Corporate video doesn't have to be boring!

Over the coming months I am going to be regularly contributing to the WinBox blog, discussing the many aspects of video. As this is my first article for the WinBox blog I thought it would be pertinent to introduce myself before jumping head on into the first subject. I have been a filmmaker for almost 12 years with 7 of those being as a professional. My training is in documentary, with my skill set being in post production, motion graphic design and camera. Just over 2 years ago (roughly the same time as WinBox) I quit the freelancing game and set up, with a long term colleague, my own production company “Clear As Day Productions”, where I have been applying my experience to the corporate video sector. Which nicely takes us to the meat of the article…..   

When people mention corporate video what springs to mind are stale, boring, testimonials that do nothing to promote your brand, corporate identity or image. Sadly it is generally accepted that corporate video is going to be boring and bland so ideas and expectations are often set low. 

The term corporate video basically means video produced for a company, charity or brand. In itself it is a fairly vague term, as corporate video can be anything from an animated infomercial, product promo, documentary, drama or an amalgamation of them all. In short, they are either informing, demonstrating or promoting. 

As previously mentioned, corporate video can have a reputation for being a bit boring. I am going to talk through a few reasons this may be; based on observations I have made throughout my career. To start, I’ll talk through the extremes, as these are often easier to spot. I want to state that this is in no way a dig at any producers but merely observations as to how I believe corporate video got its sterile, boring reputation.

First off we have, what I call “Ten quid Terry”, often a hobbyist turned videographer with no training. Usually they'll turn up with a DSLR (stills camera that shoots video) or consumer camcorder, often uninsured. They offer their services at an extremely low rate, meaning they are usually more attractive to the money conscious business owner, which is completely understandable. However there are often pitfalls.

Most notably the lack of training often provides an unrefined end product. Unless the producer is naturally talented, which is extremely rare. They will have no idea of pacing, structuring, “showing” a message and most importantly “trimming the fat”.

From a technical standpoint these videos often tend to run for 5 or so minutes and have poor audio and lighting. They will tend to extensively use, camera pans, tilts, zooms and lots and lots of talking heads; these elements are not necessarily negative points but relying on them can make for a very dull end product.

Usually talking heads will make up the majority of these types of videos, often giving lots of irrelevant additional information. “Trimming the fat” is a discipline that comes with training. Often with creatives of all disciplines it is easy to get attached to your creations so a term I had drummed into me whilst I was learning was “kill your babies”. This is where you have to be completely ruthless with your own work and get rid of anything that detracts from the message. What you are left with is something devoid of “fluff”.

At this end of the corporate video spectrum, the “ten quid terry” could seem like a really good deal, which will save you money, but in the long run your brand, company identity or product could appear as “cheap” as the video you commissioned. It can be good in some instances to have a down to earth “human” feel to your corporate identity but this doesn't necessarily equate to “cheap” in production methods. Corporate video often works hand in hand with P.R. and any image you project onto your market should be a well thought out and planned process.

Now onto the other extreme of the corporate video world. The ex news crew. Usually a small company composed primarily from an old news crew. Usually they charge a premium claiming decades of industry experience…. which is true, but its all in news gathering….. which isn't always the best thing for a corporate video. Obviously in its nature, news involves arriving on site, shooting G.V’s usually tripod pans, tilts, the odd zoom. Followed by either a presenter piece to camera or an interview. Quickly packing up and then getting it ready for delivery. 

This works fine for news but doesn't translate well into the corporate world. What usually happens when this is applied to the corporate world is the crew turn up, shoot G.V’s comprising of pans, tilts and the occasional zoom of a product or company premises. Then in post production a voice over artist is used to narrate over the visuals and finally a company logo is slapped on the end in a static graphics end plate.

This may work very well if a “news style” story is what you are looking for but in reality there will be no time spent getting to know you or your brand and developing a concept that projects the right corporate image. 

The use of voice over artists, like any tool of story telling can be very effective. However, in my experience they can add an air of sterility to a corporate video. You can hear the difference in delivery between a person reading from a script and a person talking from experience. Can a voice over artist reading a script convincingly sell your product? 

With this end of the spectrum the technical quality of the end product is good. However, the end product can seem fairly shallow. Does it sell your brand? Does it project your corporate image?

As already stated this isn't a dig but merely a collection of observations from my experience in the corporate video world. It is fair enough being critical but what can be done? I’m not here to sell my wares but I can only speak of my own experience and how I use my training in documentary to infuse a bit of life into the corporate video world. 

Documentary taught me how to observe and embed, this is great to get to know your subject matter. Spend a day in their shoes and really get to know them, which is one of things I really love about my job. I get to visit different worlds with each project. One day it could be metrology, the next it may be dental insurance. Each job is different. Embedding has taught me how to get to know a client, really get under the skin of what they do, why they do it and how we can best project their desired corporate image. This isn't something you can achieve by just turning up and hitting the record button. It takes time, not a lot, but nevertheless time that a lot of producers neglect.

Being a motion graphic designer I also use graphics as often as I can. These can be used to replace a lot of voice over, keeping the overall narration to a minimum. So that it is more “punchy”. As stated earlier, voice over artists are great, but they need to be used under the right circumstances. If misused they can add a layer of sterility to the end product. I tend to use the client instead of a voice over artist, this is usually done as part of an interview but the results speak for themselves. You can hear in the tone and pronunciation whether the person speaking is knowledgable about the subject. You can hear their confidence, which has a subconscious effect on the audience. Because they sound as though they know what they are talking about, which promotes confidence in the product. 

Depending on the desired corporate image the “voiceover” interview will vary, but in short the producer needs to know the client or product well enough to ask the right questions to get the right answers. 

As mentioned earlier length can be an issue as most corporate videos are usually shown online. The optimum length is between 60-120 seconds. The latter being the maximum I would recommend. The shorter the better, which means you have to be more ruthless when trimming the fat. Each shot needs to count and every word spoken needs to further the narrative. 

Corporate video doesn't have to be boring. A good producer will get to know you, your company and your product. They will develop an informed concept that will take into account your desired projected image and produce something that will do your company proud.

I hope this article has been informative. Over the coming months I am going to be regularly contributing to the Winbox blog discussing and sharing my experience on all aspects of video production. If there are any areas you would like me to cover or questions you may have regarding any aspects of video production by all means get in touch I’ll be happy to cover these topics.