Team communication technology has been brought to the forefront of many industries and creators should get into it, too.

Most video production work requires teams to go on location to capture content. Collaboration typically means working with people face to face. However, during a pandemic, finding ways to adhere to health and safety guidelines is critical. The ideal solution is to work from home. There are plenty of ways to create video remotely, even with a full crew. Unfortunately, some projects are just too difficult to execute remotely. In these cases, it is essential that teams respect social distancing orders.

Across all industries, some companies are finding ways to adapt while others are going under. Retailers and restaurants adapted quickly to online orders and delivery, reaching higher rates than ever before. Many people are turning to online services for medical consultations, counseling and education. Manufacturers are learning to meet the demands for things like facemasks and immunity-boosting products. Employees are adapting and cultivating new skills so that businesses can meet consumer needs.

Video production is no different. Many people in the industry are adapting to get work done remotely. It requires a bit more creativity, but it is possible. Here, we will cover several ways to produce content consistently in this “new normal” of social distancing, as well as solutions for when production calls for working together in person.

Making sure your team is on the same page

From the boom of virtual meeting apps to tried-and-true methods like group emails, there are endless ways to work together remotely. Some apps and software specifically cater to organization and time management. Others make it easier to collaborate on the actual projects. Some will be more or less effective based on your needs. Peer reviews online can help decide which tools are most suited to your business or crew.

Many companies and businesses use digital task-managers like Trello and Asana. With tools like these, you can create tasks with due dates and assign them to specific team members. These platforms allow for the ability to add documents and web links easily. Everyone can add notes and updates. It is a great way to give your team the ability to interact and offers a broad view of all projects in one accessible space.

There are plenty of user-friendly chat apps available (think Google Chat and WhatsApp) if you need a simple communication forum on the go for your team. However, a designated chat platform like Slack gives you an elevated experience to be more connected in real-time with your team. There is an app version available, which makes it even more convenient. Apps like Slack are especially great if you are working with multiple departments. They allow you to communicate with your teams quickly without having to make a bunch of phone calls.

You likely already know that video is the next best way to connect with an audience when you cannot meet face-to-face. Video chat allows you to connect not only with your team but with your clientele as well. Video chat is available on most platforms and is easy for anyone to use. Options like CloudHQ and Playable let you incorporate video messages directly into emails. Features like these can help give clarity in instructions to team members and allows them to replay it as needed. Additionally, you can use it to connect with clients that are unable to do a live chat because of schedules or time zone differences.

Accept the challenge of creating remotely

As a creator, it is essential to remember that creativity is part of your job. This creativity goes well beyond the pre-production and directing aspects. Getting the work done without going to a studio or location is just another exciting challenge to be addressed and overcome. Reach out to colleagues for ideas and expertise. They will have a variety of experiences with problem-solving for limited travel or access to talent.

You may have discovered that many of the people you usually work with are unavailable during quarantine months. Consider this an opportunity to work with different professionals in your network who might have skills you are seeking. For example, anyone who vlogs will be an expert at filming themselves independently, giving them perfect remote-interview potential. Utilize this to cut a conversation together, show channel guests in an overlay screen view or use voice recordings over content footage. Connecting with other creators also offers the possibility of exposure to new audiences.

Consider putting this tactic to work for you in different ways, too. At times when you do not have much on your plate, you can market your skills and collaborate on other creator’s projects. You can work on productions happening anywhere in the world when you are comfortable working remotely. Doing this opens up a lot of exciting possibilities. Plus, you will have an opportunity to learn from different leadership styles. You might discover tools or strategies that can be implemented in your future projects or streamline your workflow.

Preparing post-production for remote work

Not all technology is equal. Some of it is not even compatible. However, post-production results will be vastly improved (and less stressful) if you are using the right equipment for the job. Ensure that you and your team are on the same page about which computers, storage, editing software and sharing capabilities you each have. Call an expert if you are uncertain. Also, consider implementing a way for collaborators to see and comment on videos in progress. Use your organization and communication technologies to stay connected during post-production, too.

Now is an excellent time to commit yourself to master the arts of titles and graphics or music for video. Sign up for some online lessons and hone your craft. Learn everything there is to know about timing and colors. Understand the trends and lean into timeless styles. Experiment to make your final product the best it can be.

Whether you are creating content for an online channel, crafting a feature film or dabbling in marketing videos, you have a world of options in post-production. There are many ways to turn your vision into visuals without getting on a set. Incorporating stock footage is a quick and easy option. Also, dig through your library of footage from past projects to see what fits well with the current projects. Work out a co-op within your network to swap, share or sell footage from your archives (be sure to cover the legal releases as needed).

When you must be together, be responsible

Even with small projects, video crews tend to work in close contact. Everyone helps set up gear for a shoot. The director leans over the shoulder of the editors to discuss changes. Makeup staffers are everywhere. Deliveries might arrive with additional equipment or food for the crew. Good luck keeping actors from wandering around. There may be visitors on set just for fun. However, when you need to maintain health regulations, this scene will look entirely different.

Whatever you decide, follow your government’s safety guidelines whenever filming together becomes necessary. Use local talent as much as possible and only allow essential personnel on the set. Doing so helps reduce the spread of contaminants between different areas during an outbreak. Enforce social distancing so that everyone has six feet of personal space. Have sanitizers and wash stations available for cast and crew. Small steps, like using remote controls for gear and ensuring that only the camera operator touches the camera, will go a long way to reduce risks. Be sure that meals are provided individually instead of buffet style. Most importantly, communicate your standards clearly for everyone and repeat it often.

Emulate the pros who are getting it right

Turn to high-profile experts for inspiration on how to get the cameras rolling successfully in the coming months. Icelandic director Baltasar Kormakur (Everest, 2015) implemented a system of colored armbands on set. During the filming of the Netflix series Katla, the crew wore armbands in colors that coincided with areas of the set. One colored band allowed crew members to be near the cameras while another was for makeup and costume areas only. They also had extra crew members whose responsibility it was to sanitize doorknobs and high-touch surfaces hourly. Office environment habits like temperature checks at the beginning of each shift can easily be implemented on film sets, as well.

Lucas Foster has been filming a remake of Children of the Corn during the COVID-19 pandemic. While you may not need to go to such extremes as finding a small town in Australia to isolate your entire team for the duration of the shoot like Foster did, you can learn a lot from his project. He explained to The New York Times that he vastly underestimated the toll working in these conditions would take on his crew and actors. “Everybody was stressed,” he said. “The economic impact of this and the physical toll on people was something we may not have handled that well at the beginning.” When they realized the negative impacts of production on everyone’s mental health, they made swift changes. Reducing the number of incoming news reports helped keep everyone focused. They also added mental wellness consults as resources available to cast and crew.

Manage client expectations and anxieties with grace

If your content creation is for clients, you have another challenge to manage. Many companies are inclined to shutter their windows and hope to survive in a crisis. However, millions of people are at home with little more than the internet for entertainment. Savvy business owners will turn to video and stay in front of consumers. 

As a provider of video services, though, you will probably have to reassure your clients that this is a solid strategy. Create a communication plan for your client to put them at ease. Let them know when to expect updates and previews. Educate them about how your timelines will be affected by limitations. Be prepared to have more contact than usual throughout the project. Diplomacy is key. If this is not your strong suit, consider delegating to an assistant so that you can focus on content creation.

It is essential to help clients understand that social distancing will not affect the quality of your work while also understanding the realistic expectations about what is or is not possible. Travel may be limited, and many businesses are closed. There is space here for creativity and collaboration. If the project has humor, maybe it can get a little campy. Or, if they began with grand visions of a film that takes place with sweeping vistas, find ways to capture that mood without compromising anyone’s wellness. Likewise, if it is a documentary, use the opportunity to get crafty with online solutions and remote interviews.

A few clients might decide to cancel or postpone their projects despite your best efforts. Handle these conversations gracefully. Prevent burning bridges so that they can return to you in the future. Meanwhile, think outside the box to expand your client base. Bring ideas and confidence to conference calls and video chats with prospects.

Challenges help us develop new skills and mindsets

Social distancing and periodic closure of businesses make things harder for everyone. It is not impossible to continue creating quality videos for a variety of purposes, though. Be flexible and adaptable. Allow adjustments to processes and deadlines. Enlist the help of your network. Remember that communication is crucial, and technology is full of tools. Use these things to stay on the same page with your team and get creative to solve your production setbacks.

Keep in mind, too, that most projects created under pressure are often not our best work. When you cannot access the location you want or have to make do with the gear you have, it is frustrating. You feel it, and your team feels it. However, do not use this as an excuse to put out lackluster content. Instead, acknowledge that you are working in unprecedented times and that your finished project might reflect that. Everything we create is part of our creative journey.

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