In case you hadn’t seen by now, Studio 24-7 recently linked up with Urban Splash – the property titans responsible for some of the UK’s best regeneration stories of the past few decades. We came together to shoot a video showcasing one of their latest projects – the eye-catching Lister’s Pods. It’s one of our favourites to date so we figured we’d break it down into a bit more detail for you. What does it take to actually shoot a property video like this?
It’s important that you get to know your building before you shoot it. In this example, Lister Mills is pretty special. It’s an iconic landmark on the Bradford skyline with its 249ft chimney rising high above the terraces. When finished in 1873, it was the biggest silk factory in the world, producing 4,430 miles of parachute chord in WWII, providing velvet for King George V’s coronation and curtains for the White House. After only a little bit of research on Urban Splash’s website and Wikipedia, we quickly understood the importance and grandeur of this building.
It’s imperative that you ask the right questions. What is it that made these pods so special? What’s the history behind this building? What awards have been won? Who’s involved? It might not seem like there’s any link but the answers help you to understand what it is you need to capture in your shoot. What’s the vibe you’re going for? What should you be focusing on with your drone shots?
Talking of drones – as usual, we had to plan our flights with copious amounts of paperwork and research on Google Earth. Someone has very kindly and very accurately 3D modelled the whole of Bradford on there so, we found ourselves being able to actually plan each drone shot that we wanted, understanding what would be in the background and foreground. All of this preparation can seem like overkill but if you really know your property inside out and understand exactly what it is you want to shoot, it just maximises your time when you’re there. Rather than wasting precious time onsite figuring out which lens to use, where to launch the drone from and which parts of the building to focus on, you can roll up and smash it.
From our communications with the team at Urban Splash, we knew we wanted to focus on the views the pods offer. It’s probably the best view across the whole of Bradford! For this reason, we ended up having to be patient. Patience is a virtue they say. It was winter and being in the north, you can easily go a couple of weeks without seeing the sun. We figured it wouldn’t exactly work if you had a drone shot panning up to reveal a view of…well, nothing. Just grey cloud. We needed the perfect sunny day for this. Cue a lot of emails going back and forth. Lots of touch and go moments. Many hours spent on the BBC Weather and Met Office websites. How is it possible for this country to be so grey and cloudy?
Finally, after what felt like years, there was a weather window. A sunny day in December. Some would say a Christmas miracle. We jumped on the train (it was a car, but the car broke down. Long story) and made our way up to Bradford. Funnily enough, Bradford is recognised by UNESCO as a City of Film. And here we are making a film…so…yeah.
With all our pre-production planning boxed off, we got to the site knowing exactly what we needed to do. Sun up, drone up. As I write this it is worth noting that we ensured we arrived just before sunrise. Being December, we were close to the winter solstice which meant we really needed to maximise the sunlight. Golden hour – the hour when the sun rises – is also one of the best times to shoot. The gorgeous, golden lighting makes the building and its surrounding environment look that much better. If you were to draw up a list of the best lighting experts in the world, Mother Nature is definitely up there. When she wants to be.
So you really don’t want to miss this time of morning. Or evening, if you’re shooting the golden hour at sunset. It’s another thing you should be considering in our pre-production planning. Which way does the building face and when will the sun be positions at different times of the day?
Another benefit of our pre-production was having all the gear with us. All the gear and no idea. That’s a common saying in the industry isn’t it? But what if you had all the ideas and no gear…s. No gears. The last thing you want is to show up to a big shoot and realise you haven’t quite got the right itinerary. It’s really, really important that you plan ahead so that you can box off every single shot you want.
Obviously, we had the drone. It’s 2019. Unless the property is underwater, you’re going to need a drone. There’s different options with this of course, but anything from the DJI Mavic Pro up will do the job. For this shoot we used the Mavic Pro. You could work with anything all the way up to the DJI Inspire v2 but to be honest, that’s possibly a bit overkill. We like the Mavic Pro because it’s really small and lightweight – it doesn’t draw attention to itself and gets the job done.
Anyway, the reason you need a drone, aside from the fact they’re awesome and ridiculously fun to fly, is the world of opportunity they open up. Rather than just shooting the property from the same boring angle at ground level, you’re suddenly able to shoot it from any angle you want. We’re a big fan of ‘top-downs’ that give us that unique bird’s eye view. In general, you want to utilise your drone to get some epic wide-angle landscape shots that really showcase the scale of the building and how it fits in to the surrounding environment. These shots are great for establishing the location and vibe at the start of a video. You’ll see in the start of the Lister Mills video we’ve got that wide shot that’s circling around the building with the rising sun and the city in the background. It looks epic.
You can then think about getting some ‘closer’ shots that bring out detail – perhaps a shot where the drone rises up from the ground, panning up the building to then reveal the views that sit behind it. Drone shots are all about movement and reveals – the more you can do that, the better. That’s why the second shot that follows the first wide-angle landscape shot is a closer look at the chimney – following the same ‘circling around’ motion that the first shot did.
Once you’ve captured all the exterior shots with your drone, it’s time to head inside. We don’t want to dive too deep into what you should and shouldn’t use when it comes to cameras for interior work, but there’s a few must haves. Ideally, you want to shoot in 4k to really capture all the detail. It’s not essential, but it helps. You want to ensure you can shoot in some sort of log that is effectively a clean slate for colour grading in post. And you also want to be shooting in slow motion – probably 120fps. That might just be our own personal taste so have a play around and see what works for you.
On this shoot we were using the Panasonic GH5 which is an absolute beast because it ticks off all the boxes above. It also has built in stabilisation which is an added bonus. We shot all of our interior work hand held! The stabilisation, when coupled with slow motion at 120fps meant there really wasn’t any need for a gimbal. Of course, by all means, get yourself a gimbal. It’s still a very, very useful piece of gear to have for property shoots and many other cameras will benefit from their use. Something like the DJI Ronin S or Zhiyun Crane 2 is your best bet here.
Most importantly, you’ve got to think about the lens you’re going to use here. The basic rule of thumb is the wider, the better. We’re shooting property so we want to make sure the audience gets a real feel of space in the room. We want to show off as much of the room in shot as possible. Obviously, we don’t want to get too extreme and end up with the ‘fisheye’ effect because this bends all the straight lines and comes across as a little unprofessional. We opted for the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 7–14mm 1:2.8 Pro lens. Being a micro-four thirds system on the GH5, this effectively works out as a 14–28mm. That 14–16mm range at the bottom is where we operated for this.
With your camera and lens all set up, you now need to think about your movements. We’re shooting a property guide so we want it to feel as such. We want to guide the audience through the space, so a lot of the time we used shots where the camera is moving forwards ‘in’ to the room. This forward motion helps with the flow of the video. It doesn’t hurt to also pan backwards occasionally to mix things up and ‘reveal’ a room. It’s something that differs with every shoot because every property is different. Captain obvious.
Similarly to the drone work, once you’ve captured the wide angled shots, you then want to get up close and personal. We switched our lens to a 24mm and got some much tighter shots showcasing some of the details in the kitchen and the furnishing. This helps because it’s adding a bit of texture, bringing the property to life.
Other things you want to pay attention to is the lighting. We had a lot of it pouring in through various windows here which was great and we made use of the lens flares at one point. If light is lacking, as it was in the bedrooms, utilise what’s available. There were bedside lamps we switched on to provide a warm glow and the lights from the en-suite also helped. Again, every property is different so it’s important that you can think quickly, on your feet, in the moment. If things are really bad you should consider bringing a lighting setup of your own. We made do without but, it helps to have it in your bag.
Once you get in to this realm, you need to pay attention to the white balance settings on your camera. A warm glow from a bedside lamp could really throw things off and become quite jarring in the finished edit when compared with the clean white light on show in the main studio area. Make sure your settings are punched in to match each shot and maintain the same balance throughout!
At this point you’re probably thinking, really? All of this just for a few short clips in a video that’s less than two minutes long? The answer is yes. If you really want to smash it out the park and impress your client with a clean, professional cut, you need to put in the work and pay attention to all the details. The more prepared you are, the less chance there is for things to go wrong.
Once we had all our footage and made it back to the office, it was time to piece our videos together. I say videos because we actually ended up with three different edits here. That wasn’t the plan originally. We set out to shoot one ‘hero’ video that would be outward looking for Urban Splash, showing off Lister’s Pods. We achieved that, but we quickly realised we were sat on so much footage, we could afford to do something else.
With such a rich history and heritage, this iconic landmark deserved more. So the second edit we pieced together utilised ‘tracker text’ – little facts and information about the building that were tagged on to the building. Thirdly, we edited together a ‘social only’ video – a vertical version of the property guide intended specifically for platforms like Instagram Stories. It’s nice to have the options and variety.
As you’ll know by now, editing is the most important part of the whole production. There’s no use having all this gorgeous drone footage if you don’t know how to use it. For these edits we used very specific tracks that we sourced from Epidemic Sound (well worth a look if you haven’t checked them out already). These tracks suit the ‘vibe’ of Lister’s Pods – stylish and modern. The beat is also really easy to cut to, keeping the audience engaged with the rhythmic change of shot.
Of course, all these shots are placed where they are with lots of thought and reason. For example, it wouldn’t make any sense for us to have a wide angle drone shot of the whole building, followed by an interior close-up shot of the kitchen, followed by another random top-down drone shot. There’s no ‘flow’ there and it would be really, really jarring for our viewers.
This ‘flow’ is what you want to nail. You want your property guide to do just that – guide the viewer around and through the building. You need continuity. For example, the opening drone shot that establishes the location with a wide view of the whole building is then followed by a closer shot of the chimney. The motion of the drone is the same, so it flows really well. Only when the music and beat changes did we then switch it up by ‘going inside’ with our first interior shots.
Here, the ‘guide’ is more prominent than ever because we start at the ground level, then proceed up the lift, before ‘walking into’ the room with the camera panning forward. With all of this in mind have another watch of the video and you’ll be able to see why each clip is placed where it is.
We hope that all of this information is of some use to you if you’re planning to shoot property! The main takeaway is to be prepared. That applies to just about every shoot though, right? We had a blast filming this and can’t wait to see what other projects we’ll be capturing in the future.