Production Breakdown: Expedia's 'Return to Office Readiness'
By Gavin Pease
In facing the complications that COVID-19 and its variants have brought us over the past couple years, many aspects of life are moving towards the virtual world. Video Production has mimicked this push, and tons of new avenues have opened up to allow for remote Production. Still, nothing can beat the synergy and camaraderie of having an office full of dedicated workers, and so Expedia tasked Element 7 with crafting a video to welcome their force back to campuses around the world.
From the get-go, it was important to feature peoples from across the globe. Since the video's intent is to prepare workers internationally, we needed to capture and represent subjects internationally, too. The proposed locations were London, Singapore, India, San Francisco, Austin, and Expedia's Headquarters in Seattle, WA.
Naturally E7 was to tackle the production in our own backyard, but the Expedia team was searching for a way to bring the rest of the globe into fruition, and do so in a cohesive and engaging way.
Due to many restrictions such as budget, project turnaround, and health concerns at the rise in COVID-19 cases, travel for the E7 team wasn't an option. So, we turned to Zoom: everyone's favorite virtual communication. The plan became to hire local production companies native to the various locations, then manage and direct the shoots live via Zoom monitoring.
A Thread to Follow
With the Expedia team's logistical concerns happily relieved, the next challenge becomes crafting a continuous flow that seamlessly integrates the constant geographical jumps.
Motion is our answer. By putting the camera in constant motion, we subconsciously guide the viewer along the story with us. Blocking various subjects into walk and talks has the same effect, both contributing to the story flow, and creating a more active and engaging delivery for the lengthy information to be provided. It also opens up the door for creative transitions.
Transitions were also a key portion of our planning, as they would allow for an uninterrupted flow of the script, justify the multiple location jumps, and spice up the visual content of the video with some fun and creative moves. Whips and Rotoscoping Wipes were planned into the Shot List to deliver on this aspect of the video.
Communication is Key
This type of approach can be complicated, and we needed a way to effectively communicate our plan of attack to the varying global production teams. A Style Guide began to take form, building in a Master Shot List, Technical Specifications, and pulling inspiration from other videos with similar approaches. Informational videos like Delta and American Airlines Safety Briefings alluded to our style, and were great ways of communicating the overall feel of the piece. Even Old Spice commercials were a good source to show our 'walk-and-talk' framing.
Sony was designated as our chosen Camera Ecosystem. Not only are they a widely available and affordable option, but the versatility in camera bodies while maintaining visual quality allowed us the freedom for the movement the shots required. The Sony FX6 was our primary option, packing a punch with its mirrorless, full frame sensor. It was also the most mobile with a compact body suitable for gimbal use. The Sony FX3 was a viable backup option as it is smaller and less expensive, while still delivering the same capture quality.
We decided that a storyboard animation was the best way to clearly represent our ideas for framing, blocking, and movement. E7 utilized Storyboarder, an efficient all-in-one storyboard crafting app, to draw up and edit together a crude visual representation of the video.
This effectively demonstrated our vision to Expedia's team as well as provided stable visual guidance for the capture in the multiple city locations.
Scheduling E7's Seattle shoot first, we were able to carry out our production to our own vision, then use it as a model to further realize the other portions. We took still frames and screen grabs and added them to our Style Guide to serve as a guide for lighting, depth of field, and other visual components.
This all lends itself towards creating the visual continuity of events taking place all around the world.
Video Production Gone Virtual
Next up was execution. The Seattle shoot went off without a hitch, and after a full day of capture we had the base of the video in the bag. In the days following, we would log on and manage the rest of the shoots, one by one ticking off the list.
Nemorin Film & Video became an integral collaborator in this process. The production company responsible for crewing out the London shoot, Nemorin also helped to establish and manage the shoots in Singapore and India. Using a Magewell adapter, or similar, production teams were able to stream a live feed of the camera to us at E7 for comments and direction. Framing and lighting adjustments were dialed in as necessary, and we were able to to observe and direct the capture in real time, all from the comfort of our studio. Well, 'home studio', as the time differences lined up to be overnight shoots for us Pacific Northwesterners.
Black Sky Creative headed the approach in Austin, TX, and New Revolution Media took charge of the production for San Francisco, CA. All in all, it was a pleasure to work with these various talented production agencies. The project and manner of production alluded to the teamwork necessary in our profession, as the vision could not have been fully realized without the strong collaboration and hard work of these teams.
That's A Wrap
While nothing beats the instantaneous decision making of boots on the ground, or the excitement of packing up our equipment and flying to a shoot, this project is a testament to the versatility of video production in a modern age of technology. Not to mention the possibilities are wide open with the proper lines of communication like WhatsApp and Zoom.
With the help of many of our video production peers, Element 7 was able to craft an engaging informational piece with a diverse cast of real Expedia employees. We're excited to see what other avenues of remote production are opened up, and how we can best use them to span divides and compose truly inspiring video.