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A Case Study – The Story Of Producing ‘Visit Northwich’

At the start of 2018, the Northwich Business Improvement District came to us with the unique challenge of showcasing and promoting Northwich through a destination video. After many months of planning, shooting and editing, we finally released the video at the end of November. It’s been a huge success with over 50,000 views and 1,000 shares via Visit Northwich’s Facebook page alone.

In light of this, we thought we’d write a blog! Below, we’ll break down the different stages of production, showcasing how important each step is when it comes to creating a successful video. For those skim readers who are short on time, it goes something like this:

 

  • Introductory Meetings
  • The Creative Workshop
  • Research And Planning
  • Pre-production Prep
  • Production
  • Editing
  • Release

Introductory Meetings

We met with Northwich BID in January to set out the brief.

These establishing meetings are so important for the project. This is where the client and ourselves define the goals of the project and set out very clear expectations. We ensure that there’s complete clarity and understanding in what we do and don’t do. For example, we can utilise motion graphics, we can fly drones… we can do most things to be honest. We don’t have an in-house diver or waterproof housing, so underwater filming isn’t possible – yet! But things like this need to be ‘nipped in the bud’. It’s in this introductory process that we explain to the client how our methods work: what happens on set and in post-production. We explain step-by-step how we’re going to tell their story.

Getting to know our client well is a priority to us. Some want to direct and others are happy to sit back and give you everything – it’s important to figure all of this out early-doors to avoid confusion further down the line. Once that’s cleared up, we can move on to the next step.

The Creative Workshop

This is where we come alive. This is where we really get to know our clients – we want to know what makes them tick and what their picture-perfect outcome is. What are they about and what are they looking for? From this, we can begin to form ideas and craft the perfect story.

We’ll often work backwards. So firstly, we will ask what the end goal is for the video. What do we want it to do? Are we generating more leads, or are we selling more product? In this instance, we wanted to encourage more visitors and tourists to visit Northwich. How do you do that? You need something that’s going to be engaging and exciting for the audience. It needs to be short in length, easy to watch and – most importantly – easy to share. The more people watch and talk about the video, the better.

With so many destination videos out there already, it was clear that we needed to come up with something unique. The tag ‘A Destination With A Difference’ was born. The uniqueness of this video was the destination itself – Northwich.

All of this culminated in our final brief. We were asked to create a unique, exciting promotional piece about Northwich. With a big year planned, the video had to encapsulate the breath of new life in the town and champion its selling points. We wanted to showcase the variety of events on offer, the choice of retailers and restaurants, along with the rich and proud history. It was to be the ‘crown jewel’ on Visit Northwich’s new website, as well as across its social media. To accomplish all of this, we were given free reign and the permission to go all out. As creatives, that’s always very exciting.

Research and Planning

It was time to start planning. This is the part where you sit down with a blank piece of paper and just start writing. We discuss the events we will cover: Now Northwich and the famous Christmas Extravaganza. Okay, and what’s the history here? We have the canal system and the salt mines. What attractions are nearby? The Anderton Boat Lift and Lion Salt Works. Anything and everything is thrown down on paper in a stream of thought and conversation.

Next, you need to connect all of these different dots with a script. How do you introduce the video? How does shopping at major national retailers segue into enjoying one of the country parks? Here, we looked for inspiration from other destination videos. When creating a piece like this it’s important to research previous examples in the genre and really understand what it was that made these such a success.

For example, the ‘Holidays at home are great’ ad for Visit England from 2012 worked so well because of the friendly, well known faces that featured and guided us through:

On the other hand, the ‘Find Your Epic’ production for Visit Wales in 2016 is much more ‘raw’, choosing to focus purely on the beautiful landscapes on offer. There’s no presenters, no voiceover. Just Wales. With such a stunning country it makes sense:

Although Northwich is surrounded by beautiful countryside with some stunning national parks on its doorstep, we knew that this alone wouldn’t carry the video. We needed to focus on the town and more urban aspects too. Therefore, we opted for the route of having presenters talking on screen and delivering these lines of key information. Because we were going big on production, it made sense that these presenters should be famous and well known people who had links to the town. Beth Tweddle, Mark Radcliffe and Pete Mitchell sprung to mind. We also wanted the video to feel relatable for the community, so decided local people of the town should also feature alongside the stars.

Once the structure and script was in place, we then needed to break down and visualise each scene. What camera angles are we going to utilise? Which way is the camera panning when Beth delivers her opening line? How is the movement of this camera going to work in relation to the drone shot in the next scene? All of this transpired in our storyboard where we drew everything out (albeit badly). We plan all of this here so that everything runs as smoothly as possible when it comes to the day of the shoot. We know our lines, we know where we all need to be, and we know how it needs to look.

Pre-production Prep

Next up, it was time to get busy on the phone and emails. With the story and vision in place, it was clear there were going to be a lot of different components coming together. This meant multiple shoot days across many weeks during the summer.

We had to make sure it was actually possible before the cameras could roll. We made our phone calls to the managers of people like Beth and Mark to ensure they were available and willing. Various locations were contacted to obtain permission – especially with regards to drone flying. You have to think about the implications of wanting to fly a UAV at a tourist attraction where there are many members of the public present, not under your control. Also, is it a good idea to ask the Odeon if you can shoot in one of their screens at 8pm on a Friday night? Probably not. All of these things have to be worked around.

So release forms were filed and health and safety documents filled out. There was a tonne of paperwork and organisation to get through before the actual shoot!

Production

Finally, after all the months of planning and preparation, the shooting began. This part of the process comes with its own set of unique challenges.

For example, when shooting with someone as recognisable as Beth Tweddle, you have to take in to account the fact that many people at the various locations you’re shooting are going to recognise her. That’s part and parcel of shooting with an Olympian gymnast who’s won numerous medals for Britain. We had to allow timing for these interactions, whilst also ensuring Beth was never caught up in anything too uncomfortable or prolonged. Naturally, all of these interactions mean people take an interest in who you are and what you’re doing. It was a great way to spread the word about Studio 24-7!

A large portion of this video was shot outdoors. We found ourselves constantly browsing the Met Office website and BBC Weather, often hoping and praying. Luckily, we were actually blessed with one of the best summers in years. There was plenty of sun and dry spells. However, in our original storyboard we actually had a scene where Pete delivered a line whilst it was raining. We thought that we’d get at least one day where it was pouring with rain (otherwise is it really a British summer?!) but there was no such luck. We ended up altering the script to accommodate this. In video production you can never control the weather. Make it your friend, not your enemy!

Furthermore, we would often shoot on location with our presenter and return at a later date to cover the drone aspects. This sometimes proved tricky when trying to match the lighting and weather conditions. You want your piece to flow seamlessly and not have any glaring mistakes jump out. Imagine if Pete delivered his line about Nunsmere Hall in the height of summer, then the following drone shot is a grey cloudy scene where it’s raining? It doesn’t work.

Before you even get to the stage where you’re hitting the big red record button, you’ve also got to ensure your batteries are all fully charged the night before! Equipment checklists are compiled and worked through to ensure there’s nothing missing on the day. There isn’t a more frustrating feeling than going to grab a different lens from your bag and finding out it’s not there. SD cards also need to be formatted, whilst call sheets, locations and schedules must all be printed and on hand. As you can probably see, the success of the shoot-day going well relies so much on the hard work and organisation that’s taken place beforehand.

Editing

Once we had all our shots ticked off and all of the footage together, the next mammoth task began. This is arguably the most important step as it’s where our story is crafted. There are a million different ways the final product could come out when you’re sat at the computer with a clean slate. It’s all down to the choices we make.

 

One of the biggest components is music. The song choice was a huge factor in setting the tone and atmosphere. Imagine if we’d used a heavy rock song for Visit Northwich? It’s just not going to work. It was agreed with the client that we needed something with a medium tempo; upbeat and with a feel-good vibe. It had to be present in order to keep the video flowing but never distracting or overbearing. It’s no use having talented stars on screen if you can’t hear what they’re saying! Eventually, we settled on ‘Energized Morning’ by Gavin Luke.

Once the song was in place we could begin cutting our footage to it. If there’s an upbeat part to the song then the clips have to reflect that by changing quickly or by showing a lot of movement. If there’s a slower and more drawn out moment, the focus comes down to just one drone shot. We also had to think about the order of these shots. If Beth was talking about the heritage of the town, we may begin the sequence with a wide drone shot of Lion Salt Works that helps establish the scene and location. The shot that follows up will then be a close up of Beth walking through the museum. This close shot shows more detail to the viewer, but it wouldn’t work if they didn’t have the context from the previous image establishing the location.

This links in to relevancy. Every shot counts in a video that’s only two and a half minutes in length. It would make no sense to show footage of ducks at the local nature reserve if Mark was mentioning transport links about the M6 and the railways. Every clip has to be analysed to ensure it has a purpose and tells the story. Inevitably, this means a lot of our footage never makes it in to the final cut. This can be a hard process when you’ve spent so much time and energy shooting everything. But it’s imperative. And it’s what defines a good editor.

 

Once you have all your footage cut and in place, you need to add the finishing touches. This comes through colouring and sound. Colouring is a great way to manipulate the atmosphere and vibe of a film. For example, if you wanted the film to be sad you’d probably add a ‘cold’ feel with blue tones coming through. We wanted it upbeat and enticing for Visit Northwich, so we went for a ‘warmer’ feel with very subtle orange and yellow tones being the main focus.

Sound is also important. Adding the sound of a bird call when it’s on screen or a train as it rumbles by may seem small and somewhat irrelevant details to fuss over, but it really does make all the difference. It adds real depth and texture!

And it doesn’t end here. Even though we might be happy with the cut and think it’s finished, we then have to export and send it to our clients and a ‘test’ audience. The feedback we get points us to the small revisions that need to be made. Imagine if we uploaded the finished film straight away without any other eyes on it and the client decided to change course! Too late – it’s already public.

Having fresh eyes on the piece avoids this issue and of course, we always want to ensure our client is 100% happy with the finished result.

 

Release

At last, we come to the final act. Releasing the film to the world is always a great feeling for us. It’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for and working towards. All of our effort, time and energy culminate to this. It’s almost like letting the child you’ve raised for so long finally leave the nest and set out on their own.

Visit Northwich uploaded the video to their Facebook page. It achieved over 23,000 views in 24 hours. Comments flooded in full of praise and positivity and hundreds of shares helped in spreading the word. At the time of writing, the video now has 51,000 views, nearly 500 likes and 1000 shares. We are absolutely thrilled by this as you can imagine! To have such a big impact and achieve the brief and goals that were set at the start of this project really makes everything worth it.

But how did it become such a success? The work continues through how it’s released. The shareability of this piece of content really helped in spreading the word and making it ‘viral’. But we also utilised the skills of our social media team to ensure that everyone featured in the video knew about it and was able to put out their own announcements and statuses. For example, we tagged Beth Tweddle in our post on Twitter who proceeded to retweet and like. Northwich Rowing Club, Hartford School of Gymnastics and Northwich Vixens all retweeted too.

Alongside this, we sent out press releases to anyone and everyone, publishing articles in The Northwich Guardian and Marketing Cheshire that summarised and informed people about the video far and wide. The success of a film isn’t achieved purely through how good it is – you need to work hard to get the word out there. Get as many people sharing and talking about it as possible! It might not be a Hollywood Blockbuster, but you still need to ‘tour’ it and get the word out.

 

A Conclusion

Phew. We don’t really write blogs. Maybe that’s apparent? Maybe not. It’s safe to say we really enjoyed this though, and we hope you enjoyed reading! We’ll be writing more like this in the future so stay tuned.

The Visit Northwich destination video has been quite a ride and we’re truly thankful for all of your support and feedback. We can’t wait to work on more projects like this one! Follow us on Twitter, Facebook Instagram and Vimeo to keep up to date and get a closer look at everything we’re up to!

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