Appreciating the Primal – Part 5 – Location

You’ve got the script for your website videos.  Four separate speeches, about :30 seconds each, one apiece for your Home, About Us, Services, and FAQ pages.  You’ve gotten your lines down and it’s time to shoot.  Now, you’ve got a big question to answer.  “Where do I film this?”

There are typically three choices for location.  Your facility, a rented/borrowed location, or a stage.

There are several advantages to using your own place.

You control the environment, either it’s yours or, being a tenant, you’re in a strong position with building management.  Interior practical lighting, sound, a/c, space for craft services and makeup.  It’s cheap.  Since website videos are essentially to introduce you as a person, you’ve got personal items at hand to use and film.  It’s comfortable and comforting.  You have or can have employees as background.  If you step outside (recommended for at least the About Us page), you’ve already got a sense of what backgrounds may be compelling.

The primary advantage of a rented/borrowed location is that it may fit your vision of how your company should be portrayed better than your actual office.  For example, at Cloudwalker Videoworks, I had one client which did all of its business by phone.  Its offices, in San Francisco, were small and non-descript.  But the owners wanted to convey a strong corporate image.  So I went to a large office leasing company and rented a space in one of the Century City Towers.  A huge reception area with a striking conference room behind it and, through the floor-to-ceiling windows, exceptional views of two other high-rises.  When we put the owners and one wife in the conference room and another woman at the reception desk, with a couple of others chatting in the hallway, the spokeperson’s background was a powerful statement about the company.  And, most importantly, one which would in no way appear questionable to the viewer.

The potential drawbacks of renting/borrowing a location include expense, limited control over the environment, usually a hard in and out time, and the possibility of someone else working (and not wanting to be disturbed) while the shoot is going on.

The third option is renting a stage, including one with a green screen.  Website videos shot on stage usually are in front of a “cyc,” or hard, flat background.  Generally white, the cyc can be lit to a color and/or shaded to give texture.  There is expense involved, including the facility, lights, a/c, a stage manager, and, perhaps, parking.  Although it can be effective in certain kinds of marketing video work, for website videos I find it too controlled, too careful.  On a primal level, this can cause the audience to wonder what you’re hiding.

I tend to lobby hard against green screen.  Even if done well – and all too often it’s not – the audience is easily smart enough to discern that the subject isn’t really where the key would have you believe he or she is.  This runs counter to the most important primal goal of your website videos – trust.  The immediate visceral reaction is, “They’re trying to fool me.”  Or, “They must think I’m not smart enough to get that this isn’t real.”  Not necessarily something which can be articulated, but a feeling, which is far more powerful than intellectualization.

There’s also a style, especially among attorneys, which has something like a statehouse or a huge U.S. flag waving in the wind behind the speaker.  Without exception, this serves only to distract the viewer from what should be the subject – you or your spokesperson.  Nothing around the speaker should feel more important than the subject himself.

Now that you’ve got a sense of where you’d like to shoot, the next blog in this series will address how.


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