive which is why it is so heavily resourced. It offers brands freedom to experiment in order to reach a desired outcome, and ensure a specific message is delivered to a target audience.

Different from long videos, micro videos are both efficient and effective as its purpose is to entice viewers to become interested and prompt them to take action. Micro content therefore plays a crucial role in an integrated video campaign.

Viewers are more likely to absorb the message that may have been lost in translation if it were to appear in a longer video. It can be thought of like an elevator pitch, you only have minimal time to get your message across. Social media is dominated by shorter, viral content as it is more likely to elicit a response from viewers before they lose attention

Who will benefit from micro content?

The brands that benefit most from micro content are ones that have a need to be constantly updating their customers. It can be hard to keep up, so having a constant supply of fresh content is very useful. Micro content is generally explanatory about a product, or list basic concepts. It works well as supporting material as part of a wider brand messaging strategy.

Certain styles of micro content are more well known than others. ‘How-to’ videos are perhaps one of the most well known types. These videos do not try to tell you message about a brand, but explain how to solve a problem that is suited to a particular product. For example, we produced a series of short videos, in association with Diversity agency, for cleaning brand 1001. These videos aimed to answer common cleaning questions while showing off the products that 1001 offer.

Examples of micro content that we love

Snickers

Micro video content is supposed to be engaging, memorable and perhaps depending on your brand; funny. Humour always grabs the attention of someone mindlessly scrolling through their social media feeds.

Take this brilliant Snickers advert as an example. This brand wants their viewers to engage with their product. Paired with the text on the video, which is their slogan “You’re careless when you’re hungry” shows they have centred their video around the story not the sale.

Using humour where appropriate should separate your brand from the confines of monotonous and dull competing adverts. For that reason, it is wise for any brand to attempt to push the boundaries of industry advertising.

Your micro videos should instantly communicate its significance to the viewer and express a reason for watching. Since, people tend to leave a video within 10 seconds therefore, creative, concise and brief is the new standard.

Burger King

The reason as to why there is no sound on this video is creative yet clever. Posted on the 199th Anniversary of National American Sign Language (ASL) Day. The Burger King mascot used signed language asking people to him solve a problem; what hand sign should officially indicate their famous ‘Whopper’ burger.

A longer extended video was distributed to YouTube which distinguishes how a brand tailors and formats their ads to fit certain social platforms. This enables a balance across social channels, potentially benefiting to a wider sales campaign.

With attention spans decreasing, it is the prime time for businesses to begin developing a micro content strategy especially in video form. This Burger King example, is excellent towards proving the advantages of micro video content seamlessly providing insight into your wider marketing campaigns. Since, this micro video encourages viewers to interact, by submitting ideas through social media using the hashtag ‘WhooperSign’ in which to celebrate the chosen hand sign was set as their logo.


This evidence of a high-impact ad, as any micro video that reaches success creates wider brand awareness. Therefore, proving its efficiency as it is qualifying them as legit a trustworthy creating improved brand and consumer relationship.

Gopro

GoPro is a well-known action camera device, who also specialize in video editing software and mobile phone applications. GoPro has effectively expressed to their target audience through this micro video, their product and what it is capable of capturing without even showing the device itself. It is truly, a powerful piece of messaging that is intentionally unobtrusive just like their products.

Although this video is an acceptable example of a slightly longer micro video, which serves the purpose of giving the viewer a personal experience. In this micro video the small yet powerful device is attached to the helmet of a cyclist at the Union Cycliste Internationale 2018 world cup. Since this brand’s products are cameras, using them in such a creative way connects consumers to specific goods that is both innovative and engaging.

People enjoy watching videos on their smartphones, although many of us are watching them while travelling to and from places. When checking social media we often scroll past content that does not entertain us quick enough, or provide us with insightful information about a product or brand.

Hence why creating well-thought out micro videos will help your brand effectively reach potential customers on social media platforms. We would recommend treating micro video production the same way you would a longer video, even though micro is less time consuming as well as being cost efficient. It does not mean that the quality of your micro videos should fall at the expense of convenience.

Ben & Jerry’s

Since video is not subsiding due to the growth and expansion of editing software; video is extensively used. Ben and Jerry’s, as an example is a manufacturing company that produces ice cream, sorbet and frozen yogurt. Now in order for them to improve sales and brand relationship, they have used micro video content to creatively to draw attention to their products.

This brand creates short micro videos that are creative and direct. People who watch micro video content should experience on of these five feelings. The sense of adventure, humour, emotion, inspiration or surprise. Ben and Jerry’s created a micro video that aimed to inspire their following as it connected to their ethos by directing people to a story on how their product helps refugees. In addition, the brand made a micro video, informing people of their newest flavours, encouraging them to take a quiz on their website. Enabling the brand to not only excite their potential customers of their new range of products. But also, initiate healthy communication maintaining that consumer and brand relationship.

Therefore, if your micro video makes anyone feel one of those five feelings then it is likely to be shared. Since, micro video content on social channels enables companies to amplify their brand to reach an array of audiences.

Your aim is to entice your potential customers to boost your brands traffic and sales across your social media and website. This IKEA micro video conveys this by effectively referencing the usefulness of their product in this case an anti-slip mat.

People prefer ads that are to the point and not invasive. Any micro video content needs to showcase your product, although this needs to suitably shown. IKEA achieves this through the compelling script, of the young boy playing with his father. It connects with viewers who have families of their own as the loop of the father falling. This signifies the need for the product and portrays the brands creativity.  

It is important to remember that when producing micro video content, the time you have to get your message across to your target audience is reduced. The ideal time for micro video content is 30 seconds or less, so every second counts. For that reason, do not take any shortcuts while attempting to produce a successful micro video since strategy and quality should always be at the forefront.

Do we think micro content is worth creating?

Yes. However, as with all issues in marketing, it is not quite as clear cut as a single word answer!

As with all video marketing content, it must form part of a larger campaign with a clear strategy to be truly useful. To stand out in today’s saturated market, it needs to be visually engaging, else it will get lost in the noise. If you are unsure about if micro content is the right strategy for you, or if you would like something longer to showcase your brand, we would be happy to help you. Our team has experience with all kinds of video content, and we can illuminate the way to a better video strategy.

DJI Inspire 2 flying at Sunset over Avoriaz, France

Drone Safety: Looking to the future with DJI

This article is a summary and analysis of a DJI white paper, published here. we’d urge everyone to go have a read of the whole thing, as it contains a lot of insight.

The safety issues around drones are a hot topic at the moment. After the incident at Gatwick, the issue got propelled into the public view. This meant regulators, politicians and manufacturers all started weighing in on where they thought the rules should go.

In our view, drones are a major force for good. In recent times, drones have been used at high profile incidents like the Notre Dame fire, as well as being used widely in search and rescue across the world. DJI, the world’s largest drone manufacturer, has stated that at least 231 people have been rescued from danger by their drones alone. Emergency services all around the UK are adopting drones for use, as they offer a more flexible option for an aerial presence than helicopters.

rescue drone usage with watersafe UK
Our MD Sam flying a drone for a search and rescue team

Background on drone safety

The issue of airspace, and hence drone, regulation is one that has been rapidly rising in importance in the past few years as drone use has exploded. This has lead to increasing friction between hobbyist drone users and aviation authorities, as the two groups have a fundamental mismatch of views. Hobbyist drone flyers see it as a hobby, using toys; while the aviation authorities have attempted to apply the same ‘zero risk’ attitude that they apply to the rest of aviation.

This mismatch of views has caused a breakdown in the debate. This breakdown has not been helped in the UK by imposition of rules that are unclear. For example, the rules surrounding flight restriction zones (FRZs) are, at first glance, fairly sensible. If you want to fly within 2nm of an aerodrome, you require permission from the air traffic control (ATC) of that site to do so. However the implementation of these rules is severely lacking. Different ATC units have decided upon different rules, with some issuing blanket bans. In addition to this, there is a completely new set of rules being developed at a European level which will soon supersede the ones developed by national aviation authorities!

The future

DJI have recently released a white paper on what they view the future of drone safety to be. This report aims to chart a way forwards for drone safety. As the market leading manufacturer of drones, DJI has a huge amount of influence in the direction that safety will take.

DJI have always been fast to add safety enhancements to their drones. From obstacle sensors to geofencing, DJI has brought many features to the mainstream of drone usage. In the report they try to look at the data surrounding drone safety, and make evidence led suggestions for moving forwards.

Research by the Civil Aviation Authority has reviewed the literature on the safety of drones below 2.4kg, which accounts for the vast majority of drones in use. They came up with the following key conclusions:

  • It is considered unlikely that a small drone would cause significant damage to a modern turbo-fan jet engine; even if it did, a multi-engine aircraft would still be likely to be able to land safely.
  • The windscreens of small helicopters and light aircraft are more susceptible to rupture if struck by a small drone, even when flying below normal cruising speed.
  • In any event, the best way to reduce safety risk is to prevent any two aircraft coming into proximity in the first place.
drone silhouetted against blue sky
Our Inspire 2, a medium sized drone

The identification problem

A story that you often see in the news since Gatwick is “Pilots report plane has near miss with a drone”. These stories are taken from reports created by the airprox board from pilot reports. Anyone involved in aviation can can make these reports, so if you are involved in a near miss with your drone we urge to to report it.

The reports created by the board try to distinguish between drones, balloons and other small unknown objects, but they acknowledge that identification of small objects by pilots is subjective. They take all reports at face value, and if a pilot has reported something that shows any drone characteristics then it will be filed as such.

This has created a vicious cycle where the reports are then picked up by news channels and reported as dangerous safety issues, even when the involvement of drones is seriously unlikely. This in turn raises awareness of the issue with pilots, who are then more likely to report an unknown object as a drone.

A image circulation on pilots forums and facebook groups.

DJI’s drone safety recommendations

DJI came up with 10 key recommendations to improve drone safety:

  1. Install DJI Airsense (ADS-B) receivers on all new drones above 250g
  2. Create a system that warns drone pilots when they fly their drones too far away
  3. DJI will establish a international standards group for ensuring drone reliability
  4. Aviation groups must develop standards for reporting drone incidents
  5. All drone manufacturers should install geofencing and remote identification
  6. Governments must require identification
  7. Governments must require a user friendly knowledge test for users
  8. Governments must clearly designate sensitive restricted areas.
  9. Local authorities must be allowed to respond to drone threats that are clear and serious
  10. Governments must increase enforcement of laws against un-safe drone operations

Our thoughts

On the whole these recommendations seem like a fairly well balanced suggestion to move forwards. Quite a few of them are already being implemented in the UK, such as the registration (for identification) and basic user testing. We are also lucky that restricted areas are well publicised and marked on a variety of different mediums. The police have also been given new powers, although a lot of forces are very unaware of this.

The technology suggestions that DJI makes are also sensible, however the ADS-B receiver suggestion may not be as useful as it first appears, as many light aircraft (the ones most at risk from drones) do not transmit the ADS-B signals.

Perhaps the most important suggestion is the increased enforcement. This is something that a lot of UK commercial operators have been crying out for. Awareness of the rules surrounding drone flights must be raised with UK police forces, and more action needs to be taken against those who are blatantly breaking the rules in an unsafe manner. To be quite honest, I don’t think people care that much about ‘technical’ breaches of the rules that do not damage safety. The main issue is that people are performing extremely unsafe flights, and posting the footage all over social media without any threat of censure. Without enforcement of the current rules, further restricting drone flights will only affect people who fly by those rules.

What are your thoughts on DJI’s proposed rules (or drone safety in general)? Let us know in the comments!

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