Today, even low-budget filmmakers have access to extraordinarily high production values. In addition to crazy levels of high resolution image capture, previously exorbitant devices like Steadicams (copies), jib-arms and sliders have been made relatively affordable, portable and are now standard equipment in many shooters’ arsenals. LED technology has transformed lighting; now a handful of small, lightweight and energy-sipping LED panels often replace crates of bulky, hot and heavy filament units. Drones that cost less than a crew dinner now shoot spectacular aerial footage that couldn’t be matched by a helicopter-mounted camera even if you could afford it.
Super! Awesome. (as King George snarks about American democracy in Hamilton)
But, high production values can put your audience to sleep. High production values means control; time, money, care, finesse. As King George might agree, control, when not working towards something really compelling, can be boring.
Blair Witch or Paranormal Activity were huge successes not in spite of their low production values but because the shaky cameras – the equivalent of, or actually, filming with a phone – and seemingly accidental lighting made the stories seem more authentic; that the urgency behind the storytelling trumped any kind of control. They had no time to use a tripod because they would have been KILLED.
Many of our clients are exploring ways to communicate their internal expertise more immediately and we think that’s almost always a valuable resource to tap. But, unless it’s designed for evergreen product or for broadcast (as you might consider if you have people who are shot remotely for CNN or other broadcast outlets) you don’t have to wait until you get the perfect studio setup to deliver compelling video. An executive or analyst – at their desk talking to a webcam or walking down the street or standing in a hallway shot by a colleague’s phone – giving an engaged, passionate pitch is going to have energy and urgency that high production values are only going to diminish.
The one production element that must not be captured at anything less than the highest possible quality is sound. If the audience can’t clearly hear the story, (unless there’s an unusual amount of screaming and/or heavy breathing) they’re very unlikely to invest the effort to watch it play out.
Of course, the logical extension of this idea is that, sometimes, to inject more urgency to a story, you should consider stripping away production values and give the story the sense that it has to be told come hell or high water (as, I’m pretty sure, King George often said).