All you need to know before directing a school promotional video
No promotional video is ever the same, but the corporate world is one thing. Promotional video production for schools (or school promo video) is quite another. Due to the nature of what you’re capturing many areas of production require a rethink from the ground up, such as equipment, direction, and time management. We’ve outlined ten important tips you need to consider when creating a school video.
We know from experience that turning up, switching the camera on and expecting magic to unfold before you just isn’t going to happen. Kids and staff won’t always give you great smiles or dynamic action (especially first thing on a Monday morning!) unless you provoke it from them, and sometimes this involves directing the action you want. It’s a great way to set up scenarios where you can capture genuine emotions is every shot so when it comes to the edit you’ve got some great shots to choose from.
Lower the Camera
Whenever you’re capturing footage of young students, lowering the camera down to their head height is a given. Aside from it being easier to see what they’re doing, it puts the audience into the student’s world and makes it easier to form an emotional connection with what you’re watching.
Variety is the Spice of Life
Another thing we’ve found from experience is that there’s only so much vibrancy and enthusiasm you can get out of a maths or English lesson. Important subjects they may be, but unless you step in and direct the students, you’ll find most of the time they’ll be hunched over their desks staring at a book. To get more dynamic shots, we try to mix in as much physical activity as we can – PE, after school clubs, students playing at break and lunchtimes, and other sporting activities. Mixing shots like this in with the more rudimentary academic content you’d expect from a school injects it with vibrancy and personality, which we can honestly say is completely different for every school.
Make Sure Students Are Engaged
If you’ve ever watched a school promotional video – or any promotional video for that matter – you will have noticed straight away when someone doesn’t have a huge smile on their face. The music will be uplifting or inspirational and there could be an enthusiastic voiceover, so the very second the video cuts to someone who looks anything less than overjoyed, it will seem a bit off. You might even laugh at how miserable they look in comparison to any others, which isn’t the right reaction.
It’s a good idea to get single shots of enthusiastic pupils, and to try and elicit a positive response from them to really get the audience on board with the message of the video.
Broaden Your Range
Promotional videos are very often interview-led, piecing together soundbites from relevant individuals. In schools, that’s students and teachers, but they aren’t the only ones involved in the day-to-day running of the school. Depending on the message or the intended audience of your video, consider interviewing parents, school governors, volunteers and local community leaders. This broader range of interview subjects could provide you with interesting and insightful viewpoints you might not find with just students and teachers, which add another level or message to the promotional video.
Get 2X More Than You Think You Need
Whenever you watch a promotional video, it’s easy to think that the shots you’ve seen were the only ones that were filmed. If that was the case, we could shoot a promotional video at a school in less than an hour. In reality, for every great shot in a school promotional video, there will be about 10 other shots that weren’t used. To facilitate the immense number of shots captured over two days for example (typically around 300 – 350), it’s vital that we move around the school quickly and spend no more than a few minutes at each location. This means we can capture a variety of shots over a relatively short school day.
Move the Camera
We’ve talked about why you should move the camera during shots before (see blog about grip) and explained that it’s essentially about production values. A sweeping shot of a leafy exterior on a jib, or a dolly shot that glides effortlessly down a hallway towards a student looks far more impressive than a static camera angle of the same action. Dollies and jibs are mobile and relatively quick to set up and instantly provide that “wow” factor that is needed to blow the audience away right from the start.
So there you have it – the sum total of our experience filming in schools! We learned many of these lessons the hard way, but we’ve found that by using these ten simple ideas we can boost the production values of a school promotional video and increase its chances of overall success with the target audience.