Unless you are filming in a completely controlled studio, any location has its challenges. An office environment is perhaps the most common so here are a few tips and tricks to help you get it right.
What to do
It is always best to try and scout any locations before you film there. It is not always practical so make you get someone to send you some pictures of the location (from multiple angles). This will allow you to bring the right lighting, cameras, lenses and accessories to get it right.
Preparation and conversation
Success at filming at an office comes down to setting expectations. Let your client know how long things will take. If you are shooting an interview overestimate the time it will take so that no one is under pressure.
Ask yourself how will filming the things that are needed effect their day to day running and talk to them about these issues?
The more preparation you do and the more open you are about practicalities with your client the smoother things will run.
Offices tend to be busy places. The more equipment you are moving around the more you are going to get in someone’s way. Work out the minimum amount of equipment you will need (without compromising what the client wants you to deliver) and only bring that.
I tend to drive to shoots and leave some equipment in the car. I take in the essentials and then, if I need something a little more specialist I only need to pop outside for a moment.
Invest in batteries
Offices are crowded and have people walking all around. I am great believer in trying to run as much of your equipment off batteries as possible. This means that aren’t cables trailing everywhere that people could trip on.
Your job is to get in to the office, capture the necessary footage and get out with as little impact on that offices day to day as possible. Batteries make this much easier.
B-Roll is king
For any office shoot b-roll is absolutely essential. I work on a ratio of at least 3:1. This means that for every minute of finished video I want to capture 3 minutes of usable b-roll.
For example if a finished video was 2 minutes long I would have 6 minutes of usable b-roll to choose from. Of course, to capture 6 minutes of usable b-roll I might have spent an hour or more wandering around the office filming multiple angles of:
- external shots of the building
- footage of people in meetings
- people talking and enjoying work
- employees working hard
- interview subjects at work
- signage around the building
- the company logo
- the reception desk
What not to do
Don’t only record one source of audio
Offices are ‘live’ environments. Something is always happening outside of your control. This could be a phone ringing, a car alarm or siren outside or the hum of an air conditioning unit that nobody knows how to switch off.
Recording more than one audio source not only gives you a backup in case of technical failure but different mics will pick up different things. Use different types of microphone (a lapel, a shotgun etc.) to capture audio at different frequencies and levels. In the edit you can choose the one that has come out best.
Don’t surprise the office
Nobody likes to turn up at work in the middle of a tough week and find that they are expected to appear on camera or in the background of a shot.
Make sure that everyone at the location knows that you are going to be filming. Let them know when, where, how long for and how it will impact them.
Not only will it make the filming day more pleasant for everyone but it will avoid awkward situations where a perfect edit has to be re-done because someone disapproves of how they appear.
Don’t make a mess
I am a great believer that you should always leave a location as you found it (or better). I always take a picture of the set-up before I move anything, put cameras up or change a location in anyway. This gives me a point of reference to make sure that everything is returned.
Before I shoot I also organise a location at the office with the client where I can leave cases or unused equipment. This means I am not making a mess or taking up unnecessary space around a busy office.
Don’t forget about privacy
At any office people are working. What they are working on might be confidential or private to clients. Make sure you discuss these issues before visiting the site so that you know what can be filmed and what can’t.
Don’t assume your client controls the building
Land and building space can be expensive. Don’t assume that the business in the office you are using owns and controls the whole building.
Before you arrive make sure that you have any permissions or know of any limitations from the landlord about filming in public areas, outside the building, inside your clients office or any additional health and safety requirements the landlord might have.
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