Promo Video Evaluation


I am very pleased with our final promo video. I feel we met the conditions of the brief. Our promo video was 46 seconds which is slightly longer than the brief said, 30 seconds, but it fitted the voice over well. After a slight misunderstanding, which I’ll talk about below, we met the counter-intuitive requirement, in that our images were opposite to the voice-over narrative and we had fun with some humorous takes like putting the “very dangerous wildlife” over a cat meowing. We were careful to make all the visuals counter-intuitive, and when I showed the video to various people (friends, relatives) many of them commented on the cat part. They also liked the shot of Charlie handing Jack a flower. Our video got smiles, so we met that part of the requirement.

Train Shot
I also think that how we treated the part towards the end with the train in works. I hadn’t been quite sure of that, since a noisy train doesn’t really go with the nice warm quaint town idea that the other visuals present. But we were aware that our primary target audience is Londoners, and most Londoners are used to easily available transportation, so we did want to get the shot of the train in. By adding titles over the train shot with a quote from someone which said “The staff are really nice and friendly. If you lose or forget anything you will get it back.”, I feel that we were able to combine both messages of “ease of transport” and “friendly and helpful town”.

Opening Shot
I’m also particularly pleased with the opening shot, starting in the sky then panning down to the “Amersham twinned with…” sign. When we did our first day of proper shooting, we were filming in the new part of Amersham, because on our location scouting day, we had checked out a nice grassy large square with houses around it. We had felt that it was a perfect place for most of our shots. We were aware that, due to the restrictions of Covid-19, we had limited filming time.  We were already having to film a week later than we had planned due to (understandable) changes in College rules, saying that we couldn’t use any of our lesson time to film outside the college. This meant that we had to film (still following Covid-19-safe rules) in our own time. Being able to get most of our shots in one place was very helpful since we had limited time on the main day due to having to all get back home in time for an online lesson.

In the real Film Industry, a team will be trying to get the best location for each shot, but, at the end of the day, time and money are still very real constraints. No matter how nice it would be to have the “perfect” location for each shot, compromises have to be made. But equally, it is important to balance potential time and money compromises with not spoiling the creative vision of the director or the look and objective of the film. This balance is a proverbial “64 million dollar” question and will be subject to many discussions when making a film or TV program.

So, I know why we were trying to get all of our shots in one location. I was happy with most of our shots, but I really wasn’t happy with our shot for the VO line “It’s got terrible traffic problems”. Our original shot, which can be seen in the initial edited version, is a pan down from sky to the high street in the newer part of Amersham and has the first three VO lines going over it which are

“Please Don’t Move to Amersham…”

“You won’t like it…”

“It’s got terrible Traffic problems…”

Firstly, I felt there was nothing really to identify visually that where we were panning down to was Amersham. It may seem obvious, but one thing that I had read about with adverts and promo videos is to be sure to name on screen several times what it is that you are actually trying to sell or to promote. Some adverts deliberately break this rule, like many perfume adverts, and try to make the viewer guess what it is for, with the idea that this “mystery” is in keeping with the “enigmatic” character of the perfume. I think most people know this now, and it has become more comical than mysterious. And even in perfume adverts they make sure to name the perfume at the end.

The principle of making sure that the viewer knows what you are trying to “sell” them still holds. I know we had the words “Please don’t move to Amersham” spoken, but I felt we should show something like one of those signs that say “Welcome to Amersham” on. When I had tried to find a “Welcome” sign, both by driving round and by searching online for a location, I couldn’t find any “Welcome” signs, but I did find an “Amersham – twinned with…” sign. I found 2, and one of them was on a quiet country lane, but it was quite far away from where we were filming and we couldn’t get there at the same time.

Which brings me to my other concern about our original opening shot. It was covering the line “It’s got terrible Traffic problems…” and I felt that the shot actually did show a lot of traffic. Since an objective of this promo was to be “counterintuitive”, as director I felt that it was very important to kick the video off with something that was clearly opposite to what the words were saying, since this would set the tone and scene for the rest of the opposite words-visuals.

When I showed the original opening shot of the initial edit to my parents, my mum said, “I thought you said it was going to have the images opposing to the words?”. I should say that part of the reason for the use of this original shot was a misunderstanding, which I discuss below, but it confirmed to me that this opening needed to change. Harley, as editor liked the panning down at the start, he felt it was a good way to open the promo video, and I agreed. I felt that using a shot panning down from the sky to the “Amersham – twinned with…” sign, followed by a shot of a single car on the quiet lane where the sign was, would be a better start to the promo video that the original busier street, whilst keeping the panning down shot which we both felt worked well. The sign and quiet road would correctly set up the “counterintuitive” idea that we were after.  My Journal details the problems I encountered in getting this footage (rainy/misty weather on my first attempt, lack of enough daylight when Ellie (cinematographer) and I tried) but I finally got these 2 shots. We used a pan down from the sky to the sign for the first 2 lines, then one of the shots of a single car driving down the otherwise empty country road with no cars parked for the line “It’s got terrible Traffic problems…”. I am much happier that this fits with the creative vision.

One other thing that I found is that 46 seconds really isn’t very long. Ellie and I, and then just me, had gone into Old Amersham Town to film some Stock Shots because it was very “oldy-worldy” and I felt that incorporating some shots from here would add to the idyllic impression of Amersham that we were trying to give with the visuals to be opposite to the words. This was not something that we were able to arrange to do as a group, due to Covid-19 constraints by then (everything was changing rapidly, I discuss this below too). So, I knew that they would need to be Stock images rather that part of the main “story” that we had people (mostly Jack) in. We got some great shots, it looked great, and I was very pleased. We ran out of light to get a couple of shots that I wanted (the church, the “awards” that are on a post near the church), but that was fine, I got those another time.

However, when Harley was editing the video, and I was having a talk (over Discord) with him, we could both see that there simply wasn’t enough time to fit many of the Old Amersham shots in, if we were to keep to the relaxed pacing that we had decided on, to give the feel that living in Amersham would be relaxing. Harley delayed a few parts of the pre-recorded audio, for example to fit in the train sound and where we hear Jack screaming far off in the distance. But we wanted to keep mostly to the pacing of the pre-recorded audio. We wanted a relaxed pace both for the audio, which we felt we had, and also for the visuals. Too many fast cuts would have made the pace of the visuals faster and that would jar against the appropriately relaxed pace of the audio. Too many delays to fit in stock shots with no extra audio would have interrupted the flow of the words. In my and Harley’s director/editor chat, we did decide to replace the end shot of the newer Amersham high street with a nice shot of Old Amersham High Street to really emphasise the counter-intuitive tone at the end, and to add a couple of titles praising Amersham with the word “Amersham” appearing on the screen in them to have the “Product” name on the screen at the end. But we didn’t end up using any other Old Amersham shots. I’m still happy I got them though, it was useful to know they were available, and as I say we did end up using one of them, which improved the video.

I think Charlie found really good music for this video. It suits the pacing that we were after because it has a relaxed, gentle tone. But it is not boring, it has interest added which I think is due to its slight Japanese tone, which is what Charlie suggested to Nick, and Nick approved of. It’s not Japanese enough to distract you, and I think you probably wouldn’t realise that it is Japanese if you didn’t know, which is ideal – often in filmmaking you want to create a mood or emotion in your audience without them spotting just how you did it. And I think Charlie’s suggestion of this music works perfectly to do this.

Experimenting with shots
I really enjoyed the shot experimentation that Ellie and I did during our main group day filming. One of my favourite ideas that we attempted is we tried one with Jack lying on the ground, me standing on a bench so that Ellie could pass the camera over her head to me, to get a “pull back” effect. We didn’t use it in the film in the end, as it was a bit shakier than we wanted, due to being hand-held, and we were going for a “glossy, professional” feel. But I would definitely practise this shot for future use. I am investigating camera Steadicams and Gimbals to see if I can get a good enough one within my budget. If I can buy one in the future, then that could help make to this kind of shot smoother for other future projects.

Learning points
I learned loads from this project. For example, the whole idea of counter-intuitive audio and visuals, which has a humorous element, which I like and feel is effective as another humour tool. Other areas of learning are:

Working with Ellie as a cinematographer was great, I feel we collaborated well, which is how it should be in a real Film. Watching behind the scenes of 1917 (2019) showed me just how much the collaboration and understanding between Director Sam Mendes and Cinematographer Roger Deacon contributed to the success of the film. Ellie and I decided that we wanted to be adventurous with the camera work and produce more professional shots. So I put together a PowerPoint “Understanding ISO, Shutter Speed and Aperture Better” to discuss with Ellie how we should use this information (that we had recently been taught in class) about these camera settings to use them to achieve our aim. I feel this helped us to collaborate well on the day, which helped the whole crew, and contributed to a good day’s filming.

Communication – misunderstanding
One learning point is we really learned the importance of communication and making sure that everyone is on the same page. We learned this by having a bit of a communication glitch with Harley. After I spoke to Harley, reviewing the draft video, I found out that he hadn’t realised that the whole thing was supposed to be “Counter Intuitive”, which explains my parents’ confusion when I asked them for feedback.

This was not Harley’s fault. Due to his ongoing Covid-19 shielding, he was only in the Zoom lessons, and he wasn’t at that first (in College) meeting where we were introduced to the idea of the promo being “counterintuitive”. I thought that we had explained the whole thing being “Counter-Intuitive” to Harley, but it appears I misremembered this, since I actually can’t pin down when that bit of the brief was discussed with him. As Director, at that point I thought I had double-checked that everyone knew what they were doing, but I think that, by that time, we all assumed we all knew the creative side. I will know better for next time, and I will ensure that everyone knows everything.

A couple of examples of how this misunderstanding affected the initial edit are the original opening shot, where, as I have talked about above, it did make it look like Amersham had traffic problems, and a shot of Charlie sitting on his own on a seat when the words “It’s unfriendly…” are said. Regarding the second example, obviously having Charlie sitting on his own made it look like Amersham is unfriendly. As you can see from the version in the final edit, the footage actually continues to show Jack come and sit down next to Charlie, i.e. being friendly.

I must say, that given that a lot of our footage had been shot with the intention of showing contra images to the words, I actually think that Harley would have had a challenging job when trying to pick out parts to agree with the script rather than oppose the script, and I think he should be given credit for actually being able to create the initial edit so in line with the words that it made my mum think that our objective had changed.

I think his final edit is excellent and meets the brief very well. Initially I found it quite challenging saying to Harley what felt like criticism about his editing. I wasn’t meaning to criticise him, but I was worried that it would come across like that. I know that as Director it is my role to work with the Editor (Harley) to achieve the desired creative vision. It should be collaborative, with the Director expressing what they would like whilst still being guided by the expertise of the Editor to maybe consider alternatives. It took me a while to get into the swing of discussing the edit with him, and I tried to analyse for myself why that was. I realised I would have found it easier if we could have been sat next to each other either at College or one of our houses, with Adobe Premiere open looking at the footage and trying out changes together. This is how I have often seen Directors and Editors working in behind-the-scenes films. We couldn’t meet anywhere in person though due to his shielding.

However, with these days of Covid-19 meeting in person is frequently not possible for Directors and Editors, and Zoom collaborations may stay as part of the process in the Film/TV Industry even after Lockdown. So, it was good practise, and since Harley is a good friend we did manage to work well together. I feel that once we realised the “counterintuitive misunderstanding” and corrected that, Harley has has now captured beautifully the humour, tone and pacing that I was after, and that our whole team wanted. He’s a great editor.

Unexpected challenges
We have had many challenges during this project that we have worked hard to find workarounds and inclusive, inventive solutions to. Many of them were due to Covid-19. I think that we showed good problem solving and resilience in working round them.

We had one team member shielding all the time. We wanted to be sure he was fully included, so we all agreed that he would do the editing and also be 2nd Camera and film the shots of the cats for the “very dangerous Wildlife…” scene. I feel this was an appropriate solution and demonstrates our commitment to good teamwork.

We had another team member have to unexpectedly self-isolate for 10 days due to coming into contact with someone with Covid-19. This happened just as we were about to do our location scouting filming and our actual filming. We re-arranged our filming so that, although he couldn’t make the location-scouting filming, he could make the main filming, assuming he was out of self-isolation, which he was.

Unfortunately, we had to change the date again, due to the extra 4-week nationwide lockdown rules. Extra College rules that were (understandably) introduced because of the extra lockdown, part way through this project, of not being allowed to film in College hours off campus, affected us filming in Amersham. Unfortunately, we found this out the evening before we were due to film the following day. We understood why, but it was another challenge we had to find a way round. Covid-19 rules have generally affected the whole of the Film Industry.

The weather definitely wasn’t on our side, bad/misty/rainy weather, again something that happens in real films whenever you need to film outside, especially in the UK. Sam Mendes and Roger Deacon both talked about how often they had to wait for the right amount of clouds (not too sunny, not too cloudy), which was a challenge of filming for them. This again was good practise for when we are in the Film Industry. I got used to keeping a more regular eye on the weather, for example using apps in my phone like BBC Weather and Dark Sky. I realised that what they start out saying for a day can still change during the day. But it is still useful to get into the habit of checking the weather.

Although I feel strongly that it was the correct decision to make Harley the editor, it did cause us some problems with getting the footage from the various days to him. The footage was difficult to get to him because we were only in College every other week. This meant that we had to do a lot of our uploading of footage to the Google Drive from home, and thus were very seriously affected by how fast our Wifi is. My Wifi is pretty bad, and it took hours at a time to get footage uploaded. When we in College we could upload much faster. So if we had all been in College all the time this uploading would not have been such an issue. We did try to find a way round it and considered asking if we could drop off USB sticks to Harley as we got footage, but due to Harley shielding this was not possible. We just had to do the best we could. Even in the Film Industry there isn’t always an ideal solution. I mentioned the clouds in 1917 (2019) above – you can’t make clouds appear, you just have to factor it in as best you can.

I regard problem solving as part of filmmaking. Even though, Covid-19 has caused challenges that I don’t think anyone could have anticipated pre-Covid-19, and Covid-19 has required us to spend a lot more time problem solving than usual. I feel that we have been successful in rising to these challenges, as we would have to do when working in the Film Industry, and, frustrating as it was at times, it has been good training for working in the Film Industry, especially eventually as a fiction Film/TV Director.

Being Director
There is a difference in this Promo Video, compared to our previous projects. That is that whereas we (90%Bloopers team) have been cast and crew for each other many times, in our previous projects we have each had responsibility for our own film, whereas in this project we are all taking individual roles. I have found that to be a different challenge, but one that I was eager to take on since we really want to be able to work in an efficient way as a team, and that means each developing our strengths and learning that we won’t always have full control over projects. Even if I get to be a fiction Film/TV Director, I would still have to delegate areas and be able to explain my vision, but also be open to other people’s visions, which I think I am good at since I like including everyone. I think it’s the delegating that I think I’m not always so good at, so this has been a good opportunity to practise that.

I think that the reason that I previously found delegating challenging is because I am a perfectionist, so when I have total control, I can do everything exactly the way I want. For example, I usually end up with a lot more footage than I need, and I do mean a LOT more, my friends will confirm that, I take the most footage in our group, because I want to get takes exactly right and I have lots of different ideas for shots. I get totally into it, evidenced by my Neo Noir Interactive Crime project which took 2 full 12-hour days to film, for about 20 minutes of actual edited footage. I am fortunate to have friends willing to cast and crew for me for this long. I was interested to see how I would find this project in respect to getting an appropriate balance between my own responsibilities and those of others. A Director in the Film/TV Industry still has overall responsibility for the final product, but also has to trust that others are professional enough at their own roles too. I have been fortunate in this project to have a good team, so that was good.

The ideas and preproduction stage went fine. I feel I kept us on track working through our ideas for the promo video and then I did a lot of the talking and explaining to Nick in our meeting with him as the client to discuss our ideas. This is a role that I am comfortable doing, presenting the conclusions of our group discussion. Nick liked our ideas and said that we had clearly understood the creative brief and were coming up with good ideas, so I was pleased.

I probably still need to work on shooting less footage, since we didn’t use a lot of the extra shots that I wanted and took. It’s tricky, and as with everything in the Film/TV Industry it is a balance between creative vision and time/money. I had already read that Stanley Kubrick was famous for shooting many takes, and, when filming Eyes Wide Shut (1999) apparently he once made Tom Cruise walk through a door 90 times to get it exactly as he wanted. And although Tom Cruise was acting in rather than directing The Mummy (2017) I read that he did the same thing, insisting on doing a shot 64 times to make an action sequence in zero-gravity look as realistic as possible. And 90 times isn’t even the highest number of takes that I found for Stanley Kubrick, there were other shots that he took 127 takes and 148 takes. And Kubrick’s films are legendary. And regarding legends, I found a legend that a particular scene in Dragon Lord (1982), directed by, written by and starring Jackie Chan, took 2900 takes to get it as Jackie Chan wanted. There is a fair amount of disagreement, when I was looking it up, as to exactly which scene this is, so it may not actually be true, but still Jackie Chan certainly was legendary for the number of takes he insisted upon.

It does mean that there is not a straightforward way to balance shots with time/money. A rough statistic that many people quote is that on average about 5 minutes of final product film is shot per day. The shooting ratio, (“the ratio between the total duration of footage created for possible use in a project and that which appears in the final cut”) varies dramatically between productions.However, I still remember when I was studying for my GCSE Film Studies and the tutor told us about the 5 mins per day statistic – I had never realised it before and I was astounded. Doing this UAL Level 3 Extended Diploma in Creative Media Film/TV means that I understand a lot more now about the reasons for this. But obviously there is still a balance. I still want to include my experimental shots and give myself a wide range of alternatives for editing with, since I feel that has been part of what has enabled me to make films that I am pleased with. For example, I didn’t originally plan the opening shot in my “Poker Hand” film of tracking Jack’s feet walking. But that is a shot that many people have complimented me on and have said really sets up the film, so I am very pleased that did it. I will continue working to find a good balance.

As I discussed earlier, I did initially find it challenging discussing changes that I felt were necessary, with our Editor, Harley. But we both quickly settled into that, and it worked well. I think a difference between me being Director on a College project and someone being a Director in the film Industry is that the Film Industry Director really is responsible for the overall creative vision. As long as the rest of the cast and crew are doing what the Director has asked them to do then if it all goes wrong it is the Director’s responsibility. That doesn’t mean that cast and crew won’t try to explain if they disagree with the Director (assuming that’s how the Director runs their set) but ultimately it is on the Director.

However, we were all aware that the outcome of this project affects us all equally, since we are each being marked on it. Which means that there is still a difference between this project and the real world. When we worked as Cast and Crew on each other’s projects previously, it was easier for whoever’s project it was to just “call the shots”, since they were the one being marked on it. So, in some ways you could say that way is more like real life. I feel that, despite these differences, both ways that we have done teamwork are valuable in relation to the real world Industry, and I feel that all of us learned a lot from this form of teamwork with its new challenges.

Final Summary
I feel that, all in all, I navigated these challenges well, and it has added significantly to my knowledge going forwards both for making films, and for working towards actually eventually becoming a fiction Film/TV Director, which is my ultimate career aspiration.