Hello again, void. I’m sorry it’s been a few months since you heard from me. There’s just so much going on right now, it’s hard to keep everything straight. Ok, where were we? Right, back in September.
Back in September some very good friends, Jordan Patterson and Callan Holderbaum, were planning for the debut performance of the show they produced and directed together, called Oh Crit! The Dungeons & Dragons Improv Show. Before the show, the three of us got together to discuss a series of videos we could produce quickly, and inexpensively, which the duo could use to help promote the inaugural show. We went through a variety of concepts looking for the right mix of low-investment, and high output. At this point, they were only about 5 weeks out from the first show, and so there were some significant limitations on what we could feasibly do in regards to scheduling and budget. And what I could feasibly do in regards to shooting and editing. We toyed with some prop-heavy dungeons and dragons concepts and some narrative concepts involving incidental sets and possibly post-processing effects.
In the end, though, we landed on an improv-heavy concept which was mostly acquiescent because we’d burned up so much time talking about it. From a production perspective this would work, though. Put one or more people in front of a camera, give them some improv-like games to play, and then cut them down into short clips of the funniest and most intentionally-seeming stuff; bonus points if it had anything to do with Dungeons & Dragons.
The concept for the campaign was to post one of these off-the-cuff style videos every day until the first show. The videos were received warmly, and largely as intended. Unfortunately, this was their first time planning a show of this kind, and it was my first time planning a campaign for this kind. The campaign failed to take into account that although Jordan & Callan were producers and directors of the show, they wouldn’t be front and center for much of it. In fact, they weren’t players in the show at all. Although there were a lot of funny moments throughout the videos in the campaign, and each and every video was punctuated with info for attending one of the performances, one could be forgiven for thinking Callan & Jordan would be the “stars” of the show. Over the first week and a half of posting, it was becoming clear that advertisements promoting the show really ought to include the players themselves in some capacity. After that the campaign was mostly abandoned in favor of material that featured the rest of the players.
Although the campaign didn’t see its way to the end, I don’t count this as a waste. There were a number of reasons I signed on to help with this in the first place. First and foremost, I wanted more real-world experience with the process of film production, and especially interview-style production. In some ways, this kind of video is extremely simple and as I expected, there weren’t any big surprises. But there were a lot of small, mostly inconsequential problems that one with a most academic understanding of all this wouldn’t think to expect. “Oh, we need another diffuser for this”, “Oh we’re definitely going to need fill light”, “Oh, I’m going to need that gaffers tape”, “Oh, we’ll need a shorter bench to sit on”. So on and so on. This was the kind of experience I was after, I wanted to take a highlighter to the nuanced challenges that are going to crop up, and start to build a playbook for how to deal with them when I’m working with actual clients.
Another reason I wanted to be involved in the project is much like the first, but on a macro scale. I wanted experience with a video campaign process from start to finish. Let me explain what I mean by that. In still photography, and a lot of multi-step processes, each phase of a project has a kind of feedback loop going on. Planning badly leads to a frustrating shoot, which leads to a difficult time editing. Take a bad picture, and have a bad time processing it. Each part of the process teaches you something about every other part of the process, but only if you are involved in every part of the process. This is what I wanted to gain a perspective on, and why I was eager to be there from the earliest stages of planning. I wanted to get a real sense of how each phase of a simple film project like this one relates to each of the others. And I think I got that.
So, having helped plan, and then shot and edited this campaign, there are a few things I’d do differently in the future.
First, although the blue backdrop was simply an aesthetic choice, I’d have set these shots up more deliberately to make dropping the background out easier, and I’d also have more deliberately positioned Jordan & Callan so that they wouldn’t fall out of the frame to the left or right so often. I say this because there were things I wanted to do in post that became time-prohibitive and had to be abandoned. Had I taken just a few more minutes to address these things while shooting, it would have made all the difference. I also would have come equipped with a list of improv games to oscillate through, rather than just leaving it to the group to come up with stuff on the spot.
From a technical aspect, I think I’d have set up a third, fail-safe microphone. In most of these videos, the lapel mics worked well, but the audio was peaking in a few places and there was nothing that could be done to fix it. When it comes to audio, I’d ultimately prefer some roomier noise, than the sound of voices peaking.
In the end, I’m rather pleased with this collection of videos, and think it’d have worked really well as a campaign if Callan & Jordan were actually the main performers in the show it was advertising. I think there are some great moments in these videos that are worth checking out, especially if you know Jordan & Callan personally, but still even if you don’t. The show they’re promoting in these videos happened back at the beginning of October. But, fret not, if you’re clamoring for some Oh Crit! The DnD Improv Show after watching the video campaign, they’ll be doing another set of shows this coming January. Just head over to the Facebook page for all the latest juicy details. I can personally vouch for the entertainment value of this performance. Everything you love about improv, with a dungeons and dragons attitude that’s funny for everyone—not just the die hard fans.
Next time I’ll be sharing another video which I worked on with Greg Ferko (who also works with me over at Petruzzo Photography). It’s a video of a live music performance, and it’s a first-of-its-kind project for me. Stay tuned!