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How to make an effective marketing video when you can’t shoot in-person

In the current environment, we’re all learning how to make the most of digital and virtual events, calls, and meetings. While we aren’t able to gather and create content together in person, there are still ways to make an effective marketing video.

As always, focus on creating a strong strategy and developing an effective creative concept with your current limitations in mind.

If a wrench gets thrown into your plans after a live-action concept has already been selected, go back and re-concept. See where you can potentially use animation, existing company footage, stock footage, audio content, and motion graphics to create something just as effective but different.

Develop a video that fits your needs in the moment.

Sometimes, being true to the limitations of the moment means waiting to shoot your original video concept until you are able to execute it as planned. That’s ok! Use the tips below to fill the immediate marketing gap(s) and deliver on your shorter-term marketing goals.

Be honest with yourself about what can realistically be accomplished under the circumstances. Then create a video that nails it.

Maybe that means that this video isn’t as long as you originally planned, you use different interviewees, or want to add motion graphics to help keep the video moving. As long as your decisions are based on realistic goals for your “new normal” and consistent with your long-term goals, you’ve set yourself up for success.

Three ways to make an effective marketing video when you can’t shoot on set

  • Make an animated video
  • Repurpose existing video content - company footage, stock video and audio, and motion graphics
  • Use virtual shoots, self-filmed or user-generated content

We’ll review these options in more detail below, so you can knock this one out of the park, and be ready to go when your next at bat comes calling (it will). You’ve got this.

Make an animated video

Animation provides a great opportunity to create an engaging and thoughtful video when shooting new live action footage is not an option.

Animations allow you to explain complicated or abstract information or ideas with visuals that may be easier for audiences to understand. Animations are particularly effective if your video is educational or includes step-by-step instructions, detailed product information, service tutorials, or charts and drawings.

Animations can also be easier to version or personalize from the start. You can make modifications to the video at a later point without requiring the high costs of crew and additional shoot days. Creative concepting for animation does, however, require the same dedication to planning as live action with an even greater focus on the animation style, timing, and talent.

For the right concept, animation can even deliver more engagement than live action (we’re talking 20% more).

Here are some great examples of the latest and greatest in 3D animation.

Repurpose existing footage, motion graphics, stock footage and audio

When budgets, timelines, or travel restrictions prohibit you from shooting new content for a video you needed yesterday, try auditing your existing video content.

  • Do you have b-roll footage on your server or in your archives that you haven’t really used or haven’t used heavily?
  • Do you have existing videos that could be combined in a new way?
  • Could you break longer videos up into snippets or cutdowns to be used on social media?

In addition to leveraging existing footage from your content library or simply creating cutdowns, you can also integrate motion graphics to give your video a new twist. Using shorter footage clips interspersed with graphics can help extend the lifespan of the video or footage.

The “Disrupt Manifesto” from TBWA is a great example of pairing stock or existing footage with graphics to give a video more legs.

The combination of existing footage and stock audio as voiceover (like famous speeches or soundbytes) is also a great option to help mix things up.

The well-known “Farmer” Super Bowl 2013 ad from Ram Trucks pairs a 1978 Paul Harvey speech with stock and company imagery to tell a powerful story.

While high-quality stock footage and audio can be hard to find, a determined creative with a discerning eye and ear can create a beautiful piece with stock footage. Dissolve and Film Supply are great resources for high-quality stock video footage. Internet Archive has tons of stock footage and audio that can be used for free or licensed, depending on the content.

The most important factor in using this option successfully is taking the time to fully outline the concept and create a script and/or storyboards. This ensures your video is authentic to your brand and differentiates you in a sea of brand video sameness. You want to avoid creating a smattering of random footage that doesn’t connect with your audience, or really say anything.

Virtual shoots or self-filming

When filming on set is not an option for either budget or travel restrictions, consider creating and executing on a concept that allows interviewees or participants to film or record themselves.

How to effectively use self-filming

In these challenging times, we are seeing talent agencies sending out requests for actors across the country who are willing to self-tape their scenes to be integrated into final videos. This approach can be utilized by big companies, production companies, and in-house teams alike with the right creative approach.

Developing a concept that relies on user-generated content requires an understanding that participants are not professional production folks. You should prepare for varied quality levels and include time for preparation (e.g. iPhone filming with a director giving direction via webcam or providing participants with the necessary recording equipment to DIY).

Added benefits of self-filming or virtual shoots

The most obvious benefit of self-filming or virtual shoots is the ability to keep content production going while working within a new set of constraints.

Remote or virtual filming also opens up your talent pool to a wider geographic range. That results in more talent options or lower talent travel costs than would be available or required for shooting on-site.

A concept developed around self-filming can also provide an opportunity for the brand to appear more authentic, relevant, and aware of the challenges others may be facing during tough times. This is especially true for non-scripted pieces that involve interviews or participants taking the wheel and documenting their own experiences.

In addition to self-filming or virtual shoots, a video using self-recorded audio can provide the same benefits. Self-recorded audio paired with animation creates an engaging piece that leverages the authenticity and humanity provided by a real person talking with the flexibility and range of visuals provided by motion graphics.

Making an effective marketing video when the future is uncertain

At the end of the day, creating a great video is all about a well-crafted concept and story.

While shooting a high-end live-action piece is often the desired plan at the start of a project, events outside of our control can throw a wrench into things.

Don’t let that stop you in your quest to create an effective video. Animation, existing footage or content, and virtual shoots can help you bridge the current gap and allow you to keep creating honest, relevant and valuable content for your clients and prospects.





Picture of Guy bauer, founder of umault

Guy has been making commercial videos for over 20 years and is the author of “Death to the Corporate Video: A Modern Approach that Works.” He started the agency in 2010 after a decade of working in TV, film and radio. He’s been losing hair and gaining weight ever since.

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