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How Toosday: creating a tiered video production workflow

Estimated read time: 7 minutes

Producing video is a vital skill for HE communications teams in 2018. Social has changed from a simple diet of copy and photos, to a more complex feast of video and animation.

We’re trying to make it simple for our team to create their own videos. This means re-evaluating our technology, and appraising the learning curve of our kitbag.

In response to this, we’ve developed a three tier approach that provides options when it comes to the trade-off between ease-of-use and quality.

Tier 1: Smartphones and Accessories

It is no secret that modern smartphones are capable of impressive video quality.

We shoot a good chunk of our video content on iPhone 7s, iPhone SEs and other comparable smartphones.

Smartphones are lightweight, portable and offer a user experience (UX) that is familiar to most users. The downside is that stock camera apps aren’t always optimised for high-quality video production – but this is easily fixed.

Filmic Pro

We use Filmic Pro to wring as much quality from our phones as possible – and to have control over certain settings.

Using Filmic Pro allows us to:

  •     Shoot in 4K with a higher bit-rate (i.e. quality) than the stock camera app.
  •     Control focus and exposure with the simple user interface (UI) reticles.
  •     Monitor audio levels from any external microphones we are using.
  •     Experiment with slow motion frame rates and timelapse functionality.

Accessories

Like most universities, we are on board with the use of gimbals to achieve steady footage. We have both the DJI Osmo Mobile and the Osmo Mobile 2 as part of our kitbag – and use them on most shoots.

We also use Rode SmartLav+ microphones to record audio, plus a Rode SC6 to enable monitoring and Rode SC1 cable to extend our physical reach.

Tier 2: Premium point and shoot plus external audio

The middle tier in our set-up is, from my experience, the sweet-spot when it comes to ease-of-use vs quality.  

Video

We use a Sony RX100V for most social video projects and there is a clear uplift in quality compared to smartphone footage.

The benefits to using the RX100V are:

  •     Crisp 4K / 1080p footage with minimal set-up
  •     Responsive autofocus (including reliable continuous focus)
  •     Built in Neutral Density (ND) filters to handle bright, outdoor filming
  •     Smooth slow-motion footage shot at either 50fps or 100fps

Audio

The obvious downside to most premium point-and-shoot cameras is audio quality – and this is true of the RX100. The lack of external microphone support is frustrating, but there are workarounds.

For this set-up we capture audio using a Zoom H5 recorder and a Sennheiser lapel mic kit.

There are a couple of drawbacks to this approach.

  1. You end up with separate audio and video files that need synchronising in post.
  2. It increases the amount of equipment you need to carry, understand and monitor while shooting.

Our view is that it is worth the extra effort for the quality end product that this set-up enables.

Accessories

We use a Zhiyun Crane-M gimbal to achieve the same stabilisation you get with the DJI Osmo Mobiles.

Tier 3: DSLRs and digital cameras

The top tier in our approach is in fact the “legacy” set-up within our equipment cabinet. It is also the option that we use least in 2018.  

We have a Canon C100, a couple of Canon 7Ds and a range of lenses. This option is the most ‘professional’ and allows for absolute control with great results.

The problem with this set-up is that it has a very steep learning curve – and we know from experience that it can be daunting for inexperienced users.

For certain projects it remains our go-to choice – but those times now seem few and far between.

A quick word on editing

We use Adobe Premiere Pro for the majority of our video editing – particularly anything shot on the RX100, C100 or 7Ds.

It is an industry standard tool and comes with (in my opinion) a more intuitive UI than Final Cut Pro.

Premiere isn’t always great with smartphone footage though.

Smartphones often shoot with inconsistent/variable frame rates and this seems to confuse the living hell out of Premiere. With than in mind, I’d recommend using Final Cut Pro as the lead editing tool in an iPhone-led set-up.

What next?

The video production landscape evolves at pace in 2018. There is an increasing focus on creating simple solutions and workflows – even from professional-grade companies.

The camera capabilities of smartphones improve with each generation – and companies like DJI and Moment produce peripherals that push creative possibilities even further.

From a post-production perspective, Adobe’s Project Rush could make editing and sharing online videos fast and easy across all devices. Similarly, Adobe’s Essential Graphics updates to Premiere make motion graphics easier to handle for users who aren’t too comfortable with After Effects.

It is an exciting time to work in video – and it has never been more accessible for communications professionals to produce their own content.

We want to harness this progressive time for video production and make sure we have a workflow brings more people on-board. We believe our three tiered approach is a great starting point for this – but I’d love to know how other universities are approaching the challenge of making video production simple and accessible.

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